Tea is indispensable in Japanese life. One of my favorite cafes is Kosoan, set in a conventional home constructed over a century in the past – the vintage furnishings provides to the refined decor. Busy Tokyo feels a world away as you gaze on the pretty Japanese backyard. It’s a soothing cease for a bowl of matcha. Also strive Cha Cha No Ma in Harajuku, the place tea “sommelier” Yoshi Watada serves teas from throughout Japan, accompanied by do-it-yourself sweets (chachanoma.com). If you need to purchase sweets, go to Mizuho in the identical space; it sells two issues: mame daifuku, mochi rice cake filled with pink bean paste, and monaka, wafers crammed with bean paste.
• Kosoan, 1-24-23 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, kosoan.co.jp
Gardens and temples
Manganji Temple Todoroki Fudoson. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
Tokyo is a busy metropolis, however there are numerous temples, shrines and gardens to supply refuge from the crowds and neon lights. Hamarikyu Gardens, close to Ginza (1-1 Hamarikyu Teien), was owned by a feudal lord throughout the Edo interval and is protected as a historic web site. The water that runs via the backyard comes immediately from the ocean, so you might even spot jellyfish. Shinjuku Gyoen nationwide backyard in Shinjuku-ku (11 Naitomachi) is a good place 12 months spherical, with cherry blossoms in spring, crape myrtles in summer season, pink and gold leaves in autumn, and plum blossom in late winter. Among probably the most lovely temples are Manganji Temple Todoroki Fudoson, in Setagaya-ku close to Todoroki Keikoku gorge, with greater than 150 cherry bushes within the grounds.
Pass-the-Baton. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
Tokyo is a tremendous place to buy – from cool designer outfitters to fairly stationery emporiums. You can discover good classic too, although – I like Pass the Baton, which has branches in Marunouchi Brick Square and Omotesando. It sells pre-loved and upcycled garments and equipment. Much of the stock was beforehand owned by individuals within the vogue business. For pared-down, fashionable Japanese womenswear strive HYKE in Shinjuku, launched by two native designers in 2013: there’s plenty of khaki and black but it surely’s by no means boring. Men may head to Studious in Harajuku space, which solely shares garments by Tokyo manufacturers, together with Miyahara Yasuhiro and Undercover, in addition to rising designers. The depachika meals halls are undoubtedly value a browse; they promote every thing from forms of bento to superbly packaged cookies and Japanese sweets comparable to dorayaki (small pancakes with bean paste). Tokyu Norengai, opened in 1951, was the primary one, although the situation has barely modified (tokyu-dept.co.jp).
DiCE Ikebukuro in Toshima-ku is the biggest manga kissa – much like an web cafe – in Tokyo. They stock about 180,000 manga titles on eight flooring (1-11-11 Higashi-Ikebukuro, diskcity.co.jp). You pay an hourly price, and there are PCs, bathe rooms and bars. There’s even an ice-cream machine and a karaoke facility. Nakano Broadway (5-52 Nakano, Nakano-ku) is a must-see if you wish to expertise Tokyo’s subculture. Here yow will discover newly-published manga and uncommon first-editions in addition to figures and buying and selling playing cards. You could discover collectibles of anime characters that you just watched on TV if you have been a child. It could be dear.
Fukube sake bar
Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
While this izakaya (Japanese-style pub) in Marunouchi within the coronary heart of city has been in business for greater than 80 years, its collection of sake hasn’t modified a lot because the early days. They serve round 40 manufacturers of sake (an ochoko – a small cup – is about 600 yen or £Four). In Japan, individuals eat whereas they drink, so meals is simply as vital as the standard of the drinks in a bar. The proprietor goes to Tsukiji fish market day by day to purchase the catch of the day, and the numerous menu consists of grilled fish and oden (a kind of pot dish). Other good choices embody Kuri, a small bar in Chuo-ko (6-Four-15 Ginza) which serves as much as 100 manufacturers of sake and 20 manufacturers of shochu, and Utou in upmarket Nishi-Ogikubo (Three-31-10 Nishiogi-Kita), mentioned to serve the perfect heat sake in all of Japan. The oden with a ginger and miso paste are additionally wonderful. You can go to Koyama Shuzo, a sake brewery in Kita-ku established in 1879, to study in regards to the brewing course of.
• Fukube, 1-Four-5 Yaesu, Chuo-ku
Metropolitan government constructing statement decks. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
To admire the size and insanity of Tokyo, see it from above. There are a number of nice free statement platforms. In Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Decks on the 45th flooring have unobstructed views of Tokyo from 202 metres (2-Eight-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, metro.tokyo.jp/). It’s open on weekends although the workplaces are closed. Nearby is Yebisu Garden Place Tower Sky Lounge, in a fancy of business buildings on the location of a former beer brewery (gardenplace.jp). The lounge is on the 38th and 39th flooring – on a transparent day you would possibly even be capable to spot Mount Fuji.
