I have been to Tokyo 3 times in the past year. There is something about this ultra-modern, ultra-hip and yet still very traditional Asian city that keeps me coming back for more. The city is dotted with sky high buildings, neon lights and colorful Harajuku girls in the midst of traditional Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. During Spring time, pretty Cherry Blossoms are all around beautifying even more the very clean and cosmopolitan city.
Also in the recent years alone, some of the best French Patisseries like Laduree and Pierre Herme have opened shops here, adding even more excitement to their fantastic foodscape. Meanwhile, their world-class restaurant dining scene has just earned them the most number of Michelin stars in the world — beating the French Capital and the origin of haute cuisine itself, Paris, by a mile high. These, plus so much more make this place the perfect backdrop for a good holiday destination.
Because there are just too many good things to see, do and eat in Tokyo (and I have a gazillion and one photos to prove them!), I’ve decided to break them down in 2 parts. This part 1 is just the first part of my trip. (But if you want to see the recent photos of my very last trip, go to my Instagram, they’re all there! :))
As I’ve spent two Easter holidays here in a row, I say March to April is always the best time to come and visit because this is their Spring season and the beautiful Cherry Blossoms are all a-bloom!
Everywhere you go and wherever you look, you will see these beautiful pink and white Cherry Blossoms surrounding you. The Japanese word for them is Sakura.
The Japanese themselves look forward to their Spring time. They celebrate the beauty of the Sakura in a festival called Hanami, which literally means Cherry Blossom viewing. This is an age-old custom that dates back thousands of years ago when the people would go to their open parks and Zen gardens with family and friends to relax, to picnic and just to be merry. In fact, it is the same cheerful mood almost everywhere in the country during this time. I’ve written about my trip to the other side of Japan (the lesser known city of Osaka) in this article here.
My baby girl all bundled up but nevertheless enjoying the cool and crisp weather in Tokyo. She is at the age of not wanting to be photographed and covers her face every time I want to take a picture of her! 🙂
Going to the dining scene now…
We went to the original Ippudo Ramen located in the heart of the city, Ginza. This is a very small, casual and hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant because the real stars of the place are their freshly made noodles and its steaming, flavorful broth!
I say, no trip to Japan would be complete without having Ramen in its place of origin! 🙂
A date with the Hubby soon followed at Les Creations de Narisawa, located in Minami-Aoyama, approximately 20 mins away from Tokyo center. This is a French-contemporary and Japanese-inspired fine dining restaurant, which until now remains to be one of my top favorites.
This two-Michelin starred restaurant is widely acclaimed and was named Best Restaurant in Asia for 3 consecutive years and ranked 12th best in the world by San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, among many other things.
Chef Narisawa’s cooking philosophy is fresh, simple and clean. He uses nature’s bounty for its main ingredients. Everything in the menu spells nature conservation which explains the names of some of his dishes like “Soil Soup”, “Water Salad” and “Forest Dish”.
There were several (all wonderful) dishes in the meal but this was one of the highlights. I actually thought I was given a piece of Charcoal to eat until I was told to slice it diagonally…
…And out came the juiciest and tastiest Japanese beef I’ve ever eaten in my life. Words can do no justice to describe this piece of meat! 🙂
It was definitely a real Umami experience for me!
The meal had more dishes than we expected. We were given several dessert plates too and this was just one out of the many. It was made up of several textures and interpretations of the Japanese Green Tea, Chocolate and Coffee – all beautifully presented like in a Zen garden.
Of course, I didn’t complain and was simply more than happy to indulge in my favorite part of the meal! 🙂
After the gorgeous spread of desserts, we were still given a slew of Petit Fours… and we chose as much as we wanted from this beautiful tray.
And the last of their many sweet treats, their homemade Macarons in different Cacao percentage to end the fantastic meal!
Our next great meal was at Sushi Kanesaka, a two-Michelin starred restaurant located in the heart of Ginza.
