A snafu with booking the Osaka > Tokyo Nozomi during the New Year’s period, which resulted in extra time in Tokyo!

When Chris originally booked this trip to Japan, he didn’t book it realizing that New Year’s is the biggest holiday of the year in Japan, so he didn’t think much about booking shinkansen tickets in advance. Somehow, we got lucky with the Tokyo > Osaka shinkansen booking, as that was only done a couple weeks out: we were not only able to get preferred seats on a Nozomi for oversized baggage space (directly behind our seats), but we were even able to move up our ticket to about an hour before since we had more time than we’d anticipated getting from Narita into Tokyo station when we first arrived. But when we got to Osaka, this was a bit of a false security. When Chris looked to book tickets for January 3 to return to Tokyo, every single train and seat he looked at after 8am was sold out. The only seat options remaining were between 5am to 7:39am. So he booked us on a Nozomi at 7:39am on Wednesday to return to Tokyo late morning. Unfortunately, this would cut our Osaka time by about half a day, as we were hoping to visit Osaka Castle and also try the local Osaka version of okonomiyaki, but those things, sadly, would have to wait for another future visit.

It wasn’t the end of the world, though. While it wasn’t great to have our Osaka time cut short, especially since we didn’t even visit Osaka in July 2015, it is in no way disappointing or awful that we had extra time in Tokyo! We used the day to re-visit Tsukiji and got a table at Sushiko, a restaurant that had been on my list from our last visit, and who was happy to accommodate our active toddler. Pookster had a high chair to sit in. We folded her stroller and placed it in the front, and given we’re in Japan, there was never a worry that anyone would steal it (I would NEVER feel comfortable leaving my stroller unattended in New York City, as I’ve heard the worst horror stories about strollers being stolen in broad day light when the owner was just steps away from it!). And to our surprise and delight, the menu even had a kid’s plate, which was recommended for children ages 5-10, but that’s fine: we got it for Pookster anyway, and we figured that if she didn’t eat it, we could eat it as our own appetizer. At about 700 JPY (or $4.81 USD), it was quite the steal: it had four pieces of rolled sushi stuffed with natto (Japanese fermented soy beans, a sticky and acquired taste!), two pieces of tamago (Japanese rolled omelet that is a little sweet), three generous, fat pieces of nigiri (tuna, salmon, and a very, very sweet and large prawn!), and a small bowl of medium grain, steamed Japanese white rice topped with a beautiful helping of ikura (salmon roe, a salty-sweet, flavorful, mouth-popping wonder!). To be honest, Kaia had bits of the natto sushi and gave up. She then tried a bite of the ikura and decided “all done!” So, appetizer it was for us!

As for ourselves, we got a massive sushi/nigiri platter with so many types of fish, prawn, and ikura that I am in no way educated enough to know or share what they all were, but I can say with no doubt that each bite was incredibly fresh, sweet, and delicious. Initially, I found my respiratory pathways cleared suddenly with the strong smear of freshly grated wasabi on each bite of nigiri, but my body quickly adjusted to this spicy addictive root and savored each zing. We washed it all down with some sake and a yuzu sour (I was determined to get my plum wine and yuzu fix as often as possible while in Japan!). In total, for all that gorgeous fish and two alcoholic drinks, our total bill came to about $80 USD. It was a very, very delicious bargain.

After our sushi fix, we wandered a bit around Tsujiki, then headed to Ginza for some shopping, had tea at a Mariages Freres tea salon, and then ended up at the Marunouchi Building. I love how all these big tall Tokyo buildings have SO much packed into them. There are the food basements that have endless omiyage (gifts/souvenirs) you can pick up, along with food to eat; and floors and floors separated by a quick up and down on the elevator or escalator of different restaurants and dining options. In the Marunouchi Building, we ended up at the Akanoren ramen joint for Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. For $7-9 USD each, we had a large slurpy bowl of straight thin ramen noodles in a creamy white rich broth. I was pleasantly surprised to see how lean my slices of chasu were. And even though tonkotsu broth is supposed to be on the heavier side, I didn’t feel like it was too fatty or rich at all. The broth was actually a bit lighter than I’d originally thought based on looking at it. In fact, both of us finished ALL our broth, which almost never happens when we have ramen in New York! Kaia especially enjoyed these noodles soaked in the rich broth and ate a helping of ramen that even her dad was shocked about!

As Chris says, even the average restaurants in Japan for dishes like ramen that do not have endless queues are still, on average, going to be delicious, especially when you compare them to what we can get back home. And that’s really the comparison, right? It would be challenging to say that this bowl is inferior to any other tonkotsu we’ve enjoyed in Japan that had a long wait. We think they’re all freaking delicious and perfect.

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