MariCar tour guide: What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about Japan?
And they laughed. Well, food is life in my book! 😀
We finally bid goodbye to Kyoto and made our way to another city very early in the morning. We decided to just buy breakfast at the convenience store so we can catch the 7am shinkansen to Tokyo. I love their onigiri! Surprisingly, the train was crowded. It took us some time to get a seat together since we opted for the non-reserve. Then, we had to take another train to Ueno, where our hotel’s located. I find Tokyo’s transportation more confusing than Kyoto. Probably because Tokyo seemed busier and there are a lot of platforms in the stations.
After leaving our suitcases at the hotel, we headed to Tsukiji Market to get an early lunch. Based on my research, there’s a high probability of waiting for hours if you want to eat at the popular sushi places. I wanted to try Sushidai, one of the high rated sushi bars in the market, but they say wait time’s around 3 hours. Since we didn’t have the luxury of queuing for that long, we went to their other location: Sushidai Annex. I forgot that the sushi bar opens at 11:30am, and we arrived 30 minutes early.
Since we’re still too lazy to walk around, we just waited in front of the bar. When they finally opened, they seated a group of men in suits first. When I told the server that we want a table for two, he was speaking in Japanese with one or two English words. From what I understood, he was asking us if we can wait for one hour. After a failed attempt to converse, we were about to leave when he let us in.
The sushi bar’s small, and it’s probably enough to only seat 15 people. They gave us an English menu. But we already know that we’d like to try omakase, where the sushi chef decides what to serve.
The chef served us all the sushi at once, contrary to what we thought would be served one at a time. There’s probably more or less 15 sushi. We devoured everything in 30 minutes. And I have to say, those were the freshest sushi we’ve ever tasted. Even the sea urchin didn’t taste yucky. (I’m not an adventurous eater.) I’m just all praises about the quality and taste. Every bite of the fish/seafood melts in the mouth. It’s really just incredible. Now, we’re afraid to eat sushi outside Japan in fear of comparing the quality. Japan has spoiled our taste buds!
We didn’t take any photos as it was discouraged. It’s even in the English menu that no photos are allowed as a respect to the food. We obliged and just savored everything in our plate. It’s definitely one to remember.
After the wonderful sushi lunch, we walked about quarter of a mile to Tsukiji Market. We roamed for a bit just to get a view of the place. But since we’re pressing for time, we did not explore the wet market anymore. We looked for the nearest subway to get to Shinjuku.
Accidentally, we came across the life-sized Godzilla Head that’s on top of Hotel Gracery while making our way to the Samurai Museum.
The museum would have been difficult to find if it wasn’t for the samurai display in front. We came just in time for the next English guided tour. The displays are original samurai armors mostly dating back to the Edo period. They have armors from the lowest to the highest rank. The kamon symbols in the helmets indicate rank or family nobility.
Aside from armors, they also have collections of swords, paintings, and saddles on the second floor. Not all swords were made for fighting. Some were actually decorative.
Our tour was interrupted for a moment so we can see the samurai sword demonstration. It’s actually interesting to see demonstration of different cuts. They even asked a volunteer to try it out.
At the end of the tour, there’s a small studio to get photos taken while in costume. It’s part of the entrance fee, so why not?
Of course, we wouldn’t skip Hachiko’s statue at Shibuya station. Who wasn’t touched by his story? It’s just tricky to get a decent photo here.
Not far from the statue is the world’s busiest intersection: Shibuya crossing. There are five pedestrian lanes with probably a hundred of people crossing at one stop. And since we came all the way here, we most likely crossed five times!
After all the photo ops at the crossings, we made our way to Shinagawa, where the main office of MariCar’s located. While researching where to eat near the station, I found a ramen theme park called Shinatatsu Ramen. This ramen park has 7 of the most well known ramen shops in Japan. I noted that we would either try Nantsuttei or Tetsu. We ended up eating at Nantsuttei, which serves pork bone broth ramen.
We each ordered the special Nantsuttei ramen. It’s so good! I wish we had more chances to try the other ramen shops. Now when I hear ramen, I don’t think about the instant noodles anymore. Instead, I imagine the flavorful and worth-slurping ramen of Japan.
MariCar wasn’t part of the original itinerary. I only happened to learn about it after watching a video about the lawsuit filed by Nintendo against the company. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to do it! After reading reviews and comparing the services offered by MariCar and another company, I reserved for Course C. It is a 3-hour drive around Odaiba, Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, and Shibuya. They have other locations and shorter courses. But after spending money to get our international licenses, we might as well do the longest tour to get the most of it. My husband and I decided to wear Mario and Luigi costumes.
We were four in the group. The other couple were from UK. Our tour guide, Wade, was a retired US soldier. He got fed up living in the States that he moved to Japan. He’s been living there for more than a decade!
Before the tour started, Wade explained the basics of driving the go-kart and hand signals. I was a bit nervous at first since we have to use both feet (I’m used to driving an automatic car with just one foot). Our go-karts were already parked at the side of the road. I took the kart that’s behind Wade’s. What’s exciting and scary about it is that there’s no seatbelts or helmets, and we’ll be driving in real highways! It really sounds crazy, right?
We started slow to get the feel of driving the go-kart. After getting the hang of it, we zoomed in to the busier roads and highways. We passed by the Rainbow bridge twice, which speed up our karts up to 70 km/hr. It was so exhilarating driving fast in a go-kart while there were taxis, buses, and trucks beside you, haha! I believe the tour guide played a big role in making us feel safe and comfortable. I thought I would get confused since we’re driving on the opposite side, but Wade was great and made sure we’re still together on every stop.
After an hour or so, we made a stop at a park overlooking the Tokyo Tower. We had the chance to use the restroom, hydrate, and take photos. It’s funny that we were wearing the superhero costumes and the other couple were wearing the villains. We didn’t even know we were in the same group beforehand.
This is actually a great alternative to see the city at night. No tired feet at the end of the day! We got to drive around places that weren’t part of our itinerary. We also crossed Shibuya a few times, but not as pedestrians this time. Cool, right? There were a few people who took photos of us. Because where else can you see go-karts in the street legally? Despite the cold wind, we enjoyed every minute of it. Wade even took photos on almost every stop we made. And on our way back, we had a little bit of detour. We got to enjoy another need for speed on an almost empty road. Aaaahhh! It was so much fun. It’s almost indescribable. Husband said it was the best thing we did in Japan, haha! So in case you find yourself in Tokyo, make sure to do this tour! It’s 101% worth it! No regrets! Just make sure you have an international driving license.
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