Recommendations

Recommendations, Travel

Tokyo, Part 2


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More recommendations from my favourite areas in Tokyo… If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here [click!]

Shinjuku

This area is a bit messy, simply because its so large. Shinjuku has Isetan, which has a great selection of ultra-hip yet upscale Japanese designers. It’s like the Barneys of Tokyo, and they have some unreal fashion. The Park Hyatt is also around here and it has the New York Bar which probably is one of the most beautiful bars in the word—a nightly amazing jazz band and an unreal view (also the best wagyu beef burger I have ever had, hands down). Sit in the bar area, not the restaurant. This is a must-see must-do, regardless of whether you’re a sucker for Lost in Translation—especially for one of your last nights in the city (it just sums things up nicely). Go there and you’ll know what I mean. Warning/side note: It’s on the expensive side, but if you don’t want to spend a lot you can simply just go for a drink. Or a beer–beer is good. Anyone who knows me knows whenever I’ve had just $5-6 in my account, I’d still, in most instances, spend it on a beer with a good view over necessary things like food and bus tickets any day…priorities, priorities.

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We also went to a robot restaurant one night, which in all honesty, I thought would be a bit of a waste of time. It turned out to be two hours of constant laughing, though.  Saif is very into Japanese manga and anime, so he recognised a lot of the music and characters. I’ll let his face speak for itself! It made me so happy to see his excitement during the entire show, I think I have as many photos of him as I do of the robots…

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The robot show is kind of like a really noisy musical with half naked women and robots but it’s wildly entertaining and excellent for pre-drinking. Definitely not for everyone, but we really enjoyed it…

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After the show we went to this streetfood style Gyoza place. Beers and gyozas was the perfect combination to end the adventure we had just experienced…

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Nakameguru

Nakameguro is a really cool bar area along a beautiful canal. During cherry blossom its definitely you’re best option for bar hopping. When spring arrives, you can basically take your glass with you and walk door to door for refills while you drunkenly admire the cherry trees and the blossoming, right outside. How good does that sound? If you go at night and are confused on where to start for a drink, start at this bar called Cabin. Very chilled, and you can stroll down the canal starting from there (the owners are amazing). There’s also a really cool bar, inside of a chicken shop. Find the chicken shop and then ask around for a secret bar. I’ll let you figure out the rest on your own (just remember, you heard it here).

Akihabara

A very touristy but great area if you want to see the anime/manga/slightly perverted side of Japan. There are lots of video game centers and maid cafes, cat cafes, hedgehog cafes, you name it. We didn’t do much except toy shopping in this area, but I’d still say its a must-see if you’re in Tokyo. It is basically all you’d imagine Japan to be, and then some. A big tourist activity is to drive go-carts down the busy streets of Akihabara dressed like Super Mario characters—I unfortunately did not get a chance to try this.

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Harajuku

The side streets of Harajuku have some amazing stores but I find the main street too touristy. It has some fun all-you-need make up stores and some yummy fried vanilla custard thingys, but other than that its a walk away from Omotesando, so you can easily drop by here while you’re in the area.

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A few more things to check out:

  • Tsujiki fish market – It’s very touristy and people start going at 4am to eat at local sushi places. Its known for the freshest fish in the world (the best tuna in the world is flown to this market, and auctioned out from here across the globe). I would recommend going to a restaurant around here at night, as it will be less crowded, but still unreal
  • Another great/fancy sushi experience is Sushiya. Book way in advance–I’ll be writing a separate post on our sushi experience in Japan, so in case you’re interested keep an eye out for that one
  • Hakushu for unreal wagyu, kobe and teppanyaki
  • Two Rooms bar is a really nice cocktail bar, voted one of the best in the world
  • Go to Imperial Gardens on a nice day–it’s really, really beautiful
  • Have loads of softies (ice cream)
  • Go to Ueno Park one day just to stroll or bring a bottle of wine and snacks and just sit. It turns into quite a party by the afternoon (at least during cherry blossom)
Recommendations, Travel

Tokyo, part 1


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Firstly, there’s so much more to this…  I will be updating it in the next couple of days, but for now, here are some of our Tokyo favourites. If you’re going to Kyoto, keep in touch–I’ll be uploading a separate post on Kyoto in the next day or two. The one immediate thing I have to say about Kyoto–if you’re going to Tokyo for the first time, you HAVE to try and make time for Kyoto. Must.

