Tokyo in 2 Days

 

 

 

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Published February 4th, 2016

I LOVE Tokyo. As an impatient person who walks at a pace of 4.5 MPH even when I have nowhere to go, I fully appreciate this cultures no nonsense attitude when it comes to going from one place to another.  The way they cross the street, the way they get into a subway car, the way they run their subway cars to come literally ever 2-3 minutes is so good/amazing/efficient that I just feel like I finally me the people that I should be commuting amongst every day of my life.

And beyond just my sensical reaction to their transportation, I went crazy over their food too. I was probably so crazy about their transportation because it got me to my food destinations faster.

In my 2 days in Tokyo, I ate very very very well. And I hit up a lot of the top tourist attractions. I’ll go through some of the top spots that I hit up, and also have some additional travel tips at the end of the post. Tanoshimu 楽しむ (enjoy)!

Good Eats

Since I only had 2 days, I wanted to make sure I got a varied assortment in all the best types of foods that Tokyo had to offer. I did my research and found what I thought would be the best spots to get Sushi, Ramen, Kushiage, and Okonomiyaki.  I think I picked my places well 🙂

SUSHI @Kyubey at the Hotel New Otani

I had wanted to get some sushi right at the Fish Market. But when I arrived at 9am I found the fish market was closed for a national holiday and I didn’t have the stomach to imbibe in Sushi at one of the local restaurants that were open. Instead I held out and had an AMAZING sushi lunch at Kyubey at the Hotel New Otani.

Kyubey is known to be one of the best Sushi restaurants in Tokyo. It can be very very expensive but I reduced the price by a) eating at one of their satellite restaurants at Hotel New Otani b) eating a prix fix lunch instead of dinner. 

Kyubey at the Hotel New Omani

Kyubey at the Hotel New Omani

It totally delivered. I should start out by disclaiming that I am in no way a foodie with a refined taste palette. In fact 10 years ago I came to Japan and threw out the only sushi meal I got because I didn’t think I liked Sushi.  Since then I’ve had a ton of sushi so I went all in on this meal and it was fantastic. 

They started me with a seaweed salad with a soy based dressing that was really light and delicious. I’m not a huge fan of dried sushi but this in no way is as salty or fishy tasting.  Then, I started myself off with a large glass of warm sake.

We then went through a few courses of Nigiri starting with Maguro (Tuna belly), white fish,  Scallop, Toro or Tekka (Tuna), Ebi (prawn), Icura (salmon fish eggs), pickled vegetables, a set of rolls that included cucumber & tuna rolls and Anago (sea eel).  They finished the meal with a cup of miso soup that was amazing with small clams as well as hot green tea that was so green – I thought it was a pressed vegetable green juice (it wasn’t). 

It was amazing to sit and watch the sushi chefs prepare the meal and so easily manipulate the Nigiri with their hands and be incredibly light yet thoughtful with the way they applied wasabi and a brush of soy and/or salt in some cases.

I feel like I’ve been to a good handful of really good sushi restaurants and this was by far the best, melt in your mouth quality of fish I’d ever had. Check out a slideshow of pictures here…

 

 

 

 

Kushiage @Kushiage Shinjuku Tatsukichi 

After watching an Anthony Bordain Layover episode on Tokyo, I knew I wanted to incorporate Kushiage into my list of must have meals.

I found Kushiage Shinjuku Tatsukichi  after looking at quite a lot of online reviews and I’m so happy that I read ahead and added it to my list. It’s on the 9th floor of a building with signs only in Japanese so I basically never would have gone there without doing the research.

The staff were incredibly friendly as were the other diners at the bar.  The concept of Kushiage is that these are little fried bites of amazingness that are prepared by the chef and delivered to you one by one as they are ready.  You have no idea what you’re getting until it ends up on the plate.  You pay at the end based on how many sticks of Kushiage you’ve eaten.  

Each stick is paired with a different sauce. Here is the plate laid out with the Kushiage.

