With only three full days left in Japan, we decided to take it easy for the day and head to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. The temple was few minutes’ walk from Asakusa station and like our last visit in 2009, was packed with tourists and locals. There were even two girls at the entrance looking after other people’s kids (who were placed in trolleys like pets!).
Inside the temple’s Kaminarimon gate was Nakamise-dori, a street lined with souvenirs shops selling magnets, yukatas, fans, food and even swords. It’s a great place to purchase some souvenirs.
Amongst the snacks being sold were age manju, or fried buns. We bought buns with red bean, green tea and custard flavoured fillings. They were freshly made and fried, which was nice in the cool weather.
We also stopped at one of the shops to buy some black pepper and soy sauce senbei. We had bought these on our last trip and they were as good as I remembered. The shop also had bowls of them for customers to sample before buying. The fragrance of toasted rice and soy sauce was just delectable.
In the temple grounds past the shops was a small garden and temple buildings including a five storey pagoda and the main hall.
Another nifty place to buy some souvenir snacks is Karin Coron, which is just off to the side of the temple grounds. They sell different flavoured senbei snacks wrapped in paper with beautiful pictures of Sensoji and other attractions.
Unfortunately the shop assistant couldn’t speak any English at all, so I didn’t exactly know what the flavours tasted like. I ended up buying the tri-mix, the sweet potato and sweet soy sauce. They were nice if a little sweet, but I’d especially recommend the curry flavour from the tri-mix pack and the sweet potato flavour.
Close by was a shop that had a massive queue that wound past the coke vending machine in the photo below. Upon closer inspection, it was a meron pan (melon bun) shop – mental note for if we’re ever back here.
On our way out we spotted a monkey and his handler setting up for a performance. I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the monkey…
After we finished at Sensoji, we walked about 10 mins down the road to Sometaro, a restaurant known for its okonomiyaki. It was shoes off and into the provided plastic bag as we were shown to our cushions on the tatami floor.
We weren’t the only tourists there (all credit to TripAdvisor!). In fact the table next to us were also foreigners who asked us what we had ordered. We ordered one of the special okonomiyaki with mince, cabbage and yakisoba. One of the staff started the cooking process for us and gave us instructions to flip and add the sauce towards the end. It was good, but it would have been more flavourful if we hadn’t skimmed on the sauce.
We also got the buta-okonomiyaki, which came in a bowl of flour, egg, cabbage and slivers of pork belly. We followed the same steps: mix, pour, flip and baste. It was delicious, especially as we learnt from our previous mistake and were more generous with the sauce. We had cooked it a little longer so that there was a bit of crunch to the base. The bits of fatty pork hidden in the okonomiyaki also made it juicier.
Our last stop was for some of Testa Rossa’s famous silk pudding.
We ordered the standard and premium milk puddings, and the coffee flavoured milk pudding. Made from Hokkaido milk, the puddings were smooth and creamy (the premium was slightly creamier than the standard, which was still pretty good), with a savoury hit from the caramel sauce at the bottom of the cup. The coffee flavour had a subtle, bitter hit to it.
While you’re in Asakusa, you may notice what looks like a golden turd (there’s really no other words to describe it) – that’s actually the headquarters of Asahi beer.
We took the train back to Shinjuku station and stopped by the Keio department store to pick up dinner. We bought a pretty tasty Chinese bento, and a tonkatsu bento and croquets (which had good crumb) from the little Maisen section of the food basement.
We also browsed the wagashi section and stopped by a patisserie store that had a long queue that wound down the adjoining corridor. Apparently the queue was for the Gateau Festa Harada’s Gouter de Roi rusks, buttery crunchy French bread sprinkled with sugar. We bought the premium, the white chocolate and the original.
The premium featured a thick darkish chocolate coating and a sprinkle of gold dust – it was the most expensive, but very enjoyable. I thought the white chocolate rusk was interesting, with its sweet white chocolate coating contrasting with the savoury and buttery rusk. Nothing topped enjoying the plain rusk in all its glory though.
We retired early as we had an early start the next day joining a day tour to the glorious Mt Fuji.