Dogenzaka Isari. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
It is feasible to seize an affordable meal in Tokyo – search for a “one-coin” menu (500 yen or round £Three.50). In Shibuya Dogenzaka, Isari’s (1-6-5 Dogenzaka) presents Isari Don, its signature dish, a bowl of rice topped with sashimi marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with miso soup and pickles. The different lunch menus are barely costlier however nonetheless inexpensive. In Ebisu is Ichiyoshi (1-Four-1 Ebisu), an izakaya that provides a 500 yen lunch of mushidori no yakumi kake (steamed hen topped with relish and fragrant greens). Kintaro in Shinjuku (5-18-16 Shinjuku-ku) has a set meal of sukiyaki (thinly-sliced beef cooked in sauce) for 500 yen. It comes with miso soup, salad, pickles and a bowl of rice. The high quality and value imply it’s at all times jam-packed throughout lunch hour.
21_21 Design Sight
Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
Pritzker Prize-winning Tadao Ando is one in all Japan’s most influential architects and guests can spot his buildings round city. 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo Midtown is a design museum created with designer Issey Miyake with a number of galleries and a putting concrete and metal exterior. The Tokyo Art Museum is one other instance of his work, on what is named Sengawa Ando Street, which has a number of buildings designed by Ando as a part of an city planning challenge in Sengawa. Among different smaller museums (and never by Ando), my favorite is Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum in Minato-ku. It was the home and studio of the avant garde painter and sculptor – his best-known work is the Tower of the Sun in Osaka – who died in 1996. There’s additionally a wonderful cafe.
• 2121designsight.jp; tokyoartmuseum.com; taro-okamoto.or.jp
Bars in Kabukicho
Tachibana Shinryoshitsu. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
It would possibly sound unusual however the idea of Tachibana Shinsatsushitsu, a bar in Shinjuku-ku (1-1-Eight Kabukicho), is a hospital ready room. The employees put on nurse uniforms and the cocktails have hospital-related names. If you don’t perceive Japanese, ask the nurse. But be warned, a number of the names are somewhat racy! Also within the space is Bar Uramen (1-1-7 Kabukicho), a themed otaku bar (a Japanese time period for individuals with obsessive pursuits, usually in anime and manga). Here you’ll discover a assortment home equipment and digital devices in addition to retro video games. Enjoy drinks with a game – they have roughly 600 FamiCom cassettes – whereas listening to some weirdly cool music.
Sushi eating places
Photograph: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images
For good, cheap sushi (round 2,000 yen, excluding drinks), strive Roppo Sushi, close to Jinbocho subway station (1-11-Eight Kanda Jinbocho Chiyoda-ku). The pickles they serve between dishes are equally scrumptious, and you may watch the cooks work whilst you eat. There are solely 12 counter seats, so it will probably get very busy in a short time. Alternatively, Sushi No Midori is without doubt one of the hottest sushi eating places in Tokyo, with branches in Shibuya, Ginza and elsewhere. Its signature Ganso Anago is an entire conger eel on prime of rice. Check in on-line so that you don’t have to queue (sushinomidori.co.jp). Or strive 468 in Taito-ku (Three-23-14 Nishi-Asakusa). Their identify is pronounced “yo-roppa”, the Japanese phrase for “Europe”. This small sushi restaurant has solely six seats and serves bo-sushi or “loaf sushi”, ready by layering fish and rice in an extended, skinny wood field. You may also order takeaway by cellphone.
This is an extract from The 500 Hidden Secrets of Tokyo by Yukiko Tajima (revealed by Luster Publications, €16.95)
Way to go
British Airways, Japan Airlines and All Nipon Airways fly direct to Tokyo from Heathrow from about £600 return. Indirect flights by way of Europe or, say Hong Kong, could be cheaper. Tokyo has two main airports: Narita (45 miles from the town centre) and Haneda (16 miles).
When to travel
Avoid Golden Week (late April/early May) when costs improve drastically. The cherry blossom season (mid-April) is spectacular however costs additionally rise – however extra so in Kyoto than Tokyo. Instead, go to in mid-March to catch the opposite spring spotlight, plum blossom. The wet season (mid-June to mid-July) is cheaper and fewer crowded. August is the most well liked month with common highs of 29C. January and December are the driest months with rain on three days, however common highs are at round 10C and lows are 2C.
£1 = ¥149
Beer (pint) from about £Four