Even though I’ve been to Japan over 10 times, I had never visited the capital!
We visited Tokyo twice during our trip and we were both excited to explore the metropolitan city. Our first stay in the city was at 1899, a small boutique hotel. Of course rooms were smaller compared to other cities we had visited but that’s what I expected in Tokyo.
We were pretty tired from our travels from Yudanaka so we relaxed most of the day which means walking around and eating! First stop was acclaimed pastry store, Patisserie Satsuki, inside bougey Hotel New Otani. I saw this pastry shop featured on “Worth It” on Youtube and I knew I needed to try their famous melon cake.
You might wonder how can a slice of cake be almost $40?! Well…it’s perfection. Japanese are meticulous when it comes to cultivating pristine fruit and want the perfect specimen. Therefore, the melon is extremely juicy and sweet and paired so deliciously with the soft spongecake and luscious cream. You only live once so might as well splurge on this fantastic cake. They have endless amounts of tanzaliting goodies such as other fruit shortcakes, opera cake, matcha roll cake, cheesecake, cream puffs, crossiants, donuts, breads, and even ice cream parfaits. It all looked amazing!
After our sweets, we relaxed at the hotel before dinner at popular soba restaurant, Kanda Matsuya. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations so we were lucky that it wasn’t too full when we arrived. I even got to watch one of the chefs roll out the soba noodles!
We got one cold soba with the normal dipping sauce and another cold soba with a sesame dipping sauce. The texture and flavor of the noodles were outstanding. I could have easily eaten another round.
Juicy chicken was simply served with mustard and lemon. So good.
What’s not the love about crispy shrimp tempura with rice and pickles?! Yum! I highly recommend Kanda Matsuya for an affordable and delicious meal.
The next day we took the train to Nikko, about an hour away from Tokyo, known for its beautiful shrines and temples, mountain landscape, and waterfalls. Since we only had a few hours there, we could only visit a few attractions even though there is a plethora of amazing activities. After reaching the train station, we walked through the town and eventually reached Shinkyo Bridge, a sacred bridge that serves as an entrance to the city’s shrines and temples.
Toshogu Shrine, easily the most recognized shrine in Nikko, is lavishly decorated with gold leaf and wooden carvings all set within the forest. It was undoubtedly one of the most exquisite and beautiful shrines I’ve ever seen. We even saw a cute white Shiba Inu!
We ended the day by having a late lunch of gyoza and ramen, delicious! We saw another cute dog sleeping by the door of a store too.
That night we had our first fine dining experience in Tokyo at Japanese French restaurant, L’Effervescence.
The following day, we started off by walking through the gardens of the Imperial Palace and began to see some cherry blossom trees!
After the Imperial Palace, we went to Ueno Park, one of the best places to see the beautiful cherry blossom trees. Cherry blossom season in Japan is typically late March to early April and only lasts perhaps 2-3 weeks. Typically, the season brings a horde of tourists and while it was still busy, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would be otherwise. Cherry blossoms hold a strong significance in Japanese culture as they represent renewal.
After seeing all the gorgeous cherry blossoms in full bloom, we went to Tokyo Tower which was one of the only observation decks open during our visit in Tokyo. We were lucky that it wasn’t too foggy so we got a pretty solid view of the city.
Every Sunday in the Ginza District, one of the largest shopping streets is closed to all motor vehicles where people can walk down the wide street.
That night we had one of our favorite dining experiences at high end yakiniku restaurant, Yakiniku Jumbo Shirokane, a popular chain with 3 locations in Tokyo. At Yakiniku Jumbo, you get to select various cuts of wagyu beef from different areas of Japan all varying in price. There were lots of options so it was difficult to choose so I recommend asking your server for some guidance. Once you get your wagyu beef, you just quicky cook it on the grill and within seconds it’s ready to be devoured with any of the delicious dipping sauces. The beef was out of this world with so much rich umami flavor and melted in my mouth. It’s definitely worth the splurge!
After dinner we visited Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. It really does look like it does in the movies, pretty epic!
The following day we visited the Tsukiji Outer Market where you’ll find fresh seafood and produce. In 2018, the famous “inner market” where tuna auctions were held was moved to a new site called Toyosu Market. Unfortunately, Toyosu Market was closed to tourists which was a shame since watching the tuna auction would have been an awesome experience.
After the market, we went to Tsukiji Hongwan-ji, a 17th century Buddhist temple followed by a stroll through Edo period style Hamarikyu Gardens.
After the gardens, we took a boat trip up the Sumida River to Taito City where the famous Skytree is. It’s the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest freestanding structure in the world! Even though we couldn’t visit it since it was closed, it was still cool to see it from the outside.
After a quick lunch, we went to Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple dating back to 645. Typically, tourists would be swarming the temple but it was relatively calm.
That evening we dined at Ichita, a high end kaiseki restaurant specializing in soba.
Our first experience in Tokyo was memorable! The bustling city had fantastic eats and endless amounts of site seeing. Luckily, we would be back within a few days to explore more of this urban city and I couldn’t wait.