Near Shinjuku Station - (1) No-reservation amazing sushi (2) late-night ramen (3) quick breakfast
I've got a long layover, arriving NRT 3:25 PM Thursday Dec 6 and flying back out 10:25 AM Friday. So I figure I can drop stuff off at my hotel and be at a sushi place by about 6:00, maybe 6:30. Then see the sights for a while. Then late-night ramen around 9 or 10 or 11. Then bed and back to the airport the next morning after a quick and mind-blowing breakfast.
I don't have a hotel yet, but I'm thinking of staying near Shinjuku Station, mainly because the Suica & N'EX package ticket will get me straight there from Narita.
I don't want to make a reservation, because the plane could be late, etc. etc., so I need places I can walk into. Price: I suppose I ought to keep the sushi under 25,000 Yen (that's about US$300 I hope). It would be great if it's a lot cheaper, but I'm only there for one night, and I'm willing to spend the money for amazing sushi. But I'm also assuming that by eliminating places that require a reservation, I'm probably keeping the price down somewhat.
Also, I don't speak any Japanese at all. But I'm not intimidated, and I'm friendly and polite, so hopefully I'll get by.
Sushi - something that will blow my mind. Traditional with the most amazing fish ever. Or modern with techniques and flavors that are unusual and inventive. Either would be great.
Ramen - I usually prefer Shio, but I like trying new things too.
Breakfast - I'll have to eat pretty early, like 6:00 AM probably, and would like some japanese breakfast that I'd never get in Portland. Something unusual for a westerner.
Honestly, if the OP were to forget the breakfast and is set on going in to spend a night in Tokyo, he should just stick to Shinjuku. A quick check of the train schedule reveals that he'd have to catch the Narita Express leaving Shinjuku at 7.06am or leaving Tokyo at 7.31am (both arrive NRT at 8.36am). From Ueno, he'd have to take the Skyliner leaving Keisi-Ueno at 7.32am (arrives NRT at 8.22am). In other words, there's no significant difference between the 3 locations in terms of the breakfast timing issue.
For someone wanting to get a flavor of Tokyo in one night, I think Shinjuku is it. You've got great restaurants everywhere, people everywhere, you've got Times Square, a massive Bic Camera, Kabukicho, you've got more things open late into the night. I also like Ueno a lot and there's a lot of great little places to eat there, but it doesn't match up to Shinjuku in terms of that one night of quintessential Tokyo experience.
re: Notorious P.I.G.
re: Robb S
I do agree that if you have the possibility to change your hotel, for exemple Shiodome in Shinbashi.. if you are traveling on a package, the best sushi around Shinjuku is Sushi Takumi Tatsuhiro. I personally am not a fan of sushi Kyubei, too impersonal, the 'omakase(chef recommendation)' including sashimi/nigiri is at 15,000.-yens, same price as sushi Takumi Tatsuhiro. Sushi Takumi, the big difference is different rice used(red vinegar&white vinegar shari), alternation of appetizer/sashimi, and the chef is very accommodating so he will ask you if you prefer your sashimi at first or a mix of it.. I prefer the sashimi/tsunami before the nigiris, it depends of your choice of drinks., not sure that he speaks english, he's done some Board Monopoly on sushi as myself, very open.. this sushi is located in Shinjuku Gyoen-mae (Marunouchi line, 2 stations from Shunjuku)- open until 2:00 AM on week days, and until midnight on week end (phone number :03-5925-8225)..
For breakfast, 6:00 is very early, so my recommendation will be to do some shopping before your late sushi, for exemple in Isetan, buy some 'an pan(bread with an paste) at Kimuraya,.. and ask your hotel for a morning call and coffee.
Actually after re-reading your post, I would recommend you stay in Ueno on the east side of the city, rather than the west side in Shinjuku. Ueno has a lot of stuff going on and is a forty minute ride to/ from Narita on the Keisei Skyliner. It's cheaper and faster than JR. Many many more sushi options on the east side as Ueno is on the Yamanote train line and Ginza and Hibiya subways. We've done some Ueno neighborhood posts in the past around here that you can look up.
Wow, so many thoughts. Thank you all. I really appreciate the help.
I've decided to stay in Ueno after all. I do think that being closer, and on a more direct route from the airport makes sense. And I found a decent hotel right near Ueno Station.
Now I'm off to search the board for Ueno places to eat. Thanks again, all. Very much appreciated.
I think your options are going to be:
1).stay near NRT (to be able to enjoy a good breakfast), head into Tokyo for the evening, but then be prepared to start heading back out to NRT by ~9pm (unless you want to stick around till 1.30am and catch the midnight Limousine Bus from Shinjuku station to NRT, getting into your NRT hotel around 4am)
2).Stay in Tokyo but scrap your breakfast plans.
For option 1, Hotel Nikko is a good one with many good-value breakfast-included plans. Despite being an airport hotel, their breakfast buffet is very good, much better and very different than most anything you'll have in America. Not only the usual Western breakfast stuff, but also lots of Japanese things (salmon, Japanese pickles, natto, miso soup, sometimes corn potage, good curry) and delicious, flakey croissants. Reason why I'm saying you'll need to start making your way back from Tokyo around 9pm is that train services to Narita become spotty around that time. But that will likely only leave you time for a dinner. You can always take a bus at all hours of the night, but not sure how you'd cope trying to hunt down buses and all that. As I mentioned above, there is the option of catching the Limousine bus at 1.30am back to your NRT hotel, but that might make for a rough night.
If you stay in Shinjuku, most likely you're looking at having to catch the ~7am Narita Express from Shinjuku station. In Shinjuku, your best bet for breakfast would be the buffet at places like Century Southern or the Hilton... but those places don't even open till ~6.30am. Japanese bakeries are also excellent, but I think most have opening hours that vary from 7-10am (most open around 8-9am). In Shinjuku, places like Royal Host are open 24hrs and significantly better than Denny's in the US, but probably not the breakfast you're looking for. Yoshinoya opens really early, some are open 24hrs, and I know they have locations near Shinjuku station, although again maybe not what you're looking for. On the other hand, If you stay near NRT, you can enjoy your breakfast and then take the hotel's airport shuttle ~8.30am.
Brian over at Ramen Adventures considers the Golden Gai Nagi a great shop, it's probably worth a try.
Another option is Tonchin : http://www.ramenate.com/2010/04/tonch...
I'm a big fan of iekei style ramen, courtesy of Mrs. Squirrel although I never feel so great afterwards.
For ramen, Kaijin, in front of the station, is open until 11pm something--> http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13045287/ . They do seafood based shio soups...There's a branch of Ichiran, which is opened 24 hrs, also near Shinjuku Station--> http://www.ichiran.co.jp/english/html... . It's tonkotsu. ..There might be branches of Jiro opened later.... Most of the precious, really good ramen places run out of noodles or soup by evening time. The late night stuff is a dip in quality...There are tons of other options in Kabukicho opened into the wee hours.
Sushi, search the board. Someone posted a bunch of sushi places for Shinjuku in the past.
Breakfast, you can peruse the selection on offer at convenience stores like 7-11 or Lawson's. Or inquire if there is something at your hotel. Best to dial down your enthusiasm on this one.
I've since been informed that over by Kabukicho and Shinjuku 2-chome there are plenty of places (teishoku-ya, etc.) that are serving food in the early morning- mostly to mizu-shobai people (uhh, nightlife entertainers?) who are getting off of work. But I don't know any specific recs.
One strategy to consider is to eat ramen at Ichiran in the morning since it is open 24 hrs and eat something else after sushi- perhaps horumon or yakitori or something from Omoide Yokocho or some place in Kabukicho.