When I was initially planning our day in Yokohama, I had planned to visit the Kirin Beer Village, which is a short train ride away from central Yokohama. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation this summer, so we chose to visit the CUPNOODLES Museum instead. A short walk from the Landmark Tower, the CUPNOODLES Museum honors Momofuku Ando, inventor of the instant ramen noodle. After purchasing an admission ticket, we were directed into a small theater to watch a short film introducing the history of instant noodles and chronicling Mr. Ando’s life, first inventing the instant ramen noodle in 1958, then inventing the CUPNOODLE in 1971 and then the Space Ramen (ramen that you can eat in space) in 2005, two years before his passed away in 2007. For those who don’t understand Japanese, they do provide English audio guides that sync to the movie, so that was nice.
To be honest, the film was a bit hokey insofar as it characterizes instant ramen noodles as one of the world’s greatest inventions. Let’s get something straight, Momofuku Ando discovered that flash fried ramen noodles could be reconstituted when soaked in boiling water. He didn’t save the world. He didn’t cure cancer. With that said, I appreciate the underlying theme of the video, which was that you should dream big, identify problems in the world, dedicate your life towards your solving that problem, and never give up.
At the My CUPNOODLES Factory located on the third floor, you can create your own CUPNOODLE concoction for 300 yen. First, we purchased a cup from the vending machines and sanitized our hands with alcohol. Then, we were directed to tables where we got to decorate the outsides of our cup. Once we were done, a staff member filled our cup with noodles and we selected a soup base from among four types and 4 toppings from 12 types of topping.
I picked curry base with pork, cheese, kim chee, and fish cake with the CupNoodle chick mascot on it. I know, fish cake with my curry ramen is a weird combination, but the chicks were so cute, that I just had to pick them.
After the cup was filled, the staff member sealed the lid on the cup and shrink-wrapped the cup. And we were allowed to take our creations home in these air filled bags, that would keep our cupnoodles safe from being crushed in our luggage.
Overall, if you find yourself in Yokohama and have one or two hours to spare, the Cup Noodles Museum is not a bad way to spend your time. I would highly recommend doing one of the pay activities such as the My Cupnoodles Factory or the My Chicken Ramen workshop because I don’t think it was worth the 1000 yen price tag without doing one of the extra activities. Also, I recognize that you could buy 2 whole cases of cupnoodle at home for the 1300 yen price tag that we each paid going to the museum, but the CUPNOODLE Museum was an unique experience that made the entrance fee somewhat worth it.
In addition, if you have children, they have the Cupnoodles Park, which is a themed indoor children’s play area. Connor was a little to young to play in the park, but he probably would have had a lot of fun if he was a few years older. Admission to the Cupnoodles Park is 300 yen and there are a limited number of admissions per time slot so I would go early if you are interested.
Cup Noodles Museum ♦♦♦
1-3-4 Shinko, Naka-Ku, Yokohama 231-0001
Admission: Adults – 500 yen; children – free
10:00 – 18:00; Closed on Tuesday
On the fourth day of our trip to Japan, we spent the day in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city (behind Tokyo). Our first stop was the Yokohama Chinatown, which is Japan’s largest Chinatown. I’ve read that it has more than 600 shops in a 2,500 square meter area. We left early thinking that we could eat dim sum for breakfast, but unfortunately, many of the shops and restaurants didn’t open until 11 am. That was a bummer. On the bright side, the streets weren’t crowded and we had the streets to ourselves. Yokohama’s Chinatown is the most picturesque and cleanest Chinatown I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the cleanest Chinatown in the world. It was spotless. In addition to ten colorful gates (like the one shown above) scattered around the area, a lot of the streets were decorated with strings of bright lanterns. Once the shops started opening, we sampled various foods from a number of food stands. We had steamed pork buns, freshly roasted chestnuts, sausages on a stick, and various dim sum. Ev and I both agreed that the soup dumplings we bought at the shop pictured below were the best of the Chinese food that we had that day. I wish we had these dumplings in Hawaii. After spending most of the morning in Chinatown, we took the train to the Minato Mirai, Yokohama’s urban seaport to visit the Landmark Tower Sky Garden. The entrance fee to the Sky Garden observatory on the 69th floor was 1,000 yen for adults, but I thought trip was worth the price. The Sky Garden had a super fast elevator and a 360-degree panoramic view of Yokohama city. W were hoping that we would be able to see Mount Fuji, but unfortunately the view was too hazy. However, other than that, it was a very nice view and the observatory area wasn’t too crowded so we could take our time admiring the view.
