Grant and I have always wanted to visit Japan during their infamous Cherry Blossom season, and we finally got the chance to when he had to make a visa run out of Taiwan! We only had 4 days in Tokyo, but even in that short amount of time, we fell madly in love with the city and its culture. Here are a few of our favorite things from our trip:
We visited Yoyogi Park, Shinjuki Gyoen, and Chiyoda in our search for clusters of Cherry Blossom trees, and we surprised to find that each was a massive park the size of Central Park in NYC, and each had its own vibe. The weather was still a bit cold in April, but we easily could have spent all day at any of these parks if the sun was out. Fortunately for us, there was a small festival going on in Yoyogi Park with live music, vendors, and loads of cool people. Within each park, there were plenty of beautiful shrines to walk around and explore. Residents of Tokyo are really lucky to have such amazing green space in their city to use at their disposal.
Oh man, the ramen. We had no idea this noodle soup could be so good – we’ve been eating it totally wrong our whole lives. We got it for dinner two nights and both were mind blowingly delicious. The broth, the meat, the noodles were all cooked to perfection. You can’t miss out on this dish when you go to Tokyo.
Weird Dining Experiences
One of the reasons I wanted to travel to Tokyo was for its restaurant scene. I made sure we got a proper welcome into this weird and wonderful city by checking out restaurants like The Lockup and Robot Restaurant. The Lockup was interesting because it was so unpredictable, going into a jail cell and having an alarm sound while wait staff informed us that the “monsters have gotten out” and a surprise thereafter kept us on the edge of our seat. I must say, the food was pretty awful but if you just go for a drink and the atmosphere, you’ll enjoy yourself. Robot Restaurant was one of the most entertaining shows we’ve ever seen! The crowd was mostly other white tourists and it wasn’t cheap to buy tickets, but it was one of those things you just kinda have to do while in Tokyo; it was colorful, hilarious, unpredictable and creative.
Cherry Blossom Trees
This is an obvious one. In the spring, Tokyo comes alive with all the flowers blooming on the trees. It really doesn’t matter where in the city you are, the trees are all around and bring so much beauty to the mundane. We felt so lucky to have scheduled our trip at the right time this year!
Obviously a can’t-miss in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market, so when we headed over there around lunch time we realized getting a bite to eat would be challenging with so many people doing the same. Luckily, I had a saved pin on google of a restaurant just outside the heart of the market, so Grant and I walked a little to find some much quieter and super quaint sushi joints. They were so small you couldn’t even fit two people in the aisle and had stay outside to allow people to leave before sitting down at the sushi bar. We found one that looked good and although it was going to be a bit more expensive for the “chef’s special meal of the day,” we knew we had to trust in their decision making and just go with the flow. I’m not very adventurous with my sushi (I’m the “deep fried and California roll” kind of person) but I was glad to try new sashimi and to experiment with fish I didn’t even ask the name of. The sushi was really fresh, the experience was phenomenal, and we just felt so connected to Japan in that small restaurant. It was a highlight of the trip for sure.
We did the typical touristy things in Harajuku such as eating a crepe, checking out the cutesy costume and candy stores along the street, and shopping in a few of the many thrift stores that dot this district. The charm of some of the back alleyways was really surprising. There weren’t many people walking around off the main road and it was fun discovering what was around each bend. They had some really beautiful architecture and it was just a nice, quiet way to take Tokyo in.
Tokyo integrates different types of personalities so seamlessly. The Taito Game Station we visited opened our eyes to how in this large city, even seemingly niche hobbies can occupy really large spaces and people have a place to just be their weird selves. If you really like video games, that’s cool. If you really like dressing like a school girl, that’s cool. If you’re really into anime, that’s cool. If you’re literally anything else, that’s cool too. It just seems like a very accepting place. Good for you, Tokyo.
The Modernity of the City
Tokyo was our favorite city ever. We’ve visited a lot over the past few years but none have even come close to it in terms of convenience to get around, cleanliness of the streets, accessibility of the sidewalks, and ease of understanding it all even if it takes a few go around on the metro to feel comfortable. It also felt incredibly safe. The neighborhood in which we had our Airbnb felt like we were in a movie it was just so welcoming and quiet. I wished for more time to simply get to walk around and know each district better.