Tokyo Travel Assist. Enjoy the local experiences! https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com Private guided tour & assistance service for small group Tue, 18 Feb 2020 00:58:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 An amazing way to get up close with Mt Fuji https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/amazing-way-to-get-up-close-with-mt-fuji/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/amazing-way-to-get-up-close-with-mt-fuji/#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 06:37:49 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3582 Motomiya hongu shrine
Tony was an exceptional guide for the day. We had planned and booked for a specific day. He contacted us a couple of days before and told us the weather was not going to be great but was willing to take us a day earlier when the weather and viewing would be much better. I can’t say I have ever had that happen!

He picked us up in a very comfortable vehicle which made the day’s travel very easy. The itinerary he planned gave us views of the mountain from pretty much all sides and from places not nearly as many people go to. His insight about the area and the history was tremendous and added greatly to the day.

We really could not have asked for anything more in a tour like this and I would not hesitate to recommend him fully to anyone.” by David from U.S.A

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Awesome!! https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/awesome/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/awesome/#respond Tue, 07 Jan 2020 06:55:04 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3569 Tony was an excellent tour guide. He took us to places we would be interested in seeing. He took us to a local Ramen place for lunch which was a great experience. Tony was very knowledgeable, and very adaptable with our children on the tour. I would recommend him for anyone that would like a professional and informative tour guide.  by Jade from U.S.A

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Great scenery of Mt Fuji https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/great-scenery-of-mt-fuji/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/great-scenery-of-mt-fuji/#respond Tue, 03 Dec 2019 02:42:06 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3560 This is our first trip to Mt Fuji. We were there with 2 families with children and stayed in Hakone for 2 nights. On the first day, we visited the Hakone shrine and took a battleship cruise in Lake Ashi. The surrounding scenery was serene and awe-inspiring. On the second day, we visited a ski resort at Mt Fuji. The children had a great time playing with snow. Our local guide, Mr Tony was efficient and accommodating. He gave me very good ideas when I was planning for my itinerary and always ensures that my requests and queries were taken care of. Thank you, Mr Tony  of Travel Assist Japan for making our trip such a memorable one!     Mabel.C

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Great service, great photos, and great company! https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/great-service-great-photos/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/great-service-great-photos/#respond Wed, 20 Nov 2019 02:50:47 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3548 Mr. Tony — our wonderful all-in-one guide and photographer– was a delight to have on this adventure of tours to Mt. Fuji! He catered to our every request and made the trip extra special by taking beautiful photos of us at every location. This is one trip we will definitely remember!
Camille.S from Philippine

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The Best Wineries and Distilleries with Tours: Japan’s Hidden Gems https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/the-best-wineries-and-distilleries-with-tours/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/the-best-wineries-and-distilleries-with-tours/#respond Mon, 07 Oct 2019 00:11:25 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3479 What could be better than an afternoon in the countryside with some delicious foods, good friends, and beautiful scenery? The same situation with a glass of wine or whiskey, of course! This article is going to give you the details of Japan’s hidden wine and whiskey industries, and introduce some opportunities to go on tours with the best Japanese guides. Read on to learn more about Japanese wine and whiskey!

About Katsunuma Wine in Koshu area

Koshu was a province that was established in the Nara period and existed until the Meiji Restoration and was regarded as an important region for defense during the Edo Period.

Koshu province is now known as Yamanashi prefecture, and there remains a city named Koshu in Yamanashi. Now, Koshu is one of the most famous areas in Japan for wine. The area is famous for its regional specialty called Koshu wine, a type of wine made from a variety of grapes called Koshu grapes.

Katsunuma, an area in Koshu city located just 90 minutes from Tokyo, is wine country within the city. Katsunuma is located in a valley just North of Mount Fuji. You can enjoy panoramic views of the region and Mount Fuji. There are 31 wineries in the Katsunuma area of Koshu. Here 27% of all Japanese wine is produced, with the main variety being local Koshu white wine.

The best season to visit the Katsunuma area is in October when the vines are full of ripe grapes ready for picking and winemaking. You can enjoy a winery tour where you can sip on different varieties of local wine. Perhaps you can try your hand at some winemaking yourself as well. Grape-stomping is another fun activity that is sure to be a highlight of your trip. Most wineries also offer grape juice tasting for children, those who do not drink, or designated drivers. The area is very welcoming for all types of travelers and is a must-visit for any wine lover.

 

How to get to Katsunuma

By train

The best way to reach Katsunuma is to take the Chuo Rapid Line. Take the Limited Express “Azusa” or “Kaiji” and get off at Katsunuma Budokyo station. You can board the train at Shinjuku, Tachikawa, or Hachioji station.

By car or by funk bass

There is a highway express bus departing from Shinjuku bus terminal that connects Tokyo and Katsunuma. There are multiple departures daily, but some of the busses skip Katsunuma. Be careful when reserving a seat to ensure your bus stops at Katsunuma.

 

If you want to go by car, you can use the Chuo Expressway, which is a toll highway running from through Tokyo and Yamanashi. Please note that most visitors will need to possess an international driver’s