Yokohama Chinatown ♦♦♦♦
Station – Motomachi-Chukagai Station (Minatomirai Line)
Yokohama Landmark Tower “Sky Garden” ♦♦♦
2-2-1 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, 220-0012
10:00 – 21:00; open everyday
Adults – 1000 yen; Seniors – 800 yen; Children – 500 yen; Children under 4 – free
Closest stations: Minatomurai (Minatomirai line)
After we had our fill of the Sanja Matsuri festival, we had lunch at the first of many ramen restaurants in what Ev coined our “Ramen Tour” of Japan. Ev was on a mission to find us the best noodles in Japan, and Kikanbo was the first on his list.
Approximately a 3 minute walk away from the Kanda station, Kikanbo is known for its spicy miso ramen. The spiciness of Kikanbo’s ramen comes from two types of spice – “kara” and “shibi.” Kara refers to the chili heat and shibi refers to a numbing pepper mix, which is a Japanese version of the Chinese sichuan pepper. Ev and I both ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen Special, which was the top-left corner button on the vending machine menu. We got our tickets from the vending machine and stood in line for our turn to get into the restaurant. When we sat down, the wait staff asked us to choose our level of kara and shibi on a scale of 1 to 5. Because I had to share with Connor, I ordered no spice, and Ev ordered 2 for each or “futsu-futsu,” which is a medium spiciness.Our Spicy Miso Ramen Special had chashu pork, bean sprouts, green onions, baby corn, and a soft boiled egg. Even without the spice, my ramen broth was really good, the noodles had the perfect amount of chew, and the chashu pork was tender and literally melted in my mouth. Ev’s ramen broth was equally amazing and his broth was one of the best miso broth I’ve ever had. Overall, I would definitely recommend Kikanbo. I get hungry just looking at these pictures.
2-10-9 Kaji-cho Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 鍛冶町2-10-9
Monday – Saturday: 11 am – 9:30 pm
Sunday: 11am – 4:00 pm
After we had our fill of the Tsukiji Fish Market, we caught the subway to Asakusa for the Sanja Matsuri festival, which is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. The Sanja Matsuri is a three-day festival that is held every year on the third weekend of May. The festival officially starts on Friday with a large parade through Asakusa.
On Saturday, approximately 100 mikoshi, small portable shrines, from the 44 Asakusa districts pass through the Kaminarimon, outer entrance gate (shown above), and are paraded through the Nakamisedori (corridor of small Japanese shops), past the Sensoji temple and on to the Askakusa shrine, where they are blessed and carried back to their respective neighborhoods.
On Sunday, participants from all 44 Asakusa districts, grouped by neighborhoods and wearing matching attire, gather at the Asakusa Shrine. The groups compete to carry three main Asakusa mikoshi, honoring the three men responsible for founding the Sensoji. I’ve read online that it gets so crowded that spectators are not allowed beyond Sensoji’s entrance gate due to safety and space concerns. The three main mikoshi are then paraded separately through all the streets of Asakusa visiting each of the 44 districts before returning to the shrine.
Although we arrived before the festival’s Saturday activities officially started, there were already tons of people in and around the area. We started at the Kaminarimon and maneuvered our way through the crowds past the shops on Nakamisedori and headed in the direction of the Sensoji temple.
While we were browsing the shops of the Nakamisedori several mikoshi made our way past us. I particularly liked the mikoshi that were carried by children. The kids were so cute!
