A Summer in Tokyo
When we found out Andrew would be getting deployed to Japan in the summer, we were THRILLED! Neither of us had been overseas before, and we were eager to get out of North Dakota (where we are currently stationed). Although, my excitement for myself faded pretty quickly when I found out I might not be able to go due to Japan travel restrictions. It wasn't an issue for him since he's military. He left for Japan in late May and I headed back to Texas.
In late June, Andrew found out that I WOULD be able to travel to Japan despite restrictions, since we're married he was able to get me on his orders. As soon as we found out, we booked a roundtrip ticket for myself! I was headed to Tokyo on July 10th. For this post I'm going to share exactly what we did everyday from July 10th to August 5th, almost a whole month in Tokyo! I wanted to share everything we did so that you can have as many recommendations as possible for your future trip to Japan.
I booked my flights through Delta:
San Antonio--->Phoenix--->Los Angeles then Japan Air: Los Angeles--->Narita Tokyo
It was my first overseas trip, and I have zero complaints - it all went so smooth! As an avid domestic traveler, I was anticipating some sort of delay since I had so many flights to catch. But to my surprise, every flight was on time and my seat mates were wonderful.
The Japan Airlines flight attendants were incredible! Their service was shocking, good kind of shocking, they were so attentive and caring! We got 2 meals, plenty of beverages, hot towels..all of this made the 11+ hour flight really easy!
I landed in Narita in the late afternoon/early evening. Customs was quick and seamless. I think having those military orders made the process a lot easier.
From the airport, we took the train about 1.5 hours to Fussa. Before calling it a night, we ate at Sushiro. It's a popular sushi chain in Japan that lets you order on screens, and delivers your food on conveyor belts. It was delicious - the perfect first meal in Tokyo!
My first full day in Tokyo! As we walked to the train station, we made a stop at 7Eleven. Forget everything you know about American 7Eleven, Japanese 7Elven is elite haha. SO many amazing snacks and beverages, I even dedicated a reel to it here. And if you're thirsty commuting through Tokyo, there's vending machines basically on every corner and at every train station, this was so convenient because we were there during the hottest months of the year.
After getting on the train, our first stop was Tachikawa. Andrew wanted to take me to the cutest little cafe called コーヒーショップラルゴ http://coffee-largo.cocotte.jp/ . We ordered lattes and cappuccinos with some breakfast sandwiches, it was a perfect cozy meal looking out the window as the rain poured. Tip: if you're traveling to Japan during July, always have an umbrella with you, it's the rainiest month. Once we finished our meal, we got back on the train and headed to Nakano!
As soon as we got off the train in Nakano, we had these custard filled pastries, absolutely delicious. These little pastries are quite popular in Tokyo but here's exactly where we got ours- おやき処 れふ亭. There's so much shopping and numerous restaurants in Nakano. Arcades are popular establishments there too so we stopped by one and I beat Andrew an embarrassing (on his part) amount of times in Mario Kart.
Then we got back on the train and stopped in Shinjuku!
In Shinjuku, we walked around for a bit and stumbled upon Omoide Yokochō, it's a tourist attraction alleyway filled with food & drink spots, but this is where the locals hang as well. It smelled amazing! We would've tried every little restaurant if we had time, but we were specifically looking for Yakitori. I didn't save the exact spot that we ate at but I think you'd be satisfied with any pick from this alleyway. As you would assume, the yakitori did not disappoint.
After Shinjuku, we hopped back on the train and headed to Ginza/Chuo City area. Andrew noticed a Star Wars pop up shop so we stopped by and walked around town for a bit.
Then we checked into our airbnb and met up with our friend for some late night ramen nearby.
We woke up super early to go to Tsukiji Fish Market (築地場外市場 4 Chome-13 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan), this is a huge attraction with countless vendors and the freshest fish! Because of the day that we went, it was either a Tuesday or Wednesday- my mind got scrambled because of the time change haha, a lot of the vendors were closed. Thankfully some were open and we got to enjoy sushi for breakfast and some mochi! It was a gloomy day, so we wanted to find a cozy coffee spot. We found Hoshino coffee nearby- Japan, 〒104-0045 Tokyo, Chuo City, Tsukiji, 4 Chome−7−5 築地Kyビル we drank good coffee and ate the fluffiest pancakes!
After coffee, we went to Hie-jinja Shrine. There are thousands of shrines in Japan, according to google there's 80,000 shrines and about 1,450 are in Tokyo. Seeing these beautiful structures throughout modern cities are truly a sight unlike any other.
After the shrine, we took a taxi to the mall in Ginza, did a little bit of shopping then headed back to Fussa!
After Andrew got off work, we packed a bag and headed for the train station. We had the Durand Jones & The Indications concert at the Blue Note Tokyo! We checked into our airbnb, got ready, and headed to Blue Note. This was probably my favorite concert experience ever. Blue Note is a really swanky jazz bar and restaurant. We splurged a bit and scheduled a 5 course meal with the concert! If you're able to go to a show here, do it!! The band invited a famous Japanese musician to the stage, Shintaro Sakamoto and we're big fans now! 10/10 experience and Durand Jones & The Indications put on an amazing show!
This day turned super busy real quick! First, we grabbed coffee here. Then we explored Harajuku. I don't know about you but the first time I ever heard anything about Harajuku was from Gwen Stefani's 2004 "Love. Angel. Music. Baby" album haha. I was pumped to check it out! There were lots of unique shops, restaurants, animal cafes, and the street fashion was really cool! We ate at Christie's tea cafe for lunch and went to the Shiba puppy cafe. Later in the day we found out that Andrew was going to be taking photos for Durand Jones on their second night performing at Blue Note (it didn't work out for night 1, so he was so excited they reached out to him for night 2!) Since we were on a time crunch and were already fairly close to Blue Note, we immediately headed to Shibuya to do some shopping so we'd have something to wear. Shibuya crossing is a tourist attraction that is so chaotic and mesmerizing haha so make sure you check it out! After shopping, we enjoyed night 2 of Durand Jones and The Indications.
...was a much needed rest day!
Another chill rest day (for me, Andrew had to work), then we took the train to Shibuya and met some new friends for dinner! Unfortunately I can't find the exact restaurant address on maps but it's at or next to this building and the first photo below is what it looks like outside of the restaurant. Then we went to a multi-level arcade and to Tower Vinyl Shibuya record store.
July 18 was another rest day for me, Andrew worked. On these days I'd usually clean our apartment, do laundry, and just hang out. I was so freaking exhausted. We really hit the ground running as soon as I got to Japan so I didn't mind the chill days at all. But there was always a tiny bit of FOMO or I guess guilt for us when we weren't exploring Tokyo. The goal was to do and see as much as possible. Obviously Andrew was there for work but we were super grateful that his work schedule wasn't crazy and we were staying there for free- most affordable, month long vacation ever haha.
We took the train to Nakano and had a late lunch at 第二力酒蔵 and had more pastries. Then we got back on the train and decided to check Tokyo Tower off our bucket list! We made reservations online, there were plenty of same-day times available so we picked sunset. It was a guided tour and the service was incredible. Japan's hospitality is unlike anything Andrew or I have ever experienced , you're going to have amazing customer service EVERYWHERE you go. Once you're at the very top, they give you some tea and you'll get about about 30 minutes to hang out and take in the beautiful view of Tokyo! I also dedicated a reel to Tokyo Tower here.
Take your wife to work day! Hahah. But seriously. Just a fun chill day getting a little glimpse of what Andrew does!
Ran a few errands in Fussa and went to camera store to drop off some film. Then I found this sushi spot..this was our favorite sushi spot. Not only for the great food but the ambiance, the presentation, the kind hospitality, and it was close to the base- it was wonderful!! Then we got some ice cream at Blue Seal in Fussa and called it a night.
