February 6, 2011

TOKYO

TOKYO 東京 PICTORIAL CITY GUIDE
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EAT `.`.`.`.`. SHOP `.`.`.`.`.`. STAY `.`.`.`.`. ETC


Japan will always be a mystery for me.   My first exposure to the language came by way of Sailor Moon cartoons, and has since developed a passion to learn more about the place and the people.  After many years of wishing, a trip to Japan finally happened in October 2010.  It was our honeymoon, and it was pretty stellar.  If you'd like to read more about our time there, click here

Japan isn't as frightfully expensive as one would think.  Unless the exchange rate is killing you - but you can't really worry about that too much.  We stayed in a number of different places, from around Tokyo to Nagoya and Kyoto.  There is much more to see and do of course, but here are a few places we visited and loved.  Hope you do, too :)
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 Granbell Hotel View Suite

STAY

Granbell Hotel Shibuya [English site]
15-17 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku
* stylish rooms, you can find excellent deals on their website : we got a 500,00 per night suite for 300,00
I'd skip their restaurant Ninnin and go with the adorable Cafe Marche - they give you free breakfast, it tastes better, and it's a sweet, zakka interior.

Villa Fontaine Ueno [English site]
2-4-4 Kojima Taito-ku
* crazy inexpensive place, tiny rooms, easy walk to Ueno Park, Asakusa, and Akiba. great specials on their website. 
also stayed at HVF Nihombashi, but it was less comfortable and not near much.
* but for the travel weary, HVF Ueno is especially sweet because of it's 1 minute walk to Keisei Skyliner direct to Narita Airport (I like this better than the Narita Express, personally)

 Ueno intersection
Kikokuso Ryokan [English site]
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
* 1 minute walk from JR Kyoto Station.  the highest of recommendations, for more info on our stay, see this post

Koto Kyoto Hotel [English site]
* an excellent hotel right in the heart of the famous geisha district, Gion
highly recommended, extremely inexpensive

  Kikokuso Ryokan - Kyoto

 Asakusa

EAT

屋台 (やたい/ yatai / 'food stalls')
* yatai are awesome, inexpensive ways to get a real taste of Japan.  personal favorite locations: Ameyoko/Otemachi, Asakusa Temple, Akihabara, and Harajuku /Cat Street

とくとくお弁当・tokutoku obento [review]
block down from Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno
* a great katsu-ya (fried foods) place. all bento Y250 ($3.30)


もんじゃ焼き / お好み焼きmonjayaki + okonomiyaki [Asakusa area site]
I recommend going to Asakusa, and navigating this street [map]
* locals will argue which is superior, but I like both
  • Ootoya [Japanese site] * we had the greatest time here at the Harajuku location. small, hard to spot and usually underground, these little restaurants are fantastic.  traditional teishoku-style (set meal) they even have the calorie count displayed on the menu. 
  • Plate of Pie. POP [English site] *excellent little cafe with bar in the Shibuya Granbell Hotel. open 24hrs
  • Cafe de Crier [Japanese site] * my favorite thing here was their "white chocolate cocoa". while expensive (around $4 for a cup) it was completely wonderful and totally worth it - and great coffee, too 
  • Coco-Ichiban Curry [Japanese site] * curry is the perfect thing on a cold, rainy day - mild spice and warm rice - I can't get enough when it's chilly and it's super cheap. find all over the place, especially Akihabara and Ueno.
  • Edo Monja Hyotan  [Japanese siteAsakusa * inexpensive + delicious, on weekends expect a wait. Check out the old-school dagashi (Mom & Pop candy shop) inside
  • Ajikobojinya [site] Nagoya *so, so much fun - place is all 80s Japanese nostalgia in a sweet izakaya. post about Hirabari, Nagoya here
  • Garuva [site] Nagoya *atmosphere like a Tibetan monastery, candle lit, no talking allowed - super, super fun 
Tokyu Food Show
電車駅・Train Stations
* stations are great places to eat, but I'd avoid the lunch rushes.  top picks:
  • Nagoya // Yabaton for Nagoya's specialty miso-katsu [Japanese site] +  Lauduree at Takashimaya
  • Kyoto // Cafe du Monde (for a more comprehensive list, see here)
  • Tokyo // Rokurinsha Tokyo Tsukemen old school ramen shop [English site]
  • Tokyu Food Show [Japanese site] at JR Shibuya station ( デパー地下/depachika = 'underground department store') * I wish I could live here. start at either end of the hall, and eat your way from dessert to meat or backwards.  simply fantastic.  sample things and check out the beauty of food presentation + packaging
Rokurinsha - Tokyo Station - pork udon + gyoza

SHOP
  • LOFT [site] * everything you've ever needed
  • Kinji Harajuku [site] *amazingly fun to browse used clothing
  • Parco [site] * slightly expensive brands on floors separated by style. Check out personal faves Lowry's Farm [site] , Kutsushitaya [site] and the art gallery upstairs
  • Ameyoko Ueno * Tokyo standard. dirty but super fun and cheap [a post about a trip there
  • Mandarake [site] * toys, games, art books, otaku-fare.  Shibuya, Akihabara + Osu locations are favorites
  • B*Life [site] * only the best place in the world for rummaging. super inexpensive, lots of great treasures to find
  • Don Quixote [site] * the most fun you'll ever have shopping
  • Yamashiroya Toys Ueno [site] * 7 floors of amazing - from kids to designer vinyl. prefer this to Kiddyland
  • LaForet [site] * upscale shopping for casual to crazy visual-kei - check out Swimmer downstairs
  • Chicago Harajuku [site] * lots of used kimonos, yukatas and cool, hipster stuff
♥ for more information on places to shop in Japan, see this post ♥
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 in Harajuku

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PLAY

プリクラ・purikura / 'print club'
you don't have to do kareoke (if you don't want to) but you have to take silly pictures of yourself. you really, really should.


Osamu Tezuka Museum - JR Kyoto Station
* hard to find little part of Kyoto Station, but it's worth it. see his drawings and a little movie for Y200

Ueno Park
* Kodomo Yuen - a sweet little children's amusement park. grab a little azuki ice cream cone and check out the zoo, then walk across Shinobazu pond to the beautiful little temple.  swan boats can be rented on the other side.

Yodobashi Camera [Japanese website]
*  test out fun electronics like a $2000 Cintiq tablet or a gold-leaf hair dryer. so many accessories to play with, and even an instamatic pic-print station for your trip photos.



浅草浅草寺 Asakusa Temple
* crowded on weekends, but super fun. check out the girl with the monkey show
for more information on my visit, see this post

WANDER

Shibuya-ku  - Sakuragaokacho
 ♥ full post about this neighborhood here

 Ameyoko izakaya


 Fujisan from the shinkansen

Shibuya-ku - Dogenzaka vending machines

 quiet Ueno izakaya after hours

 Tokyo Tower

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