17th May 2019: Asakusa, Ginza, kaiseki dinner, and vertigo-inducing cocktails

On this day, we mixed it up: from very touristy things in Asakusa, to not at all (still in Asakusa), to high end touristy (Ginza), topped with a tempura kaiseki dinner and a nightcap… with views! 🍸🌃

First we went to the Kaminarimon gate in Sensō-ji. It’s very busy with people, and it didn’t take us long before we decided to move onto quieter streets. We then browsed Nakamise-Dōri, a long street behind the temple, which is full of shops (Japanese crockery is ever tempting), but it was still busy-ish.

Devvers wanted to show me “normal life” in Japan, so we kept walking, until it became decidedly not touristic.

Just a normal grocery shop

That being Japan, we still saw plenty of fun and quirky shops, but the one I remember most clearly is Kanaya, a shop that specialises in brushes: good-for-all brushes, gentle brushes made of delicate bristles, steel brushes for hardcore scrubbing, toothbrushes in various sizes and degrees of softness, brooms wide and narrow, brushes to paint watercolours or brushes to paint entire walls: you get the point! I didn’t get anything at the time, but now I’m sort of regretting it. Maybe I do need hand-made brushes.

Coincidentally, people were setting up for the Sanja Maturi festival on the day we visited, and we kept encountering groups of people preparing the floats and portable shrines to be transported in the parade. A sense of festivity could be felt in the air! 🏮

Other curiosity that I recall, although we didn’t visit it, was Hanayashiki, an small theme park that claims to be the oldest in Japan and also that mostly fits on a neighbourhood block! (you could look at Google maps if you don’t believe me). Looking at the theme park boundaries from the outside, it felt as if a baby had outgrown its clothes and was almost going to burst.

Coffee shop Layla

We started feeling like we could do with a break. It might have been the heat, but suddenly I was craving an iced coffee. And lo and behold, we found this gem of a local place, complete with strikingly retro functional decor (I still am fascinated with that pink telephone).

We really enjoyed the coffee here. It was incredibly quiet, so much so that I took a decibel reading and it might have been the quietest cafe I’ve ever measured. Incredible!

Another thing that struck us as “this is really local” is that someone was part of the organisation of the Sanja Maturi festival and so the coffee owner didn’t want him to pay for his coffee! So they had a polite disagreement about it for a while.

Apparently in Japan your local is really your local—relationship building is really important here.

Once refreshed, we left the area before it got busier with the parades (it was already building up quite a buzz…!). Plus, I had two stationery stores to examine! 😂

Looking through a side alley…

Ginza

We took the metro to Ginza, and there we spent an incredible amount of time looking at stationery. I mean, the shops have floors. Stationery shops with themed floors! The dream!

Apart from paper-related products, one of the shops also had this sort of indoor greenhouse that was very intriguing to me.

After this and a quick incursion into a Uniqlo shop so I could get more Hokusai t-shirts, and looking at various shopping centres, it was becoming the time to snack on something. We went to a restaurant in a department store, and I had… soba noodles again!

This was Devvers’
My soba noodles that also came with a TEMPURA side dish! my two loves together 😍

We went back to our hotel to have a rest—we had a kaiseki dinner for later, and we were feeling a bit tired, so we thought we had better build up some energy!

In other words, it was the perfect time for me to make a coffee at our hotel room, using the Cafflano portable coffee maker (and the beans I had brought from London, just in case we couldn’t find any in Japan):

This is the end result: a fruity, aromatic cup of coffee:

Tempura restaurant

Our dinner was kaiseki, but at a restaurant specialised in tempura: Tempura Uchitsu.

Sadly, I don’t have any picture as the restaurant were very strict about no pictures, and we wanted to respect their rules (unlike the couple who arrived late and wouldn’t stop taking pictures and being annoying in general). There are some nice pictures in their website, anyway.

I do remember the beautiful backdrop to the kitchen—a big window onto a urban garden of bamboos; also the chef picking things from the fryer with his metal chopsticks, eating all sorts of delicious things (except for the heads of the prawns, that was too much for me), and the great sake we drank!

Vertigo

Afterwards we felt like celebrating a bit more, and so we decided to pop by the bar in the upper floors of our hotel. And to prove the height, here’s a really confusing picture for you to look at:

(and yes, you can really mess up with people’s brains by taking panorama pictures of things that aren’t panoramic).

Here’s a much less confusing picture of our cocktails here:

I was pleased I had found the sweetest one just by looking at the menu, as is generally my aim. I enjoyed it and felt like I also wanted to eat all the almonds because they were the right amount of salted and oily. Yum!

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