This busy noodle bar specializes in tsukemen, a popular style of ramen in Tokyo, where a bowl of plain noodles is served next to a rich soup. Dip your noodles in the broth, slurp, and repeat until you’re finished or ready for a noodle top up. This nondescript ramen shop, hidden in the basement of Tokyo station, is a local favourite so wait times can reach up to 40 minutes.
Try the bacon cheeseburger, complete with soft buns, perfectly seasoned grilled patty, cheddar cheese, bacon and crispy lettuce at this burger joint near Yoyogi station. Order your sandwich to go and picnic at nearby Yoyogi Park.
With an ever-present smile on his face, Chef Kenzo Sato puts together a traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner made from local ingredients. The cherrystone clam and wild mushroom soup is topped with savoury custard, while a piece of Bonito fish is lightly seared and then delicately garnished with ginger and chopped green onions.
6-35-3 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo81-3-3400-4044
For high-end sushi
There are seven seats and no menu (except for the sake list) at this restaurant in Roppongi. Let Chef Masa and his apprentices guide you through an extensive tasting-menu featuring over 40 sushi pieces, such as lightly-grilled golden eye sea bream nigiri and monk fish liver. Make sure to reserve your seats at least a month in advance.
4-1-15 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo81-3-3499-9178
Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime
For affordable sushi
This sushi restaurant offers an upscale dining experience without making an enormous dent in your budget. Try the bright red tuna sashimi and the raw prawn nigiri, served on a pillow of rice.
4-6-16 Ginza, Tokyo81-3-3561-7021ginzadining.com
For a coffee and afternoon snack
Fuglen stands out on the Tokyo coffee scene, thanks to its espresso and its decor, an eclectic mix of dark teak wood, mid-century furniture and vintage paraphernalia. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon pick-me-up and a quick bite after visiting the nearby Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.
Japanese label Arts&Science’s foray into the restaurant world is a canteen located “down the stairs” from their concept boutique in the Aoyama district. The open kitchen serves healthy Japanese dishes and salads on plates by Astier de (the glassware is by Japanese artist Kazumi Tsuji).
Presiding over a counter crafted from a 500-year-old slab of mizunara oak, Gen Yamamoto is one of Tokyo’s most famous bartenders. The cocktail menu at this his eight-seat bar showcases national ingredients like Nagano quince, Miyazaki kumquat and Fukuoka strawberry.
The five-kilometre trail around the Imperial Palace is a favourite for runners from dawn to dusk. Soak in the views of Edo Castle before stopping at the Run Pit, near the Takebashi subway station, where change rooms and showers are available.
1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo81-3-3213-1111sankan.kunaicho.go.jp
For views of the cherry blossoms
Hanami, literally meaning “flower viewing,” refers to the period between March and April when people all over the nation stand in awe of Japan’s pink cherry blossoms. For a magical hanami experience, rent a boat at Chidorigafuchi Moat and paddle through the sakura-covered waters surrounding the Imperial Palace.
Known for its elegant take on wardrobe essentials, quality craftsmanship and collaborations with big names like Adidas, this Japanese retailer has over 160 stores nationwide. United Arrows Women is a block away.
Spanning three buildings, the Daikanyama T-Site has the city’s largest collection of books, manga and magazines. The award-winning modernist complex is worth a trip just to see its basket-weave façade. The Anjin Library & Lounge offers an on-site cocktail bar and a dining menu.
17-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo03-3770-2525
For understated housewares
Muji’s creative team scoured the world, amassing mainstay housewares that fit the Muji philosophy of well-crafted minimalism – think Chinese bamboo steamers, Indian tiffin lunch boxes and English teaspoons.
Make like a local in the Kawaii mecca and enjoy a sweet crêpe from Angels Heart on Takeshita Dori, the neighbourhood’s main street. Then head to Kiddy Land, one of the city’s largest toy stores, and check out the floors that are entirely dedicated to Hello Kitty and Snoopy.
Overlooking the verdant Hamarikyu Gardens and Tokyo Bay beyond, this five-star gem mixes refined modern art with the crisp details of spacious rooms – details like the five-inch sprig of ming fern (tachiboki) in a vase at each entryway. The hotel is located adjacent to the shopping hub of Ginza, but be sure to save a little energy at the end of the day for the spa and 25-metre swimming pool on the 29th floor.
