This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
Tokyo is so beautiful at night, isn’t it? Such a unique skyline.
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!