Tokyo is a city bursting with bright city lights, endless shopping, great eats, and breathtaking views. There are just too many great things to say about the city so take a look into my Tokyo diary to get a peep into what I was able to experience.
Asakusa is a trendy neighborhood that still retains the traditional Japanese style. Here you can find many street food stalls as well as numerous izakaya bars along the waterfront. One of the most popular temples in Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple that is open to the public. As with all the temples in Japan, be aware of the crowds especially during peak season.
You get a sense that this area is largely targeted towards tourists as many of the shops leading to the temple sell souvenirs.
You can find soft-serve ice cream almost everywhere in Tokyo but this matcha and milk swirl in Asakusa was the best of the best. There are several flavors including sweet potato, matcha, and milk. You'll know if you found the right place if there is a crowd of people standing around eating ice cream.
Even though I rarely eat Yoshinoya back at home, I wanted to give it try in Japan. Since the fast-food chain originated from Japan, it may taste better, no? Well, let me tell you, it definitely did. If Yoshinoya offered this in the States, I would actually go eat it. Egg+green onions+beef = delicious in a bowl.
Also, just a side note: raw eggs are safe to consume in Japan, even at Yoshinoya!
When my friends and I heard of a 1 Michelin star restaurant in the city that was affordable, we immediately went to go check it out. We arrived at Nakajima 30 minutes before they opened only to find a line already starting to form. Nakajima's menu focuses on sardines prepared in several different ways. I went with the boiled option, however, you can also have the sardines fried or in a hot pot, as shown below. It was pretty unanimous among the group that the winning dish was the boiled sardine.
Ramen shops are found literally on every block. Before I went to Japan, people told me that there was no such thing as a bad restaurant in Tokyo. I'm here to say that it not true. There are some restaurants that are better than others, some that will surprise you, and others that were not worth the visit. Walk into random ramen shops and see where you find your favorite. One place that truly surprised me was a small stall at a subway shop. With time to kill, we ordered several bowls of ramen only to be pleasantly surprised at just how delicious it was.
Warning: do not visit Shibuya during Halloween. Never have I ever witnessed or been in such a large crowd of people. Crossing the street became impossible and after an hour of trying to navigate through the crowd, we admitted defeat.
Another type of ramen that you must try is dry ramen. Apparently, some locals don't even know of this dry ramen, abura soba. Imagine perfectly cooked ramen noodles coated in a shoyu or shio tare, pork fat, vinegar, and chili oil. It's utterly delicious. Abura soba, you have won a special place in my heart.
This restaurant is yet another popular one, but rightly so. Rokurinsha in Tokyo main station located in the ramen street, has lines even at 9 am. The dish to order? Tsukemen. Rokurinsha makes their own fresh ramen noodles and serves it alongside a savory umami-bursting broth made from scrumptious fatty pork. After consuming all the noodles, dilute the broth with hot water and slurp up every last bit of that soup. A must visit when wandering around the station.
During our last couple of days in Tokyo, we had a chance to visit the smaller neighborhoods. Yanaka Ginza (or "the town that loves cats" as I prefer it) is a small neighborhood right off the Nippori train station. The little streets have traditional shops and stores that are perfect for exploring.
And leave it to me to find a dessert shop with chestnut cream puffs. Yes it was huge and yes, it was delicious.
I will end this segment with a peek into Japan's Robot Show. The show is clearly targeted towards tourists, but it is truly an unique experience. For an hour you get to watch girls dancing on giant robots, dinosaur robots, animal robots, robots of almost every creature. Would I watch it again? No, but I will never forget it.
Check out the rest of "A Taste of Japan" series:
Part 1: Tsukiji Market
Part 2: Sushi Dai
Part 4: Kikunoi Akasaka
Part 5: Kyoto Pt 1
Part 6: Kyoto Pt 2
Part 7: Osaka Eats
Part 8: Exploring Osaka
Part 9: Kikunoi Ryotei