Tokyo – a city with a wonderful eclectic mix of traditional and modern. Imagine some of the world’s most advanced technology and architecture, mixed in with ancient temples and serene parks. A buzzing metropolis, it is the largest and most populous city in Japan – comfortably sitting at over 13 million. Here you’ll find the most unique and quirky options for eating, drinking, and having fun – you’ll experience things you will not find anywhere else in the world!
Breakfast and Coffee
Blu Jam Café – A cool American/Mexican fusion restaurant right in the heart of Tokyo. If you’re craving a taste from home and a hearty breakfast, this is your place. There is a large selection of food, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. Their mission is to provide more healthier options for your first meal of the day. Make sure you try their signature Crunchy French Toast, with fruit and vanilla bean sauce. And if you’re nursing a hangover, Kamil’s Juice made with carrot, apple, and ginger will hit the spot.
Yaesu Hatsufiji – A casual restaurant located around Tokyo Station where you can experience a traditional Japanese breakfast. Order your food from the vending machine, but if you can’t quite figure out the pictures or Japanese characters, one of their friendly staff members will help you out. Think simmered beef, tofu, sashimi, rice, pork miso soup, or fried salmon. And you may be sharing a table with a Japanese businessman. Not what the average Westerner would eat for breakfast, but it’s a must-try when in Japan.
Little Nap Coffee Stand – With friendly staff in a welcoming atmosphere, you’ll enjoy this tiny café that only has a few seats. If there isn’t enough room, just head over to Yoyogi Park and enjoy your coffee among the chirping birds. They roast the beans in-house; try a latte or a single origin drip coffee. They also specialize in ice cream, so add a scoop to your coffee!
Streamer Coffee Company – Harajuku – This place has some of the best latte art in all of Tokyo; it’s run by award-winning latte artist Hiroshi Sawada. The best item to order is the Streamer Latte, served in a larger mug to provide a bigger canvas for their designs. If you’re lucky enough to be there when the carrot cake is on the menu, you must try it! After ordering your work of art, head upstairs, grab a magazine, and settle in on one of the comfy sofas. If you can’t get to this location, there are many more around the city you can check out.
Lunch and Dinner
Themed Restaurants – Believe it or not, this is a popular thing in Japan! There are many to choose from, but two that stand out are Ninja and Maidreamin’. Ninja is the experience of dining in a secret ninja den. The servers are ninjas, and certain menu items come with ninja entertainment, meaning your ninja servers will do something with the food before they serve it. And you’ll get a magic show halfway through your meal. The Omi beef (one of the top three in Japan) is front and centre for most of the set meals, and for dessert you must have the Heirloom Bonsai; it looks just like the tree! Maidreamin’ (Shibuya) really captures Japan’s obsession with kawaii (cute). The staff (mostly young girls) are dressed as maids, and everyone is happy and friendly. They give you animal ears to wear and the maids will sing and dance for you. The food is shaped like cute animals and it all looks very creative and artistic – but don’t let this fool you…it is fantastic!
Tachigui Midori – And this is what you’ve come all the way to Japan to try! This famous stand up sushi bar serves Tsukiji sushi at affordable prices… and the portions are huge! Something to try is the ball of rice with a whole eel draped on top. Maybe you’d prefer the trio of salmon nigiri. Try it all – you won’t find sushi much cheaper or tastier than this. The chefs are talented and friendly. Make sure you tell them how delicious their creations are. The only drawback is it’s always busy, so you may have to wait in line.
Tonki – Rated one of the best tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo. Tonkatsu is Japanese style breaded or deep-fried tempura pork cutlet, and Tonki offers the two main types for you to choose from – with unlimited cabbage and rice to accompany the delicious pork. This iconic 73-year-old establishment has been renovated so it has more of a modern feel while still keeping the historic charm. Tonki has two floors; sit downstairs at the counter if you want to soak in the experience of watching the expert chefs preparing the meals.
