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First time in Japan! Is Ebisu the best bet for staying/food?

Looking for a neighborhood with plenty to eat. We'll be in Japan for a week but will most likely only spend half that time in Tokyo. We're fans of all the staples of Japanese food in NYC—ramen, sushi, soba, yakitori, etc.—and are open to any of these or something totally different.

We're from Brooklyn and prefer a neighborhood that's got great food and bars, but definitely isn't Midtown-ish or Times Square-y. We're probably partial to a West Village or Williamsburg vibe. My preliminary research makes Ebisu seem like a pretty good bet. Thoughts?

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  1. Geez, if you're going to be there for only 7 days, is it even worth getting out of Tokyo? A shinkansen to Kyoto, which some regard as the cultural center of Japan, will take about 2.5 hours, one way, Osaka only slightly less, and in January, the amount of daylight isn't going to be great. Unless, of course, you want the experience of riding a shinkansen. That said, I suggest staying in Tokyo and environs--you could live there for years and never see anything. Plenty of good food there!

    2 Replies
    1. re: PAO

      Our main objective on the trip will be to eat, and I'm under the impression that the regional cuisines differ quite a bit? So we'd prefer not to confine ourselves to a single city, even though I agree a week is not a huge amount of time. I've lived in NYC for 6 years and have far from "seen it all" and yet I wouldn't suggest someone not venture beyond the boroughs if they wanted two get a broader sense of the States. (Plus, since my family is in Taiwan, we can easily return to Japan within a year or two if we end up loving it.)

      1. re: shipshape

        I agree - it's quite interesting to explore the regional differences as you move south from Tokyo to Kyoto: the miso turns paler, the food less salty, the tempura crispier, the soy sauce milder, ...

    2. We just did a thread on Ebisu here so perhaps go through that first and then also check bento.com, and then let us know what questions remain.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/984569

      1. Ebisu is a great neighborhood, but there aren't really hotel options other than the Westin. Friends of mine from New York have stayed in Gaienmae (Tokyu Stay Hotel) and Yotsuya (various business-type hotels) and been pleased with those areas.

        And I would agree with the posters below who suggest that you stay in Tokyo - you can sample lots of good regional cuisine and sake without leaving Tokyo.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Robb S

          I also agree that staying in Ebisu might not be the best course of action depending on your budget. If you are coming in with a JR Rail Pass, then I would choose a hotel that is near to a JR Rail station. I wouldn't worry about your hotel being central to food since you'll probably be running around everywhere in Tokyo chasing food and not just eating in one ward. With that said, I do always find myself in Shibuya a few times every trip eating somewhere I've never been before. Have fun.

          1. re: Sushi Otaku

            Agreed. Rail pass isn't particularly useful for Tokyo but certainly staying on the Yamanote Line is convenient...JR pass is better for intercity travel. Also, they are giving out tourist Suica cards these days at NRT with some credit on them and those are more convenient in the city than anything.

            1. re: Sushi Otaku

              I'm not too worried about hotel accommodations because we'll definitely be going the Airbnb route. Found some good places in Ebisu, but I'll definitely look into Shimokitazawa, Shibuya, and Ueno.

          2. For a Williamsburg vibe, Shimokitazawa has that. I'm not aware of any hotels there so you'd have to look into AirBnB.

            There are some hotel options in Meguro, one stop away from Ebisu. And all things considered, you may be able to get to the action in Ebisu quicker than from the Westin.

            For sheer density of options, Shibuya and Ueno are good bets...I kind of like Sangenjaya, but might have more of a learning curve if you don't know Japanese.

            I would consider staying in Tokyo the whole time and running day trips to Hakone, Kamakura, places like that. If you decides to travel, should probably go to Kyoto.

            1. Definitely go to Kyoto even if you only have a week. 2.5 hour ride on the Shinkansen which you can catch from Shinagawa not too far from Ebisu. You can leave early in the morning and come back the next day on the last train. You will have enough time to explore Tokyo.

              1. Area around Tokyo station, ginza and marounichi have so many great food places.

                1. Try EBISU YAKITORI, I ate there last feb and it was very good. small plase, non english menu, but they are very helpful explaining the menu for us (using body language).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: vipemst

                    If you're talking about やきとり戎 (Yebisu) in Ebisu, they're gone now....

                    1. re: Robb S

                      wow, great to know.. i was planning on revisiting them this december. Do you have any recommendation for yakitori place? Thanks

                      1. re: vipemst

                        Sure. For yakitori I quite like:

                        - Souten Minami-guchi in Otsuka (03-5944-8105)
                        - Kokekokko in Shinjuku station (03-3345-1141)
                        - Hachibei Roppongi in Nogizaka (03-3475-1689)
                        - Kushibei in Koenji (03-3318-7756)
                        - Honke Abeya in Tokyo Station http://www.bento.com/rev/4452.html

                        If you want something in Ebisu, there was a branch of the always reliable Torimikura there the last time I looked: (03-5791-5819)

                        1. re: Robb S

                          NOTED THAT! Thanks!! I think I will go with Kokekokko since my hotel are around Shinjuku area.