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8 Night Tokyo/Kyoto/Hiroshima Itinerary - Feedback Greatly Appreciated

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bmdaniel Jan 21, 2014 07:33 AM

The wife and I will be making our first trip to Japan at the end of March - have done a lot of research and pulled together a starter itinerary, would greatly appreciate any thoughts/feedback/suggestions: We are staying in the Peninsula in Tokyo but obviously want to explore as much as possible.

Saturday - Arrive late afternoon Tokyo
Dinner: Birdland (wanted something nearby/lower key given we will probably be pretty jetlagged)

Sunday - Tokyo
Lunch: Isetan (Depachika/Restaurants)
Dinner: Sushisho Masa

Monday - Tokyo
Lunch: Narisawa
Dinner: Tempura Kondo

Tuesday - Tokyo
Breakfast: Tour/eat at Tsukiji (not sushi)
Lunch: Sushi Saito
Dinner: Ryugin (also considering Den/Takazawa/other thoughts?)

Wednesday - Travel to Kyoto
Breakfast: Tokyo Ramen Street (Rokurinsha)
Lunch: Omen Udon
Dinner: Hiiragyia Kaiseki (our hotel)

Thursday - Kyoto
Breakfast: Ryokan
Lunch: Shoraian
Dinner: Ryokan or Gogyo Ramen

Friday - Travel to Hiroshima
Breakfast: Ryokan
Lunch: Mitchan Okonomiyaki
Dinner: Tempura Tenko

Saturday: Return to Tokyo
Breakfast/Lunch: Likely at station/on train
Dinner: Jumbo

Sunday: Depart Tokyo in the evening
Lunch: Butagumi

Besides those planned meals, will probably work in some additional pastry stops, cocktail bars, and late night Izakaya visits. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

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  1. Silverjay Jan 21, 2014 08:08 AM

    Your itinerary is heavy on meat and fried things...and carbs. I would definitely dump one of the tempura meals- the one in Hiroshima specifically. Try oyster hot pot or some kind of anago meal or something regional.....On Wednesday you're planning to eat ramen in the morning and udon for lunch. If you are running a marathon the next day, I guess that is a way to go. Otherwise, I would suggest a lighter lunch.

    The depachika are great but you will need to find a place to eat anything you purchase because they are not set up for dine-in. The restaurant floor is a separate operation upstairs. They will have one of everything. Personally, I would recommend eating at whatever tempura place they have there and then use your Monday dinner for something more adventuresome then Kondo. But that's just me perhaps...

    If you are coming from NYC, I would suggest dumping Jumbo yakiniku in favor of a seafood izakaya.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay
      b
      bmdaniel Jan 21, 2014 08:31 AM

      Thank you Silverjay and Shirang.

      Thinking about dropping Kondo and Tempura Tenko, and trying TenYou in Kyoto the second night. That would open up a spot in Tokyo for a Seafood Izakaya as well as something different in Hiroshima. Any specific recs on the Izakaya?

      Thought on Jumbo is we'd like to try Wagyu in Japan, open to other thoughts on best place to do it?

      Maybe on the first day in Kyoto we'll just do snacks at the Nishiki Market for lunch instead of the Udon.

      1. re: bmdaniel
        Silverjay Jan 21, 2014 08:40 AM

        Snacking at Nishiki is a good idea...Wagyu just means Japanese beef so any place will serve that. If you want to try the highend stuff like Matsuzaka, etc., I would suggest picking out one of those fancy beef places and going all out. They have been discussed here. We've also covered all kinds of izakaya.

        I agree with Shirang about your course meals. Less so about how full you will get and more so about how much time you will spend sitting with your hands in your lap waiting to be served. You have excellent restaurants planned but at same time, you might want to open yourself up to more spontaneity to balance out the preciousness of omakase style dining.

        1. re: Silverjay
          Silverjay Jan 21, 2014 08:52 AM

          Also, I don't mean the spontaneity of walking off the street into a place because quite frankly, if you don't read Japanese, you will probably walk into a chain restaurant. I mean spontaneity of ordering a la carte or having a local recommend a dish for you or some such experience like that.

          1. re: Silverjay
            Kavey Jan 21, 2014 08:57 AM

            Maybe I'm not a worthy chowhounder, but for an overseas visitor to Japan, I'm not sure there's a big reason to avoid all chains just because they are chains, surely?