When we reached the entrance area in front of the Senso-ji temple, we took a small break and picked up an omikuji, a written fortune, for Connor. According to the instructions posted at the Senso-ji temple, the omikuji here cost 100 yen, which you deposit into a small collection box. Then, while praying for your wish, you shake an omikuji box several times until a single wooden stick pops out of a small hole in the box. The wood stick has a number from 1-100 corresponding to a particular drawer containing fortunes. You then find and take a paper fortune from the respective drawer.
If you get a good fortune, then you take it home. However, if you get a bad fortune, you were supposed to leave it at the temple by tying the bad fortune onto one of the iron wires strung between a wooden frame nearby.
Ev and I decided to give it a shot and wished for Connor to have good health this year. We shook the box and a stick with the number 80 came out. We open drawer number 80 and received an “Excellent Good Fortune”! 🙂 Connor’s fortune stated:
*Your request will be granted. *The patient will get well. *The person you wait for will come. *Building a new home and removal are both well. *The lost article will be found. *It is good to start a trip. *Marriage of any kind and new employment are both well but be not too excessive.
After reading the fortune, I joked, saying that maybe we should have wished for something bigger, like winning the lottery or something. I suppose that would have been too greedy. Also, I would give all the money in the world to keep Connor safe and healthy, so I guess our wish was the right call. Ev’s dad on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. He got a bad fortune and had to leave his fortune at the Temple. We all had a good laugh and then moved to the main hall of the Sensoji Temple.
As we reached the main hall, two mikoshi arrived at the base of the building and we were able to get a good view of them. I noticed that the mikoshi often came in sets (like shown in the picture below), the adults carried one, while the children would carry a smaller version.
After watching the mikoshi for a while, we continued up the steps into main hall. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so I don’t have any. However, even if I could have taken pictures, there were so many people in there I doubt I would have gotten a good picture anyway. It was hard to get to the front where the big donation box was located, and people from about 15-20 feet behind the box were just throwing their money over the heads of the people in front of them. By that time, Connor needed to take a nap. We did not have our stroller with us, so we found a shady spot to lay Connor down while he napped.
We used that time as a nice opportunity to people watch and take turns browsing rows of food stands selling a variety of foods including shave ice, yakisoba, and tako yaki. We didn’t want to eat too much though because Ev promised to take us to Kikanbo, a very highly rated ramen restaurant that Ev had been talking about for weeks, after Connor woke up from his nap. However, Ev couldn’t resist buying a charcoal grilled ayu on a stick for 500 yen.
When Connor woke up, we made our way back to the Asakusa station to our next adventure.
I wish I could say that when I booked our flight, I knew about the Sanja Matsuri festival and had planned everything perfectly. In truth, I had no idea that we’d be in Tokyo during a major festival, and it was pure luck that we were there on that exact weekend. It was a fortunate coincidence, and I am so glad that we got to see the festival. I could have easily spent the entire afternoon walking around the shops of the Nakamisedori and eating all the delicious food available.
Overall, a visit to Asakusa should be on all first-timer’s lists of places to visit in Tokyo. The shopping streets are lined with local specialty and souvenir shops and the Sensoji Temple is one of the most famous temples in Tokyo. Also, I would highly recommend seeing the Sanja Matsuri if you happen by luck to be in Tokyo on the third weekend in May.
- Kaminarimon – Free
Hours: Always Open
- Sensoji Temple – Free
Hours: 6:00 – 17:00
- Nakamisedori and Shin-Nakamisedori Shopping Streets
Hours depend on individual shops; typically from 10:00 – 20:00
We spent the morning of our first actual day in Tokyo at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Our initial plan was to check into our hotel room, take a quick 1-2 hour nap, and then catch a taxi to Tsukiji to see the live fish auction. The difficulty with seeing the fish auction is that it is first come, first served and they only let the first 120 people in line see the auction, split between two shifts – one from 5:25 am- 5:50 am and the other from 5:50 am to 6:15 am. While it was difficult to figure out exactly how early we would need to stand in line to assure a spot, several online sites suggested that people get in line an hour or more prior to the opening at 5:00 am! Thus, our original plan was to get there sometime between 3:30 am – 4:00 am to ensure that we got in.
In the end, our plans were a little too ambitious. We decided against the fish auction and let Connor get a few more hours of sleep. Looking back, I think that skipping the auction was the right decision because forcing Connor to wait in line for several hours would have been a miserable experience and, since we left the hotel later, we were able to take a 15 minute metro ride on the Hibiya line instead of catching a taxi.
We arrived at Tsukiji at around 6:30 am. We walked through the outer market and stood in line for breakfast. Before leaving on our trip, Ev did a lot of online research on sushi restaurants around the Tsukiji area and he decided on Iwasa Sushi. It wasn’t one of those crazy sushi places where you wait in line for hours, but it had good quality sushi for a reasonable price. We got to the restaurant early enough that our wait in line was only about 30 minutes. Ev and I both ordered the omakase set, which came with about a dozen nigiri sushi and 6 pieces of tekka maki for 3,900 yen.
The restaurant was small (14 seats) and so busy that I didn’t feel right stopping to take pictures of the sushi as it came out. However, the picture on the menu (shown above) was a pretty good representation of what we were served. It wasn’t the best sushi I’ve ever had, but for the 3,900 yen price point, the quality of the fish was very good. I also learned that Connor really loves ikura. He ate the entire ikura nigiri sushi by himself. Overall it was a perfect first meal to start our Japan adventure.
After breakfast, we browsed the outer market, which consists of several blocks of retail shops that cater to tourists selling fruits, produce, ready to eat street food, and other Japanese goods (knives, ceramics, souvenirs, etc). Ev bought these super juicy strawberries, which Connor loved and promptly devoured. While the strawberries weren’t super sweet, they were definitely the juiciest strawberries I have ever eaten. Connor had streaks of red strawberry juice dripping down his arms, chin and neck from eating the strawberries. Thank goodness he was wearing a red shirt because if he was wearing a light colored shirt, we probably would have had to through the shirt away.
At 9:00 am the inner market (the wholesale portion of Tsukiji) opened up to the public and we briefly walked around. The only other fish market that I’ve ever been to is Pike’s Market in Seattle. Let’s just say that Tsukiji is nothing like Pike’s. As one of the biggest fish markets in the world, Tsukiji has an enormous selection of seafood, fruits, and produce for sale and is very active. There were people zipping around the narrow lanes of the inner market on forklifts, small trucks, scooters and other small vehicles the entire time we were there. Although we tried to say out of the way as much as we could, I really felt like we were a nuisance to the vendors. The vendors must really hate all the tourists because we just get in the way and never buy anything. With that said, I don’t blame them because I’d be pretty pissed too if someone came into my office and started taking pictures of me while I was trying to make a living. I’m sure the vendors will be much happier when they move to their new location in November of this year.In the end, even though we didn’t stay that long in the inner market, I am glad that I got to see it in the soon-to-be “old location” before it moved. Also, Connor really enjoyed looking and pointing to all the shellfish, eels, and fish.
Iwasa Sushi (http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm) ♦♦♦♦– CASH ONLY
Open ： Monday to Friday 6:00 am – 2:30 pm; Saturday 6:00 am – 3:00 pm
Closed ： Sundays/Japanese holidays/2nd and 4th Wednesdays
Location: See website for map. It is the first building of the Outside market facing the inner market. Look for the bright orange curtain
Tsukiji Fish Market (http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm) ♦♦♦♦♦–
Open : Outer market opens at 5:00 am,
Inner market opens to the public at 9:00 am
Closed: Sunday/Japanese holidays/2nd and 4th Wednesdays
To attend auction: Meet at the Osakana Fukyu Center by the Kachidoki Gate before 5:00 am
Closest stations: Tsukiji Station (Hibiya line); Tsukiji-Shijo Station (Oedo line)