Sushi Trio

No trip to Japan is complete without gorging myself on wonderful fresh sushi. There’s an almost innumerable number of places to check out from the most high-end and exclusive of sushi-yas to cheap and cheerful sushi trains. We were not keen to blow all our money on one meal but had palettes that were a little bit more refined than the standard sushi train. So all of the sushi restaurants we visited in Tokyo sat somewhere squarely in the middle of the two extremes.

My personal list from, best to worst:

Sushi Dai

sushi dai

If you love sushi and Japan, Sushi Dai needs no introduction. It’s the cheapest Michelin starred sushi restaurant in all of Tokyo, and perhaps the world. Its reputation comes as much from this accolade as the infamous waiting times to get in! The humble little sushi store is located within the Tsukiji inner market, where all of the hustle and bustle happens. Admittedly, we had a very hard time locating the way to the inner market, as we weren’t sure where we were and weren’t allowed! The English signs dotted around as we wandered around in the dark weren’t all that helpful either.

I would say, go straight through the side entrance to the main gate and straight up, then turn left into where all the restaurants and stores are. If you arrive after the trains are running this should present no problem, as there will already be a line of people waiting! If you get there deep in the night, like we did at around 1am, it might take a bit more searching! This map should be somewhat helpful – Sushi dai is in the green coloured row of stores.

We were feeling particularly energetic at around midnight, so we boarded the last train and somehow managed to make our way, guided mostly by streetlights and the moon. We were actually a little bit unlucky because even though we got there at just past 1am which would usually guarantee entry into the first 5am sitting, there was a very large group of around 10 that had already arrived just before us! That said, the hours passed fairly quickly as I wandered around the market by night, caught up on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and occasionally watched Ryan play the DS. It definitely helped that it was Summer and the nights mild.

sushi dai chef

The first thing we laid our eyes on when we were ushered inside was the long well-worn sushi countertop that hundreds of thousands of people had sat at before us. For the most part, the chefs spoke very decent English and were very helpful with their instructions on how to eat the sushi.

There are a few different menu options, from ordering a la carte to the full 10 course omakase for 4000 yen. I’m pretty confident that almost everyone always orders the 10 course omakase and who were we to fight against the norm.

As we got stuck into breakfast the warm miso soup and fluffy egg omelette warmed our bellies for the rest of the meal. Surprisingly, the fatty tuna, (toro) wasn’t all that memorable. Instead, the bright red lean tuna made a bigger impression. So much so that we later ordered another piece.

I love the distinct taste of Pacific saury and mackerel so it made sense that this would be one of the stand out pieces for me! To finish the set course off there’s a selection of hand rolls to make sure that you’re full and to use up the cuts of fish that aren’t perfect enough for nigiri.

sushi dai bonito

Where Sushi Dai really came into its own for me and made me think that all of that lining up was worth it was with the extra pieces that we could order at the end of the omakase. The daily recommendation of bonito really blew me away. It was so fresh and  I’ve never had it raw before.

sushi dai line

I think the biggest question everyone has for Sushi Dai is, ‘Is it worth it?’ My answer to that is an ambiguous, ‘It depends.’ In the end, it’s a question of if what you value more, time or money. Got a lot of time and but not a lot of yen? Sushi Dai is probably one of the best sushi experiences in Tokyo, and that includes the fun of lining up at all sorts of strange hours! Just make sure to bring a little foldable chair or something comfy to sit on if you’re not one for standing up for hours.

On the other hand, if you’re all cashed up thanks to your high flying job/promotion/investments/parents you’re probably better off going somewhere a little more upmarket. A place where more attention is paid to the rice, your preferences and tea refills or drink pairings.

Of course, if you can’t be bothered waiting for a few hours there’s plenty of other options in Tokyo.

Sushi no Midori

Popular with locals and tourists alike Sushi no Midori is touted as a restaurant with good quality sushi at very reasonable prices. There are a few branches all of Tokyo, but we happened to visit the Shibuya branch, which is also the busiest by dint of it being in a very convenient location. Luckily, we only waited for roughly half an hour or so to get in since we were having a pretty early dinner at 5:30pm.

