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Tokyo - Preliminary Itinerary and Questions from an NYC CH'er

Just found out we will be spending 5-6 days in Tokyo and 4-5 days in Kyoto in early September and am so excited! I've been reading through the Japan threads and running searches and there's so much great info here, very grateful to all who have posted. We'll be staying at the Park Hotel in Shiodome so I tried where possible to include places that were within the surrounding areas. Here's a rough, preliminary list I put together so far for Tokyo:

soba - Narutomi
unagi - Nodaiwa (lunch)
tempura - Kondo (expensive) or Tsunahachi (reasonable chain)
katsu - Butagumi (expensive), Tonki (reasonable), Katsukara (in Takashimaya)
sukiyaki - Yoshihashi (lunch)
modern - Aronia de Takawaza
sushi - Sawada, Mizutani, Shimizu (lunch), Kyubei (lunch)
yakitori - Kushiwakamaru, Souten (I know Birdland is closer but these seem nicer...)

ramen - ?? (warito? tetsu?)
udon - Konoya
izakaya - ??

I need the most help, I think, in the ramen and izakaya categories but welcome input on any of the above. Our visit will include a Sunday - during the day Sunday we'll probably go to one of the depachika. Of course, we will not be able to manage all of the above...

A few more specific questions too --
My husband wants to go to the electronics district. Anything around there to recommend?
We were thinking about hitting Tsukiji Monday morning and I was wondering if it's more crowded on Mondays?
Any other favorites that are not too far from Shiodome, especially ramen or izakaya? (We have been to the En sister restaurant in NYC so my husband isn't that interested in going to the En in Japan...)

I'll be very glad to get any input on my list or questions. Thanks so much!

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  1. There is a branch of Kyushu Jangara, a chain of extremely porky tonkotsu ramen shops, smack in the middle of Akihabara- the electronics district. Other than that, it is difficult to make blanket recs for ramen and izakaya without more specifics about what part of town or what you are looking for. We have definitely covered a lot on here and if you set search parameters for up to 5 years, more options may reveal themselves.

    I don't really understand the need to be close to Shiodome as it is kind of sterile, but it's close to Ginza so you can run searches on that area.

    For yakitori, Kushiwakamaru is fine but I'm not sure it's destination worthy. Torishiki in Meguro is getting a lot of acclaim on Tabelog these days. You might want to look into that as an option.

    For noodle places, do those for lunches not dinners.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Thanks so much, Silverjay, I'll definitely check out Torishiki. I'm not necessarily looking for places in Shiodome per se, but maybe that side of the city, so including Ginza, Aksaka, Tsukiji, etc. Although my knowledge is rudimentary at this point, it seems like most of the ramen joints mentioned on this blog are way far from where we are...would love to find out if anyone has any favorite ramen or izakaya a little closer...I've also been having trouble using Tabelog with Google Translate, it seems like the names of restaurants aren't really translating properly, so my info thus far has been from CH, bento and my guidebooks...thanks again!

      1. re: The Cookbook Addict

        You better book fast on Torishiki. You need to book at least 2 months in advanced for this place.

        1. re: The Cookbook Addict

          > I need the most help, I think, in the ramen and izakaya categories

          http://www.ramentokyo.com/2009/08/ram...

          This map needs a bit of updating for a couple more Recommended's, which will come soon, but should suffice.

            1. re: kamiosaki

              http://www.ramenadventures.com/p/toky...

              Bario, a tonkotsu-shoyu place in the style of Jiro has a location in Shimbashi, walking distance from Shiodome. Kikanbou, spicy miso, has a spot in Kanda, not too far from Akihabara. Kururi, miso, has another location in Jimbocho, also nearby Akihabara. Though, be warned that downing a bowl at any of the Jiro-clones or heavy miso ramen leave you unable to eat for the rest of the day!

              1. re: ninnikuramen

                Great info, thanks! Haha, yes, miso ramen, especially on a hot day, is a dangerous proposition...

            2. re: The Cookbook Addict

              When I need to link a Tabelog entry with an English name, I run a search for the phone number. Works pretty well in my experience.

              Edited to add: Ah, I just read further down that you figured this out too. Great!

          1. In Akihabara (the electronics district) there's an upscale unagi shop called Kandagawa Honten (Y5000 for lunch or dinner). There's a branch of kushiage shop Tatsukichi, whose Shinjuku branch is often mentioned here; they're open open 4-11pm. If you're feeling adventurous you can sample five different old-school Japanese curry shops in one sitting at Tokyo Curry-ya Meitenkai in one of the Atre buildings.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Robb S

              Thanks, Robb! Mmm, unagi and kushiage, planning this trip is making me famished! Finally figured out to use tabelog googling the phone numbers...

              Silverjay mentioned that where we're staying is pretty sterile. As far as neighborhoods on our itinerary so far, we were thinking Tsukiji, Ginza, Asakusa, Nihonbashi and Shinjuku...does that make sense? We're not big sightseers, mainly we like to take big walks and eat! Grateful for any other advice on our itinerary.

              1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                There are some very nice restaurants and izakaya in Shiodome and nearby, they just tend to be in newish office buildings and close relatively early (last order at 10pm is typical). Besides En (which I think is worth visiting even if you've been to the NYC branch), I like Sai, Katsukura, Hibiki, Konaya and Tsunahachi Sui. And there are some interesting places just across the road in Shimbashi proper.

                For sightseeing, I would add Shibuya/Harajuku/Aoyama to your list - lots of things to see and places to eat and drink.

                1. re: Robb S

                  Thanks again, Robb...this is really helpful. Will be adding those to the itinerary...

            2. Nodaiwa is an excellent pick. I went for the first time two years ago and it ended up being one of my favorite meals of my two week of fine eating in Tokyo.

