Tokyo is a city that you did some research on, studied every travel blog posted online before leaving and realizing upon arrival that you couldn’t possibly be prepared with what is to come. This is my first narrative observation as a Gaijin or what they call an “outsider“–Tokyo is a living and breathing organism, that as an outsider you will never truly comprehend. So sit back and enjoy reading.
Tokyo is just this huge assembly of every little boy and little girl’s dream. It is absolutely crazy and can actually be seen. There are so many different sides and faces of Tokyo and at the end of the day come down to “WHAT YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE” and “HOW YOU WOULD WANT TO SEE THE CITY”.
As for us, we love seeing the balance of their beautiful landmarks and at the same time mixed that in crazy restaurants, bars, and quirky people.
We spent 10 days in the city and we’re here to show you WHERE TO EAT, WHERE TO GO, AND WHAT TO DO.
How confused we’ve gotten with some of the districts! There’s something for everyone here and we’re just going to share with you how the Fat Girls Day Out crew would like to do it.
Narita VS. Haneda (Airport Choices)
The first thing you need to know if you’re planning to spend a couple of days in Tokyo is that there are two (2) main airports; Haneda and Narita. You could be tempted to land in Haneda because it is closer. However, facilities are smaller and getting through immigration can sometimes be lengthy and its express train will only take you to the Shinagawa district where you will need to take another train to reach your destination. Narita although further is usually more seamless and has an efficient express train going to the center of the city. For both airports, the trains are much cheaper but aren’t necessarily shorter than a taxi ride depending on the traffic.
For our recommendation: Choose Narita Airport
Which Area to Start
Close to 40 million people call the greater Tokyo their home: Let that sink in. All of Australia doesn’t even have that inhabitant. Population aside it is almost 3x larger than New York City. No wonder you will ever be able to explore it all. Even if you live here, even then it seems like a gigantic task. When a city is like this big, as a tourist we should focus on where are the business, cultural institutions, restaurants, and activities reside.
There are over 20 districts in Tokyo, and to make it even confusing these are further subdivided into cluster districts and neighborhoods. Depending on what your interest are I doubt that you will feel the need to visit all of them. Which makes your choice of accommodation so key. The way we broke it down;
- Looking to shop: Stay in a higher-end area like Ginza
- If history is your thing: position yourself around the Tokyo station
- Traditional accommodation experience: Go to Asakusa or Ueno
On the other hand, if you’re going to be staying in the city longer and you’d like to feel like a local we recommend Ibisu, the Yoyogi neighborhood, Kichijoji or Meguro.
Check out the best rated and rates here for hotel options;
You may opt to rent out an apartment for large groups and should you plan to stay longer. Sign up for Airbnb here!
Getting Around Tokyo
In Tokyo, taxis are expensive it usually starts around 6USD and climbs more or less by a dollar for every Kilometer. To give you a sense of scale a 19km ride will cost you roughly around 4,000php/80USD. You can opt to take a cab when perhaps you’re out between 1am-5am when the train stations are still closed. The 2nd option is to walk. Yes, you will walk– a lot.
Tokyo is extremely clean and comfortable to walk to when places are too far to walk to – your best and most cost-effective option to take the Tokyo Subway System. Trains are on time, signs are everywhere both posted in Japanese and in English also in their P.A system. Well-appointed and clean bathrooms all around and the food options are amazing. You are never more than a 15-minute walk away from a train station. However when you look at this map
It appears to be pretty confusing, but if you take a few minutes understanding how everything connects everything will make sense!
Train System Overview
- 179 stations
- 9 lines
- The most useful one is the Tokyo Metro. Has the largest network of lines of subways which is so important in getting around;
- 24-hour ticket for 400 yen
- 48-hour ticket for 1200 yen
- 72 hours ticket for 1,500 yen
Our Recommendation: Get the discounted rates here: Tokyo Subway Ticket
Note: You can get this at the tourist information desk located in Shinjuku, Ginza, Omotesando, and Ueno Stations from 9:15am-5: 15 pm.
How the People Are
Just like the railroad, during the day things are on track. People move almost robotic with a sounding efficiency. Japanese people are known to be amicable and respectful. Omotonashi or selfless hospitality is the backbone of the Japanese culture. To an outsider’s eye, it appears that everything appears to has a code and ceremony to it an outspoken ritual for their everyday life. However, they’re also known to push the boundaries of technology, fashion, and entertainment.