            Katsukura has a number of branches, but I liked their tonkatsu more than Maisen's, which is sometimes recommended here, though I guess it's a chain too.

            Also found it fun to try Japanese chain fast food, it's part of the japanese food scene and a fascinating contrast to UK fast food.

            Meh, clearly my mileage varies! ;-)

            1. re: Kavey
              Silverjay Jan 21, 2014 09:00 AM

              I think the chains can be good and are always an option. I eat at them sometimes as well. But if you have access to this forum and you are only visiting for a short trip, seems like you can avoid them if you wanted in favor of local places.

              1. re: Silverjay
                Kavey Jan 21, 2014 09:14 AM

                Yes I guess so. I think the idea of mapping out every single meal for an entire trip concerns me a little, as it leaves no room for spontaneity, and for some of the uniquely Japanese experiences that are, perhaps, only exciting to a first time visitor.

                For example, ordering via a vending machine and giving in our ticket for a quick and tasty katsu curry at a train station, remains a highlight. We just don't have those machines at home!

                Nipping in to a local ramen place by our hotel, avoiding the rain, cramming in with other locals, peering at what they ordered, feeling a little more part of everyday Japan, another highlight. And actually, the ramen there was one of my favourites, though I couldn't tell you whether it's 1st or 1000th on tablelog.

                I just think that when visiting a country that's so different to one's own, not just in cuisine but culture and so many little details, it's nice to leave a little to chance, and also deliberately include some meals at the lower end.

                But as I said, it's all down to travelling style and YMMV! :-D

                1. re: Kavey
                  Silverjay Jan 21, 2014 11:12 AM

                  All well and fine but the easiest thing to do here is to tell people to wing it and that their mileage may vary. We've got a forum to help people find something good and interesting to eat. Not everyone wants to settle for train station food.

                  I see Tsukiji and Nishiki markets, depachika, and a train station meal in this itinerary. That seems to already capture the freewheeling aspect you are talking about.

                  1. re: Silverjay
                    Kavey Jan 21, 2014 11:18 AM

                    Indeed, perhaps so.
                    I wasn't suggesting telling people to wing it, but merely expressing the pleasure of some unplanned slots.

                  2. re: Kavey
                    g
                    Gargle Jan 21, 2014 01:38 PM

                    I think telling people who are obviously interested in dining to be spontaneous about dining in Tokyo or Kyoto is seriously bad advice :) Do you really want to dine in restaurant number 5000+ in Tabelog on a short trip when you can do much better with a small amount of planning?

                    That said, it does seem like a huge amount of relatively heavy food and I agree that getting to and from all those meals is going to be pretty much what the OP will be doing. But maybe that's what they're after?

                    1. re: Gargle
                      Kavey Jan 22, 2014 01:51 AM

                      Ler's get some perspective... I was not suggesting that all meals or even most of them should be spontaneous and unplanned but that I personally felt leaving just a few more slots open was a good idea.

                      Why do people here seem to feel threatened by that very idea?

                      1. re: Kavey
                        g
                        Gargle Jan 22, 2014 07:04 PM

                        Saying an idea is a bad one doesn't mean anyone's threatened by it :)

                2. re: Kavey
                  p
                  PAO Jan 21, 2014 12:49 PM

                  I liked Katsukura's tonkatsu too--I'd always hated it before because whenever I had it, it was always overcooked. I also liked Toriyoshi--we're still raving about the tofu we had there, which was served with a pink salt of some kind.

        2. s
          Shirang Jan 21, 2014 08:19 AM

          Too many back to back multi course meals. If you appetite can handle it, its fine. Maybe skip Tempura in Hiroshima(seems like its Kanto style tempura and you're already going to Kondo, and sub in a Tempura in Kyoto instead.

          1. Kavey Jan 21, 2014 08:29 AM

            Although it makes sense to do research and plan the key highlight meals, there's a lot of joy to be had in simply choosing a small local place as you come across it, and your itinerary doesn't seem to leave much room for impulse or mood.

            Have you already worked out which sights you might like to visit in Tokyo and Kyoto and found restaurants in those locations, as both cities are large and if you're sightseeing elsewhere, you probably won't feel inclined to cross the cities to get to your chosen restaurants, if they're not close by. Apologies if you've already taken that into account with all the meal planning.

            1. p
              PAO Jan 21, 2014 12:29 PM

              Be sure to have tamago on a stick at Nishiki!

