Our TWIL Client, Jesse Silvertown, recently returned from Tokyo where he stayed at Andaz. Jesse was kind enough to share his feedback with TWIL.
Our hotel - the Andaz Tokyo - came highly recommended, and it immediately became clear why; Like many hotels in Tokyo, the Andaz is located within a large office tower, occupying various floors from 38-52 and offering stunning views from the rooms and the pool. The Andaz mixes Japanese and Western designs well, and despite being fairly minimalist, is much more modern than it's sister property, the Park Hyatt Tokyo. If you're a cinephile, you might remember the Park Hyatt from the movie "Lost in Translation", a movie that speaks to me more than ever before now that I've visited Tokyo. If you have been - or are planning to go - to Tokyo as a tourist, do yourself a favour and watch that movie.
Breakfast at Tsukiji is also a thing, for those wanting to actually eat some of the insane quantity of fish inside the market. The restaurants are located in the outer market - think rows of numbered buildings - and there are no shortage of options. You'll likely hear about some of the more famous ones - like Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi - but those will usually have lines of 1-2 hours or more. The truth is that you can't go wrong with any restaurant. We wandered around, looked at some menus (in Japanese with pictures), and ultimately settled on a Kaisen-don (sashimi over rice) spot called Nakaya.
One of our favourite activities throughout the trip was simply wandering aimlessly through local neighborhoods. Our goal was to learn about local culture, while still somehow avoiding getting completely lost. One area in Tokyo that we particularly enjoyed was Ueno, which is famous for a series of side streets that run underneath and adjacent to the train tracks. There's no shortage of outdoor market space for those of you who want to hunt for local goods. Food is also a significant part of Ueno's appeal, especially if you're looking for traditional Japanese fare like dumplings, yakitori and eel. We chose an Eel spot which - despite putting foreigners like us upstairs - was excellent.
Harajuku is another destination that I would highly recommend. Located near the Shibuya area of Tokyo, Harajuku is a hub of shopping, culture and vibrant activity that features large international chains as well as small, independent stores. Harajuku is right near the Meiji Shrine, a popular tourist destination that is worth a visit as well. Nearby the hustle of Harajuku is the residential area of Shibuya proper, which is worth a walk through if only to see a different side of the famously active Tokyo. We were lucky enough to have a local take us through before lunch at Okei Sushi (a loose translation). Okei deserves its own post, but on a high level, a sushiya in a residential neighborhood, recommended by locals, serving a lunch omakase for the equivalent of US $40? Sign me up.
It's been said before - by smarter people than me - that it's hard to have a bad meal in Tokyo. But when you're only there for two dinners, the pressure was on to make selections worthy of the moment. Sushisho Masa - a subterranean sushiya in Rappongi Hills - was at the top of my list, both because of the public reviews and private recommendations. Sushisho Masa deserves its own review also, but a few points are worth highlighting: the Omakase was - and this is no joke - at least 30 courses, featuring raw and cooked versions of delicious Buri (adult yellowtail), Sea Bream, Sawada (Spanish Mackerel) and many others. I'd recommend making a reservation a month in advance through your hotel (they'll ask for your credit card), going hungry, and being friendly - though the four sushi chefs behind the counter don't speak perfect english, they are conversational and will happily show you their "book of fish" to help you recognize what's on your plate.
We also ate at Tempura Kondo, a well-regarded Tempura focused restaurant in Ginza. At Kondo, they make everything right in front of you using batter, oil and some killer knife skills. Was it worth the $130 US per person for dinner? I'm not sure, but I do know that the tempura was far better than the popcorn shrimp style that the U.S is familiar for. Again though, it's hard to have a truly bad meal in Tokyo because the sheer quality of food offerings is immense