I recently went to Tokyo to present at a Dell EMC Forum and deliver a cloud native training class (which is open source - check it out). I had a truly awesome time, and want to share some of the spots I loved and tips I learned.
- We had a truly incredible experience at a sake bar called Ganko Oyaji on the edge of the Shinjuku and Shibuya districts. Its maybe a 5 minute walk from Shinjuku station. The bartender there didn’t speak much English, but he did a great job at recommending various forms of sake based on what we tried and liked/didn’t like. Also, the menu has a solid list of sake in English, a description of the various kinds (again in English), and they take reservations! It was super impressive, if a little hard to find. Show the Uber/Taxi driver the address on your phone, and then when you get there look for the super nondescript black entrance down to the basement:
While it was a bit touristy and hokey, we enjoyed a dinner at the ‘Ninja’ restaurant called ‘Ninja Akasaka’. Its a whole themed event where everyone is dressed up, and quite an experience. The food was good (though not amazing), but made up for with cool magic shows at your table, and a neat tasting-style menu.
One night we went to Gonpachi, which is a neat restaurant where they filmed the restaurant / Yakuza scene for Kill Bill. You’ll need reservations, but its worth the visit to replay the movie in you head as you eat.
We took a day trip on the train to a sleepy seaside town called Hakone, and it was well worth the trip. I’d recommend you take the fast train there and back, as we took the slow train back and it was SLOW. Book a ticket on the ‘SuperHakone’ (aka the RomanceCar - though it has nothing to do with romance) in the ‘Green Car’ for about $30 USD - well worth the trip that takes half as long and is far more comfortable.
While in Hakone, check out the Open Air Museum, which is just stunningly huge, 90% outside, and wonderful to get lost in. Beautiful grounds and sculptures. If you get the Hakone Free Pass you get to use all the buses and rail cars (which are all in English), which makes it easy to get around.
Our other favorite meal was at Teppen Onna Dojo, which was also a little hard to find - look for this entrance most of the way down an alley. Very small, but super friendly to foreigners and with English menus, its a Teppenyaki, where they pick skewers of stuff, they cook it for you and serve it. Strongly recommend you sit at the bar for the interaction aspect to it. Lots of fun shouting to welcome people in and thank them as they leave, and even a crazy dance number for a happy birthday. This was in the Shibuya district, so lots to see before and after.
Lastly - I LOVE Ramen. Truly. If you want the best I’ve ever had (and Michelin starred too), head to Ginza Kagari in the Ginza district. Get there by 11:30 to line up (line takes about 20 minutes, but WELL worth the wait). Tiny little place with 8 total seats, but the best chicken ramen I’ve ever had (and probably will ever have). Don’t miss it.