Hello Tokyo! Our first stop on our Japan Summer Honeymoon. Our flights worked out that Tokyo bookended the trip, and I loved being able to take in the high energy of Tokyo at the start and then take a slower pace in the end. This is a very long summary of our day to day itinerary, and because we spent months going over what we wanted to do, mapping out the most efficient routes, etc, I figured it might help someone else. But also for Kyoto and Hokkaido, I’m strip these wayyyy down.
For general summer in Japan travel tips, check out the list in the trip intro.
Day 1 | Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Flower Cafe, Robot Restaurant
First full day in Tokyo was quintessentially Sugar Pop Japan. Minus visiting the love tree at Meiji Shrine, today was all about sugar on Harajuku and the madness of Robot Restaurant.
Harajuku street is filled with desserts. Almost every viral dessert from Japan can be found in a 5-minute radius. But like most Instagram-able desserts, they really weren’t good. Santa Monica Crepes were mostly cream, giant rainbow cotton candy was freaking awesome, but still expensive for literally just cotton candy, and even the corn on the cob ice cream at Dominique Ansel Bakery was more impressive in looks than taste. Go for the gram, not for the food. The walk between main Harajuku and Dominique Ansel is full of really cool boutiques.
What was really worth it was Aoyama flower market, Minami Aoyama Cafe! You’ll see Aoyama flower markets all over Japan, but the Minami Aoyama Cafe is a plant lover’s paradise. There were living, plants shadow tables! The food itself was very refreshing but it looked like people usually go for tea time.
After the crazy amount of sugar, we grabbed dinner at Nichōme Tsukemen Gachi for ramen near the robot restaurant. Out of all the ramen on this trip, this was Michael’s favorite ramen because of the deep, creamy texture.
Robot Restaurant. Nothing more needs to be said that the pictures don’t show. The closest comparison would be Medival Nights in Orlando, and to really enjoy it you have to just throw yourself into the glowstick madness. The performers were really into it which made the show!!
Day 2 | Tsukiji Fish Market, Hamariku Gardens
The second day we tried to see the famous Tsukiji Fish Market tuna auction before they may/may not move locations. You have to get in line for limited spots around 3 am when the trains aren’t running. Hello, very expensive cab ride. We got there around 3:15am and…. missed the cutoff by 15 minutes (NOOOOOOOOOOOOO….).
We weren’t about to take another $50 cab back, so we ended up killing time until the rest of the market opened by popping up and down streets eating what looked good. Of course, at the fish market, we had to get sushi! Sushi Zanmai was the earliest to open and looked like a chain, but got good reviews so we went in. The Chef was amazing, taking the time to chose pieces and explain what each was.
At this point nothing in Tokyo is open yet except public shrines and gardens, so we hopped the train and took a walk and tea break in the Hamarikyu Gardens. More walking and shrine #2, coffee.
We debated going back to Tsukiji to see the wholesale merchants, but glad we did. It was a completely different feel in full swing.
In order to hit all the summer festivals, we had to catch a flight Hokkaido but were back in Tokyo at the end of our trip.
Day 3 | Akihabara, Ramen Street, J.LEAGUE YBC Levain Cup Play-Off
Coming back from Kyoto and grabbing onigiri at the station. I miss those easy $1 snacks… Managed to squeeze in another coffee shop bucket list at Verve Coffee in Shinjuku Station.
Today was taking it easy in nerd-paradise neighborhood, Akihabara. Like I mentioned in the trip’s intro, I’ve been into Anime and Manga since middle school and was expecting just endless souvenirs here. In reality, a lot of the advertised characters were for role-playing apps or short cartoons and you can’t buy any games because their country locked. If you’re looking for a figurine or Japanese editions of anime or manga, it’s worth a stop. Otherwise, they had our second favorite mini cheese tarts of the whole trip!
Lunch on Ramen Street for Tsukumen ramen. Any of the stores on Ramen Street will have a crazy line, but it is definitely worth scoping out! Full of ramen (again) we went to Muji before the Tokyo FC match. It was the J.LEAGUE YBC Levain Cup Play-Off and we go to to learn a few Japanese cheers!
