48 Hours in Tokyo

We got back to Tokyo from Hakone in the late afternoon. We were on a pretty crowded train because we needed to get to Shinjuku Station, which is one of the most popular and busy stations. Being back in a bustling city was a bit of a culture shock after our relaxing, slow-paced time in Hakone. The walk to our hotel was pretty easy, despite being tired and lugging around our heavy bags. We knew rain was forecasted to start soon so I think we were just grateful that we didn't have to endure any precipitation while we had our luggage with us.
I was pretty stoked to be back in Tokyo, mainly because we were sort of in familiar territory. Even though we'd only spent a short time in Tokyo when we initially landed, I think I'd gotten enough exposure to the city and its eccentricities in that short timeframe that I no longer felt like I was out of my comfort zone.

The hotel was pretty typical; the rooms were tiny but functional and it was comfortable. We paid ¥28,880 ($268 USD) for two nights.
We were hungry so we went out in search of dinner and to simultaneously explore our new neighborhood.
We wanted to get something we hadn't enjoyed in Japan yet so we went looking for unagi and ended up here at the recommendation of our hotel.
It was kind of a pricey meal but the unagi was super delicious so I'd say it was worth it. I always enjoyed unagi in the States but now I'm convinced it's all garbage because I think the way they prepare it in Japan is done much more carefully and the meat has a much better texture and flavor.
We basically used photos in the menu and some v. vague English descriptions to place our orders.
After dinner, we walked around Shinjuku, specifically the Kabukicho neighborhood which is also known as a nightlife/red light district.
It was really overwhelming to be here because of all the lights and crowds but I was super depressed when we saw the girls selling their bodies. There was one girl in a catholic school uniform holding up a sign with her sexy solicitation written in English but she was totally zoned out just scrolling through her phone. The culture of sex in Japan is incredibly bizarre. On one hand, it's a really conservative culture but then there are these red light districts. I think that often, when sexuality is repressed, it explodes in dangerous, unhealthy ways. I mean, Tokyo is known for its hourly love hotels and Japan is known for its v. strange censored porn. I find it so confusing.

