The Tokyo Stories; Eat, Play, Stay, Repeat
As seen in 'within Journal', September 2017.
I had heard so many stories from friends that had come and gone, and I would sit there, enthralled at their adventures. I thought it was all an exaggeration. Boy was I wrong.
Rewind to September last year where first stepped out of a 737 and into Tokyo. They were right. All of them. You can’t describe the bewildered feeling of stepping out of Shibuya station and into the bright lights and busy streets, bags dragging me ever behind as we plotted the zig zagged lanes to our Airbnb.
That single trip wasn’t enough, as the 16 days of bliss came screeching to a holt and I was back on home soil. Post-holiday blues ensued, and life felt like a ball & chain was dragging me back. Fast forward a few months, while watching a Japanese cooking series, I felt a familiar twitch. A certain itch for that touch of exquisite food. Yep. Two days later, I was all booked and a couple of weeks more, I was jet-setting back to the city I adored. That’s all it took; food. But then again, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s the way to my little black heart.
If you’re anything like me, holidays are all about hitting the streets and walking your feet haggard, exploring the little nooks and crannies that Tokyo has hidden away, finding that hidden eatery and munching down the delicacies the chef has spent years perfecting. Cuisine in Japan, it’s an art form. A unique blend of dedicated mastery and patience.
For me, Tokyo has a lot of everything that I adore. These are my stories from Tokyol My Eat. Play. Stay. Repeat.
The hours are a little different. Nothing really opens until around 10am yet a lot stays open late. Enjoy the quiet streets before the chaos begins. Hot tip: Jump on a train and take it to the end of the line. It’s something I picked up on my last trip and explored some unique landscapes that you normally wouldn’t get to experience. Explore!
Hidden and intimate bars suddenly come to life when the sun goes down. Scattered throughout the city, pick up a conversation with a local; if you make an effort to speak Japanese, they’ll return the favour. Oh! And the music! There are a few places about the town that are dedicated to funk. My kind of jam. I recommend taking a short trip out to Shimo Kitazawa; it has a beautiful atmosphere and it’s just lively!
Oh god. Just try everything. There is this stupid belief that Japanese food is all about raw fish; it really isn’t. Find your little corner cafe that’s tucked away that serves freshly roasted coffee and katsu curry for lunch. Get into a shoe box restaurant where the chef has three ramen dishes on offer with a variety of toppings. Yakitori alley. Oh! And the BBQ *drools* - it is to die for! Hidden away on the first floor in the touristy back streets of Shibuya is a place dubbed ‘Meat Village’. It’s my favourite place to get food and often venture there with friends.
The combini’s (convenience stores) are on every corner; please try everything you can get your hands on in there!
The Japanese spend their lives devoted to the perfection of their artform, in this case: food. Enjoy every damn minute of it. I’ve always come back heavier, despite the hours spent exploring each day. *shrugs* What can I say? I live for food.
My feet bring me back to many places that I love in that city. Whether it’s for the food. The fashion. Or the music.
Combinis’. For a glimpse into Japan’s delicacies and to gorge on any given thing at any given hour. Yum.
Ichiran. For simple fact that you can get an amazing bowl of ramen and a cold beer at any hour of the day
Don Quiote. For the spare moments you have nothing else to do then wander the countless isles of goodies at Don Q.
Harajuku. For the coffee culture. The fashion. To explore the out of the way back streets and find the hidden gems that are tucked away.
Shimo Kitazawa. For the eccentricity and it’s ode to individuality and expression. For the visits to a little bar on the first floor where I spent many nights drinking away with the owner, listening to some of the best funk the world has given us.
I get asked at times, “Where should I stay?”
I spit out the same response. Shibuya. It’s central. The hub of Tokyo and what the city has to offer. Filled with some of the best places to eat, shop and drink all within a few minutes’ walk, you can step out of your door at any time of the day or night and find something to do.
Harajuku is a brisk 20 minute walk where you’ll find trendy cafés (even by Melbourne standards) and the latest fashion trends walking the street (and if you’re lucky, you’ll be stopped by a photographer to have your photo taken for a magazine).
Two stops on a train is Daikonyama, a leafy inner city burb filled with book shops and artsy streets – go to T-Site, grab a coffee and read a book with the locals!
Twenty minutes’ train ride is Asakusa and its temples and the ancient markets where you can make your own fortune.