Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Part 2

Annnnddd again with my unintended hiatus from the blog! Is anyone still here?! 🙂 I wish I could say that I was off doing fun things but really, I’ve had a tiring and emotional few weeks.

First, I was in San Francisco at the beginning of the month seeing a colleague and friend off on a new adventure. That was sad enough.

Then the following week I flew to Manila with my dad after learning that my grandma had passed away. I spent 4 very packed and emotional days saying farewell to my beloved Lola. She was 95 and had been in the hospital for almost a year so I’ve been preparing myself for this news for some time now. Although that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. She lived in the Philippines but when I was very little, she would spend extended time with us in California almost every year. I remember going to garage sales with her and coming home with piles of $0.10 books. I’m pretty sure my love of reading came from her. She also used to spend many afternoons making the yummiest filipino desserts — I wish I could remember the recipes now. They’re still some of my favorite sweet treats. I love you, Lola, and miss you very very much.

And finally on the other end of the emotional spectrum, last week Rob & I took a long weekend trip to our happy place, Vancouver. I tried postponing the trip but I’m glad it didn’t work out. It was so great to get away and detox emotionally.

So that’s what’s been going on with me this month… how about all of you? 🙂

I know it’s been 6+ months since this trip but I need to finish what I started so here’s the final installment of our Japan trip report…

Monday, November 19
Food is a very important part of travel for us. And we’re huge fans of Japanese food in particular. So we had a checklist of various types of food we wanted to try… tempura (check), okonomiyaki (check), ramen (check), sushi (pending)… and so on.

On our third day in Tokyo we headed to Kichijoji for steak at Steak House Satou.

I read about the restaurant on this travel blog and have been anxious to try it ever since.

It didn’t disappoint.

We made sure to arrive right around opening (11am) because I had read online that lines are not uncommon since it’s a tiny restaurant on top of their own butcher shop. You walk up a very narrow and steep flight of stairs and are greeted with the most delicious smell of meat sizzling on the teppan grill. Trust me, it smelled fantastic.

Rob and I both ordered the Matsuzaka steak set that came with a salad starter and veggies on the side.

Oh man, it was INCREDIBLE. Definitely the best meal of the trip for me. SOGOODOMG.

After lunch we stumbled upon a Doughnut Plant in the Shinjuku station.

We were going to skip it since we’d tried it when we were in New York but I saw that they had green tea flavored donuts. I can’t resist anything green tea! YUM.

So our plan for the day was to do some sightseeing in Harajuku.

I just love the Harajuku station — so charming!

We started at the Meiji Shrine which is hidden in a beautiful park away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

It’s a lovely stroll along the pathway to the shrine. We saw so many adorable kids all dressed up in traditional attire (kimonos?) — I’m guessing they were participating in some sort of religious ceremony at the shrine.

I always love seeing all the ema — wooden plaques on which people write their prayers and wishes to leave at the shrine.

Since we were in Harajuku of course we had to check out the famous Takeshita Dori.

The street is packed with boutiques and cafes catering to young adults. Harajuku fashion isn’t really our style but it’s so iconic that we had to check it out. Wow, was it crowded! But sadly we didn’t see any cosplayers.

More shopping can be found at the adjacent Omotesando, which is a beautiful tree-lined avenue that’s home to many upscale retailers. But we weren’t there for Prada or Louis Vuitton. Nope. We were looking for a toy store called Kiddy Land. LOL.

Rob had been saving his souvenir money to spend on toys (specifically Transformers) so this was a successful shopping trip for him!

To end our day of sightseeing we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which offers two observation decks for views of the city. And they’re free!

We were there as the sun was setting — it was a treat to see the change in colors of the sky!

To cap off the night, we picked up treats at a department store depachika (food hall located in the basement). I adore Japanese cakes and pastries — they’re not overly sweet like their American counterparts, which make them pretty much perfect.

Tuesday, November 20
It was our last full day of vacation and we hadn’t yet had sushi. Crazy, right?! Before our trip we randomly stumbled upon and watched a wonderful documentary about a sushi master and restaurant owner called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If money was no object, I would have LOVED to dine at Jiro’s restaurant in Ginza. But we couldn’t afford to break the bank on one meal (and we also didn’t fit the other requirement of having one native Japanese speaker in our party) so that’s another dream to add to my bucket list.

So we headed to the Tsukiji Fish Market for our sushi fix.

There are two popular sushi restaurants in the market — Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. The former had a 2+ hour wait and the latter was only about an hour. We chose Daiwa Sushi because we were too anxious to get food in our bellies!

The restaurant is extremely tiny with counter-only seating in full view of the sushi chefs. So cool! We opted to order the set menu which comes with seven pieces of nigiri, six pieces of maki and miso soup.

It was the absolute BEST sushi I’ve ever had. And I’m now an uni (sea urchin) convert. I tried uni a few times years ago and never liked it. I couldn’t get over the texture. I guess I never had fresh uni before because the piece I had at Daiwa Sushi was creamy and buttery and AMAZING.

After a second trip to Shibuya to buy omiyage (souvenirs), we decided to check out the neighborhood of Roppongi for dinner. After 13 days in Japan, I think we underestimated just how tired we were at this point in the trip. Instead of exploring, we ended up just walking around Roppongi Hills since it was adjacent to the train station. It’s a large mixed use complex with residences, offices, shops and restaurants.

Lots of public art on display as well.

And a view of the Tokyo Tower.

Our last meal was tsukemen (dipping noodles) at a popular restaurant named TETSU that specializes in the dish. It was delicious — perfectly thick and chewy noodles and thick flavorful broth. NOMMY.

And that’s all she wrote! We had an incredible time in Japan — the thoughtfulness of the people really touched me and I hope to get the opportunity to visit again someday. Hopefully much sooner than later!

Sayonara for now. 🙂

For more pics from our last 2 days in Tokyo, check our Flickr here and here.