Tokyo pt. II (5 days)

RaT Corp

Exploration by day and carousing at night (with tasty meals throughout)

For the last portion of our trip we returned to Tokyo, completing a narrow circle within Japan. Since we were staying at the Andaz again we were able to pick up the extra bag we left behind at the hotel and fill it with all the fun things we bought. We asked to see two different views when we originally booked (first view was on the 48th floor facing Tokyo Tower) and now we were on the 47th floor facing Tokyo Harbor.

Since there were so many sights to see, foods to eat, and drinks to drink, you would imagine this page to be quite long. To ease the burden, I am going to link to separate pages that feature activities that have enough photos to stand alone.

After spending two weeks in Japan, Rebecca and I were now armed with an array of Japanese words that enhanced our experiences significantly.

We came back on a Wednesday and were staying in Meguro at the Claska Hotel. A very cool hotel with midcentury modern vibe and a nice cafe and bar.

The usual procedure followed, dropping off our bags so we could begin exploring. We took the bus to the most epic bookstore in existence, the Daikanyama T-site.

We bought way too many books, our luggage weight increased significantly but it was well worth it. We had some time to kill before dinner so we went walking around to check out local shops in the area.

Dinner was at Restaurant L’asse, a michelin rated (one-star) italian restaurant, bringing our star count to five.

It was time to experience some Tokyo nightlife. We read about this speakeasy in the New York Times and it looked great. After emailing them that day, they were eagerly awaiting our arrival.

We took a cab to Ebisu and went to Bar Tram, a coffee shop during the day and speakeasy at night.

It was late enough for us to make the move to Bar Trench. Trench is the newer sister bar of Bar Tram but smaller and not absinthe focused.

We were content, time to head back home for a new day.

The next morning we had a light breakfast and took a taxi to Ginza. We were having lunch at Tempura Kondo! Two more michelin stars, bringing our count to seven. The restaurant is located in this relatively nondescript entrance on the ninth floor.

It was a bit awkward to take photos of all the food, especially since it was a small place and distracting me from such delicious flavor. I put the camera away and enjoyed the best tempura. This place is highly recommended and if you go at lunch it is very reasonably priced.

After lunch we went walking around Ginza, it was a lovely day and we got to see some cool architecture.

After wandering Ginza a bit we realized it was already time for our dinner. Since our next dining experience was glorious, it deserves its own post, this will also help keep this page from having a million photos. (This restaurant also brought our michelin count to eight!)

>> A look at the delicious tasting menu <<
>> at restaurant l’Alchimiste. <<

After dinner we wanted to continue carousing, so we took the subway to Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, a grid of alleys occupied by countless bars, each with only a few seats.

We located our destination, La Jetée, and hoped there would be space in this small upstairs bar. This bar is named after the french short film and many famous directors have stopped by for a drink.

After a long day we decided to head back to the hotel, we had a nice sushi brunch booked for us the next day!

The next day we woke late and rushed to avoid being tardy for our noon reservation. We were slightly late but they were kind enough to still seat us.

Roppongi Hills is an interesting area, it is a large property development with its own branding. The site consists of pretty much everything from shops to office towers. It is pretty massive.

Walking past the The National Art Center Tokyo, which looked very interesting, but our main reason for coming to Roppongi was to see the Measurement exhibit at 21_21 Design Sight.

View all photos from the
>> 21_21 Measurement exhibit <<

After leaving the museum in the afternoon, it was still too early to eat dinner and we needed something to do. While walking to Family Mart to find an umbrella we noticed the Fuji showroom and exhibit. Here are some photos of old Fuji films.

We decided to take the subway one stop to Azabu, hoping we could secure a seat at a highly recommended cocktail bar.

We were lucky and Gen Yamamoto had space for us for a little bit. This is a very unique cocktail bar. Yamamoto has a tasting menu and prepares the same drinks for everyone at the same time. It was very flavorful and more of an experience than we were expecting.

It was now evening, we were slightly tipsy, in a good way, and were off to our next location. As soon as we got into the subway we realized it was rush hour on a Friday!

We got off in Aoyama and wanted to quickly see some cool architecture that was on my list.

One of the most interesting buildings on my list was the Prada store, designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

It was now dangerously close to our 9pm dinner reservation at Bird Land. It was pouring rain and we couldn’t find the entrance. After circling the block I decided to google image search the restaurant and realized the entrance was in the subway! We made it!

