for 5 days, 4 nights | in August | 30-35 C, mostly fine
Now this is a city with energy.
Everyone who comes to Tokyo should treat themselves to at least a night in the Mandarin Oriental. It is blissful, and by far the best hotel experience I have had. This is the view from our deluxe suite, equal to the vista seen from the Tokyo Skytree -
The spa is something else. From 6.30am to 9.00am hotel guests can enjoy the vitality pool for free. I went each morning we were there for an hour. In the first hour on my first day, I convinced myself I absolutely needed to have a completely overpriced Ivo Pitanguy facial at the spa. And I can tell you, that was an epic decision, despite my post-treatment purse being significantly lighter. It was the best I've had.
The first suburb we explored was Asakusa. We wandered through Nakamise's junky market lanes leading up to the Sensoji temple, Tokyo's oldest temple. There is a small and cheap department store there too, Rox Department Store. I found some cute socks, stockings and $10 colourful skinny jeans. Most importantly, jeans that fit short people.
On day 2, after an early morning 'vitality' spa bath and glutinous buffet breakfast, we set out for the Imperial gardens. They are beautifully tranquil, and I can just imagine them coming to life in spring with plentiful, colourful blossoms.
Harajuku, Shibuya and Omotesando were our next stop. This is a shopper's heaven. Everything from market stalls to teen culture to high end. It's all there packed in with a heap of atmosphere and people just doing their thing.
Harajuku's Yoyogi park on a Sunday is a must. You'll see these guys rocking it out to Led Zepplin and Elvis. Youth breakdancers, graffiti artists spraying on glad wrapped walls (yes, glad wrap, did I mention everyone in Japan is exceptionally courteous?), samurai dance groups and even a group flipping fake pizza dough, called 'We Love Pizza'.
Shibuya is madness - it is home to the world's second busiest pedestrian intersection behind time square. It's full of entertainment, restaurants and well, a cat cafe of course. I dragged Miles into Neko Hapi Cat Cafe which you can read about here.
Omotesando comprises a gorgeous tree lined street of mid to high end fashion houses. If you want to shop, you need to come here. There is everything from Nike to teen fashion, cheap to expensive and all the high end brand names.
Day 3 we explored Ginza and Kappabashi. Ginza is just more high end luxury brands but Kappabashi is where the fun starts.
Kappabashi, or Kitchen Town as it is known, is a foodies dream street - everything kitchen related stretching down both sides of this entire road. You'll find everything from icing nozzles to plastic food, cookie cutters, crockery, copper pots, ladles, jars, sieves...the list is actually endless. I put a tadpole sized droplet into the mouth of a Blue Whale on this street. I could have shopped here for many more hours, however my other half was not as enthused as I.
Dinner was at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. I have dedicated a separate post to this exquisite 2 Michelin Star restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo, here.
Our last full day in Japan was dedicated to Shinjuku. This is a place best explored late afternoon and into the evening. We got there just before midday so explored the shopping area. Mosaic Dori, between Keio and Odakyu department stores, is a small lane with a few nice stores. And of course, we stopped in at Calico Cat Cafe too. If you are keen on electronics, the Odakyu department store is full of every sort from photography, TVs, laptops, phones and everything in between. The Keio department store contains 8 levels of mens, women's and kids fashion. There is a huge floor of shoes - I haven't seen so many in one place before - for the shoe lovers out there, like me!
And to fill our hungry tummies, we had lunch at this place in the Sakuragi Building. It was really good for noodles and pork.
The star of the show in Shinjuku is the Robot Show at the Robot Restaurant. It is the most random act of showmanship I have ever experienced. My face was sore from smiling and laughing by the end of it. You just have to experience this show. Get a pamphlet off your hotel and you get 1,000 yen off the cost of a ticket (6,000 yen).
Lastly, Akihabara is also worth visiting for an evening stroll and bowl of Ramen. It has been an electronics hub since the 1940s. Cords, cables, and home appliances galore. It houses a staggering number of anime stores and pachinko parlours that are not filled with children, but rather grown men and girls dressed in kid's (read revealing) frilly outfits.
Tokyo is an electric city. So many suburbs offer their own quirks and personality, but the common denominator between all is a culture of polite people, excellent service, cleanliness and an experience to remember.