You’ve probably read interviews where I admit that I’m not a city girl, because I really love the outdoors. But weirdly enough, if I had to choose one of my favorite places in the world, it would have to be Tokyo. It’s such an amazing city that even a country girl like me can fall in love with it.
I think the Japanese are so one-of-a-kind that they’re practically their own species (in a good way). They’re so passionate about everything they do, they’re organized and meticulous, and everything they come up with is always like art. I could sit in a legit Japanese restaurant all day, stare at the chef, and be amazed at the way he creates sushi from scratch.
Tokyo is an all-around city. There are parts that are very vibrant and noisy, and there are corners that are quiet. I could go on and on about how much I love it. The streets and parks are so beautiful to walk in, and you will never find random trash on the sidewalks. Their beauty products are so good, you’ll want to hoard a lifetime supply. There’s always a shitload of places to eat (you will find it very hard to find a restaurant that isn’t good). And the Japanese are just some of the kindest people you will ever meet.
Nico and I spent the Holy Week break in Tokyo, and here are some of the things we learned that you can follow to explore the city in a totally new, crazy way. I’m talking about ninja-levels of crazy. Lol.
Tip 1: Be a stalker.
If you ask where it’s good to eat in Tokyo, you’ll probably just get confused and end up with 100+ recommendations. So this is what Nico and I did: We waited for Japanese businessmen to go on their lunch break (around 11:30am) and followed the older ones (40+), because these guys know the best, most authentic places where you’ll get your money’s worth.
When we did this, we ended up in an amazing place called Kyoto Hyoki. The people serving us didn’t know a word of English, so we used Google translate. It’s THAT authentic.
Tip 2: Get lost.
Why ride subways and cabs when you can walk? This way, you can squeeze in a physical activity (since you’re probably not working out, lol) and you get to literally breathe the city in. You’ll also meet interesting people. Nico and I got lost one evening, like close to midnight, and we ended up in this little Italian bar called Vineria Hirano in Shibuya-ku.
We met the owner who told us he flies to Italy every year to learn and research more about the cuisine. His wife is the cook. We indulged in Italian wines and cannelloni while talking to three other Japanese customers sitting at the bar. The only thing we had in common? A love for special wines and good conversation.
Tip 3: Be a ninja for a day.
This might be a little touristic, but I’m telling you, the experience was WORTH IT. It took Nico and I two hours to walk to the location, which was a tiny house (you can also take a 40-minute train ride straight to Tabata Station). There was a man at the door who rang the bell three times, and it was followed by three knocks. This meant that “The Master” was giving his okay for us to enter. Ooohhh.
We entered a dark room. On the walls were two dimmed lights, weapons, a framed photo of a Master Ninja, and a samurai outfit. A ninja was sitting still in front of the photo, meditating. We didn’t know what else to do so we sat down, and all of a sudden, the ninja started doing nine signs to purify the space (it super reminded me of the series The OA).
This was followed by a few flips in the air, which the ninja did as if he was just taking a stroll in the park. He drew his sword out and started “fighting” an imaginary person. (I swear, I’m not making this up.)
To be honest, I was a bit scared at this point. But then the lights were switched on and our ninja lessons officially began. What we were taught? How to handle different weapons, how to walk silently, how to walk on an edge, how to use a sword, how to disappear through a ninja door, how to meditate, and how to accomplish a mission. The experience was definitely something.
Tip 4: Go hunting (for bars).
I LOVE bars in Tokyo. They are usually hidden and hard to find, but they’re worth the scavenger hunt. To make it easier for you, here are some of my favorites:
Tip 5: Walk to eat.
With so many restaurants within your reach, it’s hard to try everything in Tokyo. I suggest walking around to find a place to eat. But when you get to sit down, don’t order your body’s weight in sushi. Get a few small dishes, then walk again until you find another place. This way, you get to try a lot of things without feeling super full.
In Tokyo, each place serves a specialty, so you will hardly find a spot that serves yakitori and ramen and sushi and sashimi all at once. Try these when you’re in the city:
Narutomi for the soba
Tonkatsu Wako for the tonkatsu (obvs)
Piss Alley near Shinjuku Station for the grilled skewers
Tenmatsu for the tempura
Omotesando Ukai-tei for the teppanyaki
Kougaisushi, a hole-in-the-wall place where we met these Japanese businessmen who made us try raw chicken (what is it with us and Japanese businessmen?). I’m willing to try everything once, and it actually did taste pretty good, buuuut every time I realized I was eating raw chicken, it made me want to puke. Lol.
More pictures below!