The first thing you will need to do upon arriving to Toyko is to get a metro pass. We got a 48 hour pass and it was essential! In case you don’t know, Tokyo is the biggest city in the world with a population of 35 million people. Luckily, they also have one of the best and quickest subways I have ever used.
We started our day by heading into what I consider Downtown business area, Chuo Tokyo. Chuo feels a lot like Manhattan, with fancy clothing stores and super wide streets. It’s fascinating to watch all of the businessmen and women rush around at almost all hours of the day.
We walked a little less than 1 mile and found ourselves at Hamarikyu Gardens, a hidden oasis surrounded by sky scrapers. Here you can enjoy a green tea ceremony and easily escape the big city. After resting, we headed back into the city to have a ramen lunch at a Michelin rated restaurant Ginza Kagari. Be warned, there are only 6 seats in the restaurant so the wait might be 30 minutes to an hour.
After a long day of exploring Tokyo, drinks and grilled meats sounded perfect. “Piss Alley” is a narrow street full of tiny 5-10 person restaurants called Yakitoris. It is a great spot to sit next to a local and learn about Japan from their point of view. While “Piss Alley” is becoming more and more touristy, it still manages to hold onto its old charm. Enjoy a wide variety of grilled meats and enjoy some cheap sake or beer.
Once done with the meal, its time to head back to where I consider the best place to stay: Koenji. This hidden Tokyo neighborhood is right off a metro stop, but far enough away that it has a unique charm. I prefer to visit the crowded touristy areas, but stay in more peaceful local areas. If you need a place to stay, I can’t recommend Koenji enough!
Sake: Never pour the Sake for yourself. Hold the pourer with both hands and pour it for everyone else. Then set it down and someone will pick it up and pour it for you.
Don’t Tip! The Japanese people take pride in their service and a tip is often seen as disrespectful. Instead, just let them know how delicious the meal was.
Warm or Cold Towels: You will receive a towel at the beginning of each meal to clean your hands. After using, fold it up and place it on the table.
Chopsticks: Never stick the chopsticks in your food like the sword in the stone. This is reminecent of a funeral rite and not appropriate for casual dining!