Over Labor Day Weekend Grant and I traveled to Tokyo! It was a very short and last minute trip but we had the best time. So why cross the international date line for a long weekend?
- We had to reach our annual goal of visiting a new country. We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon in April so that was new to me but Grant had already been so we needed to check one off the list for him! (We’ve had layovers in Tokyo before but that doesn’t count!)
- We LOVE sushi and sake.
We landed at 10pm Saturday night and left at 4pm Tuesday, so what do you do with 66 hours in one of the world’s busiest, craziest metropolises? Here you go…
After a nightmare miscommunication with our AirBnb we crashed at a nearby hostel. Pretty gross, wouldn’t recommend it. (That’s why I am not mentioning it here!)
We stayed near Asakusa so our first stop was the Sensō-ji Temple. All of the red roof traditional buildings were very cool and we especially liked the interactive prayer candles and incense burning! There are some nice garden areas with statues and koi fish filled ponds. It was pretty much as expected but definitely a nice stop. Don’t miss the temple but you can skip on lunch there. We ended up eating at a nearby street food stand. We were so stoked thinking it would be like the delicious Thai street food, aka dirt cheap and to die for, but we were super disappointed! It wasn’t very good at all and I’m pretty sure we got the “gringo” price! Meh.
Next stop: the electronics and gaming district. We are not really into electronics or gaming but you can’t go to Tokyo without seeing some Pokémon! This place was crazy! We started with a shot of espresso and a 5 story electronics store which was basically Best Buy on crack. It was huge and had every electronic you can think of. There’s one on every corner, you can’t miss them! We also popped in an arcade for a car racing game and it was sensory overload! Flashing lights, sounds, and people everywhere!
Insider Tip: avoid downstairs unless you’re into XXX Sailor Moon. I suggest skipping on the “maid cafe”. I had read about them on a blog of cute foods and thought it sounded fun. We were hoping to have ice cream in the shape of a cute animal but with the combination of sexy maid waitresses, the smell of lysol, and karaoke it was a little too weird for us so we took one picture with bunny ears and got out of dodge!
Imperial Palace Gardens
We strolled through these gardens on our way back to the subway. They were pretty and we saw some jumbo lily pads but not too much to do plus it was SO hot so our tour was brief but worth mentioning.
We met a local the night before who was kind enough to give us a little tour. He took us to the Skytree which was a huge observation tower with great views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji on a clear day. The Skytree was very similar to the Rheinturm in Düsseldorf. Pretty impressive but not really worth the hour wait in line.
We FINALLY go our sushi fix at Sushi Zanmai in Asakusa. Recommended by our local friend it was top notch and we tried EVERYTHING! Eel, octopus, uni, you name it! We ordered tons of sashimi, nigiri, seaweed miso soup, green tea, Asahi, and sake… major food coma but SO worth it. I’m sure other sushi restaurants are equally fabulous, make sure you don’t leave town without trying one!
After a much needed nap we headed to Shinjuku! Shinjuku is like Times Square x 1000! Filled with lights, sounds, and people everywhere this area is full of life. We bought tickets to the Robot Restaurant after seeing it featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. It was like a weird rave home-job Cirque du Soleil show lacking a theme but making up for it in crazy costumes, light shows, and shockingly wild entertainment! It’s really hard to describe. Most people there were American so it is kind of a tourist trap but you should still give it a whirl! The building is decorated with neon lights and entices the senses from start to finish. This crazy show pairs well with a champagne-like sparkling sake! Insider Tip: Buy your tickets from a discount website such as Voyagin.
Also located in Shinjuku, Golden Gai was one of my favorite places we visited. Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo nightlife is a little alley tucked away with tiny (seriously, SO tiny) dive bars. Ranging in theme and decor the one thing they all have in common is the size! With only 5-10 barstools in each they are intimate but really fun! Insider Tip: Beware of steep cover charges and drink minimums. Inquire before choosing your hole in the wall. Also good to know, Golden Gai and Shinjuku keep the party going until 6am, but don’t miss your subway home!
Any early 2000’s Gwen Stefani loving girl knows about Harajuku. I was SO excited to see this part of town. It is like a 15 year old girl’s paradise! Filled with pastries, clothes, and accessory stores the main street, Takeshita, is the most adorable street I have every been on. Everything is so girly, petite, and fun! Grab a crepe or a jumbo rainbow cotton candy and enjoy!
After meeting my coworker’s sister for lunch at a mega-mall in Harajuku (we had quite the local experience this trip!) she took us to the Meiji Shrine. This was one of our favorite parts of our trip! Nestled inside a little forest, this shrine felt so serene and isolated from Shibuya’s chaos right outside. Admire the huge sake barrels and find out your fortune using an O-mikuji (way cooler than a fortune cookie!)
The world’s busiest crosswalk! Located in the heart of Shibuya this is a cheesy must do. Insider Tip: Go on a weekday and bring your selfie stick!
Our pups were barking after power walking around Tokyo for 2 days so we decided to check out a Japanese Onsen, aka a hot spring. Thinking it would be like the ones we experienced at Tabacon in Costa Rica, we were quite mistaken. We visited Tokyo Odaiba Oedo Onsen Monogatari and it was arcade meets spa meets food court…pretty weird. Let’s just say don’t be shy and no bathing suit necessary! Insider Tip: They will not let you enter if you have ANY tattoos.
Day 3 was only a half day but we crammed a lot of “must-sees” in! First stop: Tsukiji Fish Market. Nothing says breakfast like raw yellowtail belly! The surrounding vendors sell every sushi related item you can think of. There were AMAZING looking poke bowls and sashimi platters on every corner, but inside the market is where the real fun is! There were forklifts everywhere and the largest tuna I’ve ever seen smoking from dry ice. We saw colorful octopus, sea urchins, giant crabs, and live eels to name a few. The best part is it surprisingly didn’t smell fishy! Insider Tip: Security guards will not let tourists into the market until 11am. We didn’t have time to waste so we luckily “snuck in” unscathed!
We took the subway back to Shinjuku and grabbed lunch in Omoide Yokocho, or more commonly known as “Piss Alley.” Don’t let the name fool you, this place is awesome! These tiny restaurants are tucked away in an alley nestled between skyscrapers. Piss Alley is basically the restaurant version of Golden Gai. Order some delicious yakitori, an ice cold Sapporo and get cozy!
Another Japanese thing I will never understand, Pachinko. It is like a slot machine pinball game and it’s really challenging! The Casino was huge and had a Vegas feel but to my understanding you cash out for prizes instead of cash, similar to an arcade, and there’s no free drinks! Pop in and play one game for fun, but stay too long and you’ll probably burn through some yen!
Then sadly, we were headed back to Narita. This was probably one of my favorite trips. It just goes to show that you can do Tokyo in 3 days, 3 nights, and you should!
For more information on Japan, grab this Lonely Planet guide book.
Inspired Recipe: How to: Make Sushi at Home from Gimme Some Oven
One of the benefits of living by the Pacific Ocean is the fishing! We catch a lot of tuna and love to make sushi. It seems intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it, it is SO worth it! Carrots, cucumber, avocado, and cilantro are my favorite add-ins!
*Did you make one of our inspired recipes? We would love to see! Tag us in a photo of your yummy creation on twitter (@gypsysols) or Instagram (@gypsysols)