Tokyo had always been very high on our list of places we wanted to travel too. We spent months doing research before going, as we knew that this huge metropolis would be a big mouthful, even for us. We love Tokyo for its endless array of restaurants and all of the various types of Japanese cuisine, be it yakitori, ramen, sushi or tonkatsu. Culture-wise this city was a complete opposite to most places that we've visited before. The Japanese customs were immensely different to Western culture, but at the same time incredibly fascinating. One thing that became very clear to us after our visit to Tokyo was how this was the capital of cuisine, style and design. Tokyo is #1 city when it comes to eating and shopping, so prepare to get out your credit card when walking through areas such as Aoyama, Daikanyama and Omotesando as these areas are bursting with amazing Japanese boutiques and hip restaurants.
➳ WHERE TO have dinner in Tokyo
Waentei Kikko: We went to Wantei Kikko one evening after having read all of the good reviews. Situated in a small alley, in an old style Japanese house, this place really stood out from everything else in the neighbourhood. The owner was very welcoming and we enjoyed a traditional Japanese meal of 7 courses. Food was definitely worth the visit, but the best part of the visit to Kikko was the live music show performed by the owner on a traditional Japanese instrument. The music goes on every night, so make sure that your make a reservation that includes the performance.
Hantei: This place is very traditional Japanese (sitting on tatami mats and all) and housed in a beautiful old building. Hantei specializes in deep fried skewers - some of ours included ginger, shrimp, beef and scallops. You have to try their homemade miso paste with fresh vegetables, which was exquisite.
Harajuku Gyoza Lou: This place specializes in Gyozas (which is basically all you will find on the menu). These were the best gyozas we ever had. There are a bunch of different fillings and you get 5 gyozas for each order. This place is dirt cheap and has really good food, which of course means that you'll almost always find people queuing up in front of the restaurant to get their hands on some of these tasty gyozas.
Kaffir Lime: This place was so good that we went twice in one week. Situated right next to Harajuku Gyoza Lou (see above) this place serves up authentic Thai food. There's pretty much always a line here (a good sign in Tokyo) and the food was unbelievably tasty. We had the crab curry, tom yum ramen, chicken cashew, fresh spring rolls and for dessert we had their coconut ice cream. This place is not to be missed if you go to Tokyo, even if you don't think you should be eating Thai food in Tokyo.
Ivy Place: After a week of Japanese food we couldn't resist looking for some good Italian food. Whilst shopping in Daikanyama we stumbled upon Ivy Place. This place serves up modern Italian food. We were lucky to sit outside in their garden and enjoy some great Italian courses. Great place to go if you have a craving for non-Japanese food.
Maisen: We really wanted to try Tonkatsu, whilst in Tokyo and we heard a lot of good things about Maisen. We we're not let down. Tonkatsu is deepfried pork fillets served with cabbage and rice. You can choose between different grades of pork, which will then make the price go up/down. Pretty much everything on the menu is pork, so don't go if you're not into pork. Try to get a seat in the downstairs bar or the upstairs tatami mats.
➳ WHERE TO GET SUSHI in Tokyo
Sushi Bar Yasuda: Hands down one of the best meals of our life. In this small sushi bar you sit around the bar with Mr. Yasuda right in front of you. Yasuda has previously had a sushi bar in New York, which means he's easy to approach in English, which is great if you don't speak Japanese. Each piece of sushi was presented and described by Mr. Yasuda, which was very different from many of our other experiences, as most chefs don't speak good English. Food was 10/10, but do not expect that this will be a truly Japanese experience, as most people that go here are American tourists.
Daiwa Sushi: Situated in the world's biggest fish market, Tsukiji, this place probably has the freshest sushi in Tokyo. Get there early in the morning and expect to wait in line. The sushi here is amazing and it's definitely a fun experience.
Sukiyabashi Jiro: Jiro's claim to fame came after the documentary 'Jiro dreams of sushi' came out, as well as its 3 michelin stars. This place is very expensive, but the quality of the food and the experience of being at this restaurant makes up for the heavy price tag.
➳ WHERE TO GET RAMEN in Tokyo
Ichiran: There a couple of Ichiran locations around town. Ichiran is one of Tokyo's favourite ramen places, so expect to wait in line for at least 30 minutes during lunch/dinner hours. You order your meal through a vending machine and then get seated in small booths in the restaurant. Going here was a really fun experience and the ramen were perfect. Ichiran specializes in tonkotsu ramen, which is a pork bone broth.
Gogyo: We went to Gogyo in Kyoto as well as in Tokyo, which is how good it was. Gogyo is known for their burnt miso and burnt soy ramen, which has a quite different taste to many traditional ramen places in Japan. This was Elin's favourite ramen place in Japan, so definitely worth a visit.
Menya Musashi: During our last days in Tokyo we were staying in Shinjuku and we heard that Musashi served up the best ramen in the neighbourhood. In contrast to many other ramen places that we visited the atmosphere here was more like a restaurant. You order through vending machines, but the dark interior created a really cozy atmosphere and they were playing some great jazz music. This was Oliver's favorite ramen place in Tokyo.
