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Friday, April 28, 2006

A very early day... 

Friday, April 28, 2006. 4:12pm

Well, we did it: we managed to wake up at 4:30am today to get to the Tsukji Fish Market! I think this is a record for both of us: I've never woken up that early before - at least not without having stayed awake all night!

We were out of the hotel by 5:15, and took a cab to the fish market (about 20 minutes). I have to say: it was certainly worth waking early for - we were so happy that we did! People aren't kidding when they say that you'll never see anything like it. These fish (tuna) are ENORMOUS! It was very hustly-bustly there, and we kept having to dodge men pulling and driving carts. Our guidebook says that 90 percent of fish eaten in Tokyo passes through this fish market, and now I understand why. We were able to watch the auctions from a distance, which was pretty interesting. We also walked around the booths and witnesses one of these giants being cut up into (still) enormous slabs of tuna. I am glad that we went as early as we did - the market opens at 5:00, and we were told that the earlier you get there, the more interesting things you'll see.

The auction

Dick and the Giant Fish Head (perhaps this should be the name of Dick's band?)

The fish (whose head Dick posed with) being cut into slightly smaller sections

After we escaped the crowd of the market, we hopped into one of the many stalls to eat a sushi breakfast. We didn't know which one to choose (unfortunately, I got Sheri's suggestions too late!) and chose one that was very crowded with locals. Unfortunately, we don't think we chose very well. The maguro that we had just just okay - certainly not as good as sashimi that we've had in San Francisco and Hawaii. Perhaps we're just spoiled in having had really great sushi, but it wasn't nearly as good as we were hoping it would be.

By now, it was about 7:00, and we thought we might go back to the hotel for a nap. As we walked along the street, we passed a Subway station, and I suggested that it would be much more adventurous to take the subway instead of a cab. We fumbled our way through the subway map and ticket system, and figured out how to get back to Shinjuku. We thought we'd check out the Shinjuku station (one station away from the one closest to our hotel) since it's one of the largest stations. Once we got there, we thought we'd have a small breakfast (because a couple of pieces of sushi at 6:30am just didn't do it for us) and found a pastry shop.

The pastries gave us a bit of newfound energy. Add that on top of our victory over figuring out the subway system, and we decided to continue our exploration around the city. We consulted our guide book, and decided to check out Shinjuku National Garden. It's cherry-blossom time, and a gorgeous day, so it sounded perfect.

We made our way to the Shinjuki Gyoen-mae station, and found it right away. We found a side gate and realized that it didn't open until 9:00am (we were 15 minutes early). This cracked us up, as we're never too early to anything! We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, and by 9:00, we had found the main entrance.

Here’s the sign that greeted us there:

Check the date: April 28.
Apparently, we came on the one day that it’s closed!

Tomorrow is a national holiday here: Greenery Day. I think they were preparing the garden for the throngs of visitors they’re expecting tomorrow.

Okay, that’s a bummer. We sat down to figure out what we wanted to do next. We found another garden in our guidebook: The Imperial Palace East Garden. It was so gorgeous out, that we thought we really should spend it outdoors in a park. Another subway ride later, and we found ourselves at Hibiya Park, a little park that we originally mistook for the Imperial Palace Garden!

It was really beautiful, and inspired us to design our backyard with similar trees and plants to create a little Japanese/Asian style garden.

The beautiful Hibiya Park

Once we managed to find our way across the street to the actual Imperial Palace East Garden, we were (again) disappointed to learn that it was closed!

Denied again!

Our guidebooks states “Daily 9-4”.

Our guidebook sucks!

So, we had attempted to see two parks today (all before 11:00am) and we were denied both times!

By this time, we had already had a full day, and were tired, but we were also determined to see something before we headed back to our hotel.

We decided to check out Roppongi Hills – a main tower building with an observation deck, galleries, shops, etc., Surely, this would be open!

It was about 11:30, and we decided to grab a quick lunch of noodles and tempura over rice at a local shop in the subway. (yummy!)

We took the subway to the Roppongi station, and walked around the plazas and shops a bit before making our way up to the 54th floor observation deck.

A view from up high

By this time, it was around 2:00, and we were simply beat. We came back to our hotel at 2:30 to just relax before our 6:30 dinner reservations.

Oh – almost forgot to mention:

Today is my birthday :)

Yep, we’re spending my birthday in Tokyo. How cool is that?

To celebrate, we made reservations at The New York Grill – the restaurant on the top floor of our hotel. It’s supposed to be outstanding! :)

I’ve been on my computer ever since we got back to the room. I should really sign off now, and take a quick snooze...

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