And so began the Tokyo leg of our trip with breakfast… and shopping. Our first stop was the Isetan Department Store. After seeing the posh stores in the main business district near our restaurant deserted last night at dinner time, I was not sure how much rush to expect but it was pretty much as busy as any mall in Dubai, despite it being a weekday morning. The store is filled with all things branded, but since I’m not really a shopping person, I decided to find myself something that screamed Japan and nothing says Japan quite like ceramics. I headed off to the ceramics section where one of the stores actually had a ceramic painter who was painting right in front of us.
I was tempted to buy something in the traditional white and blue but nothing really caught my eye so I wandered around aimlessly until our sensei suggested visiting the Okinawa exhibition on the 5th floor. To the Japanese themselves, Okinawa is rather foreign, with its own unique flavour owing to the fact that they were very late in being colonized. This means that not only are their handicrafts rather unique, but also their language has its own unique style. I found the Okinawa exhibition absolutely fascinating – a riot of colours, not the traditional image of Japan at all. Their ceramics were also very different and that’s where I finally settled on a handmade plate.
There was lots of coral jewellery which I absolutely loved. There were also traditional musical instruments from Okinawa, mainly the sanshin, and lots of snakeskin products, from purses to packs of just snakeskin and there was even a huge snakeskin on display which you could touch… I did…then ran away to the first floor to look for a fan. I’m pretty picky when it comes to buying things for other people so suffice it to say I couldn’t find what I was looking for and instead spent my time more wisely in the basement… in the basement filled with food. By food I mean all sorts of cute bento boxes, heaps and heaps of colourful salads and of course… Japanese sweets <3 If all that food had been halal, you’d probably have had to drag me out of there by force.
By mid-day, we were ready to head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office to get some views of the city. It’s open on weekdays from 10am to 3pm and entrance is free. I wasn’t too eager to go at first, but the thought of a possible glimpse of Mt. Fuji versus shopping convinced me otherwise. It was only after I got there that I learned that the heavy city smog and normally dense cloud cover meant spotting Mt. Fuji is more of a rarity than I had expected. Nonetheless, being 202m up in the air meant views were good and made for a great panorama of the sprawling city. They ran out of brochures in English, so I got myself a brochure in Korean so I could figure out what the main landmarks were ^^
Back downstairs, we headed to the tourist information centre where we picked up some brochures on where we were set to go next. If you’re not keen on reading about the places, they have great visuals highlighting what each area is famous for ^^.
Lunch was a Turkish affair at Bosphorus Hasan which was followed by perhaps the highlight of everyone’s day (or trip)… the famous Akihabara.
Our first stop was Yodobashi, which I had expected would be an electronics haven. I was very much mistaken… Yodobashi is not only an electronics haven but also, and perhaps more importantly for me, a model haven.
The 7th and 8th floors are filled with all kinds of models- cars, trains, Gundams, puzzles… you name it- they have it. It was completely overwhelming- the sheer scale of it and the number of models. I was sorely tempted to put the entire floor in my basket, but decided to exercise self-constraint or risk going bankrupt on my first night in Tokyo. As such I treated myself to a puzzle which I had spent months searching for back home and my brother found himself a Gundam model… not a Gundam model but THE Gundam model, I should say since it’s the model from our favourite Gundam show.
And so we left on a Gundam-high to look for.. you guessed it… the Gundam cafe which is actually really close to Yodobashi.
Stay Tuned for Day 5 Part 2