              1. b
                bmdaniel Jan 21, 2014 03:08 PM

                Thanks to everyone for the great thoughts. Have re-cut a bit; thinking I will drop Kondo for a seafood Izakaya (thinking Uoshin?) and do TenYou in Kyoto.

                Also will drop tempura in Hiroshima - any suggestions on something local to do for dinner? Will have Okonomiyaki for lunch and wife is not an oyster fan. Was thinking about Anago Meshi, but it looks like its a bit of a hike from Hiroshima center. Another option would be to do beef there, any recommendations (that would free up another dinner in Tokyo in place of Jumbo).

                Any strong thoughts for the one high end, non-sushi dinner in Tokyo? Not totally sold on Ryugin, seems like reviews are either very hot or very cold.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bmdaniel
                  p
                  pauliface Jan 21, 2014 06:20 PM

                  Takazawa is a long and heavy meal. I think tempura dinner after that may be too much.

                  As for a replacement for Ryugin -- I would try Ishikawa (established 3-star kaiseki, more traditional than Ryugin but quite sublime) or Nagazumi (younger 1-star maverick with his own counter). These were the standouts on my last trip.

                  Here's what I had to say about Nagazumi:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9308...

                2. b
                  bmdaniel Jan 22, 2014 03:59 PM

                  Alright, took a crack at re-working based on everyone's comments - let me know what you think:

                  Saturday - Arrive late afternoon Tokyo
                  Dinner: Birdland

                  Sunday - Tokyo
                  Lunch: Isetan (Depachika/Restaurants)
                  Dinner: Sushisho Masa

                  Monday - Tokyo
                  Lunch: Narisawa
                  Dinner: Uoshin Nogizaka

                  Tuesday - Tokyo
                  Breakfast: Tour/eat at Tsukiji (not sushi)
                  Lunch: Sushi Saito
                  Dinner: Den (after doing more research, ended up deciding to go with something more creative/playful, given that we will have a more traditional Kaiseki in Kyoto. If we can't get a spot, will probably go back to Ryugin).

                  Wednesday - Travel to Kyoto
                  Breakfast: Tokyo Ramen Street (Rokurinsha)
                  Lunch: Nishiki Market
                  Dinner: Hiiragyia Kaiseki (our hotel)

                  Thursday - Kyoto
                  Breakfast: Ryokan
                  Lunch: Shoraian
                  Dinner: TenYou Tempura (instead of doing Kondo and Tenko, figured we'd hit it here)

                  Friday - Travel to Hiroshima
                  Breakfast: Ryokan
                  Lunch: Mitchan Okonomiyaki
                  Dinner: Iraku-An Soba (hadn't managed to fit a soba spot on the list, and this place seemed to have pretty good reviews on Tabelog and from Michelin)

                  Saturday: Return to Tokyo
                  Breakfast/Lunch: Likely at station/on train
                  Dinner: Dons de la Nature (replaced Jumbo for a more Wagyu specific experience).

                  Sunday: Depart Tokyo in the evening
                  Lunch: Butagumi

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bmdaniel
                    j
                    jmui852 Jan 22, 2014 04:25 PM

                    good that u replaced ryugin with den, coz imo ryugin is just ok. i would replace narisawa with quintessence / restaurant anis (hottest opening this year, but more of a bistrot). also i would throw in tempura mikawa for ur monday night dinner. for kyoto while tenyou is good (mikawa / rakutei in tokyo are much better), you can skip that and go to tempura matsu (not a tempura restaurant but a very rustic / warm kaiseki place run by a family of 4). also i strongly recommend ogata which imo is the best kaiseki in kyoto (better than kitcho / chihana / mizai).

                    just wondering have u managed to book saito? how far i adv did you have to call? coz im going in april but theyre closed so i couldnt get in touch with them till they reopen in feb..

                    1. re: bmdaniel
                      Robb S Jan 22, 2014 10:42 PM

                      Just a few comments:

                      Lunch: Isetan (Depachika/Restaurants)

                      What this boils down to is that you'll be wandering the top floor of Isetan looking for a lunch place on a Sunday, which seems like a pretty random way to go about things, especially with all your other planning. (You might also have to wait on line awhile.) Instead, I'd recommend checking out someplace in the Isetan Annex, around the corner, such as Akiji Suishin (http://www.bento.com/rev/4132.html ) or Kushinobo (deep-fried skewers).

