** Day 2 will be split into two posts since it gets rather photo heavy. I'll have even more pictures posted on my personal FB! See, it pays to be my friend.**

Ohayō gozaimasu! Not going to lie, I'm not a morning person but it felt pretty surreal to wake up in Japan. Jetlag was kicking in a bit as I remember waking up a few times during the night and again early in the morning. Other than that, I was excited and ready to start our first full day in Tokyo!   

We set out for breakfast at none other than Ichiran Ramen! Admittedly I'm not a huge ramen person but I was hoping ramen in Japan would prove me wrong. (Answer: yes, I was wrong. So wrong. And yes, I am ruined for ramen and sushi and all Japanese food for life.)

The Ichiran location we went to was a 24-hour outlet located in Shinjuku. 24-hour joints in Tokyo are a godsend that you really take for granted until you leave.

Because Ichiran is super famous (ie. super touristy), line-ups are a given during peak times. Thankfully the morning is pretty calm. We descended the stairs of the restaurant and found ourselves face to face with a vending machine. Ordering via vending machine? Only in Japan. The overall process is pretty simple to navigate. Insert your money, select your food, and take the dispensed ticket to your seat.

The authentic Ichiran experience limits human interaction as much as possible. Between the vending machine ordering, there are electronic seating charts, self-serve water, call service buttons, and solo partitioned dining booths. In all, Ichiran is an efficient, introvert heaven.

Once at your seat, you'll be given a slip of paper where you can customize Ichiran's tonkatsu ramen to your preference. (I felt pretty proud that the attendant understood my limited Japanese when I asked for a sheet in English.) In terms of customization, I pretty much circled all the choices that they recommended -- medium dashi, medium richness, medium garlic, with green onion, with chashu (sliced pork), 1/2 mild, and medium noodle texture.

A few minutes later, a pair of hands drops off your ramen and closes the shade down, allowing you to fully enjoy your meal with no distractions. Just you and your ramen. Pretty romantic if you ask me.

Before I took a bite, admittedly I was worried. Is Ichiran as good as people say? Or is it all hype?
Ladies and gentlemen, believe the hype.

Pretty much a comforting hug in a bowl. Perfectly cooked noodles. Thin, tender slices of pork. Piping hot broth. And that broth -- man, oh man. Super rich and flavourful. Could be on the salty side for some but I think that could be easily rectified by toning down the richness or dashi on the order sheet.

If you're ever in Japan, Ichiran is a must-visit.

After that rich and satisfying breakfast, we walked over to Shinjuku Station and got some nifty personalized Suica cards. The Suica card is a refillable, prepaid smart card that can be used to pay fares on all subways, trains, and busses. You can even use Suica cards at vending machines and convenience stores.

Speaking of vending machines... they're EVERYWHERE. I just couldn't resist taking photos of them wherever we went. Also, I'm super jealous of the variety of drinks they have on offer. Hot drinks, cold drinks, even bubble tea!

From Shinjuku Station, we hopped on the Yamanote line, one of Tokyo's busiest and most popular train lines. It connects many of Tokyo's major stations (eg. Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, etc.) making it super convenient for tourists to get around and hit up the major attractions.

Our plan for the day was to visit Asakusa, which required a stop at Ueno before transferring to a different line. Since we were at Ueno anyways, I had heard of a bakery located by the station that sold adorable animal breads, no doubt inspired by its close proximity to the Ueno Zoo.

The bakery, named Wholesome Bakery, is located in L'UENO, a food court that sits opposite the Shinobazu exit of Ueno station. Since we just ate, we still picked up a few breads to save for breakfast the next day.

Melon pan turtles! Like how adorable is that?!

Melon pan is a Japanese sweet bread that's covered with a crunchy biscuit crust. I would say it's similar to a HK pineapple bun, since both breads are named after their scored appearance, not their ingredients or flavours. Funny enough, this melon pan was indeed stuffed with a melon filling!

Panda and bear buns! My inner child couldn't stop squealing.

After the brief stop at the bakery, we went back to the station and took the Ginza line all the way to Asakusa Station. Asakusa's main draw is Sensō-ji temple, a Buddhist temple built in the 7th century.

With such history, the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center located across the street is a modern and interesting sight to behold. I tip my hat off to you, Kengo Kuma.

If I had done a little more research beforehand, I would have loved to visit the Center's observation deck which provides a sprawling view of Sensō-ji and the shopping streets that lead up to it.

Kaminarimon! The first of two gates leading to Sensō-ji. I don't think I've ever seen so many selfie sticks in my life.

Before you arrive at the temple grounds, you walk through Nakamise shopping street. Basically aisles of souvenirs! We spent an ungodly amount of time walking through here as well as Shin-Nakamise shopping arcade which runs perpendicular to it.

Overpriced keychains and snacks in gift boxes. Must. Resist. Buying. Everything. In. This. Tourist. Trap.

Finally made it! In front of the main hall, people bathe themselves in smoke coming from the large incense burner. The belief is that the smoke will help heal your wounds. If you rub your head, apparently you get smarter. (Boys, get in line.)

To the right of the hall is a chōzuya. Water from the fountain is used to wash and purify your hands and mouth before entering the temple.

The view from the top of the temple steps. Everywhere you look is a photo opportunity!

Part 2 of day 2 coming soon ... when I feel like it!

- CT


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CT is a 20-something Edmontonian who started blogging as an excuse for taking pictures of her food.

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf