Travel: Taking on Tokyo
August 28, 2010
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a five-part series about Lauren Glendenning’s travels through Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.TOKYO – One full day in this enormous city is obviously not enough time to see or do much, but you’d be surprised at what you can fit into a day with a little determination and some caffeine.The time change worked out to our benefit since we woke up at about 5 a.m. and were ready to get going. We took advantage of our location near the Tokyo Tower and went there first, walking through beautiful gardens at the Zojoji Temple, a grand 16th-century Buddhist temple, along the way.Tokyo Tower is nothing special by itself – it’s a tower with an observation point to see a panoramic view of the city skyline, so take it for what it’s worth. It’s certainly not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but the views are.You get a great sense for how large Tokyo is from atop the Tokyo Tower. Unfortunately, we were there on an overcast day and couldn’t see too far or too clearly.We really wanted a view of Mount Fuji but had no such luck. The next stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, a famous wholesale fish market where tuna auctions can fetch seven figures for a single fish. To see the crazy tuna auctions, you have to arrive at 4:30 a.m. to get on a list. The first 140 visitors will be allowed inside. We just weren’t that motivated.Even if we missed the auction, we could see the insanity of the place still lingering around after 10 a.m. There was fish everywhere, and men on motorized carts driving in every direction. You have to be alert here – these guys don’t slow down for tourists. The place was incredible. We walked around for more than an hour and probably didn’t even cover a quarter of the area. All I kept thinking about while we were there was getting some sushi, which led us to our next stop.We found a sushi restaurant nearby that didn’t look as authentic as some of the others, but this one didn’t have an hour-plus wait to get in, so we were sold.The sushi was fresh and delicious, and amazingly inexpensive.This was sadly the only time I had sushi while in Japan.Down the street from Tsukiji was a food market right along the main drag where we stopped for some udon noodle soup with tempura shrimp. It was amazing. We slurped the broth right from the bowl, just as the locals did it, and enjoyed every last drop. Next up was the Sensoji Temple, a temple a Japanese friend suggested I see while in Tokyo. A five-minute train ride from Tsukiji and we were at the Asakusa Station, just minutes from the temple.The Nakamise Dori, the pedestrian road that leads up to the temple’s shrine, is lined with souvenir stands that are swarming with tourists. I preferred the Asakusa city areas around the temple over this touristy street, but it was still a lot of fun to check it out.
After some more wandering, it was time to check into our next hotel, the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. This hotel is about as luxurious as it gets, and it was the perfect ending to a day full of running around a crowded city. We checked into our room on the 36th floor of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower – the hotel occupies the 30th to 38th floors – and laid down on the bed. It was the most breathtaking city views I’ve ever seen.We allowed ourselves a quick nap, no more than one hour, because our day in this cosmopolitan city was not over.Lauren Glendenning can be reached at (970) 748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.