After a day of exploring the city, unwind at the discrete Royal Bar with a selection of elevated classic cocktails, like the specialty dry martini made with Gordon’s gin and Noilly Prat vermouth and spiced with Noord’s orange bitters. Dating back to 1961, the highly polished bar counter was salvaged after renovations in 2012 and is a legacy of the hotel’s first bartender, known as “Mr. Martini.”
1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo81-3-3211-5211en.palacehoteltokyo.com
For the tradition
One of the few remaining Ryokans in central Tokyo, Sadachiyo is a quiet haven in the bustling metropolis. Furnished with tatami mats and traditional futons and equipped with Wi-Fi, the rooms let you experience the comfort and novelty of an Edo-period inn while allowing you to remain connected. If you want to check out completely, head for the communal Japanese baths for a blissfully relaxing experience.
Tokyu Stay offers comfortable rooms with minimalist decor that come with free WI-FI, a flat-screen TV and a trouser press. For long-term stays, the hotel offers rooms equipped with a washer-dryer combo, a microwave and a small kitchenette. Located only a few blocks from Shinjuku station, this fuss-free hotel the ideal starting point to explore historical landmarks like Meiji Shrine.
Claska offers bright accommodations categorized under four themes that blend old and new: Modern, Tatami, Contemporary and Story. The hotel’s rooftop terrace offers breathtaking views over the city and beyond Tokyo’s Meguro neighbourhood.
Connected to Tokyo’s central train station, the bellman of this 57-room property greets guests arriving by train and guides them through the hotel’s side entrance. A family-friendly haven, the Four Seasons helps reduce the stress of travelling with children by providing complimentary baby and children’s toiletries, child-size bathrobes and bedtime snacks and milk.
1-11-1 Pacific Century Place, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo81-3-5222-7222fourseasons.com/tokyo
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
From Narita International Airport (NRT) Tokyo’s Narita International Airport is about a 50-minute train ride from the city. Ride the Narita Express to Tokyo station or if you don’t mind a longer ride, take one of the limousine buses that leave from right outside the arrivals terminal. (The buses are orange, and you can buy a ticket at the counter inside.)
From Haneda Airport (HND) Take the Tokyo Monorail or a Keikyu train for the 35-minute ride from Haneda Airport to Tokyo Station. Taxi fare from the airport to central Tokyo costs between 5 000 ¥ and 11 000 ¥ and takes about 25 to 45 minutes, depending on your destination.
Tokyo is rail and pedestrian heaven; there really is no need to rent a car. Even if you’re planning a one-day excursion as far as the mountain town of Nagano, the trains will get you there.
The subway can be intimidating at rush hour due to the amount of people. Otherwise, the train system is clean and always on time. Fares are calculated based on distance travelled on any given trip. Navigate most lines easily with The Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Day Pass which costs about 1 000 ¥.
For late-night adventures, you can find a taxi just about anywhere, but they’re not cheap – even a short ride can cost you 870 ¥. Remember: no tipping, and don’t close the door on your way out of the car – it’s automatic.
Canadian illustrator Justine Wong takes us to her favourite spots.
By Samantha Edwards
Justine Wong moved to Tokyo in 2016, after falling in love with its flashy city life on a trip a year earlier. While the Toronto native (whose watercolour illustrations have appeared in The Walrus and Lucky Peach) recently returned home, she spent a year eating her way through the city and forming a community with other expat illustrators. “My favourite thing about Tokyo is how vast it is. It’s filled with possibilities.”
1. Jomon Roppongi
Jomon is what you’d expect of a classic izakaya – steamy and intimate. Since all the dishes are shareable, it’s best to go with friends so you can try a bit of everything. I recommend the homemade sesame tofu and the deep-fried croquette, which is filled with a runny egg yolk.
Although it’s located in a residential neighbourhood on the west side of Tokyo, when you’re in this overgrown park, it’s like you’re not in the city anymore. A few old shrines and wooden seats dot the path that runs alongside the Yazawa-gawa river. I like to bring a bento box and eat my lunch here.
The owners of this hostel are really into surfing, so even though the interiors have a Japanese esthetic with dark wood and white walls, there are surfboards throughout. They wanted it to be a space for travellers and their friends to gather, which is why they host art exhibits almost every month. It’s also a nice place to grab a midday beer or coffee.
This tea house serves classic Japanese desserts, like anmitsu, which is fruit on a bed of jelly served with sweet syrup. When you enter, you remove your shoes and shuffle on tatami mats to a low table. On a rainy afternoon, I like to sit by the windows that overlook the lush garden, when a hot matcha is paired with the sound of the rain.