They say that it’s easy to find good Sushi in Tokyo (or wherever in Japan for that matter), but to find exceptional Sushi is a totally different story.
Sushi Kanesaka serves only the freshest and most premium grade Sushi. Dining here was an experience in itself for the restaurant can only seat 14 people, so booking way ahead is definitely a must.
The Japanese will also tell you that to them, Sushi is an art. Seeing the Master Chef slice the sashimi and roll the sushi with very sharp, defined and yet graceful movements was a spectacle in itself.
Photo above shows the fattiest (and definitely the best) kind of tuna I’ve ever had, Otoro.
If there’s one reason why I will go back to this place, it’s because of this Otoro Sushi. It is surely worth all the stars and cents! 🙂
Another popular dining destination especially among the Filipino tourists who come to Tokyo is Seryna. They have 3 branches here : Ginza, Shinjuku and Roppongi.
This restaurant is well known for their Kobe Beef Sukiyaki.
This is the kind of fat that I like! 🙂 Fat marbling — in all its glory!
A real Japanese Beef Sukiyaki is best eaten straight from its hotpot and then dipped in fresh, raw egg!
For good desserts, cakes, pastries and cookies, one place I frequent whenever in Tokyo is Yoku Moku Cafe in Omotesando.
This is where I get a lot of the good Japanese confectionery, which are great for pasalubong too. Photo above shows Yoku Moku’s famous Cigare, which are biscuits that are rolled like a crepe and are light, crispy and delicious!
But if you don’t have the time to go to their cafe, you will find a lot of Yoku Moku branches in most department stores’ basement floors as well as airports.
The Yoku Moku Cafe serves one of the best (if not the best) Warm Chocolate Molten Cake and Strawberry Shortcake I’ve ever tried.
(See what I’ve written about them here.)
One of the most popular French Patisseries, Laduree has opened shop here too. This is located in Mitsukoshi Department Store in Ginza.
This place is brimming with the most colorful and beautiful cakes, pastries and desserts!
And of course, this is THE PLACE to go to if you want to taste some of the best macarons in the world. (Some even argue that this is where it all began!)
There’s always a long waiting line outside this pretty Patisserie (no reservations allowed), but this was not a deterrent for me to have my cakes! (I went all the way to Tokyo for this, I simply cannot back out now!)
Photo above shows their Plaisir Sucre cake and Coupe Ispahan iced dessert (made of Raspberry sherbet and Rose petal ice cream topped with fresh Raspberries, Lychees and Chantilly whipped cream).
Another cake I ordered was their Chocolate Millefeuille Praline. I love the deep dark Chocolate used here and the crunchy Millefeuille pastry layers in between. Being one of my favorite Chocolate desserts of all time, I’ve written about this piece of cake here.
We also tried their freshly churned Pistachio and Vanilla ice cream…both were creamy and delicious but the Pistachio with those rich chunky nuts mixed in was the hands-down winner!
Japan is also well known for its extra large, extra plump and extra sweet Strawberries! They can be quite expensive though compared to our local Baguio berries and even to the imported California or Driscoll branded ones (which are not really sweet!) that we see in most supermarkets here.
But their sweetness and juiciness make them worth it! I actually bought a couple of packs to bring home.
(Just make sure you buy them the day before or on the same day of your departure so they’re still fresh when you arrive!)
And last but not the least, what’s a trip to Japan without the ubiquitous KitKat Chocolates in their popular and “weird” flavors like Green Tea, Coffee, Cheesecake and like this green one in the photo, Wasabi? 🙂
Oh and lest we forget, the kiddos! 🙂 When in Tokyo and if you have the time, Tokyo Disneyland, is sure worth the visit!
Since this is Tokyo, everything here is clean, orderly, pretty and in Japanese too 🙂
But nevertheless, whether you and your kids understand the language or not, you will surely enjoy this happiest and most magical place on earth!
Did I mention my baby is camera-shy?
Till the next part of our trip!