17 Jun Day 8: Tsukiji market, Sony building, Akihabara (fail), Shibuya & Harajuku
We didn’t want to go to Tsukiji fish market too early in the morning, when it would be too busy. We didn’t take the stroller out all day as we knew it wasn’t suitable for the fish market and would probably be a nuisance in other crowded areas too. At about 9am we took the Oedo subway line from Shinjuku station to Tsukiji Shijo station. The journey took about 20 minutes and then it was a short walk to the market from the station.
Tsukiji market is one of the worlds largest fish markets but also sells fresh fruit and vegetables. The inner wholesale market, which is famous for its tuna auctions, has restricted access to visitors with limited spots available early in the morning. The outer market is bustling with shoppers and tourists and includes several restaurants. The market is due to be moved from its current location in late 2016, with plans to redevelop the site.
We walked through the crowded market, trying our best not to interfere with sales. Sooo much fresh seafood, a lot of it was still live. We passed the long queues of people waiting to get into the popular sushi restaurants. We were handed an information sheet about the market and what areas were off-limits before walking through the auction area. Although it was all finished and packed up, there were still people zooming around on little trucks and forklifts and we had to be very careful not to get hit by one. It was one crazy place and that was after 9am, great to experience such a large, busy market.
We came out of the market area onto the street, and looked to find Fletcher fast asleep. I guess the market mayhem wore him out. We got drinks from a vending machine and I got my first taste of royal milk tea, so good. Tim wanted to visit the Sony building in Ginza and it was only a 1 km walk from the Tsukiji market. We walked by several designer clothing stores extravagant window displays along the way, arriving about 10 minutes before the building opened. We waited nearby, just taking in the surrounding area and people watching.
We entered the building and made our way to the Sony showroom which was 4 floors of Sony products including phones, tablets, audio, camcorders, cameras, televisions and theatre systems. During our visit the showroom was displaying the Playstation 4, it was the only place in the world that it could be viewed at the time. Photo’s are not permitted within the showroom and they were on edge to make sure none were taken of the Playsation 4 display. The fourth floor has a store where you can purchase a variety of Sony products.
After looking around the Sony showroom, we went to the nearby Ginza station and took the subway to Akihabara. The main aim for going there was to see ‘electric town’. We arrived at Akihabara subway station, coming out of an exit on the opposite side of the area we wanted to see. The biggest issue was that we didn’t actually know what we were looking for. We had seen photos of Akihabara’s electric town and just knew that what we were seeing didn’t look like it. We didn’t know if the photos were just deceiving and we had seen what there was to see in Akihabara. We weren’t sure what to do next, I contemplated walking 2 km to visit Ueno park, but it was now lunchtime so we decided to get something to eat.
We had read about Burger Kings ‘Kuro Ninja’ or Black Ninja burger back home and Tim had wanted to try it. We had already walked past a Burger King so I said he should get it while we were there. We both ordered the burger and got chicken tenders for Fletcher. We had almost forgotten how to speak properly as we were used to only speaking minimal English words, feeling silly when the cashier spoke English perfectly. We noticed that a lot of people in Tokyo spoke more English than those in the other areas of Japan we had visited. We had to adjust back to speaking how we normally would.
The ‘Kuro Ninja’ Burger was made up of black buns coloured with charcoaled bamboo, whopper patty, hash brown, onion, lettuce, Mayo and a black garlic-soy sauce. The burger also featured a large piece of bacon that hung out of the burger and was meant to look like the Ninja’s tongue poking out from under his black hood. I didn’t really like it all that much but I’m not usually a big burger fan. Tim was the one that wanted to try it and he loved it and actually finished mine off aswell. Fletch happily gobbled up his chicken tenders. We worked out over lunch that the area of Akihabara we wanted to see was ‘electric town’ and that it was on the other side of Akihabara station. We made the mistake of thinking we could just walk through the station, scanning our cards at the turnstiles. When we reached the other side of the station, of course we couldn’t exit through the turnstiles as our cards had been scanned in at the entrance. I don’t know if we could have went through the staffed area but didn’t think I’d be able to explain the situation properly. We made the decision to give up on Akihabara for the time and move onto Shibuya.
After a 30 minute train ride, we came out of Shibuya station, straight into the madness. We witnessed the famous Shibuya crossing in action and went to view the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was an extremely loyal Akita dog who waited for his owner everyday outside Shibuya station, continuing to do so even after his owner died. There is a bronze statue of Hachiko outside Shibuya station, the nearby exit is aptly named Hachiko exit.
We wandered around the busy streets of Shibuya. It had been drizzling rain and started to get heavier, so we entered a department store. We went up to the toy and children’s wear department, which had a great baby changing/ feeding room. After getting a nappy change, Fletcher was free to roam the toy section. He chose to play with the train table that was set up and it was great to let him have some kid time while staying out of the rain.
After watching other children get carried out screaming ( secretly, thinking “yes, Japanese kids have tantrums too”) it was our turn. The next trip was a short 2 minute ride to Harajuku. It was still raining but had gone back to a light drizzle so we set out to explore around the area. We first walked down the famous and crowded Takeshita Dori, amongst all the umbrellas. This was the one day our umbrella wasn’t sitting in the bottom of our backpack.
We came to the famous Harajuku crepes down Takeshita Dori and I said I would get one on our way back. We walked down the stylish Omotesando passing by the many brand name stores. On the corner sits Tokyu Plaza with an impressive entrance of mirrored walls and ceiling.
We then entered Kiddyland, a five-story toy shop. The first floor is stocked with the latest trends, such as characters from a popular movie or anime show. The rest of the building consists of merchandise from Snoopy, Disney, Ghibli, Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma. There are also other anime characters, toys, lego, souvenirs and fashion accessories. At this point Fletcher was tired, cranky and not interested in the crowded store. Tim went outside with him while I made a mental note of things to buy. Although five floors sounds like a big toy store, each floor was really compact and the place was packed with people, it was a Saturday. I joined them outside and we walked along, hoping Fletcher would go to sleep. He didn’t.
We walked back through the busy Takeshita Dori but I sacrificed my crepe fix for getting our tired toddler back to the hotel. We hesitated entering the very crowded Harajuku station and taking the Yamanote line which we predicted would also be crowded. But it was still drizzling and too far to walk at this stage. It was only a five minute train journey to Shinjuku station, so we joined the crowds. It actually wasn’t as bad as it looked from the outside as most of the crowd were heading into Harajuku, rather than out. It was a long five minutes on the train with our cranky little mister, but we made it back to our hotel and could now relax.
Fletcher was fine once we were away from the crowded places and back to our quiet hotel room. He kept himself entertained with his shoehorn ‘sword’. We had an early dinner as we knew he wouldn’t last too much longer, he gobbled up his noodles and was soon sound asleep.