After we'd meandered around and made our way through Kabukicho and Golden Gai and gotten super depressed by the sex workers, we headed back to our hotel.
We decided we needed some fruit because we were craving something fresh so we got some amazing peaches. We spent some time in the onsen before heading back to our rooms and devoured the peaches before going to bed.
In the morning, we bought a 48-hour metro pass, which is something you can only get if you're a tourist. It was ¥1,200 each ($11 USD), which is totally worth it if you plan on riding the subway at least 3 times per day. I mean, even if you're planning on taking the subway exactly 3 times, I'd argue it's worth it for the convenience.
For breakfast, we decided to get some cake. We'd seen this place featured in a Youtube video and it looked good enough for us to try.
We couldn't stomach the idea of just eating cake so we also got one of the breakfast specials: the croissant sandwich that came with salad and a beverage.
I opted for the iced cacao tea, which was awesome. It had a rich chocolatey taste but it was refreshing like iced tea and it was almost confusing. It gave me the same satisfaction that a chocolate milkshake might without the heaviness.
The sandwich was delicious. It was made super simply with ham, hard boiled egg, lettuce, tomato, and Japanese mayonnaise. I think the flaky and buttery croissant is what made this so successful.
We decided to get the whole cake instead of the slice, mainly because I was kind of convinced that the slices might be sort of dry and not do the cake justice. It was definitely too much but it was delicious and we ate the whole thing, so there's that.
As we were getting ready to leave, I saw one of the staff bring out a new tray of freshly baked croissants and I couldn't resist so we asked for one to wash down the cake. It was almost as good as the croissants I had in Paris so this place is legit. Even if you're not a chocolate cake fan, just come for the cacao tea and the croissants.
Because it was pouring buckets of rain outside, we decided to make this a shopping day. We didn't just want to do typical shopping you can do anywhere so we hit up some of the more unique stores Tokyo had, including Kiddy Land, which is a huge toy store.
And because we couldn't leave Japan without checking out the Harajuku scene, we headed to Takeshita street.
We contemplated going to the mameshiba cafe, which is where you can play with miniature shiba dogs, but there was a wait and we weren't sure about the ethical treatment of the animals in these places so we skipped it.
While we were weaving our way through the sea of umbrellas, this little boutique caught our eye so we checked it out. We ended up buying a couple of really cute, unique things from this place. I got a breezy little button down with a monster print and a cute new wallet.
We also popped into Daiso Harajuku just to see what they had. It was super busy but not as fun as the Daiso we went to in Korea so we didn't spend much time or any money here.
And of course, we had to take the subway to Ginza to check out the giant Sanrio store. I ended up buying a couple pairs of Gudetama socks and hair clips.
For lunch, we stayed in Ginza where the food options were plentiful.
Since it was so gross out and we were chilled through from the rain, we decided to get ramen. We had to pay cash at this little machine to get tickets and that's how we placed our order.
Kazami is a tiny restaurant with less than a dozen seats so we squeezed in at the booth and watched the ramen chef get to work.
We each got the bowl of the sake kasu noko soba, which was their signature dish, and according to the staff, their most popular dish. The broth had a milky look but it was really light and had incredible depth of flavor. It was so thick and rich and comforting. The noodles had great snap and chew and all fo the accompaniments sitting on top were great. I especially enjoyed the tofu slice and the sous-vide pork. The chashu pork (roasted) was also good, but a little too fatty and greasy.
We actually got an extra order of the sous-vide pork.
Back in the Shinjuku area, we stopped by a Lush thinking we could maybe get some samples of skincare and lotion to use after our final onsen session that night. However, this location only had bath bombs. There were hundreds of different kinds of bath bombs. The store smelled amazing but it looked even better; it was so organized and lovely.
We went back to our hotel to dry off a bit and get the chill out of our bones but after a bit, we were bored again so we headed out for a little more window shopping. Just a few blocks from our hotel was Beams, a really cool store where each floor had a different theme.
We also popped into the Bic Camera Shop and Uniqlo collaboration store just to check it out. It turned out they had loads of Gudetama themed t-shirts for sale so we stocked up.
We also went into Muji. I love this store in the States but the Japanese one was great. It was even more organized and beautiful than the versions I've been to in the U.S.
I wasn't sure what we should do for dinner but while scrolling around on Google, I found this place. I knew it would be popular so it was a gamble but when we showed up, there was a queue of 8 people out the door. Shortly after we joined the queue, 2 people left so we were encouraged to stay. The queue continued into the restaurant but after I read that it's usually dozens of people long, I decided we definitely had to stay. It didn't take too long for us to reach the front and we placed our order and paid before we were even seated. Ugh, Japanese people are so efficient; it's wonderful.
The concept is fun. You're given a plate of par-cooked breaded wagyu steak that you finish cooking on the little stone grills at the table. You're also given a big bowl of rice, soup, a couple of dipping sauces, and whatever side dishes you ask for. The side dishes have a cost associated with them; you can order the meat with 1, 2, or 3 side dishes. You can also order different sizes of steak.
The meat was beautiful and tender and I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.
Since it had stopped raining, we decided to go to this free observation deck I'd read about. The only limiting factor here is the capacity of the elevator. It wasn't busy at all when we went so we didn't wait at all and we weren't in a crowded elevator when we took it to the 45th floor.
The views aren't mind blowing but they're lovely and they're free. You can get 360 degree views of the city and the glass can create a challenge for photographing but I enjoyed being there.
After we left the observation deck, we hopped on a metro back to our hotel.

In the morning, we packed and checked out and got back on the metro to Tokyo Station. We thought it made more sense to leave our luggage in the lockers at the station since we needed to come here to grab a train to the airport in the afternoon. There are a bunch of different sets of lockers, some are inside of the ticketed areas and some are outside. You can check availability of the lockers online.
We wanted to get one more taste of our beloved tamago-yaki and daifuku before we left so even though we'd already been to Tsukiji, we went back.
This garden is free to enter so we walked around to kill some time before our lunch reservation.
Our final meal in Japan was the omakase set menu at Manten Sushi. I share every single piece of fish we ate in my video diary but I didn't want to bog down this blog post so I'm just sharing a few of my favorites, including the photo above where our sushi master is grating fresh wasabi for us. The photo below is the bonito.
I loved this delicious chutoro (medium fatty tuna).
The sweet, delicate uni temaki was fantastic.
The chutoro (fatty tuna) temaki was prepped with raw onion, which tempered the unctuousness of the tuna.
The anago (fresh water eel) and tamago (egg) were both lovely. The anago had a deep grilled flavor and the tamago was silky soft, almost like silken tofu.
To finish the meal, we were given these giant gooseberries, which were a nice palate cleanser.
After our meal, we walked towards Tokyo Station at a leisurely pace. We'd hoped to stop somewhere to get some taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries) but we got distracted by a street market near the restaurant and ran out of time.
We took a train on the JR line back to Narita Airport.
We used the last of our yen on duty-free items and souvenirs before hopping on the plane home.
It was an amazing trip but it wasn't easy to be away from home for such a long stretch and I was definitely excited to get home. When we landed, it was rainy for a week which made it extremely difficult to cure ourselves of jet lag and is partially the reason why I'm only finishing up this post more than a month after we got back.
Here's my video diary: