If you want an incredible culinary experience, Tokyo is a great choice! I always have liked the Japanese cuisine but I did not expect to be amazed, the way I was. The food is really something you enjoy in Japan and the best part of it is how good yet, how healthy it is!
The best times to travel to Japan are usually April, May or June. However, if you are a foodie looking for a real food experience, my advice would be to visit during the end of August, when the traditional Summer Night / Noryo-Matsuri festival takes place.
My trip was unplanned, but I got lucky twice! I landed during the weekend of this festival, but I also happened to be staying in the, Azabu-Juban neighborhood, where it was located. It was literally down the door of the appartement! This 50-year old festival takes place at the end of August (this year, it was August 26 and 27, so the last weekend of August). For two days, people dress tradionally and gathers for a gathering of dancing, live music, alcohol and food. Lots of food.
I particularly enjoyed the skewered Kobe beef and the shots of Yuzu Sake : absolutely delicious! In fact, that was one of the most amazing street food experience and the ambiance was fantastic.
If you haven't already, check my video to immerse yourself in Tokyo.
During the day, I mostly ate sushis. In fact, I think I had sushi at least once or twice a day. Cliché? Well, I truly LOVE sushi (any French readers? "J'adooore les sushis") so it was literally food heaven for me because not only sushis were affordable but they were the best I have ever had. I mostly got mine as a take-away, either from the supermarket or from special sushi shop, and I must say I was so impressed by the quality and taste of the supermarket sushis, as they probably tasted better than the fanciest place in Beirut or Paris I have been to!
However, as a restaurant, Sushi No Midori in Akasaka is the place to go (as it was often recommended to me). However be careful, you need to book and come early, as the rules are strict and seats limited
If raw fish isn't your thing, you must definitely have some Teppanyaki and try Kamon. This Open Grill Restaurant is located within the Imperial Hotel in Chiyoda-ku (around the Imperial Palace).
I had the most incredible tempura at Udon Buzen (Azabu-Juban). The portion was insane and I wondered how Japanese managed to stay so skinny while eating so much. In fact, I discover that Japanese love to eat. Food is everywhere and they will gladly stop for a quick snack before continuing their road. Food is showcased everywhere, either in appetising pictures or in plastic samples (sampuru) that shows you exactly what you are about to order and eat. Quite funny!
I am still trying to decide if it is the walking, the tea or the high consumption of konjac (which absorb 20 times its weight in water) that make them stay so skinny. Maybe a combination of all of three.
gonpachi : the kill bill restaurant
Gonpachi is one of those place you cannot skip. The restaurant is famous for hosting one of the epic fighting scene in Kill Bill. Today, most people visit it for that reason but I have to be honest : even if the place itself was great and it was so cool to "be there", I was a bit disappointed by the food. I am not saying it was bad, it was actually very decent, but by Japanese standards (that you pick up quite fast, believe me) it was not impressive. That's probably why most visitors were actually foreigners.
Sweets & Drinks
Asian food isn't very focus on sweets (but anyway you'll be busy eating incredible good food). However you might have heard of of some brands like Oreo & Kit Kat but with other tastes. I really recommend the Oreos with Matcha, they are surprisingly good and they make a good souvenir option! The Kit Kat however were not my cup of tea... so it's at your own risk ;)
Speaking of tea, I HAVE TO mention my ultimate favorite drink : cold/iced Jasmine Tea from the brand Relax. I miss this every day, it is so so good and truly tastes like Jasmine Tea but without the excess sugar that you find in sodas like Lipton Iced Tea. Great pick if you tired of drinking water.
One last place I have to mention because I also miss it everyday from France is Pierre Hermé. The French Pastry chef (who worked for Fauchon & Ladurée) actually opened his first store in Tokyo, in 1998! It's only 3 years later that he opened in Paris (Thank God for me) and believe me if I tell you that his pastries are made in heaven! He is even called the Picasso of Pastries or The Kind of Modern Patisserie. Japanese particularly appreciate his pastries and you will find many shops around so be sure to try his creations.
As for the nightout, Tokyo is pretty big on the rooftop scene. I only spent one night at the Two Rooms Grill & Bar, one the trendiest place in the city. You can also wander around Roppongi (that actually used to be the red district) and find many places to party.
You also cannot visit Tokyo without going to Shinjuku and have an authentic bar experience at the Golden Gai. This small zone inside Shinjuku is home to a series of traditional Japanese bars. Each bar is very small, with a capacity of 4 to 6 persons to keep very friendly vibes and a warm atmosphere. However, don't be surprise if you pay an extra charge because you are a foreigner (usually 500 to 1000 yens)! You also may not be accepted in some places so stick to bars that have English panels & menu ;)
Are you ready for your Tokyo experience? If so, comment on what you are most excited / intrigued about! And if you already visited, what was your favorite food experience!