Day 4 | Yakumo Saryo, Tsutaya Daikanyama, Conveyor Belt Sushi
Essentially just walked around south Shibuya shopping until our most anticipated meal on the trip at Yakumo Saryo. Found our way to the bookstore, Tsutaya Daikanyama, highlighted on Design Love Fest’s old Tokyo guide and had a hard time not buying all the Japanese design magazines. I would highly recommend stopping by at the beginning of your trip! A lot of the magazines highlight what’s currently trending in Japan and will be much more current than Lonely Planet.
Lunch at Yakumo Saryo lived up to the hype. Each dish was completely thought through as a piece of a sensory puzzle. Our waiter was enthusiastic and pulled out a book to explain the different fishes came from, and an iPad to show a video on how watercress is harvested. This is one place I’m sad we realistically won’t be able to visit again soon.
Afterwards was more shop bopping and coffee (all listed in the TL;DR section at the bottom) before conveyor belt sushi in Shibuya!!
Day 5 | Goodbye Japan
Our last day in Tokyo and Japan was a very relaxed journey to the airport making sure we stocked up on all the limited release Kit Kats. All in all, we did everything we wanted in Tokyo minus an Onsen (natural hot spring) 🙂 Now for the fun, TL;DR part:
Cafes, Coffee, and Snacks
Onibus Coffee | 4 locations in Tokyo, and all of them adorable.
Aoyama Flower Market | A magical, magical cafe for a fairytale tea time amongst the plants.
Shozo Coffee |Right next to Commune 246, this coffee hut is more a pickup and go spot, but so cute!
Aiyo | Highly rated coffee shop in Tsukiji Market. Also, one of the only places open as early as the Tuna Auction.
Pablo Mini, The Cheese Tart | Cheese tarts should be on your Japan food list, with this place in particular.
Verve | California coffee made it to Shinjuku Station.
Mug Pop | This place was getting ready for a grand opening a week after we were here and we accidentally barged in 🤦🏻♀️. From what we saw, there were a lot of, you guessed it, mugs.
Biotop Nurseries | I wish I could transport all the cute nurseries back!
Tokyo Hands Shibuya | 8 story megastore that can only be described as Target meets Lowes, meets Michaels and thrift store? The stairs let you know how many calories you’ve burned just by braving them. Good place for small souvenirs.
Today’s Special | The best store on Earth. Period. Plants, home goods, food, all on beauitful display that still feels livable.
Tsutaya Books | What bookstores aspire to be. Like a sophisticated Tattered Covers.
Meiji Shrine | Breathtaking grounds and a sweeping display from Emjor Meiji to Empress Shōken. Felt like a Miyazaki film and miles away from the buzz of Tokyo.
Tsukiji Market | After missing the tuna auction, we consoled ourselves with the few sites that said it wasn’t worth it. The Market itself though was insane in full swing and we sampled a lot of seafood.
Imperial Palace | Mostly under repairs for the 2020 Games, but what we saw was still impressive.
Himeji Castle | This was the most clever use of architecture I’ve ever seen in a castle. They offer free tour guides and we can’t recommend them highly enough! Our guide pointed out the significance of the different shaped windows, how the elevation tricked invading samurai, and even made sure we got a picture together!
Hamarikyu Gardens | Close enough to Tsukiji with a nice matcha break at Nakajima Tea House.
Tokyo Sky Tree | We skipped this 1 in favor of not burning up 2 hours, but if you want almost the same view of Tokyo minus the ticket cost, check out the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices Building.
Robot Restaurant | Just check out some videos.
Yakumo Saryo | If you make it all the way to Japan and you love food, this is your number 1 priority. Book in advance.
Rokurinsha | Ramen Street 🎶
Commune 246 | Food truck park that carved out its own oasis.
Ohitsuzen Tanbo | This was our first meal in Japan! Known for their healthy Ohitsuzen, it’s a great choice after a long flight.
A lot of meals were following where the crowds were, so we only listed the ones we remembered the names of. More recommendations from all across the travel and foodie blogs can be found on our Map or day by day itinerary. Next stop, Hokkiado!