- More about your oliver guide: Amy Rabe
- Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Solo, City
- Activity level: easy
- Ideal length of trip: 4 nights (before going off to ski - or taking the train to Kyoto!). If you have more time, of course more is better!
to & from
We flew direct from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) on United Airlines. There are also direct flights from SFO to HND on American Airlines and Japan Airlines. If possible, I highly recommend flying into Haneda airport (HND) versus Tokyo’s larger Narita airport (NRT) because HND is smaller, quicker and closer to central Tokyo – making your arrival and departure that much more enjoyable.
Where to Stay
- We stayed at The Peninsula Hotel which was warm and welcoming while also providing complete comfort and excellent service.
- The Park Hyatt Tokyo, where Lost In Translation was filmed, is a favorite among friends.
- Westin, Ritz-Carlton, and Mandarin Oriental all have properties there, as well as many more.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Ramen, ramen, and more ramen! Afuri. Named after a sacred mountain, Mt. Afuri, this charming, cozy & cool ramen place serves light, refreshing and delicate ramen that will not disappoint.
- Rokurinsha: Ramen in the basement of the Tokyo train station! David Chang (of Momofuku), delivers with tsukemen (where the noodles & broth(s) are served separately) that is worth the wait.
- Sushi for breakfast, sushi for lunch, sushi for dinner! Sukiyabashi Jiro Sushi. Maintaining the family’s long legacy of sushi excellence, the son of Jiro creates sushi art and is talkative and accessible throughout the experience.
- Robataya: Traditional Japanese cuisine where the ingredients are so fresh, there is no menu!
- Shozo Coffee is a stylish, little coffee nook in Harajuku. It’s a perfect place for an afternoon coffee & a freshly baked sweet while walking & shopping through trendy Harajuku.
- Friends, and Tokyo veterans, recommend Down the Stairs for a delicious & cozy lunch. It was closed when I was there, but I will try it next time.
What to Do
- Take an early morning run – or walk – around the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda.
- Take your mid-morning coffee to the Tsujiki Fish Market and take in the scale and importance of the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market.
- Enjoy the tree-lined walk into the Meiji Shrine. And then delight in the rituals & prayer associated with the beautiful shrine & surrounding area.
- Walk throughout the streets, neighborhoods, and boutiques of Harajuku, taking in a hint of the Japanese pop culture and the funky & fashionable storefronts.
- Head to Daikanyama which is commonly referred to as the Brooklyn of Tokyo. It’s off the beaten tourist track which is why it’s a worthwhile jaunt. While there, be sure to enjoy a leisurely stay at T-site, the stunning bookstore (and so much more).
- Pop into the new Yayoi Kusama Museum for a hit of vibrant color from an interesting Japanese artist.
- The Japanese are timely, polite, and rule-abiding people. Try to be the same and it will go a long way in your interactions with them.
- Don’t tip. Although it is very uncomfortable for us Americans to refrain, tipping is not customary in their country, nor is it expected (and sometimes it causes confusion).
Skip the 4:00am arrival to the Tsukiji Fish Market for the live tuna auction. Nowadays, it is a lottery system – and limited to 120 visitors per day – so there is no guarantee that you would get in. I went after breakfast and leisurely took in the scale of the market & the neighboring food stalls – and thoroughly enjoyed it that way.
There is a great shopping in Tokyo, as you would imagine. The Prada store is beautiful, inside & out – the building itself is unique. Other noteworthy shops are Dover Street Market, Comme des Garcon, Sonia Rykiel, Isabel Marant, No. 21, and T-Site. There are so many more, of course, all of the large fashion brands are there – and then there are so many small Japanese lines that are inspiring to see. Happy walking, happy looking!