Asia Food Travel

Exploring Tokyo – Part One

This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

I always experience worse jetlag going to Asia versus Europe, so I always try to fight it by planning full days exploring my destination once I arrive. It has always helped me both fight the afternoon sleepies, and get quickly accustomed to wherever I am.

Our first day after arriving in Tokyo, we spent the morning walking around the Ginza shopping area. The first time I’ve ever seen not one, but two cats perched up on a sign there.

Ginza Walk

There’s a ton of luxury shopping in Ginza, but my favorite thing to do in the area has always been to hit up the basement floor of the department floors, to gape at all of the food. And ingest it, of course. I always get at least a sandwich or two – and like to do one sweet, one savory.

I always like to stare at all of the expensive fruits, but never have purchased them. I’ve always been fully satisfied with our hotel fruit plates, which already feature delicious seasonal items.

Tokyo Department Store Grocery

Walking through groceries

The sweets section of Japanese department stores has also always been one of my favorite stops. They have anything and everything wonderful dessert related in Japan, from all over the world. More Pierre Herme than in France. In fact, when we were in Europe in January, I didn’t really feel too much pressure to load up on the desserts, since I knew I could get anything I missed in Japan! That’s how amazing the selection is.

Here you can see a tower of different Kit Kat flavors – off the top of my head, there was strawberry, pineapple, orange, lime, cheesecake in the tower. And behind the counter, there were even more flavors like wasabi, taro, and more.

Tokyo Department Store Sweets

I always try to sample something new, and this time I ended up discovering these amazing gummies in the food section of Mitsukoshi. These were the most “fruit like” gummies I had ever tasted, and were bursting with flavor. They had all kinds of unusual fruits as well, and I loved all of them (though I was a bit surprised when I first bit into the tomato one!).

Tokyo Candies

I also decided to indulge in some Baumkuchen cake. This type of cake is incredibly popular in Japan, and even though it’s origins are in Germany, I’m not sure if I could find a more delicious one there. A popular place to stop for some great Baumkuchen and some tea/coffee is Club Harie. There are locations all over Japan and I’d highly recommend a stop if you have a sweet tooth.

Club Harie

After exploring some in Ginza, we decided to take the subway to the Aoyama area. Aoyama is like Ginza as there’s lots of great shopping there – but I like the selection even more. There’s shops ranging from the Comme des Garcons flagship, to Delvaux, to Dries van Noten, and more.

I always take public transportation whenever possible – Japan’s system is great (though a little confusing at first). I’m immature and always made a joke whenever we passed signs for the “National Diet”.

Also, note the “women only” cars, specifically for rush hour!

Tokyo Subway

While in Aoyama, we stopped by the Prada Aoyama flagship. I still think this is one of the coolest buildings ever and I have always admired Herzog & de Meuron’s uses of various materials. I think this is one of those structures that I couldn’t picture anywhere else but Japan. It’s kept spotlessly clean inside and out, and of course the shopping is a pleasure as well. The store has quite a few Prada exclusives you won’t find anywhere else in the country.

Prada Aoyama

Across the street from Prada was a collection of great boutiques – Comme des Garsons, Yohji Yamamoto, and more. I spent quite a while in Issey Miyake where there was a wonderful trench that I lusted after – but they didn’t have my size. Oh and in Japan, if you aren’t already familiar, get ready to be at least two sizes larger than what you are in the US!

In order to drown (or eat through) my sorrows, I made my way over to the always reliably delicious Harajuku Gyozaro. With any popular Japanese dining spot that doesn’t take reservations, I always try to come in the afternoon – either before the dinner rush or after the lunch rush. There was still a line at 3 PM on a weekday. But soon we were in and I was enjoying some delicious gyoza and boiled dumplings!

Harajuku Gyoza

Nearby in Omotesando, we stopped by Spiral Market – a great shop for all kinds of local and international designed goods. I probably spent the longest shopping here out of any store in Japan – and Mr. Feather found some great items too! I’d highly recommend a stop here if you like unique, “design-y” items. A wonderful recommendation from a local friend.

Square Tokyo

After Aoyama and Omotesando, we made our way over to Akihabara so that Mr. Feather (an avid scale modeler) could check out some shops. I personally think that Akihabara is great for all kinds of amusement as well, but for anyone bored, I’d definitely recommend a stop at the two story Mister Doughnut in the area. My favorite guilty pleasure in shop in Japan that I’ve been going since a kid!

Akihabara

After we had finished our day’s explorations, we made our way back to the Ginza area near the Four Seasons.

We had several sushi dinners while we were in Japan, and one of my favorites was the one we had at Sushi Iwa. Iwa is a one star Michelin – so I found that the quality was very high, while the prices were still reasonable and the reservation processes wasn’t too restrictive. A perfect combination! By the way, especially in Japan I would recommend that you ask your hotel concierge to make all your restaurant reservations for you, and provide them with a “wishlist” as soon as you making your hotel booking. That’s what will give you the best chances at the toughest reservations, like Sawada or Saito.

Sushi Iwa

We were thrilled with our meal at Iwa – it was about two hours total, which may suit some better who aren’t used to the “half hour, here’s your sushi, in, out, and here’s a bill for $500/head” that you might get at restaurants like Jiro. The fish quality was amazing and every piece was delicious. I had originally ordered a smaller menu in the beginning, but after a few pieces, quickly switched to a larger meal size. Our server laughed and said, “I thought so!”