As a popular dining spot for tourists, there is a comprehensive English menu and most of the staff are used to requirements like asking for no wasabi.

The sets are pretty good value for money as they come with miso soup and chawanmushi. In Australia, the equivalent would set you back almost twice as much for some of the more luxurious cuts such as eel. I wouldn’t say that the sushi here is life changing but the sushi was fresh and there was lots of variety and some more premium types of seafood for a very decent price. If the line isn’t too long I recommend trying it out!

The sushi no midori branches are a little bit different, as there’s a standing only store and also a conveyor belt branch. Please check out their website to see what the most convenient store for you is!

Website

Sushi Zanmai

Sushi Zanmai boasts that it is possible to have cheap and tasty sushi with a real sushi chef without the need to spend all your cash. It also operates 24/7, 365 days a year which is pretty unheard of for most sushi restaurants, even in the midst of Tokyo.

There’s so many Sushi Zanmais all over Tokyo, with a number in Tsukiji market. This website has a handy link to all the locations. If you’ve got a late night craving for some sushi or want to low key count down the new year (like a group of my friends did while they were in Tokyo) Sushi Zanmai has your back. I won’t guarantee that it’s the best sushi you’ll ever have, but it’s decently priced, tourist friendly and safe for beginners with some more familiar western maki roll options available.

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Seirinkan

I’ve been to Italy and eaten many a pizza. I loved the crisp thin Rome style pizzas, and the convenient squares on the go near my university in Prato, but it was only once I hit Naples that everything clicked. I’ve tried authentic Naples style pizza in Melbourne a number of times, but somehow the sparse toppings and soggy tips just fell flat or had cheese falling onto my lap.

A really good Naples style pizza is actually a complete revelation. Delicious chewy, almost puffy dough that you can eat by itself and the simplest of toppings that are bursting with flavour. Of course, there’s many a good Naples style pizza in its hometown and namesake, but did you know that one of the best pizzas I’ve had in my life is actually found in Japan. To be more precise in the backstreets of trendy Nakameguro at Seirinkan.

To start with Seirinkan doesn’t look anything like a typical pizza joint. The wrought iron gates were more gothic than stereotypically Italian. The dimmed lighting and metal pipes playing noting but the beetles didn’t make it feel any more like a place that served pizza. The only indication we had of serious pizza making business was a very warm oven and a few pizzas whizzing past us as we made our way up the very narrow staircase to our seats.

seirinkan

That’s enough of an introduction. On to the whole reason behind this post, the pizza. Seirinkan is a staunch traditionalist and only offers two types of pizza: Margherita and marinara. The classic Margherita is probably the best benchmark for a really good pizza place. So it made sense to order one.

It’s smaller and much more diminutive than any of the whole pizzas I saw in Italy. Therein lies the beauty. Even if you’re not a big eater it’s possible to finish the whole pizza by yourself before it gets cold or soggy. After all, there’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a pizza only for the cheese to start getting hard.

Seirinkan also offers pasta dishes. Although perfectly tasty, the pasta we ordered was completely overshadowed by the pizza. So much so that I entirely forgot to take a photo of it. If I could go back in time to the moments before placing our order, I would snatch the menu out of my hands and insist that we skip the pasta and order as many pizzas as we could eat instead.

Somehow, in the land of soft boiled eggs and canned corn on pizza, Seirinkan has honed a perfect Neapolitan pizza. In fact, Ryan fell in love so much he promptly came back a few days later and ordered two pizzas all for himself! If that isn’t a testament to the quality of this place I don’t know what is.

Tips

Since our trip, Seirinkan has featured in David Chang’s Netflix series Ugly Delicious. I anticipate that there will be a bit more of a crowd and a few more tourists heading due to this publicity. If you didn’t have the foresight to book beforehand, I definitely recommend getting there at opening time and grabbing a quick pizza or two before it fills up.

