Curry is usually served over rice, either with meat mixed in the curry itself or with a fried breaded something. In CoCo curry you can also select the spice level, from 1 to 10 (10 being the level that will incinerate your innards). I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy food, higher than most people I know, but three is the highest I can go and still have the ability to taste.
Japanese curry is on a league of its own. Our travel wiki in my ex-office had explicit warnings against ordering it for lunch. In a nutshell: it's not for everybody, and it isn't like any other curry you have tried. Personally, I don't have a problem with it, but my stomach has been weaned on street food. I still advice against ordering it for lunch on a weekday, though, because it can make you very (very!) sleepy. If you plan on trying it while on vacation, just schedule it on a day when you are sure to have regular access to clean restrooms.
Our first stop was the Tokyo Sky Tree, the latest installment of the "my tower is bigger than your tower" game that rich nations love to play. We skipped the Tokyo Tower because I have seen it one too many times - when I was living in Tokyo every month there is a new business tripper and we would have take him to there and on the fourth month or so we were so tired of it we told the poor tripper that it was a good idea to try and find it by his lonesome, which he did, and so every subsequent tripper was told "Hey, tripper X was able to do it, don't you want to do the same?" and we never had to go there since. Yay. The SkyTree, however, was entirely new to me, because by the time it was completed I was already in Singapore. It is a broadcasting tower with a restaurant and observation deck, and the paint used for its exterior is officially named "Skytree White". The things you learn through Wikipedia (Random: The first time I browsed the wiki page I thought it was a broadcasting restaurant - and that was believable to me because, well, Japan).
There are two observation decks - the Tembo Deck which is 350m up, and the Tembo Galleria which is a further hundred meters above. You first get tickets to the Tembo Deck, and then from there you can get tickets to the Galleria, which we skipped because it was a cloudy day so visibility was limited and we felt it would not be worth it. Supposedly on a clear day you can get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. There are also some areas where the floor is perfectly clear, so it feels like walking on air from 350 meters up. Very fun. And maybe a bit scary, too.
We intended to visit the Sumida Aquarium which was in the same complex, but after reading less-than-lukewarm reviews we decided to pass because we'll be going to Yokohama Sea Paradise anyway. So we went to Shibuya for a bit of shopping instead.
The most famous part of Shibuya is Hachiko square, named after the faithful dog who waited for his master everyday outside the station (the movie had me bawling for an hour). It's also right across what is arguably one of the busiest crossings in the world. Sometimes I feel like they pay some people to just cross the street over and over; it's hard to believe that many people really want to get to the other side of the road (but then again it's also hard to believe that many people really want to get on the Yamanote line trains but they do). There's a tiny statue of Hachiko tucked away in one corner, and as it has become a popular meeting point the area is always swarming with people. The actual Hachiko can actually be found in the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno, preserved and on display.
|Photo taken in 2009, when we ran out of things to do in Tokyo and started museum-hopping|
My only shopping goal, because of course there is one, is to get a bunch of Hakuhodo brushes. I've been stalking them relentlessly, and I almost caved and ordered from their US site, but I've managed to hold off until this trip. We got crazy lost trying to find their Tokyu branch (I'm almost certain it's already closed), but eventually gave up and went to their Hikarie branch instead.
I may have squealed when I saw the counter, after which I panicked and hyperventilated and looked pleadingly at the boyfriend to please, please stop me from buying more brushes than I need. Which of course he did not do, enabler that he is, and I went home with four carefully selected brushes. I have to say that if you buy from their normal range, their brushes are actually a great bang for the buck - they are handcrafted in Japan, extremely soft, and way cheaper than MAC. But of course you'd have to pretend not to notice the pretty vermillion handles and gold-plated ferrules of their premium line (I was so thankful that they only had a few of these in stock in this particular branch - disaster averted).
Our next stop is PDC, which is a store that sells perfume for crazy prices. It's the reason why I can't purchase Lanvin Eclat d'Arpege in Singapore - here it retails for a third of the price. We browsed through a couple of other stores but I was so happy with my brushes I didn't care for anything else.
For dinner we decided, for old time's sake, to eat at Pepper Lunch. While in Manila you can find Pepper Lunch in Greenbelt and Rockwell; in Shibuya it's located right underneath a rusty old bridge. Not exactly the most glamorous of locations.
One of the things I love about Pepper Lunch in Tokyo is the fact that you order via a vending machine - no more blank stares and crazy hand gestures at the counter.
We made one last stop at Shinjuku, and I visited my favorite Matsumoto Kiyoshi branch (beside Isetan, in front of the giant Uniqlo-Bic Camera store) to stock up on Majolica Majorca mascara (half of the price in Singapore!). I would have shopped some more (Shinjuku, after all, has been my favorite shopping haunt for a year) but it was almost ten and the shops were closing down. Even a city as busy as Tokyo needs its beauty sleep.