Man wanted to visit some of the main tourist sights so Asakusa was a must-see. We decided to walk there as it's only a couple of miles from our hotel, and enjoyed the stroll through the back streets of Uguisudani, past a cluster of 'love hotels' where you can rent a room for 90 minutes (I'll leave the rest to your imagination!) and then down a main road, heading towards the tallest building in Tokyo, the Sky Tree. We even passed a sumo wrestler on a bicycle!
Asakusa is famous for the large Senso-ji temple complex and in particular the two huge, red paper lanterns hanging at either end of a shopping street full of tacky, touristy shops. This street is always crammed with tourists.
In the last few years, kimono rental shops have become popular, where you can be dressed in kimono and stroll around for a few hours, so we saw lots of young people doing this. The kimono used are yukata, cotton summer kimono which can be easily washed, so they look quite strange in January, especially when paired with a parasol on a dry, cloudy day...oh well, as long as they're having fun! It was a cold day though, so I imagine people were freezing in their thin yukata with so much skin exposed.
We found some nice quiet areas with old fashioned streets, and snacked on dango - chewy rice balls on a stick, dipped in sticky soy sauce and grilled.
We took the obligatory photos with the Asahi building in the background, lining up the shot to balance the lucky 'golden poo' on our heads.
It was getting colder and we were hungry, but we struggled to find anything hot and vegan despite looking in many restaurants. Until we stumbled across a ramen place where the owner came running out to try to encourage us into the restaurant. Man asked about vegan broth, and she said yes, she has a special broth with no fish sauce. The holy grail! I had vegetable tempura and Man had beef and egg, all served over thick udon noodles in broth. The lady was Filipino and spoke good English, keeping us entertained between serving her other customers. Her ramen was delicious but we couldn't manage it all.
It was too cold to keep walking around outside, so we decided to head to Odaiba and visit an art installation we'd heard about. Odaiba is a manmade island reached by monorail, and is full of amusements and futuristic ideas. Getting off the monorail, we walked through a showroom of Toyota concept cars and it really did feel like we'd stepped into the future.
On the way we spotted a melon on sale for £70!!!
The art installation is an immersive experience in a huge building over several floors and is set in darkness with digital artwork moving across the walls and floors, between rooms and with lots of mirrors on the walls and floors. Some rooms have amazing installations with lights, lamps and even a huge net you can lie in for a 360 degree experience. We spent a few blissful hours here and would highly recommend visiting if that's your kind of thing.
In the evening we met up with Susan Briscoe and her husband Glyn for a good natter over a few drinks to round off the day.
we are social
I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.