Temari no ouchi cat cafe

It’s 2018 cat cafes, once a Taiwan and Japan only novelty have made their way all over the world. In fact, the office where I’m currently working is only a few metres away from a cat cafe. So why bothering visiting a cat cafe when there’s one much closer to home?

Simply put, Temari no ouchi is a cat cafe is a bit of difference. This starts with their entrance fee. Instead of being timed, there is a flat rate entrance fee of  ¥1,200 on weekdays and ¥1,600 on weekends. There is also a discounted rate for later sessions starting from 5pm. Temari no ouchi offers a full range of drinks and snacks. It’s even possible to have a full-blown meal while surrounded by cute furry felines. If you’re not so inclined, or already incredibly full like we were, there’s also no need to order anything and you’re still welcome to stay for as long as you like. We even saw a couple pull out their Nintendo 3ds while we were there!

More importantly, the atmosphere in the cafe is simply magical. Everything is set up like a warm cosy little fairytale forest and in every corner, there’s something interesting to see, even without a cute cat perched up on top of it.

As for the cats themselves, they have all sorts of personalities. Some of them are more amenable to play, whilst others just spent hours leisurely napping in all sorts of nooks and crannies. I was particularly taken with one of the sleeping kittens with a very grumpy face and some of the more mischevious cats that came over to rummage around in our bags.

Luckily, we found ourselves right in the middle of feeding time. We were in for a treat as all the cats perked up and swarmed towards their bowls. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many well-groomed cats in one place before!

Tips

On weekends and holidays it can be a bit crowded but you can make a booking a month prior. You can call or send an email through with your details, the number of people and the date and time you want. The information is all in Japanese on the website, and if you’re not comfortable with google translating your own reservation message, feel free to use this format in your email.

予約をお願いします。予約情報は:
名前: (your name)
日: (date you want to book for)
時間: (time you want to book for)
人数: (number of people the booking is for)
携帯番号: (mobile phone number – in case they need to urgently contact you)

Please note that children under 10 are not allowed.

Website

temari no ouchi

PS. Sorry for my long absence. My desktop recently broke and I’ve been working 7 days a week so finding time to blog has been a little bit difficult! I hope you’ll bear with me as I work on finishing up my Japan posts and adding in a few more bits and pieces before I start on something new and exciting.

Le Sputnik

Tokyo is a great city for fine dining. It is the most Michelin starred city in the world and always dominates Asia’s top 50 best restaurants. That said, sometimes finding a great fine dining restaurant experience in Tokyo can be completely bamboozling. The sheer number of restaurants can be somewhat overwhelming. Then there’s always the holiday budget to take into account. Is it really worth it to blow the price of the plane ticket on a single meal when there’s also so many cozy local places to eat at and shopping still left to do? Not to mention all those bastions of Japanese cuisine that seem impossible to reserve a table at unless you are located in Japanese and speak fluent Japanese.

So I came up with a simple two-step process to take away some of the stress.
1. Online bookings: Japanese of English, it’s pretty easy to figure out most online bookings systems. I preferred booking through the restaurant’s website directly. I’m not that fond of third party websites like pocket concierge that charge a premium for English language bookings.
2. Lunch specials: Many fine dining restaurants offer a cheaper lunch course. Rather than splashing out for just one expensive dinner, I love being able to sample a few different shortened tasting menus for the same price.

Le Sputnik ticked both of these boxes perfectly. I was drawn in by the amazing rose dish splashed across the restaurant’s website and also the painless booking. I’m not completely sure how I came across this website, but I have the vague recollection of browsing a few Eater and Japan Times articles before coming upon Le Sputnik and being intrigued.