July 22-24 we stayed in Kyoto and July 25-26 we hiked Mt. Fuji,
I'm going to make separate posts for those, stay tuned!
Late lunch in Fussa, randomly found this spot かつ亭 籠る
Amazing food, amazing service once again- not surprising haha I love Japan!! And then grabbed some gelato nearby at
アイス工房ヴェルデ. This was a really cute ice cream shop, here's their website too.
July 28 rest day!
We took the train to Okutama! This is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains covered in forests, lakes, caves, and it's just the ultimate town for those that love the outdoors. We rented bikes here, did some hiking, and found a few waterfalls. Okutama is a great escape is you're wanting to get out of city and craving a small town kind of feel! After our hike, we rode our bikes to this little bakery, Mountain Panya Forest Dance. We ordered everything on the menu!
Decided to live out our Lost in Translation dreams and go to the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku! After we watched the sun go down over Tokyo, we walked around Shinjuku some more and found this lovely cafe for some late night coffee and dessert!
While Andrew was at work, I decided to take a solo morning adventure! Throughout our whole trip, I felt very safe and comfortable in Tokyo doing things by myself but this was the first day I was alone majority of the day out and about in the city. I took the train to Shinjuku and had breakfast at Coffee Aristocrat Edinburgh. I walked to Meiji Jingu Shrine, it was beautiful and peaceful. Then I walked to Harajuku and went to the pig cafe! It was sooo cute, buying a ticket allows you to hang out with the pigs for about 30 minutes. Then I met Andrew in Akihabara, we grabbed dinner and shopped around for a bit then headed back to Fussa.
August 1..rest day!
We love the Kill Bill movies so we decided to eat at the famous Gonpachi! It's the restaurant that inspired this fight scene. Then we bought some Onitsuka Tiger sneakers in Shibuya! We ended the night with some yummy dessert and drinks at And People cafe. I loved the decor in this restaurant, very bohemian chic!
We took the train to Asakusa and ate some Shabu-shabu at Nabezo Asakusa restaurant, then went to the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensō-ji Temple! This temple was huge and the grounds were stunning. Every single temple and shrine in Japan is so special to visit. After the temple, we got some matcha around the corner (here) and caught a cab to Tokyo Skytree - another bucket list attraction. Afterwards we got some dinner a few blocks away at Koyoken, amazing katsudon!
August 4 we took the bus to Narita from base and checked into our hotel near the airport (the hotel had a shuttle that brought us to the airport the next day which was super convenient). We visited the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and grabbed some dinner at Issunboh, a teppanyaki restaurant just down the road from the hotel.
Then we left Tokyo and headed back to the U.S. on August 5!
Tips/reminders for your trip to Japan:
Download Google translate app and Google maps.
Get a suica card as soon as you land. A Suica is a prepaid rechargeable card that you'll use for the train, buses, taxis, and vending machines.
Pack comfortable walking shoes, all I wore were sneakers. You will be walking A LOT.
The street fashion is very stylish, we loved to people watch. You'll see everyone dressed pretty modestly, do the same.
Pack an umbrella if you're traveling there in July or August.
Always carry a tote bag with you (for shopping and to carry whatever trash you accumulate- public trashcans are not a thing).
Always carry a bandana/small hand towel and hand soap with you (most public restrooms do not provide towels/hand dryers).
No need to tip! Tipping in Japan is not customary.
Public restrooms are so clean and almost every toilet has a bidet.
It's considered rude to talk on the phone or speak loudly on the train/bus.
Tokyo was everything!!! It was truly a summer we will never forget. If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Japan- DO IT! This country is so rich in culture, history, beauty, amazing food, and the kindest people. We talk about Tokyo almost everyday haha that's how much we miss it! If this post helped you plan your trip, let us know! @tavhartfish and @andrewfisher7