Day 3, Part 1: Nihombashi, Mitsukoshi, Oh My Gosh-i!

My journal entry for Day 3 starts out: “I think that when you come back to the hotel after a day of hoofin’ it all over Tokyo, the first thing you should not do is to lie down on the bed… And the next thing you should not do is to soak in the tub—at least, not if you still have a journal entry to write!” It was a loooooong day!

I got to spend the first half of the day with Patrick because his call for the shoot wasn’t until 2pm. We got up around 8am and, when 7-Eleven failed to yield as good a selection of breakfast items as the previous day, we hopped a train to the flagship Mitsukoshi Department Store to dine in the food hall.

Here are a couple of daytime views from our hotel room to set the scene…

Before we could hop on the subway, we had to get Patrick his own PASMO, so I decided to learn how to use the machine. There’s a big “ENGLISH” button in the upper right hand corner on the first screen, and then it walks you through either buying a new card or adding money to an existing card.

Some of the subway train cars have light-up signs that show you which stop is coming up next, which is super helpful. (Even if it doesn’t light up, there’s still a map of that line above the door.)

Mitsukoshi has its own stop, and its own entrance right inside the subway station.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to check the hours, and Mitsukoshi wasn’t open yet. So we decided to take a few pictures, grab breakfast, see the next thing on our list, and come back.

This building dates to 1914, although the Mitsukoshi empire started in 1673, with a dry goods store.

I thought it terribly novel to see a crew carefully planting flowers on a busy city street, so I made Patrick take a picture.

The other end of Mitsukoshi…

Classic Tokyo!

Our destination was the Nihombashi bridge, which used to mark the start of the great road running between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto (then the capital of Japan) and is still the spot from which all distances from Tokyo are measured. It also used to be a beautiful red lacquered structure but, like so many of the historic structures in Tokyo, has long-since been destroyed by one of the Great Trifecta of Japanese Calamities: fire, earthquake, or Godzilla.

In fact, just about every historic sight we saw in Japan was a replica (although some of those replicas are still older than the US!). The bridge that stands today was constructed in 1911 and covered by the Shuto Expressway in 1962. I guess in an overbuilt city, it makes sense to plant an elevated highway over the river, but it’s hard to look at this and imagine the vibrant fishing district that eventually became Tokyo’s financial center.

It's hard to see in the photo, but this plaque depicts the original bridge and surrounding markets

Patrick decided to risk life and limb to run out in the street and photograph the original distance marker…

…only to later discover that it’s a replica too!

Actual distance marker, safely ensconced in a nearby park

The coolest part of the bridge are the elaborate details.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a suspiciously Starbucks-esque coffee shop, and as we waited for Mitsukoshi to open, I cribbed from my guidebook to regale Patrick with a superficial and wildly inaccurate account of the history of Japan from 1457 to present day. (“And then there was this fire, so they rebuilt, and then there was this earthquake, so they rebuilt, and then there was this other fire, so they rebuilt…”) I’m sure all the English-speaking patrons around us were rolling their eyes as they eavesdropped.

Not the best hot chocolate I've ever had, with some kind of fruit drink

Faux croque-monsieur and some kind of breakfast roll

We started taking pictures of all the kawaii (cute/adorable) signs everywhere.

Finally it was almost 10am, so we went to wait at the entrance of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

As we waited, four staffers came to the door and performed an elaborate ritual of announcements and bowing and unlocking the doors, standing outside, bowing, then going back inside, relocking the doors, bowing and finally unlocking the doors again and welcoming us all inside.

All the big department stores have gleaming cosmetics counters at the front to lure the ladies inside

Oooh! Our second Slumming Celebrity Sighting!

Inside, all the salesclerks were lining the aisles, and as we walked down the main drag, every single person, on both sides, bowed and welcomed us. It was like running down the high-five line at a football game.

We were so excited, we almost did run, and as we rounded the corner, we saw this:

Say, this don't look nuthin' like the Mitsukoshi store at Epcot!

As our jaws hit the floor, organ music filled the air. Mitsukoshi imported a Wurlitzer theater organ in 1930, and it’s still played daily.

The statue is of Magokoro, the Goddess of Sincerity, and was carved from 500-year-old cypress over the course of 10 years.

We are sincerely sorry this shot is crooked, Magokoro. Please do not eat us.

She literally has eyes in the back of her head!

We decided to ride the escalator up to every floor and have a quick look around. At the time, we were gaping at all this opulence and comparing it unfavorably with the Mitsukoshi department store in Epcot. However, I’ve since learned that the interior of Epcot’s store is supposed to look like that of the Imperial Palace—good thing, too, because when we later toured the Imperial Palace, all we got to see of the inside was a couple of pixilated photos.

Sheesh! This place doesn't look *anything* like the Imperial Palace!

There’s even stuff to see on the roof, including the garden center, a small shrine, and an amphitheatre.

