Sunday, June 27, 2021

Tokyo, Mt Fuji Travel Day 7 & 8 Ikebukuro, Kawagoe, Sugamo, Koishikawa Korakuen, Bunkyo Civic Centre

On our last two days of this Japan trip, we explored places that are not so crowded - Kawagoe 川越, Sugamo 巣鴨, Koishikawa Korakuen 小石川後楽園, and Bunkyo Civic Centre.

Bunkyo Civic Centre is just a few minutes away from our hotel, and we managed to find time to go to level 25 on the second last day of our trip. There is a 180 degrees observatory. Most importantly, it is free admission!

Looking at the beautiful autumn foliage, we decided that we shall visit Koishikawa Korakuen 小石川後楽園 on the next day.

Harajuku in Tokyo is well-known as the fashionable shopping district for the youngsters and the young at heart. Do you know that there is also "Grandma's Harajuku" in Tokyo? Indeed, upon arriving at Sugamo , we saw many local elderly!

Well, the reason for visiting Sugamo is to purchase Japanese tea from a tea store 山年園 located at Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street 巣鴨地蔵通り商店街. The friendly shop owners chatted with us and let us try different tea. Do you see the gold dust on the green tea?

Along the street, we saw a queue for Japanese traditional snack shio daifuku. Unlike the typical daifuku, shio daifuku has a slightly salty taste. It is well-balanced with the red bean filling that is not overly sweet.

We then visited Kawagoe , which is known as "Little Edo". Located at Saitama Prefecture, Kawagoe is an ideal place for a day trip from Tokyo because the train ride is only around 30 minutes from Ikebukuro or Shinjuku.

To get from Tokyo to Kawagoe, you can either take Tobu Tojo Line from Ikebukuro, or you can take Seibu Shinjuku Line or JR Saikyo Line from Shinjuku. We chose to take Tobu Tojo Line from Ikebukuro because Tobu Railway offers Kawagoe Discount Pass Premium (adult 970 yen, child 490 yen) which includes round-trip train tickets between Ikebukuro and Kawagoe or Kawagoe-shi stations, and unlimited train and bus rides in designated area.

We had our lunch at Mitsuyado Seimen 三ツ矢堂製麺 near Kawagoe station. It was the first time that I tried out tsukemen with cheese! The dipping sauce is also different from the typical one, there is a tinge of yuzu taste in it.

From Kawagoe station, we took bus W1-1 at East Bus Stop No.1. As the bus travelled along Kurazukuri Street 蔵造りの町並み, we felt that we were brought back in time to the olden Japan!

We alighted at bus stop W8 Fuda no Tsuji 札の辻, where we walked down the nostalgic Kashiya Yokocho Alley 菓子屋横丁. As the name implies, the whole street is lined up with Japanese sweets and snacks.

This fu snack made from Okinawa black sugar is 95 cm long!

The area is famous for snacks made from sweet potato. We tried imokoi いも恋 from Kasho Umon 菓匠右門, the outer layer is mochi-like, and the filling includes sweet potato and red bean. Other than imokoi, we also tried the warabi mochi.

We saw many visitors carrying a plastic cup with sweet potato chips, so we followed the direction and found the shop Koedo Osatsu-an 小江戸おさつ庵. At 500 yen, the chips come with a sauce, we chose salt butter sauce.

The iconic place at Kawagoe is Toki-no-Kane 時の鐘, which was built 400 years ago!

Along the street, we saw Starbucks that blended well with the historical area. The unique feature of this Starbucks is the small Japanese garden at the back.

Another interesting things that we spotted at Kawagoe were the animal statues.

What a pity that Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan 川越まつり会館 was closed on the day that we were at Kawagoe! It is closed on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. I would like to know more about the Kawagoe Festival!

If you are travelling to Kawagoe, you can also consider exploring Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine 氷川神社 which is well-known for relationships and matchmaking.

We went back to Ikebukuro, and headed towards Pokemon Centre Mega Tokyo at Sunshine City. It was super crowded!

Since it was the second last day of the trip, we had a sushi treat for ourselves at Katsumidori Sushi 活美登利 at Seibu Ikebukuro. I heard that the queue was crazy, but we were thankful that we were there early at 5+ p.m., so we waited for a short while only. After dinner, we saw the snaking long queue outside the restaurant!

The sushi there is not really very cheap, but the ingredients are fresh and delicious. Look at the otoro (tuna belly), sea urchin, and Yonezawa beef sushi!

Finally, it was the last day of our Japan trip. As our flight was departing in the evening, we still had half a day to explore the area near our hotel. As mentioned earlier, we decided to visit Koishikawa Korakuen to view the autumn foliage.

We were blessed with sunny and warm weather! While I was taking photos of the autumn foliage, a kind local elderly shared with me some great photography tips!

The last meal of this trip is bento from supermarket! Well, after visiting Japan a few times, I figure out that supermarket is my favourite shopping place!

We took Keisei Main Line Rapid Limited Express to Narita Airport. After checking-in our luggage, we spent the remaining amount stored in Welcome Suica card at convenience shop! As usual, we did our last minute shopping of snacks at tax free shop at the transit area. We know very well what to buy as we find that the tax free shops at almost all Japan airports sell the same things! Calbee, Pocky, LeTao, Shiroikoibito, Tokyo Cheese Factory and so on, so basically you don't need to find them outside the airport!

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