Who locked the Katsu out?

Today we checked out of Andon and left Tokyo bound for Nozawa Onsen. We enjoyed our time at Andon. This was our 7th visit there! Just for comparison, and because the “10 Year Challenge” or whatever it’s called is so hot right now, here is a photo of Blainie at Andon in 2007 and then reenacting that photo today.

Miss you already Andon!

Next thing we know we are on a very busy Shinkansen to Iiyama. We ate tasty bento on the train.

At Iiyama, we caught the bus to Nozawa Onsen. It was snowing when we got in to Iiyama. Lots more snow in Nozawa. We had a cheese toastie and coffee at Haus St Anton with all the other Australians.

Very snowy here.

Got our skis and snowboard sorted. Had an Onsen. Bought some things for dinner and ate them back at the hotel. There was some pretty serious thunder and lightning happening as we walked back to our hotel. Kind of weird in the snow.

Oh yes, nearly forgot. We had some pork Katsu sandwiches that we needed to keep cold. Except no fridge in our room. That’s ok, because we have snow just outside on our balcony.

Chichibu and beyond

Today we decided to venture out of the city. Chichibu was our destination of choice. We weren’t quite sure what we’d find there, but Blainie just likes saying Chichibu and has been saying it quite often for the last year or so.

First we got on a Shinkansen. Except we got on the wrong Shinkansen so we had to get off at Omiya station. Omiya was a pleasant surprise and we got to meet some of the local prefectures mascots which was very exciting.

We got back on the correct Shinkansen for about 15 minutes and ended up in Kumagaya. There we had to change for the local train to Chichibu. The trip took about 40 minutes, but there was nice scenery and the train was cute.

We made it to Chichibu! And we saw this cute drain cover.

It was lunch time by the time we got to Chichibu and apparently soba is the specialty there, so soba we must have. We found a place that looked good and went in.

After lunch we saw Chichibu Shrine which was really cool. It had monkeys and tigers and owls carved into it.

We walked down a cute shopping street but most things were closed. It was still nice though.

At the end of the street we found a new complex that housed a food hall and an onsen. The water for the onsen comes from 2000 metres below the ground. Of course we had to go and have a soak in there. It was great. There were outdoor baths as well. Really lovely and rejuvenating.

Then it was back on the train bound for Ikebukuro. It was a bit cold on the train.

In Ikebukuro we did a quick spot of shopping before getting sushi for dinner on the 8th floor of Seibu department store.

On the way home we saw this awesome robot dude.

Bonus content: before we had dinner we went to the Sega arcade In Ikebukuro and got some Purika photos. They are so much fun.

Soufflé day

We had a big day today, but we didn’t take too many photos.

Firstly, we caught the subway to Omotesando. The plan was to wander up Cat Street and look at some shops. Well, the problem with that plan, is that we were there too early and none of the shops opened until midday. Boo. So we walked in the cold and looked at some closed shops until we made it to Shibuya.

In Shibuya we decided that a revisit to Hoshino Coffee was in order. Steve wasn’t feeling too great the other day when we visited and was keen to have a soufflé pancake. Luckily it wasn’t very busy and we got a window seat. We had coffee (which is very good btw) and pancakes with chocolate sauce. Steve got the double pancake.

We sat there for quite a while as it was nice and warm and it was fun watching all the people on the scramble crossing trying to take photos. Particularly this one girl who repeatedly went out in to the crossing and did sashes and other random dance moves whilst her mum took photos and instructed her how to do it better. At one point she nearly knocked a poor lady off her bike who was just trying to cross the road.

After pancakes, we had a bit of a wander through Shibuya and up to an area called Tomigaya. We were lead to believe there were lots of cafes and cute shops in this area but in reality there was about 3 shops spread out over about a kilometre. We walked back to Shibuya.

Had a lunch/snack at Tokyo Food Show (the basement of Shibuya Train station). Onigiri and pork Katsu sandwiches which for some reason came in Hello Kitty packaging.

Snack time over, we got back on the subway and headed for Ginza. Checked out Uniqlo (the worlds biggest) but didn’t buy anything.

Bought some matcha cookies from this fancy place just because.

It was busy in Ginza. Lots of tourists being bus’ed in to buy expensive things.

Dinner back in Ueno. Went to the place Blainie ate at the other night cos it was so good.