Tokyo Ramen Street: Situated downstairs in Tokyo Station there is now a special area dedicated to travellers who want something quick and tasty. We decided to go to Rokurinsha, which we heard was the best ramen place in Tokyo. They specialize in dipping noodles. You get a think broth that you dip your noodles into and then you just start slurping away. There are plenty of good places here, so look around and see what kind of ramen style suits your taste.
➳ WHERE TO GET COFFEE/TEA in Tokyo
Omotesando Coffee: Hands down the best coffee we had in Japan. This place is very popular with locals as well as visitors due to it's traditional Japanese design and it's great coffee. Enjoy your coffee in the small Japanese garden or take it with you. Make sure to also try their small custard cakes, which were so tasty.
Sunny Hills: We had heard that Sunny Hills was worth a visit due to its amazing architecture. The whole building is truly a piece of art, which in itself is a reason to visit Sunny Hills. The other reason to visit is to go to their tea room upstairs. You'll get seated upstairs and get served a Taiwanese pineapple cake (which they specialize in) and a perfect cup of Oolong tea. The best part is that everything is free. If you want you can buy some of their lovely cakes and bring them home. This was one of the highlights of our Tokyo trip.
Fuglen: Originally hailing from Oslo, this place serves up great coffee and has a very European feel to it. In the evening Fuglen transforms into a great little bar. Definitely worth a visit.
Deus ex Machina: Placed inside a motorcycle shop - this place is pretty cool. Go here for a coffee and check out their bikes and the hip crowd hanging out here.
➳ WHERE TO STAY in tokyo
Graphy Nezy: Situated in Ueno, this place is mix between a hotel and a hostel. The design is very modern and clean and the staff here is amazing. This hotel has a great little café with good coffee and drinks and staying here will definitely not break your budget. If you're touring Japan and you want something that's not a hostel and not an incredibly expensive hotel then Graphy is just perfect.
Park Hyatt: Total luxury. This 5 star hotel has everything you would ever need from a hotel. Great views of Tokyo, great restaurants, a spa and an amazing bar. It is therefore also a very expensive place to stay. Mostly famous for being the hotel featured in the movie 'Lost in Translation'.
➳ BEST SHOPS in tokyo
UES: Premium selvedge jeans. This is one of the best denim brands in Japan. These guys sell only sell denim products and you'll be sure to find a pair of jeans in your favorite fit. A cool feature is that the leather patch on the back of the jeans gets custom made to feature the date that you bought the jeans. You can't go wrong here.
Hollywood Ranch Market: This place has been a go-to place for fashionistas since the 80's. A great place to get men's and women's clothes and accessories. For guys they have an endless amount of shirts and really great pants. This is one of the hip places to shop in Tokyo. We went in here and bought a bunch of shirts and accessories. The people working in the store all had amazing style, which was inspiring in itself.
United Arrows: You'll find United Arrows all around Tokyo. This chain carries a lot of cool Japanese brands as well as international brands. These stores have so many different types of clothes that it's almost impossible to not find something that you'll like.
Tsatsuya Books: This bookstore in Daikanyama had everything. They had everything - cookware, fabrics, pens, endless types of notebooks and of course a great selection of books. We walked around in here for a while as there were so many interesting things.:kuraO
Alaska Vintage Clothing: Cool vintage store in Shimokita. There really are vintage stores on every corner in Shimokita, but we really liked this one. Go here to make a bargain.
Frank&Easy: A tiny jewellery store in Shimokita. The two owners sit in this tiny place and create handmade jewellery right there in the store. We found a lot of really great pieces here. Great place to go if you want to bring a Tokyo souvenir home for yourself or a loved one.
Okura: Hands down our favorite clothing store in Tokyo. Walking in here is like walking into a museum. Everything in here is Japanese brands and everything's of the the highest quality. Go here if you want to get some real indigo threads and some cool jewellery. We went in here several times during our trip, as we basically wanted to buy everything in the store.
Journal Standard: You'll find Journal Standard in several areas of Tokyo. This store, like United Arrows, has a lot of different brands and everything in here is pretty cool. They carry sunglasses, watches, shoes and a both men's and women's clothing.
Journal Standard Furniture: If you wanna bring back some stuff for your apartment/house then this is a great place to go. Unfortunately we weren't able to buy too much as we had already filled our suitcases with stuff, but we wanted to buy everything in here. We got a really cool carpet and cloths in here. They sell small things for the home/kitchen, as well as bigger pieces of furniture.
➳ USE OUR GOOGLE MAP
Navigate the city with our Google Map. We've pinned all of the places in our guide to the Google Map below. Simply go to the map when you're online to find your way around the city. If you don't have wifi when you're walking around the city, just make sure to load this map when you have access to wifi (at your hotel or at a café) and you'll be able to find your way around even if you're offline.