We’ve all seen the quirky game shows, themed café, and anime shows. We’ve always wondered where this balance is struck- from 2 handed business card exchanges, distinguishing levels of stature through different kinds of bows, and to S&M bars. This land of the setting sun brings with it the flip side of the local culture. One that is set to tradition, but also knows how to have a good time
A recurring theme in Tokyo: Sometimes the weirdest things at the end of the day it all makes sense
The Perfect Balance
Balance and subtlety are values you don’t come across large cities. It seems to be an art that the Japanese continuously improving on. You can be staring at steel mountains and at the curve of the street you can see natural spectacles.
If you’re looking into be more in tune with nature you can find yourself at the Meiji Shrine. One of the largest green spaces in Tokyo. It is supercharged with spiritualism smacked right in between Harajuku and Shibuya.
It is the place where you will literally feel that you’re in the middle of this massive forest -136 acres to be exact.
Other Temples worth visiting
- Sensoji Temple
Glorious Food and Beverage
Having their pick of the best available ingredients with strict standards, the Japanese people have a way of respecting each ingredient while maintaining accuracy and efficiency in their food preparation and execution.
Aside from sushi which they are known for, here are just so many different kinds of food you need to try from street food, sukiyaki, karaage, ramen, yakitori, tempura, and our favorite yakiniku. We rounded up the best food that we ate during our stay.
Japanese beef and all its wonderful essence
Why you need to eat all the meat you can in. Tokyo When you ask anyone who’s been to Japan where to eat they tell you that anywhere is good. While you think sushi is the thing You need to try, I tell you it’s their BEEF.
Meat from the grocery, meat on a grill, meat on a stick. They have it all. For a country who had just started eating meat 50 years ago, they sure know how to make great beef dishes.
Gyu Tetsu (Kichijōji)
You’ll know that you’re in the right place where there are no foreigners in the room and only local patrons flock a restaurant. This is our first yakiniku meal in Tokyo, and boy oh boy it was such a delightful treat!
We got the basic wagyu beef platter that is good for a hungry group of 3-4 people. The price point is at 29USD/3000 yen/1,500php which is relatively reasonable. It comes with rice and a fresh side.
Jiromaru Shinjuku (1 Chome-26-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City)
In the Standing Yakiniku restaurant, you basically pick any kind of meat you want, they have A1 – A5 wagyu beef from different cuts from the cow. Their wall is filled with wooden sticks that indicates all the cuts they have available. Each pieces having a different price based on where it comes from and also the quality of the meat. We recommend having the chefs recommendation, basically, you can choose between 5 or 10 pieces of meat. The chef then chooses which are the best cuts of the day, it’s a progression of the least fatty type or A1 to A5. Personally, the best for me is the A4, it’s perfectly marbled and melts in your mouth. Pair this with rice or additional side dishes that you want. This 5 pcs of meat with rice and kimchi costs us around 2000 yen (20 USD) per person.
Nabenzo – Sukiyaki/Shabu-Shabu (multiple locations here)
At Nabenzo, you can choose between Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu and you can choose whether to get imported US beef or Japanese beef. The latter is more expensive and has more marbling. This comes with unlimited vegetables, appetizers, beef, drinks, and dessert.
Sukiyaki VS Shabu Shabu
Sukiyaki consists of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.
While Shabu Shabu is also eaten Nabemono style, it comes with a clear broth and several dipping sauces.
The unlimited beef set (lunch) with US beef is 1800 Yen (38 USD), while Japanese beef is 2800 Yen(58 USD), while the wagyu course is 3800 Yen (68 USD).
Roast Beef Ono (multiple locations here)
A4 Japanese ranked Japanese Black Wagyu, slow-cooked and sliced thinly with 3 different sauces. This Roast beef melts in your mouth is an understatement. Each element that was added from the white sauce. sweet soy apple sauce drizzle, and the sauerkraut and raw egg create a different combination of flavors that just works well. Each order also comes with a side of soup, horseradish, and cream cheese. The Roast Beef Rice Bowl Set using Japanese beef is 1760 yen (35 USD).
