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Day 2 - 14th Feb

WOW… where do I start?  A day exploring The Yanaka area of Tokyo was a hit to the senses and legs.

Firstly it all began when Alex decided it was time to get up at 4.30am. This was not great for me as the trains which are about 10 metres from our bed went until at least midnight.

By about 5.30 Alex was agitating for a coffee so off we set in the morning darkness. Not much open yet so it was a Vending Machine coffee. We then found a 7-Eleven where we bought milk for more coffees as we had some coffee sachets with us. At around 7am we headed out again for breakfast. After wandering around for awhile we settled on a small cafe, for you guessed it another coffee and a toasted sandwich.  Couldn’t go with noodles for breakfast.

Then we were off exploring. Many, many temples and shrines. These are beautiful places with well pruned/shaped trees. Each temple is different and they are a peaceful oasis amongst the tall city buildings. Next to one temple was a kindergarten. We were lucky to witness drop off  time. The children were being dropped off by their Mum’s on bicycles. Most bicycles had a carrier both at the front and back for 2 children. The mums that only had one child on the bike had handbags and shopping bags in the other carrier.  When they had finished dropping their children the mums went to the temple grounds, parked their bikes and had a chat. And these mums were not dressed in lycra - they were dressed for a day in the office or shopping.

Amongst the many temples, we visited was Jomyoin Temple. It started being built with 1000 statues of Jizo (a Buddhist deity of children) but then it was decided that wasn’t enough and 84,000 statues of Jizo were built.  It was surreal walking along the rows and rows of small statues.

We found an old sake store, now a museum but unfortunately only the front annex was open. Just as well no sake consumed as we have to keep our wits about us wandering the streets. They are very narrow and there are bicycles zooming everywhere. Some alleyways are only 2 metres wide. We saw carports beneath houses that were only just high enough to fit a small car, ie only about 150cm high. Every house has bicycles parked near their front doors and in carports. We saw one man driving out of his carport and he must have done a 10 point turn to get out. His car length must have been only 50cm shorter than the width of the street! People have small gardens of pot plants at their front doors. There are ‘milk crates’ along the street each filled with different recyclables, ie bottles, cans, styrofoam trays etc. This is their ‘Yellow bin’ pickup. Other rubbish is placed in white plastic bags and placed in heaps on the street for rubbish trucks to collect.

We saw Police sitting in small box buildings on street corners keeping an eye on the traffic and us when we were crossing the road incorrectly and nearly being taken out by bicycles.  Pedestrians all stop to wait for green walk lights at intersections. Everything is very ordered, except for us tourists!

Not many people speak English except in tourist areas but they are all very willing to help. One elderly gentleman stopped to help us when we were standing in the middle of a small laneway looking at a map with confused expressions on our faces.

We visited the Nezu-Shrine, established 1,900 years ago where we saw people praying, after washing their face and hands. We walked through some Tori gates, along with a group of very young children out on a kindy excursion. Lots of fox statues with a little red bib. Fortune cards and boards were strung around the temple walls. Once again a peaceful quiet place in a city of 12 million people.

But now to the important bit.  Food. Yanaka Ginza street is full of little shops including lots of food stores.  Stop one, we bought a box of what looked like crumbed chicken.  Bingo, it was.  Tasted like a nice version of KFC.  We were on a roll Kerrie was happy because it is basically the first Japanese food and she liked it.  A traditional kitchen knife shop caught our eyes which had some awesome looking knives, but we didn’t think it prudent to travel with a large one.  With our last food success in mind, we were pretty confident. Buying squid and three other varieties of crumbed things. I love squid, and it was really good. One of the fried things was something vegetably (pretty good), another was something like chicken but not sure (also pretty good) and the third was crumbed liver ( a bit more acquired taste needed here).  As we don’t have any scales with us we decided on “cats tails” for dessert.  Don’t worry, not real cats just cakes shaped like cats tails.  They seem to have a fascination with cats here.

After a quick visit for the medicinal coffee, we stumbled back to our unit for some rest before heading out for dinner.  Yes, I know, more food.  I made a quick dash to 7 eleven to pick up some beers and wine for Kerrie.  It is amazing that Kerrie’s favorite Australian wine is sold here at 7 eleven.  We just chilled and recuperated getting ready for dinner.

We found this tucked away little restaurant only three minutes from our unit.  No English in sight and no tourists.  It looked awesome.  Luckily the menu had pictures on them and Kerrie picked a vegetable dish with noodles and some sort of wormy things (good luck).  I decided to go for another squid i.e. the chili version.  Both dishes were awesome Kerrie's worms tasted great and had a bit of a sweet flavor, my squid was awesome spicy and blew my lunch squid out of the water (feel the pun).  We had fun talking to the waiter lady who tried to teach us some Japanese, we both don’t know what we said.

It was time to end our first day and we made it home for a good night sleep.  It was a full on day and our senses are reeling.  We are now ready for the snow.

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