This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.
On one of our last full days in Tokyo, we decided to visit some areas we had never seen before, and get out of the normal “shopping” areas we had been visiting.
Our first stop was Yanaka Ginza street in the Yanaka District, which we had been advised still had some of the “older, more traditional” atmosphere of Tokyo, when families on a street would all know each other and interact.
It was such a charming area and we loved walking around and checking out all the small temples, sights, and shops we encountered along the way.
Of course right away I found myself distracted by a local doughnut stand and how to stop and try it out (ehh…I’ll stick with Mister Doughnut). My apologies to the buy local movement!
One very charming detail about the Yanaka area was that its main shopping street seemed to have a cat theme. A bunch of the shops sold “cat” themed merchandise, and there were plaster cats running along the roofs, etc.
Speaking of doughnuts…there was even another doughnut shop further down the street that sold them in the shape of “cat tails!” I was sad that I had wasted my stomach space on the plain old regular sized doughnuts earlier.
I found so much to browse through…I loved the little selections and thought it made for easier shopping than the huge department stores in Ginza and Shibuya, which can sometimes seem overwhelming.
By the way – my trainers you see here were recommended by a reader – Yuet – and I love them! I wore them throughout our trip and they were so comfortable. They’re the Asics Sana, and it comes in a bunch of colors too. And my jacket is from Herno.
I particularly loved this tea shop specialized in selling teas and cups/pots from all over Japan. I love, love teacups and have a little collection. Maybe I will share some of my favorite buys in a future post.
Next, we went to explore the Ameyoko Market, near the Ueno line. This was a local market with stalls selling all kinds of foods and souvenirs. It was incredibly crowded with locals and tourists alike, shopping for all kinds of goodies.
There was fresh fish being sold as well – and some for great prices! Large blocks of premium toro for about $15, which when you think about the price per piece in a restaurant, is pretty incredible. Yeah, look at how proud this dude is of his merchandise!
While wandering through the Ueno area, we randomly came across a little alley that had this cool plush demon (?) doll. I thought it was super cool so we went to go take a picture, and then discovered a whole area of small independent little shops! It’s always amazing to me how many cool stores, restaurants, and sights are hidden just steps away at any given time in Japan.
Here’s an example – this cool shop that just sold umbrellas, all kinds of colors, shapes and sizes. They also sold super tiny ones which I could only guess were meant for your hair (well the shop girl was wearing one in hers…).
For dinner that evening, we decided to try out my stepbrother’s highly recommended, so-called “favorite restaurant” in Tokyo – the Tapas Molecular Bar in the Mandarin Oriental. I was excited not just for the food, but also to check out the hotel and view. We were not disappointed – look at the amazing evening view from the lounge windows!
The dining experience itself was really cool, from start to finish. There were six of us dining that evening, so it felt very intimate.
Just like its name indicates, Tapas Molecular Bar specialized in yes, tapas style served dishes and molecular gastronomy. I’m not an expert in either, so I can’t give a verdict as to whether it was the “best” molecular gastronomy experience you can have. What I can say though, is that the food was delicious, the dishes incredibly creative, and the entire evening a lot of fun!
There were dishes served with copious dry ice (of course) and bread that you had to break open in order to reveal their delicious insides. And a yummy noodle dish that you had to cook inside a test tube.
The menu was printed on a measuring tape – so many dishes were on it, we had to stretch it out across our entire seating area for two. The cigar dish was a favorite of both me and Mr. Feather. I loved the taste of course…and thought it looks so incredibly similar to an actual cigar with ash.
Dessert was also delicious and of course had a neat surprise – an Eggs Benedict (even cynical me thought this was an actual egg) which turned out to be something completely different.
Overall, we were really glad that we had dinner at the Tapas Molecular Bar. Sometimes, a long dinner at a fancy hotel – though usually delicious – can be tiring towards the end, and overly formal. This was a nice dinner at a fancy place – but was so much fun, so lively, and the food was great. I’d recommend a stop here for anyone visiting Tokyo wanting a break from Japanese food, and especially if you are staying at the Mandarin Oriental!
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and it was onto our next stop – Kyoto.
On the way, we got a little glimpse of Mt. Fuji before arriving at our destination…
…and that completes my Tokyo series of posts! Next time, I’ll be starting my posts on Kyoto. Thank you as always for reading.