The two most asked questions when we arrived back from Japan were: 'how did you get on with the language' and 'was it really expensive'?
I am about to bust both those myths. We had no problems with the language at all. Not everyone speaks English (and why should they?!) but we spoke through actions and pointing and in fact, it made it more fun. And sure, if you eat dinner at the Park Hyatt it will set you back £100 a head...but that's like the equivalent of eating dinner at The Ritz in London - which I would never do.
Where To Stay
We stayed a few nights in Hotel Cerulean Tower - a nice, business-y hotel but a few minutes walk from Shibuya station (and the famous crossing), which is VERY central.
|View from our room at Hotel Cerulean Tower|
Possibly our favourite night in Japan altogether was this 'Fish Shack' style restaurant - 'Uoshins' - it's opposite Nogizaka station, near Ropponghi, and offers fresh fish in a cool, relaxed setting - everyone eats sitting on crates.
|Really reasonable menu|
Ironically, my favourite Japanese dishes sushi and katsu curry are not that common in Japan. The main dishes we ate were noodles (ramen or udon), nabe (broth style dish), tempura vegetables, BBQ skewers and sashimi. That's not to say we didn't go out of our way to find the best places, though! This Japanese curry restaurant - 'Coco Ichibanya' - is a chain which has just branched out to the US - I hope it comes our way soon. The best katsu curry of my life (you choose your spice from a scale of 1-9) and only £4.50 - take that Wagamamas!
Kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) is kind of considered low-rate in Japan, it's a bit more pricey in Tokyo than somewhere like Kyoto but still nothing like UK prices. Each dish will cost you just over a pound..the two of us ate lunch in Heiroku Sushi near Harajuku for £10. They also more 'western' sushi such as salmon and avocado - my favourite...
It's a little bit Touristy BUT...good food and atmosphere and it was supposedly the inspiration behind the fight scene in Kill Bill - Gonpachi in Nishi Azabu does great meat skewers. And if you get tired of noodles and fish? Mos Burger is the Japanese equivalent of McDonald's but you can get teriyaki burger (or a normal one), so you still feel like you're staying on the right side of culture.
What To Do
My husband loved Akihabara 'Electric Town' - the largest town of electric appliances in the WORLD. It's so bustling in the day and it's also a real hub for Manga and Anime fans and collectors. Yodobashi is a 9 floor electronics store and the basement has an entire floor dedicated to photobooths where you can enhance your features and add graphics like anime!
|We made our eye huge and whitened and dewrinkled our skin, which is why we look about 16 years old!|
|Wedding at the Meiji Shrine|
The only thing I wanted was STICKERS! We had a Japanese Tourguide for one day in Tokyo and she took me to 'Loft', possibly the best stationery store in the world. B Side Label is also a great sticker store in Harajuku.
|Post-it note heaven!|
Lastly, we used the Metro the whole time, found it really easy to use. As we were there for 4 days, we got the pass (a bit like an Oyster) and topped it up, and it was roughly 80p a journey. Taxis were very expensive and not worth it.
Tokyo Cheapo - a cheapo's guide to doing Tokyo on the cheap (my kind of blog).
The Guardian's Best Budget Restaurants Tokyo - this was how we found 'Uoshins'.
That Food Cray - love this blog and all its recommendations. She highlights some great burger bars in Tokyo, too.