Kushiage Shinjuku Tatsukichi

Kushiage Shinjuku Tatsukichi

They first roll the inside goodness in a light batter and then panko breadcrumbs and then into the fryer it goes. The tempura like batter is so light and the contents of the Kushiage are so delicious in flavor that it’s a really yummy glutenous meal served best with a draft beer. That being said, it doesn’t have the heavy greasy taste that American fried foods have.  

Two of the winning sticks that I received included asparagus with a creamy pepper sauceas well as some kind of ham/cheese combo.  

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Although I could only get through 5 sticks because I got full pretty quick – diners around me took down so many sticks! Each Kushiage stick has a different accouterment and the chef lays them all out on a plate. The sauces included on my plate were spicy mustard,  Soy Sauce, Japanese Curry, Salt, and Katsu. Also my mind was blown by this amazing little lemon squeezer that accompanied one of the sticks.

Amazing Lemon Squeezer tool

Oishi! おいしい Delicious!

Okonomiyaki Pancakes @ Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro

I don’t think this is an insanely popular dish in Tokyo, but it came up on a few blog posts I was reading and then on some travel show I was watching. 

I saw that Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro was one of the top spots to get these and had an amazing Ryokan ambiance that I thought would be special for my time in Japan.  You take your shoes off, sit on the ground with a small table and grill in front of you and enjoy the process of making your meal.

Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro

Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro

Just a 5 minute walk from the tourist site of Asakusa, it’s a popular spot that often has a line outside of it (including when I went at 12 on a Wednesday afternoon).

For just about 900 yen for lunch I got to make a pancake. It was pretty good although I was trying to do something different and got one with fermented soybeans which for me – wasn’t a highlight.

You first get the batter in a dish.

Okonomiyaki batter

Okonomiyaki batter

Then are asked to mix it and lay it in a pancake form on a fryer.

Cooking Okonomiyaki

Cooking Okonomiyaki

Once the pancake is finished, you add on some thick soy sauce mixture and a mayonnaise like mixture and eat!

Final Okonomiyaki

Final Okonomiyaki

Ramen

Fuunji Yoyogi, Shibuya 151-0053, Tokyo Prefecture

Ramen was a must on my trip. I LOVE RAMEN.

There are so many different Ramen options available in Tokyo and I had to choose just 1. I chose Fuunji based on a lot of great online recommendations and the line outside at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon was a good indication it was a solid choice.

Fuunji Ramen

Fuunji Ramen

People are pretty quick about eating ramen and the staff is super quick about serving it up so the line moves quickly.

You first have to choose one of 4 options and pay via an old school ticketing machine.

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Then, you wait in a line behind the diners and peer pressure them to finish quickly.

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The ramen is prepared right in front of you and it’s awesome. Huge pots of thick ramen sauce are simmering on the stove and the thick noodles are constantly being thrown into a boiling pot of water and then taken out and shaken until most of the water comes off.

The special ramen dipping noodles are served with noodles on the side and you dip the noodles into the ramen soup. It’s amazing albeit very very very rich. I couldn’t finish mine (but I was also very full). You can tell this is a soup that has been refined and developed over time with a ton of ingredients.

So much slurping!

Depachika

Weirdly enough department stores play a huge role in the Tokyo food scene. At the bottom of each department store is a food bazaar that ranges from fresh meats and seafood to prepared bento boxes to incredibly gourmet desserts. I wandered into several and they were all amazing.  Mitsukoshi and Isetan were two I liked the most – although they both scolded me when I tried to take pictures (I snuck some in).

Isetan Department Store

Isetan Department Store


Isetan Department Store

Isetan Department Store

 

And the fruit there is amazing and EXPENSIVE! That melon is $50!

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Places to See

MEIJI Shrine

I thought the Meiji shrine (which is in Yoyogi Park) was so beautiful. It was built just a century ago but it has the kind of architecture you would associate with ancient Japan. Even though there are plenty of tourists, I found it to be a really peaceful place.