Kohaku – This classy place specializes in kaiseki, the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. There are special techniques and skills required to produce this amazing sequence of dishes: a balance of taste, colour, texture, and the appearance of the food. Expect an eleven course meal (mostly seafood) served by women in kimonos. Chef Koji will even come out and explain certain courses. Kohaku is a 3-star Michelin restaurant so reservations are a must – at least a month or two in advance.
Ben Fiddich– The head bartender here is the star Hiroyasu Kayama. Located on the ninth floor in a high-rise building, this bar has a dark smoky atmosphere. Kayama uses homegrown plants and a mortar and pestle to create cool new drinks or to put a new twist on an old fave. He uses gin, whiskey, amaro, or absinthe – tell him what you prefer, and he’ll spend the next 10 minutes creating the perfect drink for you. Reservations recommended.
Popeye Beer Club – If you are a beer enthusiast, this is your place. There are over 70 beers on tap; most of them are from Japan with a few American and British imports. The friendly staff are beer experts – they’ll guide you in picking the right brew for your taste. If you want to try a bunch, the 10-beer tasting flight is the perfect option. Popeye was once an Izakaya (Japanese style pub), and you can still order snacks and settle in for a few hours in true Izakaya style.
AgeHa – This is the ultimate clubbing experience in Tokyo, perfect for a big night out. This club is so huge that it’s located outside of the city but don’t worry – there are shuttle buses to and from Shibuya at all hours. AgeHa has multiple dance floors and some of the biggest DJ’s in the electronic scene spin here. The club has a pool on the balcony and a large food court. If you’re here in the summer, they have foam parties every weekend. So, grab a drink from one of the three large bars, and dance til the sun comes up.
Check out the many temples and shrines while you’re in Tokyo: Senso-ji temple is one of the most significant Buddhist temples in all of Japan. A large red lantern hangs under the gate, with the impressive Asakusa pagoda nearby and many shops stalls. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine, with colourful sake barrels around the temple. It is located in a forest, so the surroundings are calm and serene. If you don’t wish to say a prayer, an alternative is to purchase a special wooden plaque to write your wishes on and leave it behind for the spirits to take care of.
See Tokyo from above: A communication and observation tower, Tokyo Tower offers epic views of the city below. It resembles the Eiffel Tower, but stands 13 metres taller. Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012, and is the second tallest structure in the world behind the Burj Khalifa Dubai. The upper observatory features a spiral glass-covered skywalk to complete the last five metres to get to the highest point on the platform.
Go Kart in the streets of Tokyo: The best part? It’s Super Mario themed. So, dress up as your favourite character and drive around in your go kart. The ride lasts 1-2 hours and is fitted with GPS (but you’ll be following a guide too). There are many course options to choose from, and most will take you past notable Tokyo sites. You will need a proper drivers’ licence (international), so make sure to have that sorted out before arriving in Tokyo.
Catch a Sumo wrestling match: The only place in the world that has professional sumo wrestling. If you’re not there during one of the tournaments, a popular thing to do is to catch a morning practice and learn more about the sport and its wrestlers.
Visit an animal café: These places are all the rage in Japan, and there is a unique variety of critters to visit. Order a coffee and a light snack and settle in for so much cuteness. Cat café is the original idea, but you can find cafes that feature owls, hedgehogs, miniature pigs, dogs, and bunnies.
Robot restaurant: A 90-minute show that features robots making music, dancing, and fighting battles. Even though it’s a restaurant, the food isn’t amazing so have a proper meal before you go. You’ll be so enthralled with the show you won’t feel like eating anyway! It’s crazy, it’s colourful, it’s high tech, and Anthony Bourdain called it the “greatest show on earth”.
Tsukiji market: The world’s largest fishing market where you can buy or just taste the best and freshest seafood on the planet. Its location has since been moved (now called Toyosu) and has expanded to twice the size as it was before. The market is free; you just need to get a visitor’s badge. If you wish to view the early morning tuna auction, you must submit an application and selection is by lottery.
Tokyo is a stunning city, full of possibilities and the nicest, kindest people you will ever meet. It is a must see for all of you travel lovers. Tokyo is sure to blow your mind!