To start we actually had a glass of celebratory champagne. What were we celebrating? Being in Japan and eating well I guess!

le sputnik tokyo

Cured fish atop a very zen garden-esque rock was a light little nibble to kick start things. I think Melbourne has spoilt me for fresh sashimi style dishes, because as good as this was I found myself missing the acidic tang of some my favourite cured kingfish dishes back home.

le sputnik bread

Baguette from Maison Kayser with a salted butter. This is as close as it gets to an authentic French baguette in Tokyo. Instead of the usual light fluffy bread, this had the crunch and chew that most Europeans look for in a good loaf.

le sputnik gobo

Deep fried smelt atop deep-fried gobo (burdock). The entirety of this was edible, but we were advised not to devour the whole thing as there was still plenty more food coming. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the earthy taste of gobo but this dish just didn’t do it for me. It was fried with a light touch, crispy and not at all greasy but I wasn’t all that into the flavour.

le sputnik fish

Saba with blue cheese sauce and fig. This arrived in a dome, with billows of smoke swirling around inside. It was unveiled theatrically and we were left with something as pretty as a picture. Saba is a fish with a very strong and distinct flavour profile so it was a bit of a shock with the similarly strong fig and blue cheese sauce. However, I soon came around to it.

le sputnik espresso

Foie Gras with orange and espresso jelly. Now, this is really where the meal came into its own. Soft fatty seared foie gras is always a pleasure to eat. The addition of slightly bitter coffee and sweet citrus fruit cut through the fat, to make this incredibly moreish and just rich enough to keep going back for another bite without feeling overwhelmed. The soft jelly seemed to melt into the foie gras whereas the crumble provided some welcome textural contrast.

le sputnik mushroom

Buckwheat crepe with poached egg, mushroom ice cream and a sprinkle of truffle. My face immediately lit up as this dish was being explained to us. This dish was a combination of everything I loved, crepes, eggs and mushrooms. In my mind, this was brunch gone fine dining in the best way possible.

le sputnik fish main

Sea Bass in a squid ink sauce with cabbage. Little known fact, I love Japanese cabbage. It’s so much sweeter and softer than Australian cabbage. I could probably eat half a cabbage by myself! Cooked like this, and paired with soft tender fish and an intense savoury sauce it was even better!

le sputnik venison

Venison from Hokkaido with a red wine reduction. We ate incredibly well on this trip, but I can say with confidence that this is the best single dish that we had on the entire trip. The meat was shockingly not gamey at all and the sauce incredibly rich and bold.

le sputnik dessert

I’m not too sure what this dessert was called, but it was an absolute masterpiece, both to look at and to eat. Crisp crystallised sugar broke apart to reveal juicy berries. The sorbet was fresh and light, exactly the sort of dessert I wanted to enjoy after eating a little bit too much on a warm Spring day.

le sputnik petit fours

Petit fours and tea finished off the meal and kept the highs going. The green tea dusted choux cream was a delightful little bite but I was more taken with the houjicha cream served in a small dish with a side of olive oil and salt. The creamy houjicha was already perfect on its own. The salt made it a touch more interesting but I preferred the houjicha cream by itself.

As each dish came out the meal just kept getting better and better. I will admit that I wasn’t wowed at the start, as I found the first few bites falling flat. However, by the end I was completely won over. The unusual flavour combinations and complex elements reveal an ambitious younger chef, keen to come up with something novel. Sometimes I found this a little bit too much. Certain elements seemed to be added for the sake of inventiveness rather than to actually improve the dish. Despite this, no matter how strange everything was grounded in solid skilled cooking and the hits far outshone any misses.

Ps. At 6,500 yen plus 10% tax, the 8 course lunch is the most amazing value for money!

Website

Patisserie Dominique Ansel Omotesando

I think that most people’s Tokyo food wish lists are filled with high end sushi stores, famous slurp worthy ramen counters and freshly fried tempura shops. As much as I love all of those things, I would do away with all of them in favour of all the delectable sweets in this bustling city.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is just one of the many extraordinary sweet stores in Tokyo, but it is famous among locals and tourists alike. Dominique Ansel found his fame in another city entirely: New York. There he created the half croissant, half donut hybrid, also known as a cronut. I’ve tried a few of these in my time and often found them a little bit too rich and oily to be one of my favourites. Even without cronuts, there’s still a range of other sweet treats to indulge on.

dominique ansel cakes

As I waited in line to order, right next to me was a whole row of pastries and cakes tempting me to wreck havoc upon my wallet and waistline. I ended up buying the tomato bread and DKA to enjoy the next day. As for dining in, the obvious options were the dine in exclusive cookie shot and the iced smores.

