The Savvy and Fine Guide to the Best of Tokyo: Beyond Sightseeing
Tokyo: The Savvy and Fine Guide to the Best of Tokyo gave an overview of the best sights to see in Tokyo. In this blog post we will present a list of some other things to do in Tokyo besides sightseeing. The choices that Tokyo presents, can be absolutely overwhelming and we hope that these ideas will make your stay even more enjoyable.
Tokyo boasts 300,000 restaurants. Three hundred thousand! That's compared to 30,000 in New York. Eleven have been awarded three Michelin stars. It is certainly the world's most exciting dining destination with the freshest ingredients, technical precision, and thousands of years of meticulous refinement. The concept of shokunin, an artisan singularly dedicated to his or her craft, is at the core of Japanese culture, and restaurants specialize in perfectly prepared tempura, sushi, ramen, and kaiseki meals, and more.
Experiencing a sumptuous kaiseki dinner in Tokyo is a must for food lovers. Originally created by Zen monks, it is a feast incorporating dishes that change with the seasons, and include simmered, steamed, grilled dishes, sashimi, sushi, and rice with pickles. Each dish is a miniature work of art.
One of the best places to enjoy a kaiseki meal is at Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo with its elegant setting, waitresses wearing kimonos, spectacular views over Tokyo, and exquisite food.
Its 52nd floor New York Bar is a great spot for after-dinner drinks after this sumptuous meal. The bar was made famous by the movie Lost in Translation. It is a most spectacular venue with live jazz and fantastic views.
A totally different dining experience is at Inakaya in Roppongi. The cooks sit on cushions behind the grill, inside a large U-shaped counter. A cornucopia of food is spread out in front of them: fresh vegetables, seafood, skewers of beef. You point to what you want, and your server shouts out the order. The chef prepares it in front of you and hands it across on a wooden paddle. It's like a joyous, boisterous party and so much fun.
TOKYO TRAINS AND TAXES
In a huge sprawling city like Tokyo, subway and trains are by far the fastest way to get around. Tokyo's transit system is incredibly efficient and trains run like clockwork. The signs are in English, and it is actually quite easy to find your way around. It is also a fun way to see the locals. Most visitors find it fascinating how the Japanese are able to snooze in public on the trains - sitting down, standing up, they are nodding off whenever they can. The locals see it as a sign of diligence: if you are sleeping in public, you must be working hard!
For shorter distances, taxis are convenient and easy to catch. The cars are impeccably clean and offer a truly white-glove service. You enter the car on the left side and the driver, wearing a hat and white gloves, will open the door for you. Most Japanese taxi drivers do not speak English, so you should try and show the driver your destination in Japanese characters, or point out the place you wish to go on a map.
SHOPPING IN GINZA
Ginza is the ritziest shopping district in Tokyo, offering everything from the most fashionable high-end labels right off the runway to small speciality boutiques. Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store sells everything from jewelry, porcelain, clothing to kimonos. There is a fun coffee shop on one of the floors showcasing the exquisite porcelain tea cups on sale at the store. You pick the one you like and coffee will be served in that cup.
Adding to the old school luxury are the elevator girls. They are neatly dressed in uniforms, wearing white gloves, with the task to tend to the elevators - they provide information to customers as the elevator goes through the different levels and direct them as they alight at specific floors.
Also in this department store, is Le Café de Joël Robuchon - a perfect spot for a delectable lunch. Ginza, Tokyo's wealthiest zip code, is also the heart of Tokyo's sushi culture and a great place to enjoy some maguro, a lean cut a few days out of the water, and the fatty otoro.
YAYOI KUSAMA MUSEUM
In Shinjuku, a five-story white building is all devoted to the art of the fabulously quirky Yayoi Kusama. It includes her "infinity room" series as well as her polka-dotted paintings.
You have to experience the futuristic, ultrahigh-speed "bullet train" Shinkansen when in Japan. Why not travel from modern and cosmopolitan Tokyo to the former imperial capital and cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto.
The 320 mile (515 km) trip to Kyoto takes only two hours on the ultrafast Shinkansen. The train is very comfortable, the food surprisingly good and the service superb. It is amazing to see the attendants turning toward the passengers and bowing before leaving the car.
Read about what to do and see in Kyoto: The Savvy & Fine Guide to the Best of Kyoto