Now, a brief overview of some of our favourite neighbourhoods:

Omotesando

Omotesando, and Omotesando Hills, is basically a buzzing shopping area with local and foreign designers, beautiful back-streets (it takes time but you must at least skim through it all), and really cool architecture. Explore as much of area as you can if you want to do some good shopping. Bills in Tokyu plaza is smashing for food over there (breakfast and lunch especially)–its a Japanese take on Granger & Co in London, basically, for when you get tired of local food adventures. La Foret across from Tokyu plaza has some excellent shopping. For Japanese food in Omotesando, check out Maisen for delicious tonkatsu–deep fried pork with delicious rice, cabbage and other yummy condiments. The Great Burger is also nearby, which is honestly unreal (burgers, pancakes) and there’s also a doughnut place right next door. There’s a cool store in that same street, called Beauty and Youth by United Arrows (men’s wear). Close by Opening Ceremony in Omotesando Hills, there’s a store called Journal Standard–check that out for great women and men’s fashion. Keep walking around that area—spend half a day just exploring the small back-streets for some interesting local designers, cool people watching, and good coffee. There’s also an excellent denim store which I can’t remember the name of, where we both got some really cool (and different) denim and oversized tees & pants.

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Airstream Garden is one of those coffee stops which you can’t help but slightly plan your day around, so you can come back, again, and again, and again. Unfortunately the guy working there got a little grumpy when we showed up for our morning dose of espresso at 11 sharp, so try to not be too early, I guess…

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A few stores to check out while you’re in Omotesando:

  • Pass the Baton is basically high end vintage, you must check this out. There’s one in Kyoto as well, but the Tokyo one is bigger (and better)
  • Journal Standard is a blend of high-end bohemian Japanese and western brands
  • LHP—a multi-label high end mens clothing store, think Y3, Pain, Dsquared2 etc along with Japanese designers. The women’s version of this store is in La Foret, a little further down the same street
  • La Foret is a high end, cool boutique mall—basically a department store and museum
  • United Arrows
  • WJK is a super cool mens clothing/shoe store, all Japanese brands
  • There’s a great denim store right opposite WJK which has both mens and women clothing. Can’t remember what its called, its a multi-brand shop worth checking out for sure
  • Martinique Le Conte, sounds Italian but its all Japanese brands (women)

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Daikanyama

Daikanyama is also great for shopping and a lot like the Brooklyn of Tokyo. We came back twice, for delicious cherry blossom softies (pictured below), fragrance shopping, and spent significant time at Bonjour Records, picking up anything from stunning coffee table books, to records, to cool tees. We didn’t spend enough time in Daikanyama for it to have a huge impact on us, the way some of the other neighbourhoods did, but enjoyed it enough to say that it will be one of the first areas we’ll be back visiting, next time around.

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Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa is by far my (our) favorite area. The definition of hipster—lots of great coffee places, vintage stores, and lots and lots of cool bars at night. You can feel the amazing vibes this area has the second you step off the train and onto the platform. Look to your right–street art, look to your left–every single time, there seems to be people sitting on a bench reading and waiting to catch their train, looking like they’ve been pulled straight from a high fashion street style mag.

Our highest recommended ramen restaurant, Ichi Ryu, is also located in Shimokitazawa. If anything, it’s just a cool place to explore. If you come before noon, check out Bear Pond Espresso—their best coffee is only sold from 11am-12pm every day. Otherwise, I’d say go by late afternoon/evening, as most of the coolest bars you’ve ever seen are located here, and open around 5-6pm. There are outdoor beer gardens, loads of amazing flower shop wine bars (literally flower shops serving cocktails/wine while you make your own bouquet). There are a lot of cheap, cool shops which I don’t remember the name of in this area. Just take your time, walk around and explore—you’re bound to find something that catches your eye. Check out Bookends coffee too, but only for espresso (everything else is overrated). There’s also a SUPER cool Korean/Japanese women clothing store there. I can’t remember the name of it, but I’ll find out–I got the coolest stuff from there.

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Shibuya

The famous Shibuya crossing is in Shibuya. It’s the most busy crossing in the world, people go there just to see it. Its like Times Square, except Tokyo has about 10 other similar (but smaller) areas. I really enjoyed Loft, which is like another stationary store/anything you need type massive place. You’ll get anything from notebooks and pens to lipgloss, phone cases, cool socks, eye lashes, face masks, and so on. A lot of your standard stores will be here–it’s definitely more commercial than Omotesando and other nearby areas. I went to Bershka, Zara, H&M, and some cool sock stores in Shibuya, but it didn’t really stick with me more than for convenience sake.

 

Ginza

Ginza is basically like the 5th Avenue of Tokyo. Honestly, slightly soulless—you may as well be in NYC or London… Don’t get me wrong: Its beautiful! It’s just nothing more than that. It didn’t make me feel anything. Your usual Dior, Valentino, Prada, Gucci, Celine central. HOWEVER, there is an incredible 7-8 story stationary store in Ginza called Itoya. Coolest place ever for stationary people (I spent about three hours here, and I’m not even sure if I’m a typical stationary person). We went to the famous Beige by Alain Ducasse restaurant here—a restaurant inspired by Coco Chanel, inside the Chanel store. Food was superb, especially the dessert (and I’m not even a dessert person), but honestly, there’s way too much cool to see and do in Tokyo to sit down for lunch inside a Chanel store, in my opinion.

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Check out the rest of this post/part 2, here!