We woke up at a more respectable 10am, still forcing ourselves up a bit as we’d not quite adjusted properly. We headed off to Tokyo Station as it was on the way for our intended destination, Ryogoku. Strolling around we explored the character street and mixture of sweet stores before eventually finding ramen street. This was to be our undoing a bit.
It seemed as convenient a place as any to stop for lunch, and we ordered some ramen from a vending machine. Only one of them had any English wording, but looked like a safe bet, from what I could make out it had pork, egg, beansprouts, vegetables, noodles and pork broth. We both ordered the same one, adding on a portion of gyoza and kara-age chicken to share. The machine dispensed our tickets and we headed in to take a seat and wait for our order.
A smiley lady swiftly delivered our steaming hot bowls of noodles and all was going well until I noticed a few small textured purple-white pieces in my noodles and silently freaked out! As previously mentioned, I have a big issue/phobia of seafood, fish and anything under that category that isn’t tuna or code! Chris is also fussy with it too, but he was convinced it was only mine that had it in.
I tried my best to man up and eat around the alien bubble-wrap shaped chunks but couldn’t help feeling a bit queasy! At this moment Chris had found his set of tentacles and we both found ourselves feeling rather full; partly because we did surprisingly eat a fair bit of it, and partly due to the octopus remains floating in the bowl.
The gyoza and kara-age however, were very tasty! The chicken was a bit heavy for me with the skin on but I could have polished off another round of gyoza. Ahead of time, we headed off toward Ryogoku, stopping for a while to explore Akihabara. First impressions of this area – gadget central with maid café’s every few steps! Chris seemed a bit more interested in the shopping area being the gadget geek that he is. I found a quirky little shop and ended up buying some funky patterned tape that I just had to have.
We took a few side streets to take us back to the station, where it was a short hop to Ryugoku, home of sumo! We were still a bit early for the main action so got an ice cream from a truck outside the stadium. The friendly old man popped straight out to greet us and started chattering away to us in English, telling us all the flavour options. I went for a blueberry yoghurt flavour which was really good, and Chris played it safe with chocolate-vanilla.
For a while we sat on a rock munching our ice cream, spying the occasional sumo wrestler from the earlier matches leaving the stadium. We headed inside and after some initial confusion (either bad directions, or our bad understanding of them) we found our box seats. I thought these were a great idea being able to spread out in the box and having our own little space, but Chris complained he needed more padding! We arrived in time for the semi and then final round.
It was quite bizarre to see right in front of our eyes something that we’d only ever seen on the TV, more often than not in comedy or cartoon form. There was no English commentary but it was straight forward enough to know what was going on. We weren’t too far from the ring and had great fun taking action shot photos of the wrestlers. We couldn’t help but find it hilarious when they did all their stretches and seeing some of the positions they ended up in at the end of the round! We stayed until the finale, when the locals were getting quite competitive chanting out their favourite wrestlers names. I remember Endo seemed very popular!
It was great fun, although I couldn’t make complete sense of the end , but it was definitely worth making the trip and I’m glad we experienced it. As soon as it was over we made a brisk exit to the subway to miss the big rush. Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon and nice to do something a bit different, not terribly touristy and a bit of a contrast to what we’d done so far on the trip. On the way back through we decided to briefly stop at Akihabara again to see it at night, although not much had changed and this part of town was the opposite to the others – a lot less neon than I expected!
On our way back we stopped off at Tokyo Station to book our shinkansen tickets, and found out we couldn’t order the World Heritage Pass for Koyasan as this was from a different rail operator. Partially done we jumped on a subway, planning to head to Harajuku and see it in the evening, but halfway through the journey we weren’t sure we had the energy so stayed on back to Shinjuku.
Now feeling rather sleepy, we weren’t very productive, exploring various department stores in search of somewhere to eat. Nothing stood out to us and I had remembered passing “Sweets Paradise” earlier in the trip near to a Topshop, so we ventured there not sure whether it would be very good but admitting defeat to our tired legs.
Unsurprisingly there wasn’t much in the way of English signage but it was fairly straight forward, and being predominantly a dessert buffet I didn’t have to worry about the seafood situation, I was quietly confident I wouldn’t come across a crab cheesecake. We started off dabbling with the savoury; chips (exotic), Japanese curry, pizzas and pastas. The pizza was surprisingly tasty, dodging the occasional seafood one of course, and had a crispy thin crust – I think they had a proper pizza oven.
The desserts were hit and miss, the Asian styles were very different to my usuals at home, lighter, sweeter and a lot less buttery. Some were very good, especially the banana cake, cheesecake and profiteroles, but the others ranged from odd to completely grim! There was a chocolate fountain and soft serve ice cream though which is always a safe bet.
We paid up and found ourselves passing Game Station again. We couldn’t bring ourselves to give it the cold shoulder and walk on buy, it felt only right that we made another donation. Mario Kart was first and then we discovered an awesome drumming video game! I’m so envious of arcade life in Japan! We had a few multiplayer games, probably getting a bit too into the local music before leaving to head home via another obligatory stop in Don Quijote.