If Day 2 were all about rediscovering who I was, Day 3 would be mainly about rediscovering the city as I walked from Harajuku to Shibuya to Aoyama, places I have visited frequently since my first visit in 2001. I thought I knew these places well, but I found that I did not quite fully know them. It led to the realisation that places, like people, change with time and bring new flavours and experiences.
It all started when the foodie in me started googling for dining options after deciding to spend Day 3 on this side of town. Recommendations from food bloggers took me to Afuri where I tried yummy yuzu shio ramen. A simple outfit where one ordered from a vending machine, and with a humble price tag of 980 yen, I was not quite sure what to expect. So when a steaming bowl of ramen appeared before me, I ate it all up. Ramen, with its hot broth and chewy noodles, has always been comfort food for me.
After a satisfying meal, I walked down the famed Takeshita Dori, where pop culture meets youth, and found it to be as I remembered it to be. I could not help but smile to myself when I realised my mere presence has raised the average age on the street quite a fair bit. But it did not matter as I was a woman on a mission – to go to Stayreal, which was located on the next street, at the end of Takeshita Dori. For as long as I have been a Mayday fan, I would always check out Stayreal if I happened to be nearby. And it was no different this time.
After an hour or so of walking up and down Harajuku, I decided to take off to Shibuya in search of the promised aroma of coffee. Streamer Coffee Company came highly recommended by one of the food bloggers, which made me decided to give it a try. Located quite a distance away from the busyness of both Harajuku and Shibuya, hidden in some forgotten corner, it took walking through a few back alleys to locate the establishment. However, people seemed to have not forgotten about it at all. Even though it was (to me) in the middle of nowhere, there was a steady stream of customers coming through its door.
And did the coffee lived up to its promise? I assure you it did. The mocha expresso I had was the best coffee I ever tried in Tokyo (okay, didn’t try too many cafes yet) and when it was all gone, I felt a certain sense of disappointment. It had the perfect combination of coffee and chocolate, a balance not many barristers managed to achieve.
If there were anything disappointing about Streamer Coffee Company, it would be their limited selection of sweets. Then again, this was really a half-hearted complaint. You really can’t hold it against a cafe who has got its coffee so right; which left me with little choice but to head off elsewhere to satisfy my sweet cravings. However, instead of finding the cakes to satisfy my sweet tooth, I found Pierre Hermé Paris Aoyama closed for renovation and a long queue at Aoyama Flower Market Tea House, which prompted a u-turn. And I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed.
Even so, I did not find it to be a wasted trip. For one, I got to see why Aoyama Flower Market Tea House was such a hit with the ladies; and walking past the UN University in Tokyo also brought back fond memories of my time in the States through the scene before me – Sunday Farmers’ Market. Looking at the fresh produce and taking in the tantalising flavours of the food trucks, I wished I could take some of these home with me. Or that I wasn’t too physically tired to linger a while more.
For my last evening in Tokyo, I decided to seek out Hitsumabushi, a personal favourite that was not always easy to find. A quick Google search brought on a few leads and I decided to go with the nearest option, Hitsumabushi Bincho Ginza. It took a while but I managed to locate the restaurant and was able to secure a table by the window, just before the crowd came and before the line began to form outside the restaurant. This gave me the confidence that the food must be pretty good, and it turned out to be, even with my heightened expectations. I relished every grain of rice and the unagi was flavourful and well-cooked, making this a truly enjoyable meal, and a fabulous way to end my day!
If I were to sum up Day 3 for me, it was a day of exploring the back alleys of Tokyo, of adventures and misadventures, of pressing on and pressing in. It was a day of exploration and good finds that energised me and imbued in me a sense of hope and peace. Throughout the day, I was reminded of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”