Our last full day in Tokyo we started by dropping Ewan in Akihabara. He was on a mission to find a figurine, and the rest of us were not keen for the noise and crazyness of Akiba. We continued on to Asakusa. Senso-Ji temple is amazing, and I wanted to show Harper. We started at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center. I had not been here before, but Super Sake Boy and Abby had. The building was designed by Kengo Kuma and it is quite spectacular. I loved the exterior immediately and the interior was a lovely space, with a great view. We walked up to the top floor and had some lunch first. A warming curry and a Premium Malts on tap. Perfect start to the day….
The view from the top over Senso-Ji is excellent. The perspective was one I had not encountered before. I loved seeing the temple from above, with the market place and the bustling crowds. This place was well worth a visit. Not only for the view, but they have interesting and changing exhibitions, and heaps of local information, in many languages. They had a lot of information about the shitamachi, or low city. The older parts of Tokyo, outside of the Samurai exclusive Yamanote area. I found this and the to scale 3D map really very interesting. They have a website but it is in Japanese. It does have a translation bot thingy, but I am not too sure how well that works??? So, by all means check it out here. The Japan National Tourist Organisation also has a page here.
Senso-Ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The original temple was founded in 645AD. The entrance to the grounds is through Kaminarimon, or the “thunder gate”, a giant gateway with an enormous vermillion lantern hanging overhead. Kaminarimon is an iconic Tokyo landmark, and it is beautiful. The street behind the gate is Nakamise-dori. A wonderful bustling marketplace, always filled with people, even in the rain. This area, which leads up to the temple has operated as a marketplace since the early 18th century. Some of the shops, like the amazing ukiyo-e (woodblock print) store, have been trading in the same place for hundreds of years.
After heading back to Akihabara to pick up Ewan, we went back to our beautiful apartment to deposit some shopping. We decided to keep it local for dinner, and had not really had a chance to explore Shimokitazawa. Shimokitazawa is a very funky little neighbourhood in Tokyo, just a few train stops away from Shinjuku. Very convenient, and full of retro shops, selling vintage clothing, vintage furniture, and heaps of cool collectables and toys. There are lots of great restaurants in this area, and it is a good place to find vegetarian options. It has a very hipster vibe. Good coffee places, vinyl record shops and a great izakaya, which we found for dinner.
Toritonkun, or the full name shimokitazawakkoizakayatoritonkun, is an underground, rowdy izakaya, or pub, with some very excellent food. We got a table for 6 and the kids had to try to narrow down what they wanted because everything on the menu sounded delicious. After the izakaya the night before, Super Sake Boy and I felt it was unlikely we could come close for our final dinner in Tokyo. Happily, we were wrong, and the food was spectacular, the sake was flowing, the kids were all happy and the place was very cool. I have traditionally avoided izakaya, as you can still smoke inside in Japan, and they are usually pretty smoky. Although you could smoke in this underground cavern, the ventilation was really good, and the smoke didn’t bother me at all. (I’m pretty fussy). We had edamame, yakitori, yakisoba, tamagoyaki, potato salad and more yakitori….. and then some more yakitori. Super Sake Boy and I are pretty partial to tsukune, chicken meatballs on a stick, and these were exceptionally good. We couldn’t stop ordering. This restaurant was awesome. The prices were great and I would highly recommend it. Read the tripadvisor reviews here.