As you may, or may not know, I got married earlier this year. The wedding day was a truly joyful and fun experience (which you can read all about here), and as much as my husband and I were sad for it to be over, we have very much enjoyed the relief of not having to organise another event like it in a hurry! We’ve also had the excitement of a honeymoon to look forward to, and when deciding where to go there really was only one destination that would satisfy us completely – Tokyo
Japan is a place that feels far removed from any other place we have visited so far. The people and the culture seem to strive for perfection in a way that many Western countries do not and I have always been personally drawn to the conflicting sense of orderliness and chaos that seem so embroiled in the people. The food, the manga, the insanely high tech toilets – everything about Tokyo and Japan seemed new, otherworldly and exciting, and we wanted to experience it.
So on 15 September we hopped on a plane for a 9 day trip to Tokyo, Japan. From the word go we had an awesome time. Within the first 15 hours of the holiday we’d had complimentary champagne at 30,000 ft, shared a plane with Maroon 5 and experienced a small earthquake – all in all, it seemed like it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip filled with new experiences, and do you know what? It absolutely was! We dressed up for Disney, went gaga for Ghibli and simply had an amazing time. What more can you ask for in a honeymoon? Let me tell you all about some of my favourite bits.
Let’s start with the important stuff: the food. Oh the food, dear readers, the food! We knew when going to Japan, that the food would be good – in fact, the food was a big reason we picked Tokyo as our honeymoon destination (we really do love food here at Candy Perfume Towers, it must be said) – but we didn’t know that it would be the absolute, very best part of the trip.
Our first experience of Japanese cuisine was wacky conveyer belt sushi that was delivered via maglev trays – here I tried sea urchin for the first time and whilst it may be a delicacy in Asia, I can’t say that I was enamoured. To me, sea urchin has the texture, smell and taste of a damp sponge that really needs to be thrown away. I’m glad that I tried it but I’m unlikely to repeat the experience.
We tried all sorts of food during our trip; tonkatsu (breaded pork with a curried sauce), tempura (lightly battered seafood and vegetables) and lots of mochi (a sticky rice cake), to name just a few. All were exceptionally tasty and chock full of delicately balanced flavours, with a touch of umami here and there, but the one thing we came back to was the ramen. They say that the ramen in Japan really is quite something – well I’d like to say that the ramen in Japan is fluffing phenomenal and unlike anything else I’ve ever eaten.
We went to Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya. In this tiny little basement restaurant one has to order their food via a vending machine that produces little food tickets. Once you’ve sat down in a small booth (to protect one against the embarrassment of slurping, of which there was plenty) these stubs are exchanged for, you guessed it – ramen, which is served through a hatch. It’s an unusual dining experience, but the strangeness is soon forgotten when the hot bowl of steaming noodles, miso broth, pork and egg is served. In fact the only thought one can muster when shovelling this ramen down the hatch is ‘I hope this bowl never ends’!
The absolute highlight of the trip was, unsurprisingly, food-related. On the Saturday evening we decided to a book a guided food tour around the streets of Tokyo. This allowed us to go to small eateries under the train tracks and tucked away in hidden streets, that we’d never even have considered. We gorged on Yakitori (chicken skewers), inhaled numerous Taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet and savoury fillings) and made, and ate our very own Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes made on a hot plate at the table). The greatest part of this evening was the people we got to meet and eat with – it was fun to be sociable on holiday, for once!
Temples and Shrines
Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis of neon, modern architecture and packed cross walks. It’s a city that works late and never sleeps, but amongst the din there are little pockets of peace and quiet that offer a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the most calming and tranquil places we visited on our honeymoon was the Meiji Shrine. The Meiji Shrine is a shinto shrine dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken set within an iris garden that the Emperor and Empress were known to visit. It’s a beautiful place filled with touching tributes to lost loved ones and prayers waiting to be answered.
In a complete contrast to the relaxation of the Meiji Shrine, we also visited the Senso-Ji temple, located in the heart of the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Senso-Ji is much more of a tourist trap than the Meiji shrine and rather than serving as a piece of tranquility amongst the skyscrapers, the temple showed a lively side to the Japanese form of worship, accompanied by a whole street of gift shops.
It was an intense place, with intense smells clashing together to make for a sensory din. Incense smoke permeated the air as worshippers and visitors wafted the plumes over them in a cleansing act. The many food stalls shouted with the smells of bright pink chocolate bananas and takoyaki (octopus balls – NOM), creating a clash between the sweet and the savoury. It was not a calm place by any means, but in a city that feels like a whirlwind at the best of times, it sure was fascinating.
In fact, the whole holiday was fascinating and fragrant, and the trains and the people appeared to have no smell however (they smelled like clean linen), the streets and just about everything else was positively pungent with a whole host of wonderful and occasionally not-so-wonderful smells. I’d go back in a heartbeat, if I could, especially just for that ramen…