Macha to See

Eating in Japan was an adventure in and of itself.  I ate things that made my mouth smile and my tastebuds jump with glee (except that one spongy thing which I'll get to in a later post).  After my unique breakfast, I was full and my stomach, still on U.S. time wasn't hungry for quite a while, but I managed to have a few tidbits before dinner, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We left Akihabara and headed down a street lined with vendors.  You could buy anything from suitcases and sunglasses to pounds of seaweed and fresh shrimp. The street was crowded, but people weren't pushy.  Everyone was very polite and hospitable.

The owners yelled from stools, advertising their good deals, trying to grab the attention of anyone who might bring their business to them.  One of these was a man from Turkey who didn't have a hard time convincing many from our group to eat at his kebab joint.  I, refusing to eat anything non-Japanese, ignored his calls and instead, went across the street (15ft away, if that) and ordered a macha (green tea) boba tea.

Although its origins are Thai, Japan has taken many foreign dishes and influences and made them their own; they've made them Japanese.  With a refreshing drink in hand and the students satisfied, we continued down the market, but before we took more than a few steps, I noticed a group of Japanese school children who were on a field trip, much like we were.

Apparently making the peace sign in every photo is a favorite amongst these kids, but it was eventually time to say goodbye and discover new things. We walked down different streets, seeing things we wouldn't have seen if we'd taken the bus or train. Kids were biking around, adults were heading somewhere important, all the while looking composed and collected in this city of over 30 million people bustling around them.

After a few stops along the way to take photos and to ooooo and ahhhhh at the neat things that we passed, we made it to Asakusa.

As we approached the main entrance to the shopping street and temple, I met these happy fellows, also known as rickshaw drivers ($40 for 10 minutes? I think not).

The lantern might be a bit small, but it will do.  I smiled for a snap, but then hurried in with wonder and amazement moving its way onto my face, through the entrance of The Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon in Japanese) and into a new adventure.

Each store had its own variation of knick-knacks and treats.  I was drawn in almost immediately by the smell of something sweet and hot. Before I even knew what it was, I was certain that I wanted it.  It turned out to be Tai Yaki.  It's made just as it was back in the day (a long time a go) with a cakey outside and a red bean paste filling that's just perfectly sweet and moist. Naturally, I bought a bag's worth to bring home and share (well we'll see how far that goes).

Macha ice cream has always been a favorite of mine, but usually I can only get it at Japanese restaurants back home.  Luckily, I had arrived at the source.  There were ice cream stands everywhere, all serving my favorite cold desert.

I was a happy tourist.  I devoured every morsel and drop of melting macha and eventually, once I lifted my head up from my now empty ice cream cone, I had ended up at Sensoji, the Buddhist temple.

Before you enter, you can purify yourself with the smoke from the incense.

After a good purifying, it's time to rinse your mouth from a fountain and spit it in the "mote" on the ground, and then wash your hands with more water.  I was skeptical at first, but I have to say that my hands truly felt quite cleansed afterwards.

Grab a coin and toss it in, then say a prayer if you wish, before entering the temple.  It is undoubtedly a very important place for a lot of people, to be inside and to feel close to a greater being.  I was so blown away by the impressiveness of the temple itself and the attention to detail surrounding me.

The afternoon was spent rather luxuriously on a Tokyo river cruise.  It was such a hot and humid day that a nice breeze from the water, while taking in the sights, was a perfect idea.

 With a sangria and ticket in hand, I sauntered onto the boat and took my seat.

Spotted along the river bank.

It was lovely to experience the city from this point of view, but at this point I was getting ready for dinner.  I believe that due to its extreme amount of deliciousness and my photo taking of every dish, it deserves a post of its own.  So those chopsticks I told you to grab, keep them handy; we'll dine tomorrow.