Time of Trip: End of November
Must Pack: Walking shoes for rain or shine, warm coat, google translator
Access Eskimoves Tokyo Map Pack here
Quick and Novel: Genkgi Sushi – Several of these are located around the city but we frequented the one in Shibuya. Very solid. Get your sushi conveyor belt experience and perfect boomerang moment here! If you are waiting for your turn to sit and are getting hangry there’s this great chicken stick stand across the street. You won’t be disappointed with the tasty snack.
Authentic and lively: 35 Steps – Literally down 35 windy steps. Very authentic Japanase Izakaya and it seemed like a popular local joint. Menu is all in Japanese so download google translator (will come in handy in general in Japan). The sashimi and grilled mackerel were standouts.
Tokyo Breakfast – This was the meal of the day that differed the most from anything I have ever experienced. Basically, you get breakfast at these soba noodle restaurants located all over the city. You order off a vending machine then hand the order slip to the lovely lady or man behind the counter. Then you eat it standing up at the counter. I jazzed mine up with the citrus pepper at every counter and Umebushi (pickled plums). It’s early and the weird uniformed lullaby that plays in the background may make you feel like you are not actually there and are in fact in some other dimension. It quickly became my favorite way to start the day and I’m hoping something like this pops up in NYC soon.
Off The Boat: The Fish Market in Ginza! Attending the 4am tuna auction is worth it. Capitalize on that jetlag, baby! Sushi for your very late/early cravings at any of the little restaurants in the fish market area will guarantee you the freshest fish you can get. Maybe you’re a morning person but I recommend doing this after a fun night out on the town!
The Ramen of all Ramens – Ichiran Ramen Shinjuku. Get in line for another vending machine and then fill out a form and pretend you know what you’re doing for a tailored “dream” ramen. The bowl basically embodies you, in ramen form. Once you sit down in your single phone booth type space (the wall can be folded down so if you want to chat with you’re friends you can), you’ll see ramen masters scurrying about through a crack that your food will be served through. It’s fast, delicious and you will probably come back.
Beat Cafe – It’s hard to find but if you google the general area just look out for people going down some stairs and into an inconspicuous door. This underground bar has a retro vibe, a super cool Japanese bartender with amazing outfits, and great music. It’s totally unique and worth the trip + 10 minutes of figuring out where it is. When we were there MGMT DJ’d! Heads up that your hair and clothing will smell of cigarettes but that’s the case with most nighttime venues in Tokyo.
Hibiya Bar Whiskey- S – Located in Ginza. Something like stepping back in time with the dimmed lights and Big Band/Frank Sinatra music playing. This is the spot to try all your Japanese whiskys and the various cocktails you didn’t know you can make with them. All of their tapas are smoked in house. Such a sucker for restaurants with “in house” things…
Micro Bars on Golden Gai – this is some novel shit. These bars literally fit 6 people and are more micro than my NYC bedroom. I noticed that a number of them were only for Japanese speakers and regulars. It’s an intimate vibe in a very close space so it makes sense that some of the bartenders want to serve people they can actually have a conversation with. We chose the Flamenco themed bar on the corner, called Rincon Flamenco Na Na, and had some great sake and beer. We did not find tequila anywhere in Japan, even in the Flamenco themed bar 😦
Park Hyatt Bar– I try to stay away from over the top expensive places since they rarely warrant the hefty price tag but Park Hyatt Tokyo is an exception. It’s incredibly beautiful and has some of the best views of Tokyo. Splurge on an afternoon tea set and TREAT YO SELF. You deserve it.
Sushi Nakamura – I think I was in a sushi trance because I did not take any photos but had one of the best meals in Japan. I found a post that does a great job detailing the Omakase experience here. Make note that the chef does not speak any English so if you have something to say, google translator or Japanese friend.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum – Take a 45 minute train outside of Tokyo to the Ramen Museum so that you’ll never have to wonder if you had enough Ramen in Tokyo. You’d think this would be a tourist destination but the crowd consisted of a lot more locals that seemed to go there for their daily ramen fix. They rotate ramen stands based on the hottest ramen chefs of the season and you will want to try it all so bring two bellies and split a bowl at each location. There are some really quirky things about this place… like the scavenger hunt you can participate in to get a free lollipop, or the fake policeman with a fake mustache that was placed in the middle of the venue but was actually just a piece of the scavenger hunt, or how the interior was designed to be like a movie set for a Japenese village, or the lullaby music… I’ll let you see for yourself. Great spot to buy gifts for friends and family back home! See photo below of me wondering what the hell is going on.
Things they don’t tell you – Take out Yen (you’ll need it, CC is not accepted in many places), look presentable when going out to eat at night, don’t jaywalk, don’t blow your nose in public, and yes… its true… finish everything off on your plate.
Whenever I travel I like to bring my friends and family back a small gift. It’s a tradition I grew up with and it made my parents’ or grandparents’ return from a trip somewhere that much sweeter (selfish, I know).
I brought back packaged ramens which were a hit. I also stopped by 7/11 and got different packaged Japanese candies and snacks that you don’t see in the U.S. We also bought GREAT cheap luggage for ourselves.