Sunday, April 16, 2017

Shibuya, Asakusa, and Sumida (Tokyo) with family

Our family had a great time exploring Shibuya, Asakusa and Sumida in Tokyo, Japan. My sister’s family (of 3) and my father joined us on our recent vacation to Japan.  Since we were a larger party of 7, we decided to book our stays with Airbnb.  We chose a host who offered 2 apartment buildings in the same complex near the Shibuya Station.  

We had our Airbnb costs covered by using Barclaycard Arrival+ miles

Since Shibuya was one of our favorite places to visit the last time we were in Tokyo, we thought it would be great to stay in the area again.  Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s most busy districts, offering delicious restaurants, excellent shopping, fun nightlife, with close access to sightseeing and historic sites. 

For our first night, we enjoyed delicious miso ramen with pork and eggs at Oreryu Shio Ramen. 

Many restaurants and ramen shops in Japan have a vending machine system that is very efficient.  Before entering the restaurant, you pick the item(s) that you want and then pay for it.  The machine prints out a ticket that you hand to your waiter.  You can customize the texture of your noodles from soft, medium to hard.  Also you can customize the flavor of your soup from spicy to creamy.  Tipping is not customary in Japan so the prices you see are the prices you pay.  I love this system where restaurant servers are not incentivized to treat customers better based on tips, but instead treat every single customer with upmost respect. 

We started the first morning in Shibuya by walking around to explore the Shibuya crossing.  

It is the busiest intersection in all of Japan.  When the lights turn red, pedestrians from all over cross this area at the same time.  It’s quite an amazing sight, day or night. 

No trip to Japan would be complete without enjoying fresh sushi and sashimi.  One local favorite restaurant is Midori Sushi, where the seafood is extremely fresh, tasty, and reasonably priced.  

Come here early to grab a number and then walk around the Mark City mall while you wait for your number to be called. 

We enjoyed our time at the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa so much the last time we came, that we wanted to share the experience with our family.  This Buddhist temple is Tokyo’s oldest (completed in 645) and one of the most colorful.  Sensoji Temple is a short walk from the Asakusa Station.

You pass under the Kaminarimon Gate on the way to the temple, with two statues of deities guarding each side of a giant red lantern.  The characters on the lantern say “Kaminarimon” or “thundergate.” 

Nakamise street runs over 200 meters and is the main pathway that leads to the temple.  

This shopping street offers many souvenir shops and food stands.

The main gate to the temple is huge.  On the backside of the gate is a pair of two giant straw sandals made by local citizens.  Outside of the Sensoji temple, you can buy amulets, fortunes, scrolls and incense to burn.

 Inside the temple, the ceiling has intricate artwork.  Don’t forget to look up.  

We were able to watch a dragon parade too!

On the way to our next stop, we made a quick stop at Mister Donut.  Here you will find delicious mochi donuts and coffee.  The mochi donuts were very soft and chewy. 

We can never get enough of aquariums and the Sumida Aquarium does not disappoint.  

They have various unique and wonderful sea creatures from the local waters. The best part of the Sumida aquarium was the penguin enclosure where we got up close and personal with them.  
The Sumida aquarium is located just right outside the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.  While we didn't pay to go up to the observation deck, we got to admire the structure from the outside.     

We ended the day with dinner at Roku ramen, a small little shop a few feet away from our Airbnb.  This was another "vending machine" restaurant.

Japanese ramen is full of flavor and always hits the spot.  We had no problems enjoying ramen 2 days in a row.  All the walking during the day really tired us out and it was easy to fall asleep.

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