Tokyo

Day 6 – Nippori, Yanaka, Ueno, Roppongi

Sunny and warm again, hurrah. We get the Yamanote line (this train line is amazing and seems to go everywhere we’ve needed to get to in Tokyo) up to Nippori, also known as Texile Town for its amount of fabric shops. Since I already bought some stuff in Okadaya yesterday, we just head to the big and supposedly best store, Tomato, helpfully guided by an American woman also going there. It definitely has every kind of fabric you could need, with an especially nice array of jerseys and knits – if they had fabric stores like this in London, I’d definitely make all my own clothes. The character fabric was a bit more expensive than Okadaya, but they have great remnants bins and a whole floor of American quilting squares on the top floor at only Y130 each. I buy a few remnant pieces and some printed tape.

Walking the other way from Nippori station, we take a wander through Yanaka, Tokyo’s old town. It’s a calm relief after the craziness of the rest of Tokyo, and there’s a pretty shrine literally every five paces.

We follow Yanaka’s backstreets all the way down to Ueno where the National Museum is; have lunch then look round the small but well-stocked museum.

We walk down through Ueno Park as dusk falls and admire as the pretty lanterns painted with ukiyo-e patterns light up down the sides of the path. There’s also a shrine of some sort guarded by 3 cats! It’s a bit jarring to see all the neons of Ueno again after Yanaka and the park, but we reach it just at sunset so the light is gorgeous. I’d heard there’s a big market in the area but it must have been closing up just as we arrived; there wasn’t much else to see.

We’d planned to go to Super Deluxe, a venue/bar/art space, in the evening, so hop on a train to Roppongi. Looking around for dinner we find the restaurant Gonpachi, which we’d read about in the guidebook as a semi-legendary place which apparently inspired the restaurant scene in Kill Bill (and the ex-Japanese president took George W Bush there some years ago). It’s usually essential to book a reservation, but luckily on a Tuesday they fit us in on the kitchen-facing counter. It’s in a beautiful refurbished warehouse building filled with lanterns and as you walk in the waiter announces your arrival and all the staff and chefs shout a greeting. Our waiter speaks excellent English and finds me some vegetarian food on the large tapas-style menu – tasty grilled tofu skewers and freshly-made soba noodles. Josh has Kobe beef skewers and proclaimed it definitely worth the money; the rice cooked in a boiling hot stone pot, flavoured with mustard leaves, is excellent too. One of the dishes I order turns up slightly late so I get a free green tea ice cream afterwards.

We are still a bit early for Super Deluxe so get a beer in a pub over the road – made a mistake ordering imported Belgian beer because including the cover charge it’s about 6 quid for a bottle of Hoegaarden – it did include a plate of cheese to nibble on, though. We head back up the road to Super Deluxe, which is a cool underground venue; they even brew their own ale on site. The crowd is young, international and design-y looking.

The live bands are not my thing in the slightest – mostly weird noise-jazz – but there are some cool visuals done live by 3 people moving various objects and lights under the projectors. We last for 3 bands before the place gets really smoky (you can still smoke inside most venues in Tokyo, but not on the street, oddly) so we duck out and head back.