Standing in front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba is the world’s only full-scale Gundam. Since I did not grow up watching the show or assembling the figures, I don’t really know much about it, but Jay seemed pretty stoked about the giant robot. We managed to catch it “come to life” at night, when scenes from the show (I assume) played in the background, lights lit the statue, and it moved its head. Sadly, this was closest to our battle robot dreams à la Real Steel that we got.

Gundam at Odaiba

For dinner, we decided to head to Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya. In the United States, eating at a mall isn’t typically the best enticing option, but in Japan, these places can be glorious. The basement here was stocked with the most beautiful produce I have ever laid my eyes on. There are also cute pastries and an assortment of eating options. Also, if you cannot manage to wake up early enough for the fish market, you can also purchase sashimi delivered directly to this location for a great price.

Tokyu Department Store Basement

Right outside Shibuya station is the most famous akita inu, Hachiko. Hachiko became well-known among locals for his extreme loyalty – even after his owner passed away, he waited at the station every day for nine years.

Hachiko in Shibuya

Perhaps the world’s busiest intersection, Shibuya Crossing was not quite as crowded as I had imagined at night. The view from Starbucks (where I took this photo) however, was pretty packed.

Shibuya Crossing

Now, if you can wake up early enough, Tsukiji Fish Market is definitely worth a visit – especially before its move to the less convenient location of Toyosu this November (2016). Unfortunately, no tuna auctions were available for tourists during our stay in preparation of the holiday season. If you do plan on going, it is recommended to book a stay at a place nearby (walking distance) and to go at least two hours ahead of ticket release, given the limited number allowed.

Tsukiji Fish Market

The most famous sushi restaurant in Tsukiji is Sushi Dai, but for those not willing to wait two or more hours for your meal (like me!), Daiwa Sushi is an excellent option. On a Thursday morning around 8AM, we waited about half an hour. Daiwa Sushi, like many other sushi bars in the area, is a tiny restaurant, where customers sit elbow to elbow. Nearly everyone orders omakase (about 10 pieces for 3500 yen – such a steal), and the chefs serve each piece quickly. Uni was my least favorite, but all the other fish nigiri blew my mind. Never have I eaten such fresh fish. Succulent, shining with a light brush of sauce, and incredibly tender – I don’t even know how to imagine Jiro’s level of quality.

Daiwa Sushi

Feeling stuffed after our meal, we decided to take a walk around the fish market, which opens to the public at 9AM. Turret trucks hurtling by every which way, and though much of the fish has already been sold/packed away for delivery, you can still see an immense amount of seafood that passes through.

Tsukiji Fish Market Turrets
Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna

After our brisk walk through piles of styrofoam and produce, we craved something warm. Jay used Foursquare to find a cute coffee shop just a few blocks away from the market. The interior is small, fitting only a handful of people, and features a retired turret in the center – hence its name, Turret Coffee. It’s located down from a Starbucks corner, but trust me, their drinks are worth the few extra steps. I ordered an apple cider, and Jay had a latte. The thick, rich taste of my cider was decadent, and the warm smell was so welcome for a wintry morning.

Turret Coffee

Meiji Shrine is nestled within a large forested area that envelops one in curated nature. There are smaller “parks” within that can extend your walk beyond the main path to the shrine and are pleasant respites from the bustle of Harajuku. Along the way, you can see hundreds of donated sake barrels in honor of the shrine’s deities, Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

Meiji Shrine Sake Barrels

Imperial Palace is seldom open to the public, so we toured the East Gardens instead. Around the grounds, you can view old guardhouses [featured image] and ruins of Edo Castle from the Tokugawa period.

So ended my first trip to Japan. It was as wonderful as I had anticipated for so many years, with fewer oddities than dramas and animes exaggerated. For the graciousness of our hosts, friends, and concierge who directed us when we got lost, domo arigatougozaimashita.