Entrance at Meiji Shrine

Entrance at Meiji Shrine


Doors at Meiji Shrine

Doors at Meiji Shrine

ASAKUSA

Kind of the opposite of that is the Asakusa temple. I really just stopped by because it was on the way to a food destination :). But I only stayed for about 10 minutes. It’s a very crowded tourist destination as it is one of the only historical buildings in Japan after everything was bombed in WWII.

They had a lot of good tourist souvenirs if that’s what you’re after, and the temple itself is beautiful.

Asakusa Temple front gates

Asakusa Temple front gates


Asakusa Marketplace

Asakusa Marketplace

Shinjuku Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Gardens at Shinjuku park are gorgeous! I unfortunately went during winter but it was still a beautifully laid out park. I found one cherry blossom in bloom – but I imagine April/May in this park is insane with them!

Cherry Blossoms in Shinjuku Gardens

Cherry Blossoms in Shinjuku Gardens

Tokyo Metropolitan Towers

Fun views all over Tokyo. I didn’t see Mt. Fuji in the distance the day I went (and one of the tour guides says it’s often too hazy to see).

View of Yoyogi Park from Metropolitan Tokyo Towers

View of Yoyogi Park from Metropolitan Tokyo Towers

Shibuya Crossing

In the center of the city, this feels like the epicenter of the downtown Tokyo scene you would expect. Tons of people crossing the street in all different ways but no one running into each other!

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Tsukiji Fish Market

I got off a red eye flight from San Francisco into Harida airport at 5:30 in the morning.  A perfect chance to get to Tsukiji Fish Market in the early hours when it’s still hopping!

That is if it was opened the day I was in Tokyo and awake at 5:30 in the morning.  Due to a national 1 day only holiday celebrating the transition to Spring, it was CLOSED.  So I had to settle for hitting up some of the local stands including this BBQ Eel, I got talked into. Even though it was 9am by the time I got there, and I had been up for 6 hours at that point, I couldn’t stomach it. But I’m sure for those that love BBQ Eel, it’s great.  So not many pictures from the fish market but would probably be worth going on a day it’s opened 🙂

Stalls around Tsukiji Market

Stalls around Tsukiji Market

Anime Photo Booths

My best friend Barbara suggested I check out the Anime photo booths in Tokyo and it’s a pretty crazy scene. Literally an entire store dedicated to housing photo booths that will take weird pictures of you, photoshop you to make your face thinner, your eyes bigger, and your face brightened to oblivon and then they will print it on a sticker.  You can see my ridiculousness here :)…

Anime Photobooth Stickers

Anime Photobooth Stickers

Other Fun Tokyo Pics

Subways that prevent people getting pushed or falling into the tracks!!

Tokyo Subways

Tokyo Subways

 

Godzilla going after Matt Damon!

Godzilla attacks Matt Damon

Godzilla attacks Matt Damon

 

Vending machines everywhere!!

Vending machines in Tokyo

Vending machines in Tokyo

 

Cool modern architecture. “The Cocoon”

Cocoon Building in Tokyo

Cocoon Building in Tokyo

Additional Travel Tips

So those were some of my Tokyo highlights.  Here are some additional tips if you’re traveling to Tokyo.

  • Subways – So efficient. I exclusively took subways – no taxis or buses and got around at lightening speed and I thought it was incredibly intuitive. Ticket machines are weirdly sometimes hard to find in the stations. I wish I bought a pass for a certain amount of time vs. buying a ticket every time.
  • Wifi – I did not buy a wifi card – which you can do if you’re visiting Tokyo which will give you wifi access wherever you are. A lot of plans I saw were for 7 days, and I was overwhelmed with the pick up/drop off options so I just didn’t get one. But all the subways have wifi and Starbucks/other coffee shops so if I was ever feeling lost, I would just jump in somewhere and pick up a free wifi signal.
  • Safety – I felt incredibly safe all over Tokyo!

Very special thanks to Nina, Barbara & Kat for giving me such great Tokyo travel advice!

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