Excerpts from Japan: Nakamise Street and Tokyo Tower

A short walk from Asakusa Station, Nakamise Street is a street on the approach to Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The street is believed to have originated during the early 18th century when neighbours of Sensō-ji were granted permission to set up shops along the way to the temple. Over 200 metres long, there are more than 150 small stores that line the street. These stores cater to visiting crowds, offering local specialties, popular souvenirs and curious foods. Traditional dishes and snacks, many of them famous to Asakusa, can be found at many of the food stalls. Handmade noodles, tempura, senbei rice crackers, candies, kaminari-okoshi (a crispy snack made from popped sweet rice), ningyo-yaki (small moulded Japanese cakes)… the list goes on!

When James and I got to Nakamise Street, I can tell you that it was overwhelming. The sheer number of people crowding every single inch of the entire street was enough to make you want to do a one-eighty turn and walk away from the chaos. But we persevered and braced ourselves for the hustle and bustle of the fascinating street.

Alright, so we didn’t even finish walking the entire length of the street because it was just way too packed and fighting against the sea of human bodies got too tiring for us. So, after looking at various shops, staring forlornly at many of the sparkly, shiny, super kawaii items on display and finally purchasing some novelty souvenirs, we decided to head out of the crowded street…

… and on to another street…

Where we found a tiny food and dessert shop that James recognised from some blog he read ages ago that claimed it sold amazing melon pan. Excited? James was. And yes, the melon pan was quite delicious.

The huge sweet bun was ridiculously soft and fluffy, and the thin layer of crispy cookie dough that covered it was a sugary, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth sensation. I think James was quite happy he bought one!

After walking around a bit more, we exited the area and made our way back to the train station. But not before stopping off at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center! The building caught my eye because of its unique and impressive appearance. As Dezeen Magazine aptly put it, the eight-storey building “looks like a stack of smaller buildings with sloping roofs”. We went in to take a look and found out that there was a lookout deck open to the public on one of the upper floors’ balconies. So, up we went! And the view was quite stunning. We could see Nakamise Street and Sensō-ji Temple from up there. All the people crammed along Nakamise! At this point, I couldn’t believe that we were down there fighting the crowds just a moment ago!

There was a floor in the building that was like a mini exhibition room with pictures and information boards that explained some of the culture behind Asakusa. I took some pictures of the little figurines on display. I don’t really know what purpose they served, but they were cute!

We got back to the train station and headed back to our hotel.

We hung around Shibuya for a bit and I took some pictures of the swarming city crowd as well as some pictures from a window on the 19th floor of our hotel.

We took photographs until nightfall and I believe this might have been the night that the famous supermoon 2012 made its appearance. This would explain why the moon looked so huge and glowy. We actually managed to capture it on camera!

Anyway, when it got dark, we figured it was time to head back out again!

No visit to Tokyo is ever complete without at least taking a good look at Tokyo Tower! As a 333 metre tall communications and observation tower, it hails as the second tallest artificial structure in Japan and the world’s tallest self-supporting steel tower. It is truly a sight to behold, especially at night when it is all lit up like a Christmas tree. Located in Shiba Park (Minato, Tokyo), we were among the many people who walked up that hill that night to get to it. We’d been walking all day and by this time, we were quite exhausted, but we still managed to walk from Akabanebashi Station all the way to the tower and still have the strength and patience to mill around and take a great number of pictures of the grand architectural masterpiece.

Tokyo Tower is a good 13 metres taller than the model it was built after: the Eiffel Tower of Paris. While serving as a television and radio broadcast antenna, it also does an amazing job at being a tourist attraction. Guests can ascend the tower to visit two observation decks. The two-storey Main Observatory is located at 150 metres and has several attractions including a small café, a souvenir shop and a Shinto shrine. The Special Observatory is located at 250 metres. Both observation decks offer an impressive 360 degree view of Tokyo. On clear days, Mount Fuji may be seen in the distance to the South.

Unfortunately, we didn’t actually go up the tower and I actually regret not doing so. The view would have been great at night! Anyway, we headed back to Shibuya after that and decided to have a dinner. We bought a couple of burgers from MOS Burger and took them back to our hotel room to munch on. Just so you know, I’m a big fan of MOS Burger and frequented the outlets quite often in Singapore when I used to live there. I wish there were more outlets on the Gold Coast.

Anyway, after our yummy dinner, we decided to call it a day, had a nice warm shower, got into bed and looked forward to the following day. Come back next time to read about our fifth day in Japan where we tackle the Imperial Palace gardens and head back to Yokohama!

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