Cheap yakitori and izakaya place: Torikizoku ( 34-5 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
Another one of our favorite Japanese grilled dishes is the Yakitori. We recommend trying the Momo or Mune Kizoku. Momo is chicken thigh and Mune is chicken breast. Then you can choose which flavor you want when you order: tare sauce or salt and spices. Here at Torikizoku, they serve affordably priced Yakitori for only 298 Yen (3 USD).
Tsukiji Market is Japan’s “Food Town,” where you’ll see all kinds of Japanese traditional foods. A mixture of wholesale and retail shops along with numerous restaurants line the streets. I’d say it can be attractive to tourist and you should do it if it’s your first time in Tokyo. Be ready to shell out at least 39USD/4000 Yen/2,000php per person when visiting the market.
We recommend the following:
- Fresh Oysters (500 Yen per piece)
- Hokkaido King Crabs (1800 Yen for a small plate)
- Tamagoyaki (100 Yen)
- Chirashi Bowl (3000 Yen)
A one of a kind ramen: Afuri Ramen (multiple locations here)
Afuri Ramen is a non-traditional type of ramen that uses the water coming from Mt.Afuri, and where they create a light broth using yuzu, chicken, konbu, and vegetables to develop the various layers of umami. They top their ramen with bamboo shoots, tamago, and nori.
Try their Yuzu Shoyu Ramen with Roast Pork for 1500 Yen(13 USD).
Check out the best things we ate in Tokyo here.
Tokyo’s booming specialty coffee scene
Just like anything food and beverage related here, there seems to be an attachment to not necessarily being the best, but to exist in an ecosystem where everyone is trying to be the best version of themselves. Heavily prevalent in restaurants and now in their coffee scene.
Turret Coffee (SK Higashi-Ginza Bldg, 2-12-6 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku)
The chalkboard in front of Turret Coffee says ‘Welcome to the best outrageous coffee shop in Japan’. Named for the ‘turret’ mini-trucks that zip around nearby Tsukiji fish market, Turret Coffee and its owner Kiyoshi Kawasaki both pull and pour quality espresso, all in a scenester nook, intimate space.
We recommend: Go for their house special, Salted Caramel Latte.
The Deck Coffee & Pie
We walked a few blocks north from Harajuku’s busy Takeshita-dori and found this relaxing haven. A quaint coffee shop with stacks of CD inside. As its name suggests, they serve house-roasted good coffee and homemade fresh pies. They use Ethiopian and Indonesian beans by which you may be able to purchase separately.
History and Art
People in Tokyo have a deep attachment and respect to their history this is put in the display to their many museums and galleries such as the;
- Tokyo National Museum
- Edo Tokyo Museum (To understand the city’s past)
- Shitimache Museum (covers how life used to be in Japan)
The options when it comes to shopping are absolutely endless. You can go to high-end malls
- Omotesando and Ginza: Higher End stores
- Harajuku: Caters to the younger and experimental crowd
- Shinjuku and Niguro: Large department stores and 2nd hand shops
- Akihabara: For all your electronic related needs and Otaku obsessions
- Shimokituzawa: trendy yet low key finds
Recommendation: Concentrate on 2 or 3 neighboring wards in one day. Just attack the city in sections
Our Overall Tokyo Impression
When Bianca and I started doing this platform it has always been a dream that we can cover and shoot our content materials in Tokyo. We’ve always been drawn to its rhythm, always on the beat but the more you listen to it the more you realize there are so many textures of notes hidden.
(P.S this is us lining up at the Tokyo Zoo to see a Panda)
Experiences that only happen on this moment and incomparable anywhere else in the world. You need to visit it to understand its soul. There is so much that we would like to cover and places that we wished we went to during our 10-day holiday trip, but that’s the beauty of it. You will always feel that you didn’t do enough and we didn’t sample this underground sushi bar we’ve been meaning to go to. Never realizing that this is what Tokyo does to you. It leaves you with those happy regrets and more things to add into your bucket list the next time you visit the city!
At the end of the day, it is all about having fun and doing what you really want to do. Travelling is identifying your comfort zone and dismantling it all completely! So don’t be afraid to just wander around and with no other purpose but to walk and discover. Finding situations you need to experience first before understanding them.
This is my version of Tokyo and I am yet to explore more of it for the coming years
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