Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Asakusa Kannon Onsen

I must mention this onsen as it is special.  The onsen is located very conveniently right next to Senso-ji, or actually it is on the temple ground to be more precise.  If you are facing the main hall of Senso-ji, this onsen is on your left.  You can see a 4-5 story building that is covered by ivory leagues.

The onsen facility itself is very run down, very old, very vintage.  The people manning the onsen are also very old, just like the building itself.

I went there twice.  For the first time, when I went in, people were leaving, so I had the WHOLE onsen, not entirely whole really, as I only had the WHOLE men's part of the onsen, all to myself.  There are two pools, one is very hot, the other is hot.  The very hot one is really too hot.  The moment I dipped my toes in, I had to jump out.  So at the end, I still only used half the onsen.

The onsen has very little crowd.  After I came in, only one old man and a young man came in to join me.  The old man was really old.  He was trembling when he was walking.  I am always very afraid of old man in the onsen.  They look so fragile you have no idea when they will just slip & fall.

The second time when I was there, some older office workers were there, but they soon left.  And then two old men came when I was about to leave.  Then it comes to the very interesting point of Asakusa Kannon onsen.  In Japan, there is an unwritten rule that if you have tattoos on your body, you are not welcomed in any onsen or sento (bath house) with very few exceptions.  Tattoos in the older days are symbols of being a member of yakuzi, or mafia in English.  Asakusa Kannon onsen is one such exception.  One of the old man that came in, had very colorful tattoos on his right arm.  Looking at the age of the man, when he was young, for sure tattoos were symbols of mafia.  Does this mean he was/is a member of the mafia?? 

In Japan, before you dip yourself into the onsen pool, you should always clean yourself thoroughly.  However, this man with tattoo simple didn't bother.  He went straight into the pool.  He even happily dipped his long beard into the pool too.  Yucks, I was using that pool just minutes ago, luckily I left just that minutes earlier. 

I was wondering whether he had some glory past, but he now looks week and fragile, slow in motion, numb to the surroundings. 

If you want to see some pictures of the onsen, you can find them at this blog.  Ok, btw, this onsen is one of the oldest in Tokyo, and 'frequent' by both locals & tourists.  As to the effectiveness of the onsen, I was happy.  I went there with a tired body, after 12 hours of intercontinental flight, and many hours of walking along the streets of Tokyo.  The onsen easied my pain in my lower back. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

K's House

K's house is a backpacker's hostel chain.  They have hostels in many different locations.  I stayed at their Asakusa hostel - K's House Tokyo, for my last trip. 

In terms of location, K's house is excellent.  It is 3 minutes walk from Kuramae Station, 7 minutes walk to Asakusa Station (or Senso-ji).  There are many shops, restaurants around.  Very convenient location.

The ground floor is their lobby, reception, pantry, and store room.  The lobby/lounge is very cosy, with two computers available for you to access the internet (you have to pay though, 100 yen for 20 mins). 

However, their dorm is really small.  Do you see all these bunk beds being crammed together in such a small room?  There are a total of 4 bunk beds, for 8 persons in a room smaller than 8 meter squared. 

Most of the people staying at K's house are westerners, or Caucasians, or Asians with an Asian's look, but a Caucasian's heart.

Service-wise, it is the same slow service at almost all the hostels across the world.  They usually only have one staff manning the reception, so patience is a virtue.  

Anyway, for the price of 2800 yen/night in expensive Tokyo, it is not a bad choice if you are traveling alone.  However, if you traveling with a partner or a friend, it will be more worthwhile to consider one of those business hotels such as Toyoko Inn. 

More information about K's house is available at  K's House Website.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sushi Daiwa at Tsukiji

Sushi Daiwa is one of the most famous sushi shops outside of Tsukiji Market.

I don't know who gave that good review about Sushi Daiwa, but anyway I read it from  Along with the same row of shop houses, there are many other sushi shops too.  Just one or two shop space away, it is Sushi Dai, another famous sushi shop.

Out of all those sushi shops, only Sushi Daiwa & Sushi Dai had queues, and the queue at Sushi Dai is long, see all the crowd in the photo above?  They were all queuing up for Sushi Dai.

Anyway, I chose Sushi Daiwa, because the queue was much shorter, and I heard it is just as good as Sushi Dai.

Sushi Daiwa has a set menu which costs 3500 yen for 7 pieces of sushi.


2 & 3

4, 5, 6 & 7

Ok, you have seen all 7 pieces of sushi.  Do they look delicious to you?  Ok, 1 & 7 are tunas, I think.  They were very chewy, definitely not otoro.  2 & 3, can't really remember the taste, must be very average.  4 is not bad, 5 is something I don't know what it is.  6 is raw prawn, so so taste.

After the expensive 7-course sushi breakfast, I was still hungry.  Comparing with the sushi that I had last year in a street side sushi shop in Asakusa, I think that sushi was much better.  I still can remember how tender the conger sushi was.  It melts in your mouth, so smooth and tender & juicy.

I will only give a 3/5 rating to Sushi Daiwa. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tsukiji Market - Part III

Tsukiji Market is one whole spider web of small alleys such as this. 

And here is the loading and unloading area.

There is a special type of vehicle that you can only see in this market.  It roams both inside and outside of market.

Be very careful.  The market is one whole chaotic place.  The fish merchants, the laborers, the 'special vehicles', trolleys, and the tourists, they all tend to bump into each other.  Plus the many trucks loading and unloading at the side of the market, it is a place full of potential dangers.  It makes it even worse with all that wet and dirty and slippery floor.  Take extra precaution while you walk, and be aware of your surroundings when you are happily taking photographs.  

The small alleys are lined up with all different kinds of seafood shops, selling all kinds of stuff from live seafood to preserved salty fish, etc, etc. 


Your eyes will be really busy looking at the people, the fish, & the traffic.  And you know, most of the activities happen before dawn, so everything is under the dim lights of market.

The activities do not limit to the market itself.  Outside the market, there are still many shops selling what the ordinary family needs.  I am aware of there are district 4 & district 3.  District 3 is more for the sushi shops, while district 4 is more for sundry stuff and other related stuff.  There are some food stalls too.

Visiting Tsukiji is quite an experience.  I didn't really intend to visit the market, as I didn't want to wake up 4 o'clock in the morning just to go to some fish market.  Then I think it was kind of fated.  One Caucasian guy set his alarm clock to ring at 4am, and he was not waken up at the first alarm, after he was waken up, he couldn't find his alarm to turn off the alarm.  So you know, all the people in the dorm were waken up by that unexpected 'morning call'.  Ok, since I was already awake, so might as well go to the market, that's how I ended up in Tsukiji at around 6am.  Oh, one more thing, check your train schedule when you plan your trip.  I got to the train station at 5.10am, but the train would only come at 5.35am.  What a waste.

Related Entries:

Part I:

Part II:

Tsukiji Market - Part II

Tsukiji is famous for being a fish market, so how can you just see blue fin tuna there.  There are still a lot more different varieties of fish available.

Now it is test time.  How many of the fishes can you name in the following pictures?  Winner has no prize thought :D


I don't know what about you, for myself, I have seen most of them in some Asian seafood restaurants.  They are considered to be a bit on the 'expensive' side, though.  Do you see that 'elephant trunk' in the first picture, it is one expensive delicacies in Asia.  In my humble opinion, Tsukiji fish market is a bit over-hyped.  Maybe to the western world, it is something new & interesting, but in the Asian world, it is not really that novel.  Well, of course, other Asian markets may not have the much hype blue fin tuna auction, that's quite unique to Tsukiji.  

Related Entries:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tsukiji Market - Part I

Tsukiji market is the central whole sale market in Tokyo.  It is famous for its fish market, but as a matter of fact, the fish market is just one of the many whole sale markets located in Tsukiji.  Look at this map of Tsukiji, you can see they actually have a fruits market too, but just a lot less well-known to the tourists.

Ok, to get to Tsukiji market, you just need to take the subway to Tsukiji station, simple enough, right?  After you come out of the station, turn left, and voila, here it is the Tsukiji market.  Don't follow the crowd.  I made that mistake and follow the 'tourist' crowd after I exited the subway station.  Instead of turning left, I followed the crowd to turn right, and then ended up in the shops outside Tsukiji market, and it took me quite a while to find my way back.  How did I do that, I followed a pair of Japanese boys who obviously were going to the market too :D

The most famous fish in Tsukiji is of course the blue fin tuna.  It is the top material they use for Japanese sushi.  You often heard that freshness of the fish is of utmost importance in the quality of sushi, so you might think that those blue fin tuna are live when they are made into your sashimi.  It is not.  The tuna is deep frozen, and then sent to the market.  You can see many tunas lying around.

And the guys in the market will cut them up into smaller pieces.


The smaller pieces are placed in a chilling facility, waiting for the customers to come and buy them.

That is what you will see in your sushi shop.  

It is eye-opening to see how they handle those giant blue fin tunas.  However, if you not a fish guy, or you dislike any place that is wet and dirty and chaotic, probably Tsukiji is not the place for you :)

Related Entries:

Narita Airport Shopping Experience

My experience at Narita Airport last year was far from satisfaction.  I was traveling with Cathay Pacific and they operate from Narita Terminal 2.  I thought Terminal 2 should be a newer terminal with more facilities, but on the contrary, Terminal 2 is more or less like a bare building.  Really nothing much.  There is no shopping experience to talk about.

This time I traveled with Singapore Airlines which operates from Narita Terminal 1.  The terminal itself is much better, and they have 2 floors of shops to satisfy your spending desire.  The stuff there are not all more expensive.  I know that if you buy those souvenir food items, such as those tea cakes, etc, it is more expensive at the airport (around 150 yen more), but for other items, actually it is more or less the same price. 

