It was my first time in Tokyo, and despite living in Tokyo for a couple of months in his school days, H and I found our trip to Tokyo in Oct 2009 fascinating. It was abit overwhelming at first – the glitzy lights of Ginza, the people crossing at Shibuya, the crazy locals at Hirajuku. We packed everything to see in the 4 or 5 days we were there, and made a mental note to go back so we can actually slow down and enjoy the city. We returned in Dec 2011 for 4 days to immerse and breathe in the life of the city.
Things to do
We did and enjoyed most of the usual touristy things, these are a few places/things that we loved
Akihabara – we are anime fans so this place has lots of cosplay/maid cafes in addition to the usual electronic shops. We visited one maid café but honestly I don’t think foreigners will get much out of the experience as most maids don’t speak English so we basically stared at our host for 5 minutes before taking a picture and then leaving. We spent a lot of time exploring the floors of Don Quijote along the main street Chūō-dōri, you can find anything you need here – similar to Mustafa but in a good way.
Don Quijote 4-3-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku
Ginza – every building in Ginza is lit up in bright lights at night, and it seems like every European brand has a strong presence among the traditional departmental stores that line the street. Most of the departmental stores have a food basement and we especially like Matsuya(opposite the Chanel building). I usually stock up on premium green tea from Ippodo and Green Tea House.
Tokyo Midtown – It is a high end shopping complex and even though I cannot afford any of the clothing brands, I love coming here for the food. The basement is packed with goodies like Dean & Deluca, Jean-Paul Hevin, patissier Aoki. There is a shop opposite Jean-Paul Hevin that sells Japanese spices, fish stock and lots more, but it’s a pity the staff doesn’t speak English otherwise I would be buying more.
Tokyo Midtown @ Roppongi station
Shibuya – they say this pedestrian crossing is the most crowded in the world. There are many tourist with big cameras trying to capture the crossing on film but I like to stand still in the midst of the chaos and soak in the atmosphere. Tokyu Hands is another shop that we love walking around in. It has all sorts of gadgets that only the Japanese can think of!
Tokyu Hands 12-18 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku
Tsukiji – both times I told myself that I had to wake up at 4am to witness the Tuna auction… didn’t happen. Before going Tokyo, I was boasting that I would eat sashimi for breakfast. I had way overestimated myself, the smell of raw fish even at 9am was nauseating and my stomach only wakes up around 11am, at best. Even if you don’t make it for the fish auction, it is still worth a visit. There are long snaking queues outside famous places like Sushi Dai, but personally there’s no way I can queue for 1hr+.
Studio Ghibli – this is a must do if you are fans of Japanese animation or Miyazaki’s work. A short train and a bus from the station will take you there. Admission is only by advance reservation, so get your concierge to book them ahead. The exhibits showcase the anime drawings and some rooms decorated straight out of the films, they even have a real life cat bus from “My neighbour Tortoro” where the kids can play in. Unfortunately they do not allow photography in the studio.
Studio Ghibli 1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-shi
There is an obsession with all things French in Japan and food is no exception. A lot of chefs return to Japan after training in France and they use the technics learnt to cook modern Japanese or incorporate Japanese flavours in their patisserie. The end result is absolutely amazing – we have not eaten better anywhere else in the world.
1. Sadaharu Aoki
The Midtown branch is unit 13 in the basement.
Akoi is famous for eclairs and cakes. Around ¥500-700 per cake. If you decide to dine in the cafe, you would need to order a drink each with the cakes.
2. Hidemi Sugino
Kyobashi Building 1F, 3-6-17, Chuo-ku
Sugino is most famous for his mousse cakes. We went at 3pm and almost everything was all gone. Best to go in the morning. Around ¥500-700 per cake
Ladurée Ginza Mitsukoshi (the Ginza branch)
2F, 4-6-16 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo 104-8212
A branch of Paris’s famous Patissier, I had to pop in to get their macaroons.
Mawaru-sushizanmai Tsukiji-ten (the branch at Tsukiji)
10-2 Tsukiji 4 Chuo-ku Tokyo 104-0045
There are many branches of this across the city, but the difference branches have different menus and the cheapest wld be the branch at Tsukiji market. They serve conveyor belt type sushi and the prices very reasonable. ¥100 – 500 per plate
2. Sukiyaki Ibuki
3-23-5 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022
Really good sukiyaki and shabu shabu. ¥3500 for sukiyaki and ¥3800 for shabu shabu. 2 can share one portion
14F, E.Space Tower, 3-6, Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku
This place is dark and the room is lit by many lighted balls. There are different branches, and the Roppongi branch was the inspiration for a scene in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”. The menu is pretty big, but it is izakaya style, so think yakitori with lots of drinks!
4. Umi Daichi Aburi
We stumbled upon this place in Akihabara and it served really good yakitori. No address but it is opposite when you come out of the JR station.
Where we stayed
1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato
The hotel is at the end of the Ginza strip but is walking to distance to many subway, JR lines. We stayed here on both trips and found the service to be excellent. Rooms are spacious and the bathrooms are huge. It is a 15min walk to Tsukiji market and 15min to the centre of Ginza.