Places to Eat, Shop and Walk in Tokyo
First up in the Japan trip recap series of blog posts is this one on Tokyo – the capital city and epicenter of commerce in Japan. We spent a total of about 6 days in this city. I want to provide you with some highlights, as with my previous trip recaps, but this time, I also want to provide you with the names and details of some of our favourite spots visited while it is still fresh in my memory. In this way, this post will serve as a recap as well as a mini recommendation for places to eat and shop in Tokyo. I hope you enjoy reading!
If I had to pick a favourite cuisine, I’d probably pick either Japanese or Vietnamese food. So as one would expect, eating in Tokyo was amazing for me. It’s not all just fish and seafood. It’s not all raw either. There is an incredible variety to delight your taste buds with.
Some of the best restaurants in Tokyo that Bman and I dined at:
Nidaime Tsujita in Ochanomizu
We were staying in this area on the first leg of our Tokyo trip and this restaurant was about a 2 minute walk away from our hotel. Best first meal in Tokyo ever. If you’ve never had tsukemen, you need to try it out here. You order your food from and pay at a ticket machine outside, then head inside to wait for your freshly cooked noodles to arrive. Delicious.
Bakawarai Junsui Izakaya in Kichijoji
A Japanese bar serving up some pretty unique dishes and very fresh sashimi. The entire menu is in Japanese though and the staff speaks little English, so you need to either a) be able to read/speak Japanese or b) be ready to dine Russian roulette style. Luckily, we had Bman’s friend with us that day who was a local Japanese, so we just ate whatever he decided to order. Turned out great. We had some amazing tomato and beef soup, fresh sashimi, grilled cow tongue, and whole squid. Totally recommended.
Uogashi Nihonichi (Standing sushi bar) in Nakano
A stand-up sushi bar serving up order by order nigiri. Crazy delicious and super cheap. 8 piece nigiri set lunch with miso soup for about $7 CAD. In Canada, an 8 piece nigiri set could easily cost double that amount. Ask for the English menu if you can’t read/speak Japanese. Uogashi Nihonichi serves up an incredible array of fish and seafood. Bman and I particularly loved the aburi flounder. My mouth is watering as we speak.
*A couple of things to note with regards to dining in Japan: making restaurant reservations is rather difficult for foreigners and queues for well-known good restaurants without reservations are often 1+ hour long waits. If you don’t have a reservation, try to eat earlier in the evening as most Japanese people eat later (7 or 8 pm is the biggest dinner rush).
Shopping in Tokyo is so much fun. Even if you are only window shopping and wishing that you could actually buy everything and bring it all home. Everything from international luxury brands to local establishments is beautifully presented with the most excellent care in customer service. The shopping experience is first class in that not only do you receive unrivalled variety in choice but also in service.
What I love about shopping in Japan, and particularly in Tokyo is that there is something for every budget. Shopping in large European cities often proved to be dauntingly unaffordable for me. Whereas shopping in some major Asian cities were often flocked with cheap, poor quality goods. Tokyo is great in that you get access to the full range – in price, without the compromise in quality. Quality is almost always good, even if the product is relatively inexpensive. You can find a great variety of things to shop for from fashion, cosmetics, housewares/household goods, books/anime, electronics, to arts and crafts.
What I also love about shopping in Tokyo is the selection. Even if you are buying something from an international brand, you get more models, colours, and styles to choose from. This makes shopping for European or other international brands in Tokyo worthwhile for me.
Without further ado, here is a quick breakdown of some of my favourite areas for shopping in Tokyo:
In my mind, Harajuku represents the quintessential young and modern Japan. Its streets are lined with small shops that sell pop-culture fashions and accessories. Even the dining options, such as cat cafes, are cute and eclectic. It is a joy to just walk around and observe the people, fashions and culture of this area.
There is one major shopping complex in this area and that is La Foret. La Foret is a bustling, chaotic, multilevel shopping complex selling the iconic Lolita fashion and other teenage/young adult Harajuku fashions and accessories. While the fashions sold in La Foret did not particularly appeal to me, I did find myself a new light jacket in the attached Vivienne Westwood store on the ground floor. I had come at the right time – they had a 60% off sale making some items in the store more affordable for me. The rest of Harajuku and La Foret are much more affordable even without sales though. Bman picked up some nice shoes from the Japanese Jade Crew shop for around $70 CAD. Harajuku is an eccentric, fun and unique Tokyo experience.
Right next to Harajuku is Omotesando, which contains the large shopping complex, Omotesando Hills. I loved Omotesando Hills for its unique, lesser-known and more upscale brands. We walked through a few really nice fine jewelry stores. I couldn’t afford anything in this complex, but it was still nice to window-shop it. Elegant would be how I’d describe its ambiance.
