Yes…I’m still a day behind. So sue me. 🙂 This is the day we meet up with our walking tour guide. Janet is her name and she is a recent university grad. As it turns out she is also Chinese (who, fortunately is also fluent in Japanese) has only been in Japan a fairly short time and doesn’t know Tokyo very well. This may not be quite the tour we expected.
We made our way down the street to the Shinjuku Subway Station (which WE knew how to do having done so on Thursday) and proceeded to get tickets for the train to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Now down a few flights of stairs to our subway level. Ooooppppsss…got the wrong tickets. “Wait right here while I run back for a refund” Janet tells us. Ok… Now we manage to get the proper tickets and find our boarding area. On to the first train and about a half hour later we arrive. The subway system is fast, goes everywhere and is notoriously on time. But Tokyo is a LARGE city so a half hour and no transfers is not bad for a travel time.
As we make our way up to street level again (using both stairways and escalators) we immediately notice the smell of fish in the air. There is no question as to where we are and a couple of minutes later we begin our walkabout. There is no real start or end to Tsukiji…it just exists. It takes up about 23 hectares of land and hosts well over 1,000 wholesale and retail dealers between the outer and inner markets. Offering over 400 types of seafood and doing millions of dollars worth of business per day this is truly a sight to behold. The general public is really only privy to the outer market. There is a 120 person exception to this providing you’re prepared to get here by 4 A.M. This will give you an opportunity to TRY to get a seat (one of 60 available, twice per day in the early morning) to experience (by watching only) the world famous tuna auctions. But, unless you’re fluent in Japanese and have a reasonable set of binoculars, you may as well stay in bed.
Walking around and through the outer market is a slice of culture that is both monumental and microscopic. The sheer volume and variety that is presented in ways never dreamed of, both ornamental and plain, will provide you with hours of amazement. If your tastes buds quiver when presented with the new and unusual, this place will make them do the dance of joy.
As the morning turns to afternoon, the stalls begin to close. The heat of the day is not conducive to fresh fish/seafood longevity. So now we turn our backs on Tsukiji and return to the subway station. Down several levels once again, and this time, making sure we buy the proper tickets, we hop on a different train with Asakusa as our new destination.
Asakusa is home to both the famous Sensō-ji temple and Tokyo’s oldest geisha district. Although it was also once Tokyo’s most major entertainment area, that is now more likely to be recognized in Shinjuku and other areas within Tokyo.
After walking through the main gate at Asakusa, one is once again inundated with retail stalls selling everything that tourists could want (or at least think they want). It is an impressive area for what it is and we had it on our to-do list. However having been once, if you come to Tokyo, visit more of the whole area, not just the immediate vicinity of the shrine. You’ll get a much better flavor of traditional Japan.
The day wears on and now it is almost 4:30. Given that night comes early (around 5:30ish) we begin our journey back to our hotel. This comprises of two train rides and a generous portion of more stairs and escalators in both directions. The pedometer reads well over the requisite 10,000 steps and as we near our hotel we pass by a tempting restaurant featuring Udon noodle bowls. A stop is pretty much inevitable and, as it turns out, well worth it. The food was inexpensive and under-priced based on previous experiences. Delightful and satisfying it served us well and we re-entered our hotel room with a full belly, memories galore and a fabulous bottle of Junmai Daiginjo Sake. This was a well-deserved, although hardly necessary, sleep aid.
Tomorrow, our last day in Tokyo, will be yet another endurance test for the leg muscles. Oh…and BTW, the final pedometer count was 11,948.