Tokyo Vacation

We took another trip to Tokyo in June, this time to visit a couple of museums and see my niece Gita who is taking a term at Shizuoka University. We arrived to a rather wet Tokyo but fortunately, the next day was clear so we were able to go to Shinjuku to visit the small but highly recommended Samurai Museum.

Shinjuku, with Godzilla in the background.

Shinjuku, with Godzilla in the background.

The museum is home to authentic Japanese swords and armor as well as a few reproductions. There is a guided tour in English every 15 to 20 minutes. The price of admission is a bit steep at over JPY 1500, but I think well worth it.

Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

A sword designed by Miyamoto Musashi. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

A sword designed by Miyamoto Musashi. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

Armor of the three unifiers of Japan - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

Armor of the three unifiers of Japan – Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

They also let you try on some of the armor, and if you have the time, there’s a small room where you can put on a full costume.

Mikey trying on a Samurai helmet, mask, and sword. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

Mikey trying on a Samurai helmet, mask, and sword. Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

After the tour, there are scheduled sword demonstrations every few hours. These last about 15 to 20 minutes.

Sword technique demonstration, Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

Sword technique demonstration, Samurai Museum, Shinjuku.

From Shinjuku we did a bit of shopping at Akihabara where Mikey tried some taiyaki being sold beside Yodobashi. This was sort of like a croissant filled with sweet red bean, but in the shape of a fish. Good for a snack.

Taiyaki (sweet red bean filled pastry) Yodobashi Akihabara.

Taiyaki (sweet red bean filled pastry) Yodobashi Akihabara.

It was back to the hotel for dinner. Many of the restaurants near the hotel were full so we ended up at a small but excellent curry shop called Hinoya Curry. The curry was rich and a bit spicy. They ask you if you want a small or large serving of rice. I would suggest the small serving, which I could barely finish. One can only imagine what a large serving is like. Maybe 5 cups of rice? We didn’t know it at the time we were there, but apparently, Hinoya Curry was voted the #1 curry in Japan in 2015. Impressive for what started out as a small 7 seat counter under the tracks in Kanda.

Hinoya Curry.

Hinoya Curry.

The next day we went over to Ueno to visit some museums. Our first stop was the Ueno Museum of Nature and Science. This museum is divided into 2 parts, one part focusing on Japan, and the other part the rest of the world. As we were pressed for time, we decided to skip the Japan portion. There are a lot of natural history and technology exhibits here so best to allot about 3 to 4 hours for your visit.

Zero fighter. Ueno Museum of Nature and Science.

Zero fighter. Ueno Museum of Nature and Science.

Dinosaurs. Ueno Museum of Nature and Science.

Dinosaurs. Ueno Museum of Nature and Science.

After lunch at the museum restaurant, we went next door to the Ueno Museum of Western Art. You will need another 3 to 4 hours as well to go through this. There are many important European artists exhibited here, among them Picasso, van Gogh, Rodin, Titian, and El Greco.

El Greco

El Greco

Rodin - The Gates of Hell

Rodin – The Gates of Hell

Picasso

Picasso

Van Gogh

Van Gogh

There was also a special exhibit of the works of Arcimboldo, a painter of the Hapsburg Court and famous for painting pictures of people using fruits, vegetables, or animals as components of a person’s face. Photography of this exhibit wasn’t allowed, but I did get a shot of one of his paintings featured on a refrigerator magnet sold at the gift shop.

Arcimboldo's "The Sommelier" - Ueno Museum of Western Art.

Arcimboldo’s “The Sommelier” – Ueno Museum of Western Art.

The next day, Gita joined us in Tokyo and we went to Mitaka to the Ghibli Museum. If you are a fan of the work of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Friend Totoro, etc.), this is a must. You need to buy tickets in advance and you will need someone to buy them for you in Japan at a Lawson convenience store. You aren’t allowed to photograph inside the museum but you can take pictures with the robot on the roof.

Robot, Ghibli Museum, Mitaka.

Robot, Ghibli Museum, Mitaka..

The next day started early with a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji. We didn’t bother lining up at the Inner Market where all the famous restaurants are. We avoided the crowds and just went for the sterile but always reliable Sushi Zanmai at the Outer Market.

Tsukiji sushi breakfast at Zanmai.

Tsukiji sushi breakfast at Zanmai.

Sushi Zanmai, Outer Market, Tsukiji.

Sushi Zanmai, Outer Market, Tsukiji.

We also got some mochi for dessert walking around the market.

Black sesame mochi, Tsukiji.

Black sesame mochi, Tsukiji.

It was back to the hotel for the rest of the morning, after which we had a lat lunch of Tempura at Tsunahachi.

Tempura Tsunahachi.

Tempura Tsunahachi.

The whole afternoon was devoted to exploring Harajuku which the kids loved.

Harajuku.

Harajuku.

Of course, Jocel had to have one of the ubiquitous crepes that every other person there seems to be eating.

Crepes at Harajuku

Crepes at Harajuku

After about an hour, I decided to leave the girls to their shopping and took a walk along nearby Omotesando. I walked all the way to Aoyama to visit a fountain pen shop called Pen Boutique Shosaikan. Regular readers of this blog know me as a food and wine aficionado, but I also collect fountain pens (and watches, too), and Tokyo is a great place to find pens. A visit to Shosaikan is a must if you are a pen collector.

Pen Boutique Shosaiakan, Aoyama

Pen Boutique Shosaiakan, Aoyama

Pen Boutique Shosaikan, Aoyama

Pen Boutique Shosaikan, Aoyama

Our last evening in Tokyo, I looked up my friend Keiichi who treated me to an excellent sushi dinner at his neighborhood sushi restaurant.

With Keiichi at his neighborhood sushi bar.

With Keiichi at his neighborhood sushi bar.

Although he earlier wanted to go to a bar after, he decided it would be good to just have some champagne at his house, a 5 minute walk from the restaurant. We had a very good bottle of Charles Heidsieck NV on his terrace which had a great view of Shinjuku in the distance.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV

View of Shinjuku from the terrace.

View of Shinjuku from the terrace.

Although our trip this time was a long one (1 week), there really is no shortage of things to do and see in Tokyo. Can’t wait for our next visit!