When we got our placeholder tickets for Tsuta Ramen earlier this week, we had several hours to wait before our dining time. By chance, we found a couple really nice ways to spend our day before ramen time that I thought I’d share with you today.
First, we walked toward Komagome Station to check out Rikugien Gardens. We didn’t know anything about the gardens, but we figured it was a sunny day and we had time to pass so we might as well give them a shot. Before we got to the gardens, we stopped at Niki Bakery, which is very near to Komagome station.
Niki Bakery and Cafe is quite a nice little stop, whether you’re interested in a couple pastries or something for lunch. Pictured above you can see some cream-filled Totoro bread, chocolate-filled Doraemon bread, and sweet red bean paste-filled Anpanman bread. We grabbed a couple pastries and some coffee and headed to the gardens.
The entrance fee for the gardens is only 300 yen. There are some rules prohibiting you from doing things like bringing in animals, running, or bringing mats for picnics, but you can still bring in drinks and snacks. There were plenty of benches throughout the gardens to sit on, as well as a few bathrooms that were nice and clean, (and–surprisingly for Japan–even had soap!), and a couple areas for refreshments.I love that almost every tourist place in Japan has a stamping area so you can stamp a dated picture to remember your visit on a pamphlet or brochure. It didn’t take long at all for us to be very glad we decided to visit these beautiful gardens. It was hard to believe it’s the end of December with the bright weather and colorful leaves! Chad and I shared a fluffy, sugar-crusted raisin bread and a danish-like pastry with apple, dried cranberries, raisins and powdered sugar. Rikugien Gardens are based on a theme of poetry, and this bridge and rock symbolizes a poem about loneliness in the moonlight.With the bright sunshine and loads of ducks swimming around nearby, we fortunately didn’t feel very lonely looking at it. After spending an hour and a half or so enjoying the gardens, we headed back toward Sugamo station to check out Jizo-dori, a shopping street known as a Harajuku for Obachans (Japanese grannies).
At the beginning of the street you can spot a little information hut that has several images of the Sugamo mascot, a duck called Sugamon. You are also greeted Sugamon’s great big, furry duck butt in a shrine!
Apparently touching the butt causes love and bonding, and if you touch the butt gently and softly, you won’t suffer an problems around your own butt. What a lucky thing to pass by!
I have a feeling the “healing properties” from rubbing the duck bum are related to the nearby temple, Kogan-ji. There is a statue within the temple that you can rub to heal your ailments. The picture above is of two men making New Year’s preparations for the temple entrance, but I failed to get any good pictures of the temple. You can see some pictures and read more about Kogan-ji (as well as some other interesting Jizo-dori facts) on this interesting blog if you’re interested though! There are lots of interesting shops lining Jizo-dori that sell everything from traditional Japanese rice crackers to “sexy red bloomers for little old ladies.” The shop above sold several sweet potato delights, including a whipped sweet potato concoction inside an apple. A nice old man bought some honey-covered sweet potato bites and gave one each to Chad and I. If you’re around the shop and have a little money to spare, I’d recommend indulging! We had a really nice day full of fresh air and interesting window-shopping before heading off to try the now-famed Michelin Star ramen for our late lunch/early dinner. I hope if you’re looking for an inexpensive afternoon in Tokyo that you’ll give these ideas a try, too. And if you’re reading from afar, what are some surprisingly nice things you’ve done to pass the time waiting?