Usually, when I go to Tokyo, I like to get somewhat of an early start towards the train station but I just could not get moving this particular morning, and then I was distracted by all the miliary activity taking place just across Tokyo Bay. Things to do in Tokyo open a little later than what I’m used to back home and it’s kind’ve a trek to get there so somewhat early is best.
Our room has a perfect view of the water! First, the submarine popped up, then a short time later, I watched an aircraft carrier arrive. Even though I’m from a military area, it’s still really cool to see, especially since I can watch from our balcony!
Anyway, for this trip to Tokyo, I was on my own. If I was going to run late on a trip into the city, this was the day to do it because Rob was working late. I missed the train I wanted to take but no big deal. One of the great things about the trains in Japan is that they run constantly so if you miss your train, another one will arrive in just a short time so we never rush or stress about catching them. It actually worked out nicely, because I missed the train rush hour, which ends around 9 am. Usually, it takes well over an hour to get to Shinjuku but I found a train that was going to get me there in less time with only one transfer in Yokohama so I was pretty excited about that.
Naturally, that would have bene too easy… so there was a delay with the route and I ended up having to transfer at Yokohama AND Shinagawa. It’s not hard… just an extra step and a little extra time.
I was going for a day trip to Shinjuku. The sun was shining and the temperature was pretty alright. This is the warmest December I have ever experienced! I was wearing a blouse and light sweater, and was totally fine. It feels like an October day back home, before the temperature drops with the change of the seasons. Maybe even warmer, like a nice September day.
One of the day’s goals was ramen. Shinjuku and Shibuya are both well known for their competitive ramen restaurants. I put a lot of time into researching the perfect ramen place for me, but I just couldn’t decide… I’m not familiar enough with ramen recipes to know what I’ll like and I haven’t enjoyed either of the ramen dishes I tried last time I visited Japan so I went to he who knows best: Paolo from Tokyo, who’s favorite ramen restaurant in all of Tokyo is Fuunji. I walked by several ramen restaurants getting from the train station to Fuunj, and it seems common for the good ones to have lines, and Fuunji is no exception. They say you can tell a good restaurant by the number of locals inside or in line, so even though I don’t prefer to wait, I always keep this in mind. After wandering around the streets of Shinjuku for a while, I decided to take Paolo’s advice. Fuunji is was.
I’m sure I’m one of like a million people who have come here after watching Paolo’s video. I wanted to try my own ramen experience because I don’t just want to copy others all the time but this just seemed the safest course of action in this situation. So, here I was, waiting in line for a dish I’m unsure of, to eat noodles & broth fairly quickly with chopsticks. That’s another thing… you’re not supposed to take your sweet time at places like this. You eat then move along so the next patron can enter.
Long lines full of locals are a good thing. They have a lot of options to choose from so if you see quite a few of them choosing a specific spot, that’s a positive sign. Fuunji is a famous, highly regarded tsukemen shop who also serves a delicious ramen option. Those are their specialties and I’m not even sure if you can get much else, if anything else, on the menu…? I coud be wrong. I can’t read the Japanese language so sometimes I miss things. Anyway, tsukemen uses thicker noodles than ramen and they’re served cold with a warm, rich dipping sauce. I’ve read that ramen tends to be more popular in the cooler months, while the more hearty tsukemen is the preference in the colder months. To me, the tsukemen sounded so much more appealing! I don’t know… I might never try ramen again!! One article described tsukemen as “revolutionary ramen,” like an revamped, updated version of it.
As I neared the entrance to Fuunji, I looked behind me and the line wasn’t getting any shorter. For every person who went in to eat, at least one more person lined up. When it was my turn to go inside, I selected what I wanted from their ticket kiosk, and continued to wait. The staff has everyone line up against the wall, standing about a food from the people eating. It sounds awful & awkward but it’s actually not a big deal to anyone eating or standing. It’s just how it’s done, as seen in the picture below…
I lucked out and was able to cut in front of several people, per the directions of the staff. They won’t seat you until the necessary number of seats become available to seat your entire party. I was party of one so it was easy!
Okay, so I kinda messed up and starting eating before I took the picture of my food. My bad. So I went with tsukemen, with the thick broth and dipping noodles. I am no master at chop sticks so it was a little messy for me. My chop sticks efforts weren’t horrible but I’m sure everyone around me could tell I’m not from around these parts and let’s just say I’m happy I have stain remover in the closet at home. Some things are pretty easy to eat with chopsticks but I don’t find noodles to be one of them.
Tsukemen is incredible. Oh my goodness. It was so good.
Like I said before, this place is famous for their tsukemen, plus when I was inside, I looked at all 15 people seated, eating their lunch, and all 15 were eating tsukemen. As they left and were replaced with other customers, the next person also ordered tsukemen. I figured this stuff had to be too good not to try and it was a great decision. This stuff is so delicious, I think even super picky eater Rob might like it. They only serve regular and large sizes and I ordered the regular, which was enough. I wasn’t terribly full but I didn’t leave hungry.
If you ever have a chance to eat tsukemen, do it.
After I finished my tsukemen at Fuunji, I just wandered the shopping areas near the train station. Shinjuku, like so much of Tokyo, is famous for it’s designer brands but they have a lot of other cool stuff. I went into Tokyo Hands, a department store that’s well known and sells everything from make up to tools. I rarely buy any of it because I don’t feel like I need the stuff and then there’s the hassle of carrying it on the train and then getting it home. It’s a whole thing but it’s still fun to wander the streets of Tokyo. Sometimes, it’s still surreal to walk around and say, “I’m in Tokyo!”
I decided it was time to go home around 3pm, because I wanted to be back when Rob came home from work but also, my phone battery died. Knowing I was in Shinjuku, Rob was less than thrilled when he couldn’t get ahold of me for several hours while I rode the trains back to Yokosuka, via Yokohama and Sinagawa, and then stopped at the market below the train station. Poor guy! At least I know I can find my way from Tokyo with no assisitance from my phone.