The next floor down sold some food items, but it was more like the various departments of the grocery store and less like a food court.

Mmmmm…. Purple….

Patrick totally ate one of these

…And then one of these totally tried to eat him!

The real action was in the basement, where you could get hot food from dozens of vendors for take-away.

Swanky elevator

We got a variety of snacks and sat on a bench in a breezeway to eat them because we couldn’t find anyplace with tables. Then we walked a few steps to the subway and rode it to Shibuya station so I could show Patrick Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Along the way, I asked him to take pictures of a couple nearby shops I’d missed when I didn’t have the camera.

Massive cube made of eyeshadows at Shiseido

The Swarovski store wouldn't let us take pix inside, so all you get is this…

As expected, Patrick loved Hakuhinkan Toy Park. And I got the not-so-wacky picture I wanted!

Who knew? Even our cat slums in Japanese ads!

(Dr. J at home…)

Kawaii Overload

The Japanese can even make hideous deep-sea creatures adorable!

This is also where we discovered the secret lives of some beloved Disney characters. In Japan, Mickey and Minnie are MARRIED!

Even Stitch is married!!!

Why must they hide their love in America?

Another surprise was stumbling on a cache of what the Japanese call “Sylvanian Familes” but are better known to American children of the ’80s as “Calico Critters”!

Patrick is a closeted Calico Critters fanatic. …Closeted until just now when I typed that on the Internets. I think he’s embarrassed cuz they’re so cutesy and girly, but he loves the tiny playsets with all their adorable little details.

So I let him get one (the candy shop, no less) and a little kitty to run the place.

We explored the building a little more and checked out the restaurants on the upper floors.

On the way back to the hotel we spotted another kawaii character:

And I discovered I’d been committing a great faux pas by applying my lipstick on the subway…

The full English translation is "Please litter, sit on the floor, and read the newspaper at home, you cretin!"

Here’s what a subway tunnel looks like, if anyone’s curious…

Before Patrick left for work, we got a pick-me-up at 7-Eleven:

And here’s our toy store loot (yes, those ARE light saber chopsticks!)…

I’m going to break Day 3 into two parts because we’re only at about 2pm and the installment is already this huge!

Day 3, Part 2: Harajuku, Aoyama & Shibuya, here I come!

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13 Responses
  • Seb
    August 11, 2016

    Enjoyed reading Day 3 of your adventure. I explored this area yesterday so can identify with all your photos and comments. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jaz
    June 26, 2014


    This is the first time I come across your blog and I LOVE it so far. I am nowhere near finished reading but I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far and will keep reading for sure. I love all your details and photos. When I Googled Tokyo Disneyland trip reports, I didn’t expect to come across this report. Good job! Can’t wait to read more.

    • Carrie
      June 26, 2014

      Yay! I’m so glad you found me! Thanks for the kind words, too!

  • Ayesha
    June 13, 2014

    Lol , I really laughed out loud at some of the descriptions under the pictures . Very well written blogs. I enjoyed reading them . It seems like a real fun visit there for you guys . And once again well-done for such a nicely written blog , and sharing the experience with us too . And wow you are so brave , you roamed the city on day 1 Alone !! I was Impressed , I never would have the courage to roam the foreign city all by myself , as I would definitely would get lost …not speaking Japanese , and with no clue how the subways work etc etc …. But you not only did manage to use the subways properly , you also explored so many interesting things . Bravo 🙂

    • Carrie
      June 13, 2014

      Thanks for the kind words! I do love exploring new places… just thinking about this trip makes me want to go check out another place I’ve never been!

  • Lucie
    June 1, 2013

    Hi Carrie

    Inkedupmomma’s DIS thread led me to your trip reports and I’ve been working my way through them ALL weekend.

    Thought Patrick might like to know there’s a whole shop dedicated to Sylvanian Families … if you’re ever in London???

    • Carrie
      June 1, 2013

      Hi there! Glad to know you! Wow, I think I’d better save up some serious cash before I tell Patrick about that shop…

  • Sinead
    March 6, 2013

    Definitely called Sylvanian Families in the UK! Im heading to Tokyo in May and my friend wants to get some now!

    • Carrie
      March 6, 2013

      You’ll have to let me know if you notice any major differences between the UK and Japan versions!

  • Cristi
    August 12, 2011

    I remember those little animal playsets too and I distinctly remember the commercial….in it they were called Sylvanian Families! I never heard of them called Calico Critters. Oh, and I LOVE that your cat is big in Japan! So cute!!

  • Elizabeth
    May 2, 2011

    LOL at the “Why must they hide their love in America?” comment!

    And that graphic on the subway sign is hilarious, I love that they actually show the woman using an eyelash curler! And why is that guy in the middle trying to pour his food into his pants?

    Your cat makes a fine commercial spokescat!

    • lurkyloo
      May 2, 2011

      Hmmm…. maybe that guy is saving his food for later so he doesn’t experience the shame of eating it on the subway!

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