***Edit*** At around 9:45pm we were sitting in our room at Andon when all of a sudden the walls started to shake. It took us a little while to work out that we were experiencing an earthquake. The building swayed more than shook I guess and it went on for about a minute or so. Pretty freaky. We were a bit concerned but when we went down to check at reception they barely even noticed there had been an earthquake. Just another day in Tokyo. (The earthquake was in Chiba and was a 5.1 but no damage or anything was reported)

Chotto sanpo

Chotto sanpo

We decided to head to Yanaka today. Steve was feeling a little better and wanted to get out and about. As we walked to the train station (a different one than we normally use) we got a little lost and ended up in the Joyful Shopping Arcade. We do love this arcade, and when we spotted some grilled scallops on offer at one of the fish mongers, we decided that it was morning tea time.

Once in Yanaka, the only sensible thing to do was to go have lunch at one of our favourite places – Kayaba Coffee. Steve got the chicken curry and Blainie had the beef hash. We are not ashamed to admit we have both had these meals here before. And we will have them again. I don’t know what they are doing at Kayaba but whatever it is, they are doing it right. Their coffee is also exceptional. Even if Blainie only had a Cafe Mocha. Steve got a hot apple and ginger tea.

As we left Kayaba, Steve ran in to two of his work friends who just happen to be in a Tokyo also. Pretty crazy, huh? Tokyo’s not such a big place after all.

We had a bit of a wander around Yanaka, looked at some shops and stuff. Only managed to see one cat.

Saw this temple that got attacked in 1879. These are the actual bullet holes from then.

Then we went to Kappabashi dori AKA kitchen town. So much kitcheny goodness. Difficult not to buy all the things. We did get some plates and a Katoributa (ceramic pig thing for putting mosquito coils in). We will worry about how to get things home safely at a later stage.

Then we headed back to Ueno for a bit of a wander, before heading back to Minowa and going to our local favourite Toybox for delicious ramen dinner.

Alone in Tokyo

Alone in Tokyo

We had bought tickets to go to TeamLab Borderless exhibition today. Check out the link for more information. Too difficult to explain. Sadly Steve woke up not feeling so great today, and decided that he should probably stay in, in the warmth of our accommodation. Not wanting to totally waste the money we spent on the tickets, Blainie decided to go on her own.

It’s a bit of a trek to TeamLab which is located in Odaiba. First a trip on the Hibiya subway line, then a change on to the Asakusa subway line which takes you to Shimbashi. By the this stage it was already 11am, so lunch was in order. Yes, it was a bit early, but who wants to get stuck inside an exhibition being hungry? After a brief look around Shimbashi station, Blainie spotted her favourite ramen – Kitakata ramen.


After lunch it was on to The monorail bound for Odaiba.

TeamLab was surprisingly unbusy and there was no one hour queue as we had been lead to believe. After some brief explanations and warnings about the darkness, in we all went.

Bit of a sensory overload. You just wander in and out of rooms and around everywhere and there’s different things and they change and stuff. Pretty cool.

In the “Athletic Forest” you got to colour in a picture, which then gets scanned and it shows up on the ground or the wall. Sadly, I did a butterfly and not a mere 10 seconds after it appeared, it got eaten by a lizard.

Then there were other rooms with things like this and bouncy floors and climbing trees.

I also got to colour a seahorse and have it show up in the sea of munted sea creatures. Very cool.

Spent around 2-3 hours in there. After a while it got a bit much, but it was really cool. I needed to see some daylight, so I walked over to Diver City and checked out the big Gundam statue. It’s almost the same as the big Gundam statue we saw a few years ago – except it’s not. It’s a new statue.

Here’s the Hello Kitty version.

Matcha latte break at Nana’s Green Tea

Looked at some shops then went over to the other side of Odaiba – to Decks shopping mall. Saw the Statue of Liberty statue.

And managed to take some selfies with some LEGO figures.

Then went to the awesome retro shopping arcade in Decks. It’s so cool. It’s got old video games and shops selling cool things. Love it.

It was staring to get late by now. So after a brief look at the Tokyo skyline and illuminations and I got back on the monorail.

Back at Shiodome station I tried to find some illuminations which were proving very difficult to find. When I did find them they were a little disappointing.

So back on to the Yamanote train bound for Ueno where I had an excellent dinner in the basement of Oi Oi. Ikura and Uni – oishikatta!!

And I brought Steve a bento home for his dinner.

Soba so good

Soba so good

This morning we went to Sakura Onsen in Komagome warm up in their baths. It’s very nice there. We visited last time we were here too. No photos though, because, well, we can’t take photos in a public bath. That would just be plain weird.

We did however see this – ten points for anyone that can figure out what this bike and the weird contraption on the back is all about. We learnt about these watching NHK a while ago, so was pretty cool to see in real life.

