our 4th day in Tokyo: museums, karate, and authentic dining

On our fourth day in Tokyo (Saturday, June 9), we were finally able to sleep in a bit and hit the 7-11 for our eggs and onigiri at 8:30am instead of the usual 6am.  By 10, we were inside the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno Park.  The children loved the dinosaurs, aviation, and car exhibits, as did I.

Just before noon was an experience we scheduled for our son, who started taking karate a few months ago, but it was probably my favorite activity we did, too.  We booked, via AirBnB “experiences,” a karate lesson with Hiroki (use the link to book him too!), a black belt instructor there, followed by lunch at a local place where no menus were in English (and American visitors were apparently so rare that the proprietor wanted a picture of us after our meal).  We loved it.

We met him at a train stop, where he and 2 friends greeted us.  Then we went to a local studio and put on gis he brought for each of us, complete with white belts.

We warmed up, learned some punches and kicks, put on gloves to hit pads, and got some great exercise with our instruction.

After our lesson and lunch, we walked through Yanaka cemetery, because I love going to old cemeteries any time I visit a new city or country, and then my bride needed to shoot some video of the fabric shopping in Arakawa “fabric town” area for her loads and loads of online fans.

In the early evening, we went to Ueno Park and paddled the swan boats in Shinobazu Pond for a bit before a dinner we’d scheduled months ago at Innsyoutei.

A bit about making reservations for dinner in Japan:  it’s hard.  Tokyo leads the world in places to eat with a Michelin star, so I was excited to plan a few really nice meals while there.  Unlike when we were in Paris, however, I couldn’t just get my Amex concierge to make reservations for us; most of the nicer places will only give a reservation to a local, and since we weren’t staying in hotels but were in AirBnBs in Tokyo (and Kyoto for that matter), we didn’t have a hotel concierge to do it, either (which is what the Amex concierge suggested doing).  That said, the Amex folks did a good bit of research for us into fine dining places that allowed children and had openings for the nights we had available, but they indicated we’d have to call them to get a reservation (which is also hard, when we’re 13 hours behind in Atlanta and would have to rely on someone answering the phone who spoke English well).  So, for this particular dining experience, we’d stayed up til midnight one Sunday night and were able to secure it over the phone.

Back to dinner at Innsyoutei.  The building looks hundreds of years old.  You walk in, take off your shoes, and then walk down a hallway with wooden floors and sliding rice paper doors on either side of you until you come to your little room.  You sit around the table on cushions on the floor, which is all tatami mats, and the table is just a few inches high.  The nice thing was, the floor has a pit of sorts below the table, so your legs can go into the pit comfortably instead of having to be cross-legged the entire meal.

It also had a pleasant, somewhat antique, smell to it. The service was great, and the food presentation and taste were also outstanding.  Because our youngest 2 can be finicky eaters, we’d only arranged for the eldest to join the adults in the “chef’s choice” Kaiseki meal offerings. They got their own special meals they liked, which were also well presented, but were less exotic:

After just over 2 hours, we’d finished eating our meal, and the older 2 children really wanted to check out the Tokyo National Museum, which was just across the park from us, so I took them there while my bride and youngest waited on the check to come.  We ran through all of the weapons exhibits and some of the ceramics, calligraphy, and sculptures until they kicked us out at 9pm.

I was proud that my 11-year-old and 9-year-old were so wanting to learn about the local culture that they not only got up from our meal before we had received the bill, but ran across the park in the darkness to get to the museum before they stopped allowing visitors at 8:30pm.  All 3 of us enjoyed what we saw and learned.  We took the train back to Ginza to get some sleep, telling the children that Sunday would be a long day, but that we had a surprise for them if they behaved well the first half of the day!

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  1. Pingback: days 13 and 14 in Japan: an earthquake and the Park Hyatt Hotel - Dadcation

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