Japan - 2019

I went to Japan (Tokyo & Kyoto to be specific) in late February / early March 2019 with my fiancé, sister, and my sister’s boyfriend and here’s what we did, organized by neighborhoods (and a map to help navigate). Be sure to double check locations and reviews in case businesses have moved, changed, closed, etc. Enjoy!

 

Shibuya

Boul’Ange

Great little spot for pastries and coffee near Shibuya Crossing.

The Matcha Tokyo

Amazing matcha lattes. Don’t forget to buy some to take home!

Yoyogi Park & Meiji Jingu Shrine

Large forested area in the middle of the busy city. Take a relaxing stroll and see the shrine that was built in 1920. It was destroyed during World War II was was rebuilt shortly after. Apparently they are renovating some parts of the shrine to prepare for the shrine’s 100th anniversary in 2020, so plan ahead.

Cat Street

Hip little street that connects Shibuya & Harajuku with tons of shops and restaurants. Felt like a mini version of Abbot Kinney.

The Great Burger

If need a break from sushi and ramen, this place was a “Southern California Diner"” burger restaurant with TONS of burger options and great salads.

AMORE

If you’re into vintage designer handbags (especially Chanel), go to Amore. The selection is amazing. Don’t forget to bring your passport so you don’t have to pay tax.

Ralph Lauren

This Ralph Lauren store is beautiful. Grab a coffee from Ralph’s Coffee on your way out. It’s adorable.

TRUNK HOTEL

Right near Cat Street, TRUNK has a restaurant, cafe, and bar. If you’re grabbing a drink there, get the vodka drink - it’s delicious! Very hip and trendy.

 

Shinjuku

Park Hyatt Hotel

Amazing view of the city. We came here twice - once to grab a drink and the other for a tea-time (highly recommend!). Lost in Translation was filmed here!

Robot Restaurant

Sounds touristy and 100% is but definitely a must-do as the show is just wild. Make sure you opt out of their dinner and grab it before. Be sure to show up 30 minutes before the show. Josh Groban was there when we went!

Golden Gai Bars

Iconic street with tons of little bars that have < 10-20 people capacity. Bop around to a few of them.

Eagle Suntory Lounge

Basement bar that’s very unassuming sign outside that just says ‘Eagle’. We didn’t have a chance to get a drink there because they couldn’t seat our full party but I had a friend go there and loved it.

Ichiran Ramen

This ramen chain is everywhere in Tokyo and is pretty good. Upon entering, you order at a little kiosk and get a ticket. Upon sitting down at your own little booth, you can customize your order (spice-level, taste, etc.), add extra toppings, etc. and give your instructions and tickets to the waiter in front of you.


Naka-Meguro

Onigly Cafe

A little cafe serving onigiri - a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and (often) wrapped in seaweed. So yummy and a great afternoon snack.

Happy Pudding

Cute little homemade pudding shop if you’re craving something sweet.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

This is the largest Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the world and opened late February 2019. It’s 32,000 feet and has 4 stories. Pizzas, pastries, cocktails, tea - everything. It’s amazing.

Sushi Iroha

This upstairs sushi restaurant was one of our favorites.

Mezura River

If you’re there during Cherry Blossom season, walk along this river - it’s supposed to be amazing!

 

Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Fun temple to see - definitely fun to walk through the town before it. Don’t forget to try and buy the amazing mochi and matcha!

Fushini Inari-Taisha

Aka the shrine with the orange arches - a must, of course!

Camellia’s Tea Ceremony

A great little spot for a tea ceremony close to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. They teach you the traditional way to host a tea ceremony and make matcha. So good. ~45 minutes.

Santomi Coffee Center

A small corner cafe with super nice baristas. Great for your morning coffee and/or matcha.

Ramen Zen No Kaza

A little off the beaten path but amazing ramen. If there’s a wait, it’s worth it. Go next door and grab sake at the bar.

Yamafuku Shabu Shabu

A small shabu shabu shop that’s a little off the beaten path. We went here for my birthday dinner and got the private room in the back. They had amazing service and they made this Happy Birthday dessert for us. Highly recommend.

Franze & Evans London

If you need a little break from sushi and ramen, this is a great spot to get some salads.

Hello Dolly

A great jazz and whiskey bar to switch it up. Situated along the Kamokawa river, sip on one of their amazing cocktails in a vintage glassware and enjoy the jazz music.

 

Ginza

Shopping

This neighborhood has tons of high end shops - fun to look around (and splurge if it’s that kind of trip!) Again, don’t forget to bring your passport just in case.

Tsujuki Fish Market

So the infamous wholesale auction fish market shut down in 2018 but the outer market remains open. It has a bunch of food stalls and restaurants. Go there for lunch - you will not be disappointed!

Minato

Tokyo Tower

Go to the park across the street for the best view - it’s less touristy!

Ritz Carlton

Amazing view. Beyond amazing service. Would you expect anything less from the Ritz? Grab a drink at the top. They’re expensive but totally worth it. I had a seasonal cocktail and it was 10/10 the best cocktail I’ve ever had.

Atelier Morimoto XEX

Hands down the best sushi of the trip. The service was impeccable. Highly recommend going with one of their set menus but they also have a la carte if you’re not feeling very adventurous. They also apparently have teppanyaki. After dinner, grab a drink upstairs in their lounge. Ask for Yoshi upon making a reservation. He’s the only one that speaks english (conversationally) and taught us so much about the sushi which made it an even better experience. Yoshi was our sushi chef and was our personal sushi chef the whole time we were there (2ish hours). Be prepared to spend $120-$180/person. We got away with making our reservation while we were in Tokyo just a few days in advance. However, we did get lucky so if you can, make the reservation ASAP.

Koto

TeamLab Borderless Museum

Check out this digital art museum where you can immerse yourself in this ‘borderless’ world. Make sure you get tickets before. Keep in mind that it does get packed and you do have to wait in line.

Chiyoda

Imperial Palace

In my opinion, it was a bit overwhelming but if you have time, go see it.

 
 

General Tips / Notes

  • Bring your passport out shopping with you to avoid paying their tax

  • The subways are easy to navigate - highly recommend taking them everywhere as opposed to taxis or Uber.

  • Be sure to keep your subway ticket because you’ll need it to get out of the metro stations (this includes the bullet train tickets). Lost tickets have to pay the full price of a new ticket.

  • They do have Uber, but it’s only Uber black so it gets a bit pricey

  • We didn’t have one taxi driver who spoke english, so make sure you have the correct address pulled up on your phone beforehand

  • Overall we found everyone to be so nice and super helpful so if you’re lost, someone will help.

  • Rain or shine, Tokyo gets crazy crowded on the weekend so beware of the crowds of people