Day 3: Asakusa, Akihabara, and some Lost In Translation
After shopping our hearts out the first two days, day number 3 was all about cultural exploration and great local foods. We kicked off our day in Asakusa, a district well known for the grand temples of Senso-ji. While we definitely encountered significantly more tourists than in other parts of the city, it was refreshing to see the spiritual side of Tokyo and gain access to some of the traditions of the local people. For example, there was a large pit in the center of the square just before the main temple where people write down their sins and set them ablaze-an inspiring and symbolic action. Asakusa was also home to these amazing crackers that are cooked to perfection and flavored with a variety of seasonings like olive oil and sesame seed.
After some mini-spiritual rejuvenation, we were on our way to Akihabara-home of the world-famous Electric District. First things first, the tech nerd in me wanted to explore Yodobashi. Yodobashi is an electronics emporium that feels like Best Buy on steroids. Floor after floor after floor of electronics and accessories for every category from photography to headphones to oral care. It was astonishing. But not even this tech overload could prepare me for the Electric District. This entire neighborhood serves as a sort of shrine to anime. There are multi-level stores dedicated to anime movies, figurines, and adult anime merch. The arcades are out of this world, and the pachinkos (the Japanese equivalent to a Vegas casino) are full of avid gamers.
We topped off our Akihabara adventure at Toritetsu-a quaint restaurant with a specialty in Yakitori. The food and sake were both to die for, and I found myself wondering how I'd lived without Japanese cuisine for so long.
To end our night, we took a pretty extensive journey to the Tokyo Park Hotel. This is the hotel where most of Lost In Translation was filmed. We listened to live jazz and sipped premium cocktails at New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the hotel. Our table faced a breathtaking view of the city, and I found myself replaying my favorite parts of the film in my head throughout our time there. The movie geek in me was more than pleased.
And one minor note: Tokyo is known for selling 15 rare flavors of Kit Kats. My best friend requested that I pick up the purple sweet potato variety for her. After searching for the damn things in 5 different neighborhoods and at least 10 different convenience stores, we found the holy grail of Kit Kat displays while in Akihabara. The most difficult part of my mission in Tokyo was complete! We covered a lot of ground during this day, stuffed our faces with some insanely good food, and pulled back more layers of the great onion that is Tokyo.
Day 4: Ebisu, Shinjuku, and the Engagement
Ebisu is a quiet residential neighborhood well off the beaten path for tourists. I was on the hunt for the Saturdays NYC store for a little slice of home while we were away. Not only did we find Saturdays, which was a peaceful reprieve from the craziness of Tokyo, but we also stumbled upon a series of shops and a massive bookstore chain called Tsutaya. Tsutaya was a massive offering with over three floors and two buildings complete with Starbucks and a full restaurant lounge. The selection of fashion magazines and photography books was outstanding, and many were in English. Who would've thought we'd find this warm connection to the States in a place that most tourists don't visit?
Shinjuku is another larger than life shopping district where the streets are lined with numerous shops and department stores like the massive OIOI (a Japanese equivalent to Macy's). The Golden Gai is a neighborhood filled with restaurants, sex shops, Girl Bars (as they're called here), and regular shops. The neighborhood is also home to Robot Restaurant-one of the most popular dinner show extravaganzas in Tokyo. We didn't have time to enjoy it, but it's on the list for next time for sure.
Our evening was easily the highlight of the trip. We had an absolutely incredible couples hot stone relaxation and head massage. The massage therapists were the sweetest and super attentive to every need from the temperature of the room to our comfort and positioning on the massage tables. The massage took place in a private suite in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. We achieved ultimate zen 37 floors above Tokyo with a spectacular view. That view was also present for our dinner at SENSE, a traditional Cantonese restaurant in the hotel. We enjoyed fried noodles, an array of seafood and vegetables, and a Cantonese-style deep fried chicken.
But the ultimate highlight...HE PROPOSED!! My amazing partner made the ultimate romantic gesture. Throughout the night, I'd noticed a small box with fortune cookies sitting on the table, but I thought it was part of the Cantonese dining experience. A fun little kitschy element to relax the formal dining atmosphere. But inside the fortune was his proposal! I was stunned! One of the few times in my life where I was speechless. I started asking questions about the fortune cookie before I said yes because I was so dumbfounded. But of course I said yes! After dinner, we continued to enjoy the spectacular view over celebratory drinks. It was a truly a night I'll never forget. And Tokyo truly has my heart.