A Taste of Tokyo

Monday, November 27, 2017
More than three years has it been, since I last set foot in the capital city of Japan; Tokyo. A gap that has been too large really. In general I always search for the unbeated path or places that offers me a dose of nature along with the experience. I do visit big cities a lot, but I rarely seem to be drawn back to them. Tokyo is different for me in that matter.

Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, Japan
This time around a Korean girl named Angie had offered to host us through couchsurfing. An offer we could not refuse. And an accepted offer which turned out to be one of the best decision we could've made.

Me, Angie and Johan at Roppongi Hills Sky Deck in Tokyo, Japan
Angie was down-to-earth and one of the coolest hosts I've met through couchsurfing. We had so much fun during our four days in Tokyo. I could never list them all, but here's some of my favorites:

1. Landmarks in Tokyo

There are several landmarks in Tokyo worth visiting and it would take months to visit and list them all, so let me mention some of more prominent ones and some of my favorites.

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower at night in Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Tower can be spotted from afar in various parts of town. I do recommend to see it from Roppongi Hills Sky Deck as well as up close and preferable at night, when the tower is lid up.

Senso-ji Temple
Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, Japan
Senso-ji Temple located in Asakusa at the end of Nakamise Shopping Street is Tokyo's oldest temple. Built to honor Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy in 645.

Hachiko Memorial Statue
Hachiko Memorial Statue at Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan
Hachiko was a dog owned by a local man in Tokyo. Hachiko became very loyal and after the man's death, and continued to wait for him at the train station... for 10 years. The tale has been turned into a movie starring Richard Gere in the leading role.

Giant Torii
Giant Torii (Entrance to Meiji Jingu Shrine) in Tokyo, Japan
The gate to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Giant Torii itself looks magnificent and not only does is look good, so does the pathway leading to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Full of beautiful trees, small exhibitions, cozy atmosphere and a calmness, which is rare for a city of this size.

Meiji Jingu Shrine
Newly-wed Japanese couple at Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, Japan
The shrine itself is quite nice, but its the local atmosphere surrounding it, which makes it truly special. Little Japanese girls in their beautiful kimonos going to the shrine for blessings or newly-wed couples along with their families dressed very neatly for the big day. A place to just sit down and watch people.

Zozo-ji Temple
Zozo-ji Temple in Tokyo, Japan
It might not be the largest of the temples in Tokyo, but I like the location near Tokyo Tower. Fun fact: Hugh Jackman walked the stairs of this temple in the Hollywood blockbuster; "The Wolverine".

Imperial Palace and Gardens
Seimon Ironbridge near Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan
Imperial Palace is located Chiyoda area in Tokyo. The surrounding gardens of the palace is stunning with several gates, bridges and beautiful plantations. Definitely worth a visit.

Roppongi Hills Sky Deck
Sunset over Mt. Fuji seen from Roppongi Hills Sky Deck in Tokyo, Japan
Did you know, that you are actually able to spot Mt. Fuji all the way from Tokyo on a clear day? Well, head to Roppongi Hills and take the elevator to the Sky Deck. Be sure to be there for sunset. No really, don't miss it!

Honorable Landmark Mentions: Tokyo Skytree, Rainbow Bridge, Shibuya Crossing, Hozomon Gate

2. Food in Tokyo

Tokyo is the one city on the planet with the most Michelin stars. But you don't have to visit a fancy restaurant to experience a 5-starred taste.

Ichiran Ramen in Tokyo, Japan
Ramen is not something to missed while visiting Japan. Ichiran is a ramen-based chain which offers some of the most well-tasting ramen around Tokyo. You'll have to buy a food voucher in a vending machine before you enter the restaurant. Afterwards, you'll be place in a single-seated booth and your food will be served through a tiny window. You won't see the waitress, chef or other customers. The reason is, that you should focus on the taste of the food and nothing else. A different experience, which your tastebuds is gonna thank you for.

Shabu Shabu
Shabu Shabu in Tokyo, Japan
Shabu shabu is a Japanese cook-yourself-dish. The meat is served raw and you get different types of soup to cook it in. The name, shabu shabu, comes from the sound it makes as you turn your meat in the soup with a set of chopsticks. Best enjoyed with a cold Japanese beer.

Gonpachi Nishiazabu
Gonpachi Nishiazabu or "The Kill Bill Restaurant" in Tokyo, Japan
Gonpachi Nishiazabu is a VERY popular restaurant in Tokyo. Locals and tourists visit the cozy two-story restaurant and bar both for the excellent food and service, but also to see the place where famous instructor Quentin Tarantino recorded part of his hit movie; Kill Bill. Get a table or simply enjoy food and drinks in the bar. Reservations is necessary during the weekend.

Takoyaki Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan
Watching Takoyaki being made is a fascinating handicraft. The sweep wrist movements clearly shows the amount of repetitions these chefs have done. It's a form of encapsulated squid and has a quite distinguish taste to it.

Honorable Food Mentions: Tsujiki Fish Market, Robot Restaurant

3. Shopping in Tokyo

Tokyo has some of the best shopping in Asia, and in the world possibly. There are many areas and streets dedicated to shopping. Here's some of the different ones you can visit.

Takeshita Street
Takeshita Street in Tokyo, Japan
Takeshita Street is almost always packed to a maximum level. Walking freely here is not possible, you kinda just tag along with the moving masses. A good place for small time shopping, different souvenirs and accessories.

Nakano Broadway
Nakano Broadway in Tokyo, Japan
Nakano Broadway is a quite special place in Tokyo. It consists of a roofed shopping street leading to a 3-story building in which you'll find everything that involves Japanese anime, manga etc. Figurine shops, book shops, game shops and clothing shops are all selling items related to the hyped Japanese cartoon culture. A very cool and very Japanese place to visit.

Nakamise Shopping Street
Nakamise Shopping Street at Asakusa area in Tokyo, Japan
Souvenirs. Souvenirs everywhere! Nakamise Shopping Street stretches from Senso-ji Temple all the way through Hozomon Gate and even further. The amount of souvenirs jammed into this narrow street is abnormal. If you're looking to bring a little something home from Tokyo, this is the place to look.

Tokyo Station near Ginza area in Tokyo, Japan
Jump off at Tokyo Station to enjoy the magnificent building before walking south and you're basically there. Ginza is a shopping area full of clothing brand stores like H&M, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and so on. Black Friday and other sales days are branded to the fullest in Ginza.

Cat Street
Burton Flagship Store on Cat Street in Tokyo, Japan
A street full of flagship stores. Especially sports brands. A wonderland for any skiing/snowboarding enthusiast. Close to Takeshita Street and Meiji Jingu.

Honorable Shopping Mentions: Akihabara, Pokémon Center

4. Going out in Tokyo

The night life of Tokyo is not to be missed. You can get drunk, dance, sing karaoke and catch the train back home, what's not to like?

Billboard sign in Shinjuku area in Tokyo, Japan
Shinjuku is probably the most famous partying area in Tokyo. Local bars selling highballs and Japanese beer along with an overwhelming choice of food makes bar hopping so much more fun. A lot of places have entrance fees, but try Champion Bar, a Philippino-run karaoke bar which crams a lot of people into a really small amount of space. Robot Restaurant is also located in Shinjuku, a once-in-a-lifetime-experience, which you do... well, only once.

Mario Kart tour at Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya is a quite special area in Tokyo. Night clubs like the famous WOMB and the Japanese love hotels are located side-by-side. Compared to Shinjuku this area consists of more clubs and less bars. Try to spot the Mario Karts going around Shibuya, a tourist invention only the Japanese could come up with. And yes, you can actually book a tour.

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