I’ve traveled to Europe, Mexico, and even the Middle East but if you asked me if I’ve ever explored Asia, I’d come back with “how long is that flight!?”
Luckily, I got over that (and myself) and booked a trip to visit Asia (specifically Japan) for Tom’s 30th birthday.
And while we booked the trip in October of 2018, I didn’t realllly start planning until February or March of 2019. If we’re being honest, I didn’t do too much planning but rather, devoured my friends reviews who had been previously.
When it came to Tokyo, I really didn’t know what to expect and therefore went in with an open-mind (and empty belly). If I could sum it up in a few thoughts: Tokyo is a seriously magical place. It’s a place of organized chaos, neon lights, stand-up sushi spots, and serene, cherry blossom filled parks.
Needless to say, if you haven’t gone – you gotta go asap.
A few highlights during our time in Tokyo:
Shinjuku Gyoen: We went during cherry blossom season and I have to say, this was the perfect place to admire them in full bloom. It’s a big park, so wear comfortable shoes and walk yourself around. There’s even a greenhouse when you want to take a break from the cherry blossoms and look at some other flora and fauna.
TeamLab Borderless: Literally guys, this was some of the coolest shit I’ve seen. You could call it an “experiential” museum, but Borderless is so much more than that. Inside, artworks move out of rooms, communicates with other works, influences, and sometimes intermingles with each other with no boundaries. It’s a beautiful place with the balloon and light exhibit being my favorites! Pro tip: Get there right when they open (at 10 a.m.) to avoid hideously long lines.
Nata de Cristiano’s: If you love egg tarts or hell, even deliciously sweet things – you have to head here. We went twice while we were in Tokyo and these egg tarts (aka: pastel de nata’s) are these insanely delectable tarts that are easily devoured after a few bites. Oh, and each one is like $1.50! Even better for the traveler on a budget.
Gyoza Cooking Class: I’m a huge fan of striking a balance between touristy and non-touristy things while I travel abroad. One of my favorite things to do when traveling somewhere new is hop onto Airbnb Experiences and see what’s out there. Tom and I booked a gyoza cooking class last minute and I have to say it was the highlight of our trip. We went to Kotaro, Kei And Baby Miya’s house a few stops from Shinjuku and for three hours learned how to chop, make, and fry gyoza by hand. We ended the three hour session with 50 pieces of gyoza and new friends. It was perfect.
Trench: It’s no vacation with Tom unless we check out a good cocktail bar. Luckily we found Trench and were so happy we did. Located on a back-alley in the near distance from Ebisu station, this bar offers some lovely libations and badass bartenders. I recommend the Chai Martinez for the perfect balance of spice and botanicals.
Savoy: Okay, okay. So Savoy is a pizza place. And yes, David Chang went there. BUT, it’s no wonder why David Chang went there because Savoy is SO. DAMN. GOOD. I recommend trying to get a reservation as the line when you visit goes out the door and the place is the size of a closet. But besides the tactical part, when you go to Savoy – whatever you do – order the two pizzas. They usually just have two. The first being a mozzarella and basil pizza and the other is usually just marinara and olive oil. The thing is, the oven is wood burning which makes the crust utterly irresistible.
Kushimura Yakitori: To be honest, I never had Yakitori before so a lot of Japanese cuisine was new to me. Basically, yakitori are skewered foods that are grilled over a charcoal fire. So, being open for anything, we went to Kushimura Yakitori. And because we had such an amazing experience, we also went twice during our stay. Some of our favorites include the stuffed cheese peppers wrapped in bacon, shisitos, and chicken with wasabi.
Gōtokuji Temple: We walked here from Shinjuku (around an hour or so) but it’s a beautiful walk with an even more beautiful temple at the end. This landmark has a large collection of lucky cat statues and perfect photo ops. They even have lucky cats souvenirs for sale!