Ginza/Nihonbashi

 
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Ginza lies on the eastern side of Tokyo and has a very upscale reputation as it holds the bigger department stores, international hotel chains, and the always popular fish market. Travelers shy away from this area due to the seemingly touristy description of it but as my husband and I discovered, you have to dig deep to find the gold. 

1. Yakitori Alley: Find it under the Yurakucho station. Just watch out for an alley filled with smoke, all Japanese menus, beer, and yuppies. The perfect first meal. 

2. Tsukiji Fish Market: Set out early if you want to see the hustle and bustle, the catch of the day before they become sushi. If not, just pick any sushi restaurant and go for an otoro platter. It's bound to be better than anything from your hometown. 

3. Ginza 4-chome: This station exit leads you to the center of Ginza. You'll see Wako, Japan's oldest department store, as well as Printemps, Matsuya Department Store, Tokyu Hands and Core. All the stores have a mix of Japanese and international designers and amazing basement food halls. For snacks, there's Kimuraya, famous for their melon pan, Ginza Akebono, and Manneken, a waffle shop which I visited thrice.

4. 12-storey Uniqlo: Amazing. So amazing that I only reached halfway through. 

5. Y&M Kisling Bar: In this bar, we met Abe, a 70-year old bartender who's been bartending since his early 20's. The servers told us he's like the Jackie Chan of drinks. We asked him to make us his specialty and he presented us with a Moscow Mule. It was the best I've ever had. He even showed us his secret: ginger powder.

6. Shabusen: A restaurant in Core that serves the most excellent shabu-shabu. 

7. Koshikawa-Korakuen: Claimed to be one of Tokyo's underrated parks which is especially beautiful during autumn. 

From Ginza, we also took a side trip to Nihonbashi where we found Ninyocho Imahan, the place to go to in Tokyo for sukiyaki (even the lowest grade of beef tasted like Heaven), and a tea stall selling the most memorable tea ice cream I had during the whole trip. I wish I caught the name of the place but we just found it on a side street. I guess that makes it even better. 

Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills is it's own world. You even have to take a few escalators to get to the central complex. Reaching the top takes you to a high-end area that has a small neighborhood feel but still filled with shops and restaurants. The L'atelier Joel Rubuchon restaurant is found here. But my husband and I walked to the far end and turned a corner to get to a restaurant we were far more interested in: Sukiyabashi Jiro

Manned by Jiro's younger son, Takashi, this 2-star Michelin restaurant is a symphony in itself. For them, the preparation is as important as the final dish. Takashi and his sous chef, the same one in the documentary, would explain how they prepared each sushi. Many of the seafood takes hours - quite interesting since they're all eaten raw. After that 15-course (ok, 15-sushi) meal, I can say that I have eaten the best sushi in the entire world. Takashi even noticed my husband make 'umami' sounds, which totally pleased him. For these people, sushi is not just food. It's a presentation, a show, an orchestra. That in itself makes them deserve the standing ovation everyone around the world has given them, whether they've tried the sushi or not.

Besides that, Roppongi Hills is a center for art as it has three major museums: National Art Center Tokyo, Mori Art Museum, and Suntory Museum of Art. Even the public chairs have become art pieces, too. 

Shibuya/Shinjuku

Either Shibuya or Shinjuku is everyone's first thought of Tokyo, in the same manner Times Square is the first for New York. It's as busy, as loud, and as stimulating. Yes, there's the Shibuya Crossing. But what else? 

1. Fu-unji: Do noodles the way Japanese do. Rich broth, and oodles of noodles. Halfway through and I couldn't even finish my ramen. But I knew I was lucky I found a seat because once I stepped outside, the line crossed the other side of the street. Word goes around that it's the best stop for tsukemen and ramen. Get the omori size, I double dare you.

2. Breizh Cafe: I found my favorite French creperie in Takashimaya. I've been dreaming about the Valhrona crepe ever since I had it in Paris last July. Thank God my cravings were satisfied. 

3. Shinjuku Goyen National Garden: I didn't know it was possible to fall in love with an autumnal garden. The Japanese garden was perfectly manicured; the French one was filled with flowers. If there's one garden you have to go to in Tokyo, it's this one. 