                      Dinner: Sushisho Masa

                      Maybe it's just me, but if I were going to spend that much money on sushi, I'd at least want it fresh from the market that morning, not leftovers from the previous morning. (A roundabout way of pointing out that the fish market is closed on Sundays, which is why most top-end sushi shops are also closed.

                      )

                      Dinner: Uoshin Nogizaka

                      YMMV, but this is pretty mediocre in my opinion, although other branches are better.

                      1. re: Robb S
                        r
                        ruprecht25 Jan 23, 2014 02:54 AM

                        While I generally agree with your comment about sushi on Sundays, wouldn't the Sushisho genre be an exception since much of their fish is aged and/or cured?

                        1. re: ruprecht25
                          Robb S Jan 23, 2014 05:42 AM

                          Thank you for pointing that out. Live and learn....

                        2. re: Robb S
                          wekabeka Jan 23, 2014 06:54 AM

                          If a chef buys fish in the morning from the market, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to end up on that day's lunch or dinner menu. A lot of the fish used in Edomae sushi is aged, brined or, in the case of shellfish/crustaceans, keep live until needed for service. Part of a good itamae's skill is to manage the fish so that it's always served at peak condition. I'd wager that if a sushi-ya serves dodgy fish on a Sunday, that shop probably serves dodgy fish every other day of the week, too.

                      2. E Eto Jan 23, 2014 05:32 AM

                        I'm not sure if it's worth all that trouble to go to Hiroshima for okonomiyaki and soba. By the way, Hiroshima is more udon territory (soba is more a Kanto thing). I'm assuming you have other reasons for being in Hiroshima besides your food choices. If you want some local flavor, you might be better off finding a seafood-centric izakaya for some local seafood from the Seto inland sea. Or some horumon in the form of yakiniku or teppanyaki.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: E Eto
                          b
                          bmdaniel Jan 23, 2014 07:32 AM

                          Any specific recommendations in Hiroshima?

                          1. re: bmdaniel
                            E Eto Jan 24, 2014 05:58 AM

                            Plenty to recommend. Any specific requests?

                            1. re: E Eto
                              b
                              bmdaniel Jan 24, 2014 07:32 AM

                              Anything along the lines of your suggestions (seafood izakaya or yakinuku/teppanyaki both sound great)

                              1. re: bmdaniel
                                E Eto Jan 27, 2014 10:36 PM

                                Many recommendations would depend on you or your party's Japanese skills. Can you elucidate?

                                1. re: E Eto
                                  Tripeler Jan 28, 2014 06:18 AM

                                  Eto-san,
                                  I really like your new avatar, but why does it make me think of Elvis?

                                  1. re: E Eto
                                    b
                                    bmdaniel Jan 28, 2014 07:19 AM

                                    Non-existent

                                    1. re: E Eto
                                      b
                                      bmdaniel Feb 10, 2014 07:42 AM

                                      E Eto -

                                      Just wanted to follow up if you had any thoughts on Hiroshima recommendations.

                                      Thanks!

                                      1. re: bmdaniel
                                        E Eto Feb 21, 2014 08:35 AM

                                        This is probably the best available guide in English for seafood restaurants in Hiroshima. I'll have to look through these and narrow down some places. But do take a look and see if these places look good to you.
                                        http://rds.gnavi.co.jp/lang/en/?area=...

                              2. re: E Eto
                                a
                                Agentutah Mar 1, 2014 10:07 PM

                                Do you have a favourite oyster spot in Hiroshima? Going there this week and it would be great if you could recommend either a oyster bar/izakaya that specializes in oysters seafood. We speak just about enough Japanese to get by in restaurants. Thanks in advance:)!

                              3. o
                                orenshapiro Feb 11, 2014 01:46 PM

                                Hey Bmdaniel -

                                My fiance and I are doing our honeymoon in Japan - Tokyo/Kyoto and I am just doing some preliminary research and found this post (GREAT INFO).

                                Just wondering, how did you make these decisions? Tons of research?

                                Please be sure to write another post after your trip to tell us how everything was! We are going in September.

                                Thanks!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: orenshapiro
                                  b
                                  bmdaniel Feb 11, 2014 03:04 PM

                                  A lot of research - we had a trip fully planned back in 2010 (with the help of Chowhound) and then had to cancel at the last minute, so some of it was refreshing.

                                  Will definitely report back.

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