I am a lot happier this time.  :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Guy from Leeds

As I was wondering the streets of Tokyo on Monday, I met a guy from Leeds, UK.  It started with him asking me for directions.  Then we started a conversation along the way as we were walking in the same direction. 

He said he had a 6-month adventure in Asia.  He spent some time in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philipines, then two weeks in Hong Kong, 2 months in mainland China.  He actually went to Shaolin Temple to learn Chinese martial arts.  From there, he came to Japan.  He would end his trip in Japan, and flying back to UK on 8 Dec.

I am always very amazed by the westerners' ability to go for long trips.  It is not the first time that I heard some guy is going for a 6-month trip, 1-year trip around the world.  How do they do it?  All that money, how did they come up with so much money?  And in the Leeds' guy's case, he just graduated from university.

Another interesting point is the fact that he spent his entire trip in Asia.  In the past, most people would like to go to countries such as Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand, etc.  If the Leeds guy is any indication, there might be a shift in people's perceptions. 

Anyway, it is always fun to meet different people when you travel.  New perspectives of the world around you. 

Uniqlo @ 313 Somerset

I went to the Uniqlo store at 313@Somerset tonight.  This Uniqlo is THE store in the whole shopping complex.  You don't see that kind of crowd in any of the other stores present in the same shopping complex.

The store is big, and has many varieties, but seems like not exactly the same as what they offer in Japan.  At least I couldn't find the premium down jacket I bought at Narita. 

They are now having an opening sale.  A mouton fleece jacket costs S$39.90 (UP S$49.90), and a thin jacket costs S$19.90 (UP S$29.90).  Their clothes are quite nice.  Feels good when touching.  Most importantly, they are light and dry quickly. 

I would be very happy if I were the owner.  Cash register keeps ringing.  There are about 6-7 cashiers, and yet there were still long queues of customers waiting to pay.  In tropical Singapore, it is really good business for a winter clothes store.   I do hope their business will be substainable in Singapore, then I don't have to travel all the way to Japan to get my stuff. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

HSBC Rejection

This is the 2nd time so far in my life my credit card application was rejected.  I was persuaded by this marketer at AMK MRT station some time ago into signing up for the HSBC credit card and their line of credit facility.  After I submitted my application, I forgot about it and I assumed my application would be accepted as a matter of procedure.

Then I received a letter from HSBC a few days ago, saying they rejected my application.  The exact reason was not given, but in the letter it stated that I am not up to their standard by their score system.  Then I received my debit card from HSBC at the same time too.  This debit card lets me use their line-of-credit facility.  Don't you think something is illogical here?  I highly suspect they just want to con me into using their line of credit, which bears very high interest rate from the very moment you take money out from that evil debit card.  So when I called them up to cancel my debit card, they said I could not do that.  If I do, I would have to pay a fee!   How ridiculous it is. 

Banks are banks, they are never honest or honourable.  Handle with GREAT care!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Uniqlo is a Japanese brand that sells winter clothes, including jackets, thermal underwear, etc.  My first encounter with them was during my trip to Tokyo last year.  They were selling thermal underwear at very reasonable prices.  I got one each for my parents.  Their feedback is not too bad.

When I was shopping around in Narita Terminal 1 yesterday, I found they have a shop on Level 4 too, and they are having some kind of sales.  I found one premium down jacket, very nice and stylish.  The original price is ~10,000 yen, after discount, it is 7990 yen.  How can I miss this opportunity?  Of course I bought the jacket without any hesitation.  Together with the jacket, I also bought my other thermal underwear too.  Just perfect for my upcoming trekking trip.

The even better news is that Uniqlo is opening their doors in Singapore too.  I just checked, the same premium down jacket is going at S$149.00, while 7990 yen is around S$129.00.  Haha.... a small little S$20.00 discount :P

You can find more information about Uniqlo at their website:

I personally like their products a lot.  The design is slim, simple, & stylish.  Give them a try if you are looking for some winter clothing, or any clothes in general.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Movie Marathon on Flight

Taking intercontinential flights usually is my best time to catch up with all those movies that I have missed when they were being screened.  This time there is no exception.  I finished watching G Force, Up, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Accident, and 500 Days of Summer. 

G Force has very cute hamsters & guinea pigs, other than that, it is full of crap, but then it is at least better than Up, which is total crap, nothing but crap.  It just tries to spread the junkie American culture, how they dump rubbish around the world, destroying in the name of preservation. 

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I can't really say too much about it.  The movie has a boring beginning, and then I slept through the 'important' part, by the time I woke up, it was already at the end.  I had no intention to rewind to watch what I had missed.  This episode somehow has lost its magic appeal.

Accident, starring Hong Kong actor Louis Khoo, is quite alright.  Sometimes, it is hard to differentiate what is the truth, what is the lie.  When you make a mistake, you may make grave mistakes that you can never have a chance to correct.

500 Days of Summer, I previously thought it would be just another American junk, but somehow it appeals to me.  I like it.  There are a lot of things in life that you wanted, but you can never get it; and some things you never expect it, but you get it. 

This is life.