Sushi Iwa Food

A note on sushi and pregnancy – yes, I ate sushi while we were in Japan and I was pregnant, and I still eat sushi now back in California. I hesitated a little bit about including Sushi Iwa and some of our other Japan meals on the blog, since I’ve found that it pregnancy and diets can be a controversial conversation topic. But I thought I should be open and honest with what I am personally choosing. I did my own research, asked my doctors, and ultimately am comfortable eating sushi (I do try to limit the types of fish) throughout my pregnancy. It’s a very personal choice and I could never provide an opinion for what others should do, only myself.

What I can provide an opinion on though? Sushi Iwa is one of top sushi restaurants in Japan – I’d recommend it to anyone, and can’t wait to go back!

After our meal, we enjoyed a walk back through the evening lights of Ginza.

Ginza At Night

Tokyo is so beautiful at night, isn’t it? Such a unique skyline.

Tokyo At Night

Thank you for following along so far in our Japan trip. Next time, I’ll be taking you through the second half of our sights, sounds and eats in Tokyo, before moving onto Kyoto!

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  • Karen
    March 9, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Guess what, hub and I are heading to Sushi Iwa tmr night, its good to know we should order the ‘large portion’ instead! Can’t wait to experience and you are so right about hotel concierge to help calling for reservation, I originally called on my own on a few restaurants, most said no no no English and Sushi Iwa actually understand my question but still asked me to ask hotel concierge to call them. Hotel help is a must, they helped me called a few on my list and came back which one have seats and which doesn’t. About preg with sushi or not, guess it is really personal preference, I didn’t eat any for both times but guess as long as you are comfortable and totally avoid any kind of tuna should be fine. Bet most of the Japanese ladies still eat raw fish when they are preg. Good luck, can’t wait for your post about pregnancy.

    • Katherine
      March 9, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Ahh you are so lucky! Enjoy Sushi Iwa, you are going to LOVE it! I am jealous!

  • Groupthink7
    March 9, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Your pictures bring back memories. I lived in Japan 10 years ago.

  • Jules
    March 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you so much for this amazing post!
    I’m just planning a trip to Japan this summer and Iwa sushi wasn’t on my list! Now it definitely is.
    Planned my husband’s 30th birthday to Nappa thanks to you and now planning my 30th birthday to Japan 🙂

  • Leeanna
    March 9, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I so badly want to go to Japan! Sometime soon I will! Thanks for sharing the pictures- The food looks so good esp the sushi.

    Elle-tea.blogspot.ca/a>

  • Robyn Proctor Hinkle
    March 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Wow, everything looks amazing! You captured so many unique aspects. Makes me wanna visit there so bad now! 🙂

  • Wonderland Boudoir
    March 9, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Katherine! I need to start eating before I come to your blog. Once I finish a post i begin to starve!

    http://www.WonderlandBoudoir.com/blog

  • Jenny
    March 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I love your entries on your trips! It truly makes me feel like I tagged along and only remembered the good parts. And it gives me insane wanderlust!

    I’m glad you’re eating what you want to eat and are comfortable about it. 🙂

    • Katherine
      March 11, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Thank you Jenny! 🙂

  • Karrie
    March 10, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I live in Southern California and I ate sushi while pregnant. As long as you do it responsibly and that is what you are comfortable with, it’s all good.

  • Deradenise
    March 11, 2015 at 1:09 am

    But our German Baumkuchen is covered in chocolate- major advantage 🙂

    • Katherine
      March 11, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Good point!

  • tata
    March 11, 2015 at 10:19 am

    awwww my home… i miss tokyo so much. i love shopping at aoyama too, especially spriral. my mom and i can spend hours walking around there. did you also visit daikanyama? another favorite shopping area of mine. and yes, everyone in japan eat sushi during their pregancy.

  • H
    March 12, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Your pictures make me want to go to Japan moreso than ever!

    No judgement on eating sushi while pregnant. I actually craved sushi during my pregnancy and went out to eat it whenever the cravings hit (5-6 times). My child is very healthy and I did not have any issues during my pregnancy. I think the stigma surrounding sushi is mostly for doctors/healthcare professionals being overly cautious. However, I noticed that with my heightened sense of smell I could not eat lower-quality sushi. If anyone decides to eat sushi while pregnant, going to a place that has super fresh fish and handles their fish correctly is highly advisable.

  • Friday, Five Favourite Reads of the Week | Tea Was Here
    March 13, 2015 at 4:15 am

    […] Japan trip is coming closer and closer and Katherine’s posts about exploring Tokyo have got me even more excited. And then scared because I also realised there is so much I need to […]

  • Tracey.
    March 15, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Love your blog. I go to Japan for work in Friday and was wondering where the gummy place was? Thanks

  • little luxury list
    March 17, 2015 at 12:08 am

    I must eat at Sushi Iwa! We went to Tokyo with a 7 month-old so department store basement dinners were SO great! It’s so nice to be able to pick up quality food to eat back at the hotel when you have a tired family.
    Was the tower of kit kats at Mitsukoshi?
    I banned sushi while pregnant but just wasn’t comfortable enough with the quality of “regular” sushi here. I would have eaten it while pregnant in Japan though!

    xoxo,
    little luxury list formerly Chic ‘n Cheap Living