View photos from our
>> yakitori dinner at Bird Land! <<

I don’t know why but after dinner we went back to the Andaz. Perhaps to drop off things, or grab umbrellas, or change, I have zero recollection. We were about to call it a night when we decided to go back out. I think I even took a short power nap. Refreshed and ready to roll.

We jumped in a cab and made our way over to the train station area to locate our next bar.

Ah yes! We arrived at Bar High Five, one of the most epic bars in existence. Seriously, it was rated Best Bar in Asia. I promised the owner, and bartender, I would send him photos from our night, so check out the whole set using the link below his portrait.

>> View more photos from Bar High Five <<

We overslept our alarm clock and woke slightly later than we had hoped for. It was around 9:30a and we decided to quickly get dressed and head over to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Since this was a Saturday, it was the last possible day on our trip to see the world’s largest open air market. It should also be noted that the market is moving locations due to the upcoming Olympics.

We skipped the tuna auction, which we heard was overrated, and due to its popularity, we were advised at arriving extremely early. It would have been brutal, as the auction is over very quickly. So, here we are around 1030–11am, after the auction, catching the tail end (pun intended) of the market activity.

>> View all the photos from the Tsukiji Market <<

After the market we came back to the hotel to take a quick nap before going to Akihabara, the geekiest neighborhood in Tokyo.

Yodobashi is like Best Buy on steroids. It has everything, my mission was to find a cool camera strap, and a futuristic toilet. We found both, but only left with one. Unfortunately.

After much contemplation, and help from Rebecca, we left with a gorgeous blue camera strap. Also, Tower Records still exists in Japan.

Back to the street, things are pretty animated.

These frogs sum up how Rebecca and I felt throughout our vacation.

It was our second to last day and we had not experienced McDonald’s yet. It was getting late and the ramen restaurant we tried to go to was closed. We figured it was our duty to give it a taste.

After our meal, which was what we expected, we head out for Shinjuku/Harajuku to check out some shops that we may have missed the first time we were there.

I was trying to locate some wooden Japanese puzzles by Nob and we checked out numerous toy stores but they didn’t carry them (we did get lucky on our last day), but we did see some cool toys in general.

Back in Harajuku, ESPO aka Stephen Powers has some great pieces.

Potter Club Turtles pop up shop

It was getting dark and shops were starting to close. We were having dinner with my friend Masa, who I had not seen since 5th grade. We had a bit of time, so we figured we would walk there.

Cool store along the way to dinner

We met with Masa at Kissui and had kushikatsu, a cuisine that is deep fried and served with skewers. The restaurant continues to bring you food until you tap out.

After dinner Masa had to go meet his friend and recommended we go to Roppongi. Rebecca was a bit hesitant but I insisted since Masa recommended it. We hopped in a cab and drove over.

Roppongi is the place you do not want to be on a Saturday night. It was very distasteful, it’s a place where all the tourists go to get drunk and robbed.

Within moments club promoters descended on us from all angles, that was a flag that it was time to leave. The overall atmosphere did not feel like Japan, it was like we were in Times Square, instead of being offered admission to comedy clubs, it was replaced with lame dance clubs.

It was also a bit strange seeing a huge population of Nigerians within this limited block radius of night clubs. We didn’t see any Nigerians outside of Roppongi and they were a bit aggressive with going clubbing.

There is even a wikipedia page about it: After the Japanese asset price bubble, Nigerians shifted into the night-life industry in Tokyo’s entertainment districts such as Kabukicho or Roppongi, a line of employment with a high level of public visibility. Many of the bars in these areas were previously owned by Chinese or Koreans, but during a police crackdown in 2002, Nigerians took advantage of the resulting business vacuum to open their own bars, and hired their fellow countrymen as workers.

We figured we would try our luck at Ginza at another world rated cocktail bar, this one was called Star Bar.

We stayed until closing, enjoying our last Saturday night in Japan.

On our last day in Japan we had to run some errands before heading to the Maldives. While Rebecca was at an appointment, I stopped by the Honda headquarters to see Kumamon perform with ASIMO. This was supposed to be their first show together but when I arrived, the Honda employee told me ASIMO was not coming because of technical issues. That left Kumamon alone, which was very weird.

We set off to find a toy store, I was determined to locate this puzzle.

Walking Ginza after finding a puzzle!

Our last meal was ramen!

Sad to leave!

Picking up some paper and stickers for thank you cards.

And finally heading back to the hotel.

On our first night we had a drink at the rooftop bar and now on our last night we decided it was only appropriate to conclude with a rooftop drink.

Having a quick bite to eat before leaving for the airport

Goodbye Japan!

Next stop: Maldives!

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