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Our 6-Day Kanto Tour (関東六日游) 10/3 – 10/8/2008 – Shinjuku新宿 October 28, 2008

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Monday, 10/6/2008 – Shinjuku, 新宿

  • Shinjuku is probably the most emblematic city for the modern day Tokyo. The area has numerous  shops for all kinds of electronic gadgets, computers and camera, department stores, restaurants big and small, fashion shops (most of them were more expensive than what we can get from the US,) hotels and Tokyo’s government center. Shinjuku is famous for its train Station which is the busiest train station in the world: it served an average of 3.64 million passengers every day in 2007. Yuri said her daughter (now in her 30’s) used to tell her (while in school) that the train was so crowded she usually couldn’t reach the floor while on the train.
  • We would stay at The Keio Plaza tonight. The 3-star hotel is one of the busiest and largest hotels in Tokyo. It is conveniently located in the heart of Shinjuku. Tonight we would be on our own after checking into the hotel.
  • Our bus arrived at the Keio Plaza a little pass 4 PM. Yuri had already called ahead and the hotel had a young staff welcome us as we walked in. He had already prepared our keys and we didn’t even have to drag our luggage around. All would be taken care of by the hotel staff. Although the hotel was a bit old, it didn’t show judging by the appearance of the lobby. The huge lobby was very busy with many tourists just like us walking around in the lobby. The young hotel staff was very efficient and we got our key right away. We went upstairs to our room and our luggage arrived shortly after as promised. After a brief stay, we met Yuri and other tourists in the lobby because Yuri wanted to take us on a walking tour: telling us where to buy what and where to eat what. She gave us a map listing the places to go and eat. She also told us where not to go too.
  • We walked for half an hour or so passing many places including a few department stores (They were huge; 8 floors or higher,) many types of restaurants, drugstore (Daikoku Drug which sells medicines, drinks and cosmetics at very reasonable prices. Yuri said that this is where Japanese shop,) a couple of convenient stores (Lawson; kind like 7-11 which opens 24/7,) Yodobashi (Games and Toys), Bic Camera, Sakuraya (Huge, many floors selling electronic gadgets, computers and camera.)
  • We also past by many restaurants: Ramen (日高屋﹐山頭火 and 京都屋,) a Soba House, 陳麻飯 (擔擔面 & 麻婆飯 Dan Dan Mien & Ma Po Fan,) 牛角炭火燒肉, C&C Curry House, an Italian place, 新宿ねぎし (some kind of Korean style roast beef and noodle place I think), a Sushi Bar (魚河岸日本一) and 天婦羅っな八 (Tempura.)
  • The sushi bar 魚河岸日本一is a small sushi restaurant which has no seats or tables. All it has is a L-Shape counter that is at most 12″ wide and about 15′ long. According to Yuri, the place is busy at any time of the day. It is standing room only and it can only accommodate about 10 people at a time. It was crowded when we passed by with Yuri and later on by ourselves. There were 3 or 4 sushi chefs working behind the counter. Too bad, we couldn’t try it because we already had ramen and didn’t have the stomach for any more sushi. Besides the store didn’t have slots open for us. Maybe next time.
  • We parted company with Yuri and other tourists around 5:30 PM. The sky was getting dark and we were on our own now. I have heard of ramen a long time ago and knew it was very popular in Japan almost to the cult level. I have already decided to try ramen tonight when we were walking around with Yuri. She showed us 3 places and we ended up chose らーめん「山頭火」which is on the 7th floor of the Mylord Department store. But we had to 逛逛 guang guang first. Ramen had to wait.
  • As we walked around, there were many people at street corners, mostly young students, passing out small packages of tissues, flyers for restaurants and other stuff. We must have received 10 packages of napkins within half an hour when we were on our own. We rushed through a couple of train station exits and they were both crowded with people anxious to go home after a day’s hard work.
  • We stopped by 3 Department Stores (高島高島無Takashimaya, 京王百貨and Mylord.) They were all very expensive. All have two or three floors dedicated to ready-to-eat food, food court and restaurants. We also checked out Hands (東急) which sells all kind of utensils and hard-to-find gadgets for kitchen (right next to高島無 with 5 or 6 floors at least,) Sakuraya, and Daikoku Drug, the cosmetics place.
  • The first place we went to was Takashimaya Department store. It is an upscale store with as many as 15 floors of all kinds of stuff. It also has 3 floors set aside for restaurants (upper floors) and fast food joints in the basement. We wanted to check out fruit vinegars for our daughter, Jennifer. We didn’t know how to say vinegar in Japanese and young girls at the Information desk could not read English. Maria got smart and wrote a Chinese word 酢 for them. They immediately knew what we were looking for. The store had many kinds of fruit-flavored 酢 at about $15 to $20 a bottle. Since we couldn’t remember the brand name she wanted we decided to some at other stores later. We then went to 京王百貨 and Mylord but both store didn’t have as good selection as those at Takashimaya. The clothes, cosmetics, handbags were very expensive and we quickly got out to look for other things. One thing I noticed while in these stores was the young girls and professional Japanese women were all dressed in name-branded dresses and many carried name-brand hand bags. They were busy checking out items in the counters, talking to clerks abut their selections, checking out clothes that look like the ones from the fashion magazines and many carried several shopping bags with stuff inside. It was as if they were born to shop. I said to myself: Today is Monday. This place must be filled with customers on weekends. In the basement many stores were selling ready-to-eat items such as sushi, meat balls, tofu, fried rice, vegetables, cookies, and cakes. They were all carefully prepared and beautifully presented. Yuri said that many Japanese house wives come to here near closing time to get better deals. We saw lines of peoples 10 to 15 deep waiting to buy various items on sale. We lined up like the others and got a bag of cookies. It has beautiful package and tasted very creamy and sweet. The food was so inviting we decided to buy some later after we had ramen.