Anyway, by the time we’d finished there it was lunch time so we jumped on the subway and headed for a soba noodle place that we were keen to visit. Look, we won’t lie, we found out about this place when Anthony Bourdain visited it on an episode of Parts Unknown (or was it No Reservations? Who can remember these things) but when we looked it up on the inter webs it sounded great. So a visit was a must. Sarashina Horii Soba has been open for over 200 years. 200 hundred years! Making soba! As soon as we walked in we knew it was going to be awesome. We ordered a basic bowl of hot soba each and some side dishes – tamagoyaki, buta kakuni (stewed Pork) and Yuba (tofu skin). It was all really, really, really good. Like the.best.ever. I guess you can’t really stay in business that long if you’re not any good. Delicious.

We might have to make a return visit.

After lunch we got back on the subway ( we have a 3 day subway pass which is an absolute bargain so have been using the subway a lot more than the Yamanote line this trip) and headed to Shibuya. A trip to Tokyo isn’t a trip to Tokyo without a visit to Shibuya. It was raining when we got to Shibuya, so we decide to go to Hoshino Coffee for a coffee and their famous soufflé pancakes. Because we really neeeded more food.

We managed to get a table with a view out on to Shibuya crossing.

Blainie ordered the chocolate soufflé pancake. Just one, because two would be ridiculous. Do we have to mention that it was delicious?

We chilled there for a bit then went up to the top floor of Shibuya 109 Magnet where there is a viewing platform.

Shibuya is so cool.

On the way back down the building Blainie found some Hello Kitty things.

Incidentally the character images in the photo above only showed up when the photo was taken with a flash. Pretty weird.

We had a quick wander around Shibuya and made the obligatory visit to the Disney Store.

Steve was starting to feel a bit unwell. Seems he’s managed to pick up the dreaded Tokyo cold in record time, so headed back to Ueno. Steve went back to the hotel to chill but Blainie stayed in Ueno for a bit to do some shopping. She succeeded didn’t buy everything. Although was very tempted.

Bento dinner back at Andon. Another day in Tokyo is over.

Like a mini Kyoto by the sea

Like a mini Kyoto by the sea

It was a beautiful clear sunny day today (although still freezing) so we decided to take a day trip to Enoshima Island. This is our 7th (!!!) trip to Tokyo, and we only just recently heard about Enoshima. We didn’t really know what to expect, except that there was a cool hanging monorail that takes you there. The plan was to go check it out, then catch the train on to Kamakura and have a look around there too.

After breakfast at Andon, we headed out into the world. First stop was Ofuna, where For morning tea we had Nikuman (steamed pork buns). So good.

Ofuna is where you catch the monorail to Enoshima. We bought our tickets and got on.

It was a really cool trip on the monorail. It goes through some windy streets and up and down mountains. Mount Fuji even poked its head out from the clouds along the way. The station at the end of the monorail track is Shonan Enoshima. There was a special viewing platform to see Mount Fuji.

We followed the crowds to a long, narrow shopping street and slowly started wandering up it. There were lots of cafes and restaurants and cute shops selling things that were difficult not to buy.

At the end of this street was an underpass that’s takes you up on to the bridge that crosses the water to take you to Enoshima Island.

Once on Enoshima Island, another cute street full of cute things awaits. It reminded us of the winding streets in Higashi-Yama, Kyoto near Kiyomizudera. Again, it was hard not to by all the things.

Then we found a Hello Kitty shop, restaurant and icecream stand. Blainie was very excited.

After a look in the shop (and surprisingly not buying anything) we decided not to go to the restaurant, but that icecream and matcha were in order. Blainie had a “strong matcha” soft serve and Steve had a matcha latte. They were good. Real good. And came with extra Hello Kitty cuteness.

Being so close to the ocean, seafood is abundant around here. We had grilled mackerel and baby sardines with rice and stuff for lunch. Delicious.

After lunch we caught a series of escalators up a mountain to some temples and the famous Enoshima Island Sea Candle.

It’s pretty awesome around, with great views. We went up to the viewing platform on the sea candle.

Then we discovered another walking path, so followed that and went down some steps and then we found the ocean and some rocks and stuff and it was really lovely.

Then we walked back across the bridge.

And caught the train to Kamakura. It was already getting late by now. We ended up spending the day in Enoshima because it was so lovely. By the time we got to Kamakura it was cold and dark.

We had a quick look around before getting back on the train to Ueno.

Curry Udon for dinner in Ueno Station.

A very big day for us. But Enoshima was really awesome. We hope to visit again.