Tokyo, Japan: A Blend of Old and New

When I think about Tokyo, I picture a bustling city with sky-high buildings and hustling people in suits coming on and off the train. And while we did experienced getting dragged by the crowd during rush hours, I’m amazed to see centuries old temples and parks in the middle of the metropolis. Despite the country being technologically advanced, I see how the Japanese people respect their culture. That’s one of the things I admire about Japan, aside from the wonderful TOTO washlet of course!

We woke up later than usual on our last day, especially that the Tokyo National Museum’s just around the corner and opens at 9:30am. It’s a cooler morning with a chance of rain forecast.

We started the morning with a lovely stroll at Ueno Park. We also stopped by for hot drinks and pastries at Starbucks while waiting for the museum to open. You can actually spend a whole day exploring the park since there’s 4 museums, a zoo, temples, and walking trails.

The Tokyo National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Japan. It has six complexes, but we focused on the Japanese exhibits in Honkan and Heiseikan.

The top right photo are the Twelve Heavenly Generals, which are Buddhist sculptures associated with Chinese zodiac from the 12-13th century. The other two photos are of Two Heavenly Kings.

They also have a collection of writing boxes and cabinets in maki-e lacquer. The designs are so beautiful and intricate!

Pictured above are Wakizashi, Katana, and Tachi swords. Sea turtle skull (lower L); Imari ware from Edo period (middle R); Japanese clothing (lower R)

There are lots of paintings, too. Imagine, these were painted thousand of years ago.

Close to the museum shop is an interactive room. There’s a table where you can design a postcard with stamps of Japanese related symbols. We obviously don’t know which side’s which.

The grand staircase to the second floor was worth a stop for a photo op. I loved the natural lights beaming through the ceiling.

One interesting feature I noticed on one samurai armor was the presence of nipples. The head gear even has a mustache!

Another interesting section was the Terracotta Tomb figures.

It took us more or less 1.5 hour. There’s really more to see, but we had to get going.

Since it’s the last day, we wanted to make sure we get to eat sushi again. Sushi Zanmai was just a few meters away from the park. This restaurant was rated 4 stars in tripadvisor, so we decided to try it. Our order was similar to what we had in Sushidai Annex, but the quality and taste of the seafood were far from being alike. I would rate their sushi as average. Gosh, our taste buds have definitely turned picky!

After stuffing ourselves, we proceeded to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. It’s one of the most popular and colorful Buddhist temples in Tokyo; thus, the heavy crowd. This got to be the busiest site we’ve visited in the entire trip. Before entering the temple, you will pass by the Kaminarimon or the Thunder Gate, which has the symbol of the city. The original gate was burnt down, though.

Upon entering, you’ll be welcome by a shopping street called Nakamise. You can find all sorts of souvenirs and trinkets. My husband bought me a kokeshi doll. ❤

After passing the second gate Hozomon, you will see the main hall and the 5-storey pagoda. There’s also a pair of huge traditional slippers on Hozomon called O-waraji. It’s made by 800 people in a month, and is considered a charm against evil spirits.

My husband wanted to see Ultraman. And the only Ultraman currently standing is located in Bandai building. There’s no direct subway or bus from Senso-ji Temple to Bandai, so we had to walk. There are also other anime characters like Goku from Dragonball Z and Doraemon. We tried to enter the building to check their store, but the guard didn’t let us in.

Our last destination was Akihabara. It’s the center of otaku culture, anime, and manga. After my husband checked an anime store, we stopped by to get snacks. I wanted to try yakitori. So I bought a beef skewer, while my husband bought takoyaki at Gindaco.

I saw a Taito Game Station near the food stalls. And I know this would be my last chance to do the photobooth or puripuka. It’s located on the basement. I’m glad my husband agreed to do it. First, you will get six photos taken. You can choose a style, and there’s a guide on how to pose. Then, you will move to the next booth to design each photos. There’s a timer on how long you can edit. Since it’s in Japanese, it took a while to figure out how to add stickers. Lastly, you can choose the frames and print the photos on the next booth. The outcome had us laughing, but it’s actually a cute souvenir!

One of the weirdest thing we did was the maid cafe. We were curious to see what it’s all about. Surprisingly, you have to pay a service charge and have one order each. We only ordered drinks and chocolate ice cream that was designed like a teddy bear. The “maids” also handed us headbands. She called me “princess”, while he addressed my husband as “master.” We had to say “meow mew” if we want to call them! We can’t take photos of the maids, unless we pay for it. I’m surprised that there are also ladies in the cafe and not just men. There were also ceremonies where they asked us to say and do weird stuff, haha. We even got to watch one of the maids perform on the stage for one of the guests. It’s really crazy weird, but I guess it’s a thing in Japan. The food was subpar, but the experience was something else. HAHA

Now, it’s time to spend the shopping money! We bought Japanese snacks at Donki. It has so many floors and so many stuff. But I just bought dried squids, cookies, and KitKats. I was amused to see a sake flavored KitKat. We only had less than an hour left to check out Mandarake for anime stuff before it closes at 8pm. My husband did find something he wanted, but it’s too darn expensive! We left empty-handed. On our way back to the hotel, we had a quick stop at Yamashiroya toy store. And this is where I found Ghibli items! I was a happy kid after buying a Totoro keychain.

It was already late, but we were hungry. Funnily, we opted for an American meal for our last night.

We left early for the flight, which was a great idea since the train started filling up. I didn’t want to stand for an hour ride to the airport. After checking-in, we refunded our SUICA cards, dropped off the wi-fi router in the mailbox, exchanged leftover Yen, bought Japanese confectioneries, and ate a heavy breakfast. My husband requested for tempura, so we ordered the Fiesta Tempura meal. And so this was our last meal in Japan.

Just like any other vacations, the five days went by so quickly. But we had so many great memories that it won’t be the last. Japan has won us over!

Here’s the travel video of our Japan adventure:

P.S. Aside from the travel blogs and guides I have read, I’m grateful to our friends and family who shared their experiences with Japan. It had made our DIY trip a whole lot easier. And for those interested, here’s the itinerary I made, which had changes along the way:

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