  • Sakuraya was huge with many floors of every kind of new gadgets. Computers were at least 2 times as expensive as we could buy on Internet in the US. PS3’s and iPods were equally expensive. Cameras were the same way. There were however many young students (boys and girls) checking on new and advanced gadgets, reading books and magazines, trying out computers big and small. it appeared to me that iPods were the most popular items because many people congregated at that counter. We stopped for about 10 minutes and got out safely without spending a dime. It was simply too expensive to buy anything here.
  • Maria bought some stuff from Daikoku Drug which was on the 2nd floor of a corner building. According to Yuri, this is the place to buy cosmetics because it was much cheaper compared to what you can buy from the Department stores. By now, it was about time for dinner.
  • 山頭火拉麺らーめん(ramen) is on the 7th floor of the Mylord building which also has an exit for the Shinjuku train station. The restaurant is small; an L-shaped counter with about 8 seats and a few tables near the entrance with about 15 seats. We had to wait for about 5 minutes to get a seat at the counter after a group of office workers finished their meals. Three or four high school students in their blue uniforms were waiting before us. They got a table. Behind the counter, there were 3 workers including a beautiful young female student (late teens) who was helping out with side works and was kind of under the supervision of an older male worker who is in his 30’s. None of them looked like the owner though. They were all very efficient at what they do.
  • Ramen 拉麺 is basically a noodle soup dish. The noodle is kind of yellowish in color. Yuri told us that we needed to order the kind with 白湯 (white broth) and asked them not to make it too salty. I found out that there are four types of Ramen depending on its soup base. They are:
    o Shoyu Ramen: Brown, transparent, soya sauce based soup.
    o Miso Ramen: Brown, non-transparent, miso based soup.
    o Shio Ramen: Transparent, salt based soup.
    o Tonkotsu Ramen: White, milky, pork based soup.
  • We ordered the白湯 “bai tang” ramen (Tonkotsu) and some xiao cai. The colorful menu showed us what kind of ramen we should order. The young guy next to us also ordered Tonkotsu and was enjoying himself with a light noise. I never saw him raised his head while eating. He left shortly after he finished his meal. The ramen was about ¥850 or so, quite reasonable considering high rent in the middle of Tokyo. The ramen was great! The chicken and pork bone broth looked like milk. It was thick, tasty, smooth and full of flavor. I could even smell and taste the bones marrow in there. It was not salty either even though there was some mild fish taste in the soup. The noodle was chewy (Q); the meat was tender and most importantly not over-cooked. The meat tasted kind like the meat in 梅菜扣肉: deep-fried first then slow cooked with veggies over low heat for a long time. The seaweed and green onion complemented the thick and heavy soup very nicely. Yuri told us that we need to make some noise while eating ramen. It is considered polite to do so because you are telling the chef this is great stuff. If you don’t, the chef will stare at you and wonder if there is something wrong about his dish. We politely made some noise like what was instructed but didn’t make it too loud to embarrass ourselves.
  • According to the web site, 山頭火 has 53 store in every region of Japan and oversea: China, Hong Kong, California, New Jersey, and Singapore.
  • The Japanese beer in front of us looked so inviting but we didn’t buy any because we wanted to save some appetite and space for some ready-made food from the grocery store at the basement of Mylord. The food court/grocery store occupied the entire basement and it had about 30 to 40 stalls selling many kinds of food items: fresh and packaged meat, sushi, cakes, cookies, vegetables, fresh produce, fruits, cooked food and many others. They looked so good and so tempting, we bought some and took them back to the hotel.
  • We also bought some sweet stuff as desserts. We then stopped by Lawson and grabbed a couple of beers which was only 3 blocks from the hotel. In our hotel room on the 12th floor, we took our time trying out different stuff, drinking beer, enjoying the night view of Shinjuku skyline and watching Japanese TV programs. It was so relaxing and fun; very different from what we used to do whenever we visited a new city: going to top-rated restaurants where we easily could spend anywhere from $100 to $500 for a meal. I guess you can call that vacation too, albeit a very expensive one on the meal along. This was nice too: two people side by side enjoying each other’s company, trying out food we never had before and watching shows on TV which we couldn’t understand at all. What a night in such a colorful city. I’ll do it again any time. I guess one could call this ” 潇洒 ” or “随缘.”
  • We would get up early for breakfast. Tomorrow would be our last full day in Japan.


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