I wouldn’t call my first day in Japan completely uneventful. First of all, per my friend’s recommendation, I booked this hotel in Tokyo, right next to the Shinjuku Train Station, arguably the world’s busiest transportation hub (no kidding, there’s even a Guinness World Record for it). So when I arrived, jetlagged, after a ten-hour flight and couple of train transfers, I found myself LOST among countless underground tunnels and exits. There was no information desk at sight, and no hurried passersby with good command of English to help. What was I thinking?
Fortunately the hotel wasn’t too far away. Once I checked into my room, I heard a loud kaboom sound, the floor dropped and the refrigerator made a faint noise. I cannot believe it. I just experienced an earthquake. But this is Japan, and they are used to it, except that the elevator from the 24th floor down stopped working. I needed to get food. The stairs were well-lit and there were hotel staffs on each floor bowing and apologizing for the inconvenience. I envisioned myself in a Marathon match with people waving little flags at me and shouting “Ganbatte”. I did it.
After the initial lost and found, the location of the hotel couldn’t be better. In addition to being adjacent to the transportation hub, which makes it convenient to go anywhere in Tokyo or Japan, there are multiple department stores right around the corner. My favorite is the Takashimaya across the bridge. I LOVE their food department. I spent a whole rainy afternoon there, window feasting the delicious food counters and sweets.
After much deliberation, I had my mind set on these dark chocolate truffle mochies from this shop. I was not disappointed. They were super fresh and melt in your mouth.
For dinner, my Japanese friend took me to this restaurant, known for its shabu shabu. We had fugu (poisonous blow fish) for appetizer: sashimi style and bones deep-fried served with fine sea salt. It truly is a deadly delicacy.
Our shabu shabu came with high grade matsusaka beef that were very well marbled and incredibly tender
Accompanied by special house-made sesame sauce (gomadare)
Add kishimen noodles after finishing the meat and vegetables and the soup becomes flavorful. Kishimen is a flat broad noodle, specialty in Aichi prefecture.
For dessert, warabi mochi with kuromitsu black sugar syrup
Given that it was Friday, interesting things are happening on the street.
From the hotel room, a great view of fall foliage in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, an oasis in the middle of the city
And a sunset to remember
I had never considered Tokyo a destination on its own. There are many other cities in Japan that are far more beautiful and interesting. But it’s ultra-modern, it’s bustling, and it’s funky, it has some of the best restaurants in the world. So I’d be happy to come back, as long as I am not far from a transportation hub.