The frozen smore is blow torched right in front of your eyes just before you take pick it up. This is a mix of almost every texture imaginable. The crisp torched shell, the chewy marshmallow, crunchy biscuits and the cold creamy ice cream were so addicting together. It also got increasingly messy to eat, threatening to fall off the stick the more I bit into it.

The cookie shot was just as novel but a little less complex. It’s exactly as it sounds: a shot of milk in a cookie shot glass. The inside of the still warm cookie shot was coated with a thin layer of chocolate to stop the cookie from getting soggy and disintegrating. The cookie was the quintessential all American chocolate chip cookie, chewy soft, sweet and buttery enough to just feel it on your hands. Honestly, I felt like I needed a bit more milk to help the sweet and rich cookie go down but Ryan loved it.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is Tokyo by way of New York in the best way. There’s a combination of lighter Japanese inspired pastries along with a collection of very sweet decadent Americans treats. Whether you enjoy picking at something a bit more refreshing or want to be hit by saccharine sweetness this is the place to enjoy both worlds.

Tips
There is no table service on the first floor. You line up for your sweet treats and then find a seat to enjoy them. It’s a lot easier to come with someone else and have them scout out a table while you wait to order something in line, but when I came by myself it was also pretty easy to politely ask to sit next to another group on the communal table. The second floor has table service and a vastly different menu. There’s a 10% surcharge for ordering items from the first floor on the second floor. I think that the best way to experience both would be to head up to the second floor for a plated savoury or sweet and then heading down to take away a few more sweets for later, or just sitting down and indulging again.

There is also a take away only Patisserie Dominique Ansel located in Ginza for sweets on the go.

Website

Studio Ghibli Museum

For anyone with a passing interest in anime or animated films, Studio Ghibli is a big deal. Studio Ghibli’s films are famous for their sense of whimsy and wonder. The Studio Ghibli museum, located in Mitaka, is as much its own little magical wonderland as it is an informative look into the makings of Ghibli films.

Photos aren’t allowed inside the museum but you have free reign in the courtyards and rooftop. As an artist, my favourite sections were the rather romantic recreations of the studio and storyboards. Ryan preferred the lively evolution of the animated film. He was especially taken with an impressive rotating display featuring characters from My Neighbour Totoro.

There are a few options in the way of food. The takeout counter offers a very limited menu of snacks such as soft serve, hot dogs and drinks. For something a bit more substantial the Straw Hat Cafe serves curries, sandwiches and more. However, it is incredibly popular! When we passed by the wait time to get into the cafe was already at 2 hours. If you can’t wait that long I recommend leaving the museum and heading towards Inokashira park.

Cafe du Lievre is an incredibly charming cafe right in the middle of the trees, just 10 minutes walk away from the museum. Full glass windows and mismatched furniture continues the whimsical Ghibli theme without the need to wait. French style crepes, both sweet and savoury makeup most of the menu, but there’s also a wide range of teas and coffee to go along with your meal.

Tips

Tickets MUST be booked in advance. There are multiple ways to do this. if you have a decent grasp of Japanese and will be in Japan for some time, the cheapest way to do this is at a LAWSONS convenience store. Tickets go on sale on the 10th of each month for the following month. Even if you don’t understand Japanese just follow this simple guide for buying tickets from the Loppi machine and you’ll be fine.

Otherwise, the easiest method is to purchase through the JTB website of your country. Tickets go on sale on the first of each month for the following four months. This basically means that the best time to get tickets in four months in advance of your designated day. In return for the convenience and certainty of getting tickets through JTB, the prices are significantly more expensive.

There is an exclusive animated short film that ONLY shows at the Studio Ghibli Museum. It only shows at set times during the day, so it’s recommended that you arrive at least an hour before the museum closes to catch it.

