12 intense days in Japan: 2nd day in Tokyo

Waking up in Tokyo and realizing you are going to spend the day sightseeing … it’s a wonderful feeling … But wait, there is so much to see! Where do we start? We know that, with merely 3 days on our hands, we will only get a glimpse of the city. After a delicious breakfast with a great view of the Tokyo skyline, we get going decidedly and hit the pavement. We walk to the Yoyogi station and hop on the Yamanote line, in the direction of Uneo.


 The trains are very, very densely crowded.  But Japanese commuters are so disciplined, orderly, and respectful, that it is actually quite bearable. We get off at the Ueno station. We walk down the Asakusa Dori avenue, heading for Asakusa, and specifically the Senso-Ji temple. All tour guides agree, this temple is a must-see. A few blocks before the Senso-Ji temple, we get a great view of the Tokyo Sky Tree tower: 634m-high, it is almost twice as high as our dear Eiffel Tower.


Along the way, we stop at a cute little bookstore and purchase our first souvenir goodies: 2 magnets (I collect magnets, our fridge back home is covered with magnets!), a pen, some beautiful stationery. We also buy bottled water in a small convenience store (in Japan, all grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, are very neat and clean; it is quite nice, actually). In this one, there is a shelf full of mouth-watering bento boxes.

What a pity it is not lunch time yet!

We continue towards the Senso-Ji temple. It is an ancient temple, a sacred place for the Asakusa residents and more broadly, for a great number of Tokyoites. The origin of this temple goes back to the year 628 when 2 fishermen dug up from the Sumida river, a golden statue of Kanon, the deity for compassion. To protect the statue, a temple was built and the statue has remained ever since. To enter the temple, we pass through Kaminarimon, the gate of thunder. Beyond the gate, we find a busy lane bordered with souvenir shops, Nakamise Dori, heading straight to the temple.

In front of the sanctuary, incense is burning, as always. In every temple, a captivating incense smell propagates in the surroundings and captures the casual visitor.

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The five-story pagoda is the second highest in Japan. Lots of visitors in this temple, mostly Japanese people. The fervor is genuine, and you feel a real quietness, far away from the hustle-bustle of the city. A precious moment.

We reluctantly leave the temple, and not far from Nakamise Dori, we find a little sushi joint. Seating next to each other, facing the sushi bar, we eat a truly delicious lunch of a variety of sushis, prepared in front of us, on demand, by an old, friendly Japanese cook. A real treat for us. We are delighted.

Back to the subway station, which by now we manage to find without help. Now, keep in mind that there are several different subway companies in the Tokyo metro system, and maps are not drawn in the same way as in our western countries. North is not necessarily up to the top of the map. It may be to the left or the right of the map, or to the bottom. It actually depends on where you are and some other mysterious reasons. Fact is, reading a street map in Tokyo is a challenge not to be underestimated.

We get on our beloved Yamanote line, heading for Harajuku and the Takeshi Dori avenue which we took yesterday. We stop at the Daiso store, where every item is on sale for 100 yens. We spend a significant time in the store, being girls as we are. Luckily, Francois is very patient and he waits outside, looking like a security guard! At long last, we emerge from the store, fully loaded with bags of goodies and candies for our daughters’ best friends. This afternoon turned out to be a little bit less spiritual than the morning, I must admit. It is now time to get prepared for dinner with a group of Japanese friends at a Ninja restaurant.

The plan was to meet with Masa at his office, not far from Shinjuku, at 7:00 pm. Masa is one of Francois’ classmates from MIT, class of 1993. Well, yes, 20 years ago! Masa is friendly and welcoming, and he knows how to put you at ease, even though you inevitably break all rules of Japanese politeness. Smiling, he leads us through a few subway stations, and we arrive at the mysterious restaurant. There, Masa’s wife and son are waiting for us. It is an unlikely place which we would never have found by ourselves: a Ninja restaurant! Our hosts are dressed in all-black ninja uniforms, faces covered, bouncing silently and effortlessly, ready for the kill. We are led through a maze, in the dark, not sure what to expect. To our relief, we finally reach our dinner room. Shoes off, obviously. Dinner, made of a series of many diverse dishes, is quite delicious. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant. From time to time, Ninjas come to entertain us with tricks of magic. Conversation with Masa, his wife and son, is both fun and interesting. We exchange and compare views on many different topics, ranging from education to work habits and customs. A fascinating food for thought for us. Both our bellies and our brains were fed tonight. Thank you, Masa, for a lovely Japanese evening.