Shinjuku train station itself is a maze of interconnected shopping complexes. One can easily get lost in there for hours just perusing the multitude of shops and restaurants. (Just to give you an idea of the size of the “train station” – it took us about half an hour to walk from one end to the other with concerted effort. It is impressive all on its own.)
However, outside of the train station, is another massive shopping and entertainment district. While Harajuku and Omotesando cater more to fashion and jewelry shoppers, Shinjuku really serves it all up. You can find clothing, cosmetics, furniture, books, electronics and more in this area. You will find international brands as well as Japanese brands. However, if you are looking for really luxurious brands (ie. Luis Vuitton, Laboutin, etc.), Ginza is probably a better option for you. If I dare say, Shinjuku is more for the middle-class shopper. Perfect for me.
Some notable mentions of shops that Bman and I enjoyed checking out in Shinjuku:
This is a combined shopping complex carrying the Uniqlo clothing brand as well as Bic electronics. We probably spent about three to four hours total in this maze. There’s just so much stuff on every single floor. You want laptops? Check. Speakers? Check. Luggage? Check. Shower heads? Check. Camera lenses? Super check. Then, when you’re done with the Bic side, you’ve got like four to six floors of Uniqlo to go. It’s just insane, but so much fun at the same time.
Get the cold matcha drink and/or matcha ice cream from the Kinokuniya tea shop, Kino Chaya, on the ground floor. Soooo good. Food aside, you’ve got eleven floors of books, anime and stationary to explore. Bman and I particularly enjoyed the floor for foreigners (selling Japanese language learning books, Japanese cookbooks in English, and other books in English) and the ground floor with the stationary and anime products. Bman picked up a few Japanese language-learning books and I got a few Japanese cuisine cookbooks (in English). If you’re a book enthusiast or a matcha green tea lover, this is the place to go.
Isetan is a large, multi-floor department store carrying both Japanese and international brands for women and men. They largely sell clothes and accessories. Tokyu is the other major department store in Tokyo (and across Japan), but Isetan is more… fashion forward? Trendy? Young? I don’t quite know the word to describe it, but I like it. It is more on the expensive side though. I got a cute, albeit expensive, coin purse designed by Kansai Yamamoto from here. If you’ve got some money to spend and love clothing shopping, you should do a stop here.
IDC Otsuka Kagu
A modern, moderately priced Japanese furniture store. Even though you are not likely to buy furniture to bring back home from Japan, I still think this store is worth at least a quick look around. Get a taste of simple but elegant Japanese interior design. When I was visiting, they also had a Marvel comics and Star Wars feature going on, which was super cool. Japanese teacups adorned with cute Stormtrooper prints. Bujinga paintings of Darth Vader. Dinnerware sets featuring Spiderman, Ironman, and Captain America symbols. All elegantly designed. Not like the plastic Spiderman sippy cup from your local Disney store. IDC Otsuka is a lovely shop to browse.
Ains & Tulpe
A Japanese drug store that sells more beauty products than actual drugs. Made up of three floors, this shop is a wonderland for the beauty and skincare enthusiast. Ains & Tulpe sells brands that are not typically found in the more expensive department stores (though there are some crossovers). They also sell some beauty gadgets (like mini portable humidifiers that you could attach to your water bottle at work). Really enjoyed looking through everything, but I did also admittedly buy a lot from here (like most of my skincare haul from Japan).
Each district in Tokyo has a relatively distinct look and feel. So just walking around the different areas was interesting enough all on its own. I’ve already mentioned a few of my favourite districts above, but here’s a quick summary and a couple more that’s worth pointing out:
Harajuku and Shinjuku were probably my two favourite areas that are more well-known to tourists. Great for eating, shopping and taking in the streetscape.
Kichijoji and Nakano are the two areas that are more “off the beaten path” that I really enjoyed. There are also good shopping and food options in these areas. Nakano is great for anime stuff. Kichijoji, while we didn’t get to explore it in depth, seems to have an abundance of more common and affordable Japanese brands. Plus, I also heard there is Milk Kobo shop in Kichijoji, making it a must go destination in my opinion. I went to the Milk Kobo in Hokkaido and their Hokkaido milk desserts are absolutely to die for.
Akihabara is also worth a quick walk around just to see the buildings flooded with colourful anime billboards. If you are an anime aficionado, then definitely come here.
The options in Tokyo for dining and shopping can actually be overwhelming (just how do you know where to go) but it can also be so much fun for that very same reason. Getting lost in it all is the best way to take it all in.
If anyone has visited any of the restaurants or shops I have mentioned, I would love to hear what you thought of them in the comments below. Or if you have any recommendations of restaurants and shops that must be visited in Tokyo, please also share! I’d love to hear from you as I plan on returning to Tokyo again in the future. 😀