Studio Ghibli museum

 

Shinjuku Views

There are plenty places where you can get a good view of the Tokyo cityscape. Tokyo tower and sky tree both immediately come to mind. However, I think that one of the best views of this city is from somewhere a little more mundane: the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. As an added bonus the observatory tower is totally free!

Located in West Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is actually a 15-minute walk from Shinjuku station proper. There’s an underground walkway which will you take you almost all of the way. Alternatively, above ground, it’s mostly rather grey office buildings. There’s not much around for tourists except for the observatories in each of the two towers. Not that you need much more than the wonderful view. You can get a pretty decent view of Tokyo tower and sky tree as well as the neighbouring office buildings. On exceptionally clear days it’s also possible to see Mount Fuji in the distance.

The South Observatory closes fairly early at 5:30pm but the North observatory stays open until 11pm. It’s the perfect spot to watch as the sun sets and the blue and red turns into dark navy and bright lights.

As an added bonus here are some photos taken near Shinjuku station. I wandered around the new terrace exit, up some escalators and a lift to a department store, restaurant and rooftop garden before being rewarded by these views.

With a little bit of wandering and a keen eye, it’s easy to see something a little bit unexpected.

 

 

Salon Bake & Tea

I like to think that I’m not a slave to pretty Instagram food trends, but sometimes I see something in my feed that is so arresting I can’t help but bookmark it for later. The very tall and very picturesque parfaits from Salon Bake & Tea immediately fell into this category. Before we get into this creation, a little more background on the cafe itself!

Salon Bake & Tea is another part of the Adam et Rope empire. In contrast to Salon Ginza Sabou, Bake & Tea is focused on European styled offerings. However, like Salon Ginza Sabou, the cafe is situated just past racks of clothes and other Adam et Rope goods. We popped by just after afternoon tea time to find it pleasantly half full. The clientele was mostly young ladies indulging their sweet tooth and gossiping with their friends. The space is bright and airy, but slightly upmarket thanks to being located within the rather fashionable NEWoman department store.

salon bake & tea

We sat at the end of the dessert counter which gave us a great view of the parfait being made.

parfait salon bake and tea

This impressive creation was a sight to behold. Layers of confiture, cream, mousse, granola were topped with an icy berry concoction sandwiched between choux pastry. As beautiful as this was, it was pretty darn difficult to eat. We ended up deconstructing it by taking off the choux pastry and iced berry and putting it on the serving plate. We alternated between mouthfuls of the more traditional parfait and the more eclectic icy pole like creation on top.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely won over by essentially sticking an icy pole on top of a parfait as it made the whole thing impossible to mix and enjoy every component in one mouthful. It was, however, very novel and we both agreed that the elements of the parfait individually were very high quality!

crepe salon bake and tea

My focus was entirely on the parfait, but this crepe was shockingly good. It ended up completely stealing the show for me and I would return just to eat more of this! Judging from all the cream I was expecting something rich and even a little cloying. Instead, what I got was somehow, soft and as light as air. I almost polished it off in three spoonfuls, before realising that I should share.

tea salon bake & tea

Just be warned, there is a minimum order of one drink per person. Unless your drink is ordered as part of a set the tea is incredibly expensive! I splashed out on this seasonal tea from Theodor tea. It was a light green variety with floral hints. The little timer meant that I could steep the tea perfectly to my own tastes. It definitely wasn’t worth the $15 I paid for it, but I’ll admit that it was good to finally have a perfect pot of tea on this trip.

Tips
The menu changes seasonally. They parfait flavour and composition changes accordingly. Sometimes they don’t offer these super instagrammable parfaits. So if you’re keen on the super tall parfait that is their signature make sure you check the menu on the website and the new items in their news section beforehand to make sure they have it! That said, even without super tall parfaits, the offerings at Salon Bake & Tea are worth trying if you’re a sweet tooth in Shinjuku with some time and money to spare!

