We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time.
First up is Tokyo! Tokyo is divided up into districts and wards. To keep things all organized we kept all the districts and wards of Tokyo separate, even though some of these locations we visited days and sometimes weeks apart from each other. The districts and cities we visited in Tokyo are:
Arriving in Japan we made the decision to stay in a hotel, mostly for the convenience. The majority of our trip we stayed in Airbnb rentals, but so many things could go wrong staying in an Airbnb location, and after a 15 hour flight we wanted to have a place that we knew would not have any problems at.
, a gorgeous luxury hotel in Ginza built in 2007 and located conveniently right next to the Imperial Palace grounds. For the coziest of comforts, it is hard to find a better hotel in Japan.
The interior is poshly decorated,warm and inviting.
The rooms were just as gorgeous as the ground floor. Large and spacious with complimentary "sakura macaroons" and a tote bag, celebrating sakura season.
You don't have to go far for food, the restaurant in the hotel serves delicious french toast, omelettes, and poached eggs.
We requested a corner room overlooking the Palace grounds and the night time view is captivating. While the grounds can be seen, and the long lines that form for the palace can be watched (and they are huge lines), the amount of trees obscure seeing anything at the Palace but nonetheless, the rooms are nicely placed for city watching.
If you want to avoid the long lines to access the Park show up early. The lines didn’t start forming till early afternoon, but once they started they became huge. The Palace grounds are days walk, and while they were interesting to see, we were slightly too early for full cherry blossom bloom, but the majority of trees were in early stages and a site to behold. Be sure to have your walking shoes on.
Across the street from the Imperial Palace grounds and adjacent to the Peninsula is the Hibiya Park. The park itself has more to see and do than the Imperial Palace grounds, it host many out of the ordinary treasures such as a Park museum in an old German style house that was built in 1910, Shinji Pond, a large 500 year old Ginkgo tree that was relocated in 1901 when the city built Hibiya Street and over 51 types of trees which were donated to the park by every prefecture of Japan. We also spotted the Capitoline Wolf, a wolf sculpture with two suckling infants, which was a gift from Italy in 1938.
Most people that arrive in Ginza will do so through Tokyo Station. If you do happen to come through Tokyo Station, step outside and across the street at the Kitte building to eat at Nemuro Hanamaru
, hands down the best conveyor belt sushi. There was a long line before they opened, but it moved quickly and it wasn’t long before we were seated. We visited the location twice during our trip and both times we got in quickly. If the conveyor belt doesn’t have what you want you can always flag down a waiter and order it separately noting if you want wasabi included or not. Highly recommended!
Getting out to explore Ginza is multi day activity in itself as there is so much to find. The rustic, street side restaurants, and small pedestrian only walk ways...
- wonderfully small shop a short walk from the hotel that serves delicious Yakitori and has an English menu. We stumbled upon it while walking around Ginza after our arrival (we were hungry for a snack and excited to see the town) that was still open at 10 PM at night. The food was suburb, tasty, and cheap. No reservations just walk in when you are hungry.
There's also the high end area, filled with fancy sushi shops, Michelin Star tempera restaurants, and bars as far as the street line shines... and in some places where it does not.
2 Star Michelin restaurant Tempura Kondo
. The experience they can offer you is that of many of the high end sushi shops in Tokyo but with Tempera. Reservations are required. It was very unique experience but a lot of fried food. I would not recommend it unless you were very interested in the experience alone, as we felt the like many fried foods, sometimes the cheaper options are better.
If you are early to your reservation or looking for a drink afterwards the old school classic bar, Brick
, is nearby. We made small talk with the bartender and explained our fascination with the large pear inside the brandy bottle.
Like almost every other fan of sushi, we intended to have a taste of Jiro Sushi, from the documentary Jiro dreams of sushi, but then like many others who have gone down the same path, you start reading, and reading some more, and reading some more... until you are far down the rabbit hole and seeing that while Jiro's Sushi may still be the best to some, there are many options available, many of them better. It was in this rabbit hole that we discovered Kyubey. Kyubey only uses seasonal Japanese fish, and the craftsmanship put into each piece was the best we saw in all of Japan. You can also catch more info about Kyubey from the PBS TV show, "I'll have what Phil's having". The host visits the establishment as well as many other locations in Tokyo. A great little show and available on Netflix.
Well worth a visit!
Next up is Ueno Park!