About 10 minutes' walk from Ueno station you come to a giant chef's head on top of a building, which marks the start of Kappabashi-dori - also known as kitchen town. This is, as you might imagine, a whole street full of shops selling everything you could possibly need for cooking, from traditional Japanese utensils and crockery to some of the world's best knives and the lanterns you find hanging outside ramen shops. Apparently, both home cooks and restauranteurs alike shop here, but we found it to be expensive. I came away with a copper egg pan used for making my favourite tamagoyaki, which I noticed (smugly) was more expensive everywhere else we saw it.
A few stops away on the subway there's another mecca for another type of fanatic altogether. Akihabara is world-famous for being the home of department stores for electronics, shops devoted to comics, anime figurines and collectibles and, of course, maid cafes. We heard a place called Nakano Broadway is actually a lot better for anime and manga collectors - Darren's a fan - but Akihabara is easily accessible and I was happy not to go to looking for anymore nerd shops (sorry, Darren!).
Not far from Ueno, there's a neighbourhood called Yanaka with a kind of old town vibe. You can get a beer from the local shop and sit on a crate outside, snacking on croquettes from nearby stalls. We stopped by for a quick drink with my friend Ayumi before going on to a local temple. During national holidays, many temples in Japan have little festivals where they set up food stalls and games and people flood in to eat, chat and play. This ended up being one of my favourite evenings in Tokyo thanks to the festive atmosphere and cheap, tasty eats.