Website

Imperial Palace Gardens

For a big and bustling city with an enormous population and so many high rise towers, there are a lot of gardens in Tokyo. Almost suddenly, everything is flat, green, fresh but somehow still tended to and minded carefully. A prime example if the Imperial Palace Gardens. You probably won’t be able to see the Imperial Household but it’s just a short stroll from Tokyo station!

 

At the entrance gate, we were given rather dinky plastic tickets that you have to return to the counter before 5pm. I’m guessing that this helps determine how many people there actually are in the park and if they have to go out searching for stragglers before locking up for the day. As an aside, am I the only one who finds it strange that so many Japanese parks, gardens and beaches have closing times? This would be almost unthinkable in Australia, apart from a few parks with historic houses and important buildings in them!

I can’t say that I’m all that fond of the rainy season in Japan. Intense humidity combined with downpours makes it hard to want to do anything. However, rainy season is also hydrangea season. I love the bright blue, pale blue and sometimes pastel blooms that seem to pop up almost everywhere around this time of year. They pretty much make it worth venturing outside in spite of the weather.

In the gardens, I became a bit entranced with the royal orchard. Although I suppose it can’t really be called an orchard since it is just a tiny collection of trees. I loved looking at the interesting and unique fruits and just imagining what they would look at taste like upon ripening.

There were plenty of people lounging around on the grass, flying kites and taking photos. This is a great spot for relaxing but I doubt this is one of the grandest or most inspiring parks in Japan or Tokyo. That said, I loved running amok amongst the hedges and gardens all the while getting a little bit lost.

 

Asakusa (by night)

Asakusa’s traditional Japanese architecture, stores and the iconic Sensoji temple draws in flocks of tourists all year round. It’s true that the massive bright red gates and rows of stores make quite the impression. If you’ve never been to Tokyo before, Asakusa is one of the first places people will recommend. After all, it’s one of the biggest vestiges of traditional Japan in central Tokyo. Despite all this, I feel like it is a bit overrated. The crowds can be way too much and the stores, for the most part, sell overpriced generic goods aimed directly at tourists. That said, I still find myself visiting Asakusa at least once every time I’m in Tokyo. That’s because Asakusa by night is an entirely different experience.

After all the shops have shut for the day and most of the people have left there is a lovely lull to the streets that you can’t experience during the day. The temple isn’t open but you can still see the gates and wander down the streets. I love seeing the modern take on traditional themes on all the shuttered stores.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there’s still some decidedly good food options around at night. With complete confidence in the recommendations from the Jimbocho Den staff we sought out Yutaka. For a better google search try Pork Cutlet Yutaka or Tonkatsu Yutaka.

I love a good tonkatsu and Yutaka is probably as good as it gets. The pork is freshly fried and the panko breading crisp but not at all greasy. The pork is juicy and has just enough fat to make the meal a bit of a guilty pleasure without leaving you feeling heavy.

After dinner is also the perfect time to pick up some purin from Testa Rossa cafe. Although a cafe by name, the store near sensoji is more of a purin stand with various flavours for you to pick up and take home. I fell in love with the adorable glass bottles that even have the lantern from kaminarimon on them!

Taste wise, this was actually some of the best purin I tried on the trip! Silky, smooth, creamy and not too eggy with just the right amount of bitter caramel.

asakusa view

This is the view that I can’t resist. A short stroll to the Sumida river and it gets really quiet and serene. The cityscape is notably lower and the only people are photographers setting up and couples on strolls. Would you believe that even after all these trips to Tokyo, I’ve never actually been to Sky Tree. On the other hand, I have taken many many photos of it from the other side of the Sumida river, like the one above.

If you’ve never been to Asakusa, or if you just want to see it under a slightly different light, definitely check it out after dark for the perfect low key Tokyo night.

asakusa me

Tips
If you desperately want to visit Sensoji and the shops during the day I highly suggest heading in a little before all the stores are open. That way you get to check out the shutter art, head into the temple and turn back to do some shopping without too many people in the way.

Links
Tonkatsu Yutaka
Testa Rossa