Tokyo, Japan

John and I started our journey towards Tokyo at the end of November 2011.

Tokyo, Japan

We took the Island Hopper and landed in Tokyo on December 1st.

Island Hopping

The Island Hopper is a flight from Honolulu to Guam that makes stops in Majuro, Kwajalein, Pohnpei, & Chuuk. You can read all about our journey HERE.

We arrived about 7:30 Thursday night and checked into Hotel Niwa Tokyo.

The hotel is a block from a major road named Hakusan Dori so we walked over there to find something for dinner.

Crazy-good smells poured out of a Yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant so we gave it a whirl.

Tokyo, Japan

Thankfully, our waiter was an energetic college student who was eager to help us order.

Tokyo, Japan

Grilled beef and cold beer.

Tokyo, Japan

It hit the spot and helped us sleep-off our long flight.

We bought Suica Cards, a prepaid e-money card to make exploring Tokyo easier.

Tokyo, Japan

It can be used for JR East trains, subways and buses.

On our first morning in Tokyo we jumped on a train and went to Meiji Jingu.

Tokyo, Japan

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine. The word Shinto means “Way of the Gods”.

Tokyo, Japan

The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken.

After their demise, people wanted to honor them forever so they donated 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas and worked voluntarily to create this gorgeous forest.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Paying respect to the Meiji Jingu is independent of religious beliefs.

At a Torii (shrine archway), bow once when entering and bow once when leaving.

Tokyo, Japan

At the Temizuya (water-filled basin):

Tokyo, Japan

Wash your left hand, right hand, mouth and finally the handle of the ladle to purify yourself before approaching the main Shinto shrine.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Ema (votive tablets), are for personal prayers to the gods.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Interestingly, Shinto has no founder, no holy book, and not even the concept of religious conversion. Shinto values harmony with nature and virtues such as Magokoro, meaning sincere heart.

Shintoism is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan.

Our next stop was the Asakusa district and the Sensoji Temple.

Tokyo, Japan

The narrow street that leads to the Sensoji is a great street to visit for souvenirs and people watching.

Tokyo, Japan

You can buy just about anything — kimonos, hair accessories, T-shirts, shoes, traditional Japanese ornaments, toys, snacks, etc.

Tokyo, Japan

The Sensoji, a Buddhist temple, is Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of its most significant.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

The legend says that in the year 628 two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River. And even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

For dinner we took the metro to Ueno to find a 263-year old Unagi Restaurant.

Izuei Honten is a little hard to find but totally worth it!

Tokyo, Japan

It is a minute or two of walking from the Ueno train station if you head west from the Ueno Zoo exit.

Tokyo, Japan

It was incredibly delicious and the best Unagi Don I have ever eaten.

Tokyo, Japan

After dinner we walked around Ameyokocho, a busy market between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations.

Tokyo, Japan

It was famous as a black market area for American products after WWII.

Tokyo, Japan

Today it is known for for its small shops and cheap prices.

Tokyo, Japan

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed for the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world as well as one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.

Tokyo, Japan

We arrived in plenty of time for the auction that starts at 5:30 AM. We were hoping to be one of the 140 visitors they let in on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Tokyo, Japan

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the auction. We were told that it wasn’t running, but that could have meant that we didn’t make the cut.

There are several sushi restaurants at the market but only a handful had a long line.

Tokyo, Japan

It is always a good sign when people are standing in line to eat somewhere so we picked one of the long-line restaurants.

We only waited for about 30 minutes before we were seated. By this time it was about 6:30 or 7 AM.

Tokyo, Japan

We ordered the Chef’s Menu, green tea, and beer.

Tokyo, Japan

When in Tokyo!

Tokyo, Japan

I ate Sea Urchin for the first time, too.

Tokyo, Japan

Yum!

Tokyo, Japan

Everything was amazing.

Tokyo, Japan

Now I know why we kept reading Go to Tsukiji Market and eat sushi for breakfast in all of our trip research.

It was worth going to the market even though we didn’t get to see the auction.

The vibe of the workers, all of the fish cutting, fish tossing, and eating sushi that fresh made it memorable and enjoyable.

Tokyo, Japan

Even in the rain.

We went back to our hotel, took a hot shower, a quick nap, and planned our next meal.

Tempura at Funebashiya Honten in Shinjuku.

Tokyo, Japan

We read that the chefs at this 100-year old restaurant turn making tempura into an art form.

Tokyo, Japan

Again, we ordered the Chef’s Menu.

Tokyo, Japan

The batter was light and the food wasn’t greasy at all.

Tokyo, Japan

It was perfect.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

And we loved every bite.

Tokyo, Japan

The weather started to clear up so we explored a little more.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

And then you guessed it… we went to dinner.

Tokyo, Japan

Seigetsu, is an izakaya hidden away above a convenience store at the upper end of Kagurazaka-dori.

Tokyo, Japan

An izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks.

We took our shoes off at the door and sat at a timber counter that runs the length of the open kitchen.

Tokyo, Japan

We ordered a little bit of everything, drank a couple of beers, and talked about our day.

Tokyo, Japan

It may have been our worst weather day but it was our best eating day.

We woke up to a gorgeous Fall morning.

Tokyo, Japan

Kitanomaru Park is one of the two areas of the Imperial Palace open to the public.

Tokyo, Japan

We spent the whole morning there.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Around every corner was another beautiful area.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

We don’t really have seasons in Florida so we just took it all in.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Around lunchtime we jumped on the train and went back to Ameyokocho market.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

We stumbled upon a crowded “Sushi-go-Round” restaurant.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

The sushi was creative and the restaurant was full of energy.

I took this video so you would be able to see it, too:

After lunch we did a little shopping and then went towards Tokyo Tower hoping to get there before the sun went down.

Tokyo, Japan

It. Was. Stunning.

Tokyo, Japan

We bought our tickets and took an elevator up to the Main Observatory.

Tokyo, Japan

It was such a clear night that we could see the sun setting behind Mount Fuji.

Tokyo, Japan

And the active city of Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

We took the 660 steps down instead of the elevator.

Tokyo, Japan

The outside stairway dropped us off at the base of the tower.

Tokyo, Japan

It was just the two of us down there so we just soaked it up.

Tokyo, Japan

For dinner we went to a BBQ restaurant close to our hotel called Gyu-Kaku.

Tokyo, Japan

We ordered several different meats:

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

And grilled them on our personal charcoal grill.

Tokyo, Japan

So much fun!

Tokyo, Japan

Our last day was another gorgeous blue-sky day.

We had some time to kill before going to the airport so we walked to Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden.

Tokyo, Japan

It is one of the oldest and best preserved parks in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

Kōraku means “enjoying afterwards”.

Tokyo, Japan

The park was named Kōraku-en after a Chinese teaching of “a governor should worry before people and enjoy after people”.

Tokyo, Japan

The colors were so vibrant.

Tokyo, Japan

It was incredibly peaceful and we ended up hanging out there for a couple of hours.

The park is next to Tokyo Dome City so we jumped on the Big-O.

Tokyo, Japan

It is the world’s first hubless Ferris Wheel meaning it resembles a huge doughnut.

Tokyo, Japan

We had time for one last meal so walked down Hakusan Dori trying to decide what it would be.

Tokyo, Japan

Sushi. It had to be sushi.

Tokyo, Japan

We found another “Sushi-go-Round” restaurant and ate WAY too much.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

And it was perfect.

One thing is for sure — if you enjoy eating good food and being around people with sincere hearts, put Tokyo on your list.

Tokyo, Japan

Until next time, Tokyo!

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