4. Shibuya Center Gai: I knew I was in the center of Tokyo when I found myself surrounded by all the lights, sounds, and Halloween costumes. It was overwhelming. It was quintessential Tokyo. Document the moment, and tickle the teenager in you, by going into a purikura

5. Sushi Zanmai: The most popular sushi chain in the land. Get the otoro platter and the eel. Be ready to order that again and again. 

6. Franc Franc: Get lost in 3 floors of home decor goodness. (And then you can leave your husband in the pub across). 

7. BAKE: Line up for 20 minutes (or more) for the famous Hokkaido cheese tart. You'll realizeIt's worth the wait once you bite into it. Probably even better than Pablo's. 

8. Daikanyama: Further down south is this leafy neighborhood that reminds you a bit of Omotesando with the cosy, charming side streets and small shops. My favorite part was the impressively designed Tatsuya Bookstore. Even the Starbucks was designed for book readers. It was unadulterated bliss. 

Disney Sea/Asakusa

There are many tourist spots inside and around Tokyo. My husband and I chose to go to two of the many:

1. DisneySea: This Disney theme park is unique to Tokyo. Disneyland is just like the other Disney parks around the world but DisneySea is special because they made the worlds of other Disney characters come alive. There's Ariel's underwater world, Aladdin's Arabian village, and the American waterfront, just to name a few. I'm not exactly a ride junkie so my favorite part about DisneySea was the light and water show, Fantasma! I loved it so much that I teared up. It reminded me of all my beautiful childhood memories. That's why going to any Disney theme park is such a treat for me. 

2. Asakusa: Visit this area to get a taste of Kyoto and old-world Japan. The Senso-ji Temple symbolizes Japan's deep adherence to spirituality. The Namaste shopping street is also a feast for the eyes with concessionaires selling a myriad of Japanese street food and goodies. Light a candle, too, for peace, or drop a paper of goodwill. 

Harajuku/Omotesando/Aoyama

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I would like to credit Kissa for the itinerary for this day because it all worked out so perfectly, so seamlessly. We saw the best of these three areas in one day. It helps that they're all connected to each other. It's in these places that I witnessed modern Japan - Harajuku, millennial entrepreneurs, and one-man coffee shops.  

HARAJUKU

1. Takeshita Doori: This long road contains everything Harajuku, from cosplay shops, gaming centers, crepes, and cute trinkets and toys. 

2. Marion Crepe: The perfect snack to have while walking down the road. There's also Angel's Crepe right across it. 

3. Kai Tako: You still get the best takoyaki in Osaka but the ones from here will do for now. 

4. Laforet Harajuku: A trendy department store that praises Japanase fashion. 

OMOTESANDO

(otherwise known as the Asian counterpart of Champs ElysΓ©es, which in my opinion is less overwhelming and more charming)

1. Gyra Building: Chanel, Bvlgari CafΓ©, and the MoMA shop. Need I say more?

2. Omotesando Hills: Designed by Tadao Ando, the structure of the complex is quite interesting and the shop choices high-end.

3. Leave the main avenue and get lost in the side streets. I found gems like Book Marc, a quaint barber shop, and a coffee shop in a retro vehicle. 

4. Maisen: The best tonkatsu. We have this in Manila but the Kurobuta Tonkatsu set I had in Omotesando was a far cry from the one back home. I guess quality can't be imitated.

5. Omotesando Koffee: Everyone's favorite coffee shop. Easy to know why: it's just one man in a small, cube frame that takes the orders, makes the coffee, and gives the change. Even with all that work, the quality of the coffee doesn't suffer. 

6. Dominique Ansel Bakery: I've visited the main branch in New York but I must say, DAB Tokyo is much, more fun. Vahram Muratyan, graphic designer of the book Paris vs. New York, decorated the walls with kitschy portraits and referential subway maps. They even got Tom Dixon lights hanging by the counter. Well, creative food does deserve a creative space. 

AOYOMA

For Commune 246, a cove filled with food carts, coffee shops, a co-working space, and an events stage. It's everything a millennial is from the vegetarian dishes, wooden facades, Ribbon Fries, fusion hotdogs, and twinkling lights. Even the traditional Japanese are starting to love it (see photo above). 

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