Japan Part 1: September in Tokyo
It’s taken me forever to finally write this post because I didn’t know where to start. I’ve decided to break up my travel guides into 5 categories: Where to stay, What to eat, Nightlife + What to drink, Other tips, and Day trips. I hope this format is helpful. Check out Part 2 of this trip if you’re exploring Hiroshima and Kyoto.
Now, let’s get to the fun stuff! 🙂
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Shinjuku Granbell Hotel for the few days that we were in Tokyo. Location and cleanliness are definitely the most important things I look for when booking a hotel. I knew we wanted to be close to the train station since we would be venturing out a lot. Our hotel had a rooftop bar with such a pretty view so we grabbed drinks at sunset on our first night. The hotels in Japan are so tiny, just be prepared if you’re sharing a room.
WHAT TO EAT
I’ve broken this section up into a few different categories, because obviously there is SO much great food to eat! Our first stop was of course The Tsukiji Market and breakfast sushi. Unfortunately, we got to Tsukiji Market at 3am and that was way too late to see the fish auction. The guards recommended arriving before 2am to watch the auction. They only let around 50 people in per day.
- Afuri Ramen – LOVE this place! It’s a chain with multiple locations throughout the city. It’s vending machine style and has so many choices! My favorite Ramen in Tokyo.
- Ramen Street – The train stations have some really great food. There are like 8 awesome ramen places all next to each other downstairs in the Tokyo train station. Try grabbing something small at a few different places so you can sample a variety!
- Tsuta – Michelin-starred ramen. We didn’t end up going here but this was recommended by multiple people. They have truffle-infused broth and is vending machine style. Go early (around 8am-9am) and grab a ticket that will tell you what time slot to come back.
- Daiwa Sushi – After the tuna auction at Tsukiji Market, go straight to Sushi Daiwa across the street from the main market and get in line for breakfast sushi, which will hands down be the best sushi of your life. I still think about this meal. It may be an hour wait but it’s totally worth it. We ended up meeting some really cool people in line and chatted with them until the restaurant opened – it made the time pass so quickly. Do not get in the longer line for Sushidai, the restaurant next door on the corner. It’s going to have a massive line but there is no way that it could be that much better. My friend waited in line for 3 hours and said she doesn’t think it’s worth it.
- Genki Sushi – you order everything on a screen and it comes to you on a conveyer belt. It’s kind of like fast food but with sushi.
- Sukiyabashi Jiro – the sushi place from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi! We didn’t end up going here but if you have time you should definitely check it out!
- Tettiri – They specialize in pufferfish, We didn’t end up trying this place but a few friends recommended it.
- Shinjuku Kappō Nakajima – Michelin Star sardine restaurant. I have an obsession with sardines so if you like them this place is definitely a must. CJ isn’t the biggest fan but loved every single thing they served. We were only in line for about an hour, maybe a little less. They serve sardines like 5 or 6 different ways. So good.
- Eat Tempura and Udon! Japan does them differently. We ate Udon in a train station waiting for our train to Kyoto!
- The department stores in Ginza have amazing shops and food in the basements.
- Croquant Chou ZakuZaku – the smell of the store will instantly grab your attention. Such yummy snacks. We got this crunchy churro – like pastry filled with fresh creamy custard.
Antico Caffe – I was craving something sweet and CJ wanted a coffee so we dropped in on our walk to the Morí Art Museum. Best french toast I’ve ever had!
NIGHTLIFE + WHAT TO DRINK
- Park Hyatt in Shinjuku – this is the bar from Lost in Translation. It’s definitely a little more pricey but we ate dinner and had drinks in the New York Room on a night they were having live music.
- Yebisu Beer Factory/Museum in Ebisu – The museum was closed when we arrived but we made it in time to do a tasting. It’s in a really cool neighborhood and the beer is awesome, just beware that each tasting is basically a full glass – so if you’re a lightweight like me, you’ll have a really fun time. 😉
- Figuring out the train station was definitely confusing at first. Once we figured out that the Yamanoto line was the most convenient, we took it pretty much everywhere.
- Bring comfy shoes and prepare to walk A LOT! We walked all throughout Shinjuki, Meiji Jingu Shrine Yoyogoi Park, Harajuku, and Shibuya Crossing all in one day.
- We purchased a week long JR pass and found it to be convenient. Pretty much every train we needed to use was a JR line and we also took the JR to Kyoto and Hiroshima. We purchased the JR pass 6 months before our trip, but CJ lost the tickets the day before our trip so we had to rush and get new ones at the San Francisco JTB.
- Shibuya crossing – crazy amounts of people crossing streets! It’s like Times Square x 1000. On one of the corners is the statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog that kept coming back to the train station to wait for his owner’s return every day for more than 9 years after his owner’s death. Try going up the corner elevator of the hotel in Shibuya Mark City East Mall for the best view.
- Tokyo Sky Tree – amazing views of the city on a clear day.
- While you’re over there in Asakusa also check out Senso-ji temple.
- Go for a walk through Yoyogi Park to Meji Jingu. The park and temple are so beautiful.
- Explore Harajuku and walk through the crowded shopping area with all of the twins and the funky stores.
- Naoshima – amazing art island with a world-class modern art museum that’s located underground and entirely lit by natural sunlight.
- Morí Art Museum – good take on Asian Modern Art. They have an observation deck too which has great views of the city and Tokyo Tower.
- Takeshita Street – lots of food and shops. Also have cat, owl and hedgehog cafes. Fun place to walk around!
- Ameya Yokocho Market– my favorite street market we went to. So many shops, restaurants, and cafes. Finding fruit in Japan was a little challenging, so we would pick up fruits and snacks at street markets.
Hope this helps you plan the most perfect trip! Check out Part 2 for more tips!
Let me know if you have any questions and leave a comment below with your favorite place in Tokyo or what you’re most excited to explore! 🙂
Thanks for reading! xx