I know, this blog post is pretty delayed, sorry! I had to finish my Japan adventures before I could start on my new one.
I just wanted to show you some spots that I liked that aren’t totally on the radar, and you should know about them if you are headed to Tokyo. Of course, if it’s your first time there, do the touristy stuff first, and plan to do things like holes in the wall on another trip. Because believe me, you will be back. In the meantime, check out my travel tips for Japan.
Here’s a look at some of my favorite stops on my way through Tokyo, the last two days:
I was honored to meet television personality Matt Alt of AltJapan and NHK World’s Japanology. He’s one of Deb’s longtime Japan friends who has made a name for himself in Japan, but I think more so in other parts of the world. Joyce Harada, who owns The Little Oven on King Street, is a huge fan.
We went to Torikizoku, a very reasonable yakitori spot in Shinjuku. Not only is it reasonable, it’s familiar: its sister restaurant is Yakitori Glad on Kapahulu. Most items are about $3 or less, which makes it very popular.
1-2-3 Kabukicho Shinjuku Tokyo
東京都 新宿区 歌舞伎町 1-2-3 レオ新宿ビル B1F
We ate at Torikizoku specifically because it was near Zoetrope, a whisky bar nearby. If you are into whisky, like really into whisky, this place is for you.
7, 7 Chome-10-14 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan
For a sweet treat if you have time, here are some spots we tried on my last full day.
We went to BAKE Kinotoya Cheese Tart, a famous Hokkaido bakery that makes cheesecakes the size of dim sum custard tarts using that famous Hokkaido milk. The line can be kind of crazy, no matter which branch you go to. We went to the one in Shinjuku Station, so the line breaks at one point and continues up the stairs nearby.
Was the wait worth it? Actually, the line moved fast so I was happy. The tarts are absolutely wonderful, with a light-but-rich cheesecake filling that is lightly sweet and highly addictive. I was pleased to see that they are freezable, so you might consider this if you decide to bring some home.
Bake Kinotoya (several locations)
Ikebukuro Station: Near Meiji Street and the Marunouchi Line
Another item you may want to bring on the plane or bring home is the Takano melon pan, which has melon-flavored custard in the middle. Takano is a famous store in Japan that specializes in fruit confections, from jams and jellies to pastries and fresh desserts.
They are known for their honeydew melon as well as musk melon pan, and they have seasonal fillings as well. The outside is a fluffy bread (really, more like bread than cake) and the custard inside is not too sweet and not too rich, but lightly flavored with Japanese melons. Are these better than the cheese tarts? No. But they’re definitely more durable for a plane ride.
Takano Fruit Parlor
〒160-0022 3-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Speaking of omiyage to bring home! I’ve covered this in past trips to Tokyo, but here’s my long story to a great omiyage store.
I met my client Emi Umeda at a gorgeous cafe/flower shop called Nicolai Bergmann in Omotesando. Bergmann is a florist from Denmark known for his über-chic, contemporary flower arrangements, but he also has a gorgeous Scandinavian cafe flowing seamlessly from his flower shop. Lesson one from Emi: All the truly desirable stores and restaurants in Omotesando are on the side streets, not the main drag.
1F, 5-7-2, Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
After leaving Emi, I took her advice and wandered the side streets of Omotesando as I made my way back to the subway station toward Harajuku. There are exponentially fewer people on these back streets, but the boutiques are definitely cuter.
Needless to say, I went crazy in the store but had to exercise restraint, since I knew I was already at my luggage weight limit. I’m still using the stuff I bought that day, and am full of regret that I couldn’t buy more, since it was all so cheap, yet stylish and useful.
The Awesome Store
5 Chome-8-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
My last meal with Deb before heading home was actually at a vertical mall called PARCO because, oddly enough, we couldn’t find many good restaurants open on a Sunday night. But our dinner at Den Rouen Tei was good enough that I felt I should tell you about it so you can try it if you find yourself in the area.
And that was it! I know a lot of you are planning to go to Japan in the coming months and had asked for more tips and photos, so there you go. For general travel tips, especially first-timers, click here. Or just ask me anything in the comments below. I’ll probably return to Japan in 2016, since the Shinkansen has opened up a route from Tokyo to Hokkaido (my favorite Japan destination).
For more photos from this trip, click here.