              I also consider Butagumi a step above any of the other other tonkatsu places I've visited. It offers a wider selection of pork. The last time, I enjoyed the Butagumi Zen platter which allowed me to sample five different types including Iberico.

              I loved Aronia de Takazawa went I went (again, two years ago) but here it has undergone some changes.

              Sawada is pricey but, in my experience, the place I would bring any guest for a one-of-a-kind meal in Tokyo. The sushi is wonderful and the meal itself is a spectacle of variety and varied preparations. On my past two trips to Tokyo, I've been twice. Both my dining companions said it was the best meal they've ever had.

              When it comes to tempura, I guess it comes down to a matter of taste. I've been to Kondo and, while very good, it didn't blow me away like so many of the other meals I've had in Tokyo. I can say I've done high end tempura but, at the end of the day, I wouldn't spend the extra money to enjoy it again.

              Enjoy your trip and do report back. I'm heading back in November.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BaronDestructo

                Thanks, BaronDestructo! Have you also spent time in Kyoto? I'm just starting on that list...

                1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                  Alas, Kyoto was eight years ago with my ex wife. She was feeling under the weather and spent most of the time in the hotel, leaving me to fly. It's a beautiful place, but I don't remember any of the specifics of the meals I had (outside of a great miyazaki steak I had at the hotel restaurant). I do remember checking out Toei Studios and the spooky Ringu haunted house.

              2. Re Sukiyaki: unless your husband or you speak Japanese, Yoshihashi will not accept your reservation. Their policy insist one member of the party has to speak fluent Japanese as nobody there speak English. Another option may be Imahan chain, which has branches in Ginza and Nohonbashi that are quite good. I like Okahan in Ginza but it is very expensive around Yen15-20k pp so you may elect this one if budget is not an issue. In between is Seryna chain, which has branches in Ginza and Roppongi. Seryna is more of the corporate business type which serves very good Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki.

                3 Replies
                1. re: FourSeasons

                  Thanks, Four Seasons...that's too bad about Yoshihashi, we will be traveling without Japanese-speakers. The only other time I've been to Japan I was traveling on business with numerous Japanese-speaking colleagues. We had an amazing sukiyaki meal at a small, traditional place in Matsumara and I was hoping to find somewhere that my husband could have something comparable...

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    What if I show up for lunch at Yoshihashi (without a reservation, very limited japanese)?

                    1. re: babreu

                      I don't think you'll be turned away, but you'll feel reeeally uncomfortable. I've been there many times, every time without reservation, and until I open my mouth and speak Japanese the look on their faces says "a white foreign devil just stepped into my premises, and I'm all out of rat poison!". Overall, I've been treated appropriately, but it is not a particularly warm experience.

                      The food, on the other hand, is amazing.

                  2. L.A. Hound here. Been to Tokyo several times, last time being Nov. 2011. I can comment on a few of the places you've listed.

                    In general, make reservations whenever possible, even if it's spur-of-the-moment, and you're already in the neighborhood and will be at the restaurant within 30 minutes, call the eatery anyways. It's polite.

                    tempura: Many think Ten Ichi in Ginza is too touristy for tempura, but I found it to be great.

                    modern: I finally tried Aronia de Takazawa on my last trip to Japan. The meal I had there was incredibly, utterly fantastic, and defies categorization. BUT, the restaurant has since undergone changes, and is simply now called Takazawa, and I've not yet been to this new incarnation, so I cannot comment.

                    sushi: Sawada was in the top 3 sushi meals of my life... As good as Mizutani, and better than Jiro and Kanesaka. Note: It IS pricey (about USD$450 per person for lunch), and no photography is allowed by Sawada-san.

                    ramen: Easy... Ramen Jiro, in the original Mita-ku location

                    izakaya: My most memorable izakaya was actually at Kayabuki Izakaya in Utsunomiya, a city north of Tokyo, 30 min. by train. OK, so the food is literally served by trained monkeys - It was nonetheless pretty tasty! The gyoza, in particular, was excellent.

                    Electronic district (Akihabara): Why not try a maid cafe, if you've never gone?

                    Visiting Tsukiji: here is a link to the official pamphlet:
                    http://www.shijou.metro.tokyo.jp/engl...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: J.L.

                      Thanks, J.L., it's great to get your input. We already emailed Takazawa about a reservation and he sent us back a very nice email asking us to contact him in July. Will definitely make reservations wherever possible. I'll report back on the revamped Takazawa if we end up going...

                      Yeah, I'm thinking that we're going to try to get a reservation for Sawada as our other big splurge meal. According to the Michelin Guide Sawada is actually open Sundays, wondering if anyone has gone on a Sunday...?

                      1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                        Yes, you are right, Sawada is one of the very few sushi places that opened on Sunday.

                      2. re: J.L.

                        I never went to Tenichi - I wonder if it is touristy or just expat-y, and whether the below commercial played a lot in hotels that tourists would stay at. I remember seeing it at least once weekly for years and years on NHK during the nightly English news. I think they even filmed one of the scenes in the Japanese for Busy People videos lessons there.

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXMhmM...

                        1. re: kamiosaki

                          That video's a riot, thanks for posting!

                          1. re: kamiosaki

                            That video is a crack up, it says "bubble era" as well as Juliana's Tokyo. As for Ten Ichi, it makes a competent tempura, but it is vastly overpriced for what you get, food-quality wise. Service and setting are very nice, but it is definitely more of an "expense account" type of place.

                          2. re: J.L.

                            The changes at Takazawa are pretty much cosmetic: the name and the number of tables have changed, but that's about it. The chef says on their website that he is focusing more on domestic produce, but he pretty much exclusively used Japanese produce anyway, so I think it's just a bit of marketing to generate some buzz.

                            The courses at a recent meal were near identical to the pre-renovation menu.