Asia Travel

Exploring Tokyo – Part Two

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

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.

Shopping Street

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.

Cat Shop

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.

Cat Doughnut

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.

Shopping Around

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.

Tea Shop

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.

Market Street

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!

Fresh Fish

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.

Tokyo Gift Street

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…).

Umbrellas

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!

Mandarin Oriental View

The dining experience itself was really cool, from start to finish. There were six of us dining that evening, so it felt very intimate.

Mandarin Oriental Tapas Bar

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.

Tapas Molecular Bar Second

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.

Tapas Molecular Bar First

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.

Tapas Molecular Bar Dessert

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.

Shinkansen

On the way, we got a little glimpse of Mt. Fuji before arriving at our destination…

Fuji View

…and that completes my Tokyo series of posts! Next time, I’ll be starting my posts on Kyoto. Thank you as always for reading.

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  • Saci
    March 16, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    great photos! 🙂

    Saci
    ChocolateFashionCoffee
    ChocolateFashionCoffee Facebook Page

  • Millie
    March 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    loooooving your japan posts !! makes me miss it so much : (
    the umbrella store looks insane ahhah didn’t realize there were so many cute little stores around the alleys (defs need to check them out next time i go !)
    the molecular gastronomy restaurant looks absolutely AMAZING oh wow, never seen anything like that!!

  • Polly
    March 16, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Lovely photos – the best one is definitely the super proud fish dude!

  • wantitneedit
    March 16, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    hi kat,

    Great post! Was wondering if you could talk about how you get around Japan, i.e. transport-wise, speaking the language or not, and paying for things. DH was there last year and so many places, including restaurants, would not accept his Amex only cash!

    • Katherine
      March 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Oh wow! I did take out way more cash than I normally do in Japan – maybe around $300 USD worth (other place I barely ever use cash). It is a more cash based society but I’d say CC are accepted more and more…just more likely Visa/MC. Amex is less popular there so I’d bring another card.

  • Yuet
    March 16, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Katherine, I so look forward to reading your posts and love the bit of humor you drop in here and there! And so glad that you are enjoying your asics sana sneakers!

    • Katherine
      March 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks so much Yuet – I love them!

  • little luxury list
    March 17, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Tapas Molecular bar sounds delicious! i haven’t had too much but this and Tickets are going on the list of intl. molecular gastronomy places to try!

    xoxo,
    little luxury list formerly Chic ‘n Cheap Living

    • Katherine
      March 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      I’d love to go to Tickets!!! If you go please share how you liked it!

  • diana
    March 17, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Where is your down jacket from? Did it keep you warm enough? Thanks!

    • Katherine
      March 17, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Herno! I got some emails so added details to the post.

    • Katherine
      March 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      Herno!

  • Whitney Farris
    March 19, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Oh, the food! Japanese is one of my favorites. One day, Japan!