Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo.  Full of life, sushi, peace signs and bright lights.  That’s what everyone envisions the Japanese capital to be, but we saw some different areas of Tokyo that proved those stereotypes to be 80% true.  Part of the reason we ventured off the beaten path and didn’t go to the shrines, was because we spent time in Kyoto and Kobe before Tokyo.  We were shrined out!  So, if you are looking to do the less-touristy route for Tokyo, follow our guide. Two days of fun!

Shibuya Crossing

Okay, so I lied when I said we didn’t do touristy stuff.  But the Shibuya Crossing (or Shibuya Scramble Crossing) is a MUST! We had so much fun walking back and forth on the crosswalk to trying to get the perfect Instagram shot.  (or not – its really hard!) But really, it’s an experience and everyone should do it since it is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world.  Part of the rush, is that there is not a side of the crosswalk you should be on.  It’s a free for all – a scramble I guess! (Hence the name)  Luckily, we were able to check this crossing off our list on the way to Shibuya Cat Street.  (We will get to that later!)

Neighborhoods

  • Daikanyama: is a stylish, Brooklyn-like quarter of brewpubs, coffee roasters, and gourmet delis. It’s a residential neighborhood surrounding Shibuya away from the hustle and bustle. Strolling the small streets, you will stumble upon upscale boutiques, restaurants, artsy shops, bike riders, and fashionable people.
  • Ebisu: trendy area next to Daikayama, south of Shibuya with great restaurants, drinking establishments and Yebisu beer! Our hotel was located in this neighborhood.
  • Aoyama: being one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Tokyo its known for it’s international fashion houses, cafés and restaurants.  Hello Golden Goose Lab store!  Besides the high price tag establishments, you will find some boutiques like L’Appartement and our favorite lunch spot – Cicada and post-lunch treats Breadworks. We also walked around the Farmers Market which had a lot of great local vendors.
  • Shibuya Cat Street (Harajuku): no, there aren’t cats – sorry! This street reminded us of Abbott Kinney in Venice.  It’s a pedestrian friendly street lined with funky & upmarket fashion boutiques and cafes.

Yakitori Imai

Located in a residential area in Jingūmae, Yakitori Imai was our favorite dining experience in Tokyo.  We didn’t have reservations, but we lucked out on two spots at the 30 seat counter facing the grill.  We were lucky, because we arrived for the early ‘bird’ special.  Highly suggest making reservations  – it’s a small, very popular restaurant that you don’t want to miss.  So what’s on the menu…chicken, chicken and more chicken.  We ate more parts of the bird than I ever thought existed.  We decided on the tasting menu which was  ¥3,800 and starts with chicken pate and a small cup of warming chicken broth.  Oh and of course wine – not sure what we got, but it was red and bold.  Good choice waiter.  After the started, you get half a dozen sticks of excellent yakitori.  I forgot to mention, before we started the courses, our waiter asked us if we had any allergies or didn’t like anything so they can plan our experience appropriately.  Our waiter was great – he spoke English! (Everyone else in there didn’t, but were all friendly. Nod, smile, bow, eat!)  In between courses, we were served vegetables such as daikon, carrot and onion.  For dessert we had a bowl of oyakodorn (rice topped with a chicken omelet) and some roasted green tea.  It was phenomenal.  Highly suggest Yakitori Imai – you won’t be disappointed!

Log Road Daikanyama

Log Road Daikanyama was the first place we went once we checked into our hotel.  It’s a chic complex offering an organic cafe, brewery & a women-only fitness studio amid benches & gardens.  It’s a great spot to start your day or end it with the two restaurants onsite.  Surrounding Log Road, there are more boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. We were lucky enough to be there when all the sample sales were taking place – shopping time !!

  • Garden House Crafts: cute café with breakfast and lunch options.  We needed a break from the Japanese food, so for lunch we got salads.  Sooo tasty! We liked it so much, on our last day before we headed to the airport, we went for and early lunch and got avocado toast.
  • Spring Valley Brewery Tokyo: great spot to grab beers (or wine in T’s case) with a group of people.  They have a great outdoor area as well as an open relaxed environment inside.  They serve all different types of craft beer that is brewed onsite, including one that tastes like champagne! In addition to beer, they serve food. Unfortunately when we came here, we were between meals and just needed a drink! (oh and rest our feet from the miles we walked that day)  Loved Spring Valley Brewery!

Cicada

Located in Omotesando, Cicada is a Mediterranean restaurant with a colonial European ambiance. It’s the perfect place to have lunch while cruising the streets of Aoyama and doing some shopping.  We sat at the bar and shared some small plates and sipped on rosé .  Plates of choice – the Greek salad, hummus and crispy kadaifi wrapped lamb kibbeh with tzatziki.  The restaurant was beautifully decorated with indoor and an outdoor patio space filled with locals, expats and some tourist like us.  If you are in the area, suggest going to Cicada for lunch or dinner.

Breadworks

Located on the same patio area as Cicada, Breadworks looks like a small bakery from the store front, but it actually is a restaurant that serves up a good looking breakfast.  We walked past brunch-goers on our way to Cicada and wow the food looked delicious.  So delicious, that on our way out of Cicada, we had to go into the bakery and buy some yummy treats! As mentioned in our Kyoto post – bakeries ARE AMAZING in Japan.  With eyes bigger than our stomachs, we stocked up on some treats that were eaten later that night.  Fan favorite – the match bread !! Delightful.

Ebisuholic Hotel

When looking for a hotel in Tokyo, it gets (a) overwhelming (b) depending on the time of year it could be expensive (c) already sold out.  After major research of different neighborhoods and hotels, we booked Ebisuholic Hotel.  We loved staying there – it was the crossroads of creativity and comfort and located near restaurants, shopping and entertainment.  The rooms were nicely decorated and the beds were comfortable.  Best part – the toilet with the chirping birds! I figured out how to turn the sound on and when T got up in the middle of the night to do her thing, she was accompanied by some beautifully singing birds.  Wouldn’t that just put a smile on your face!

Until next time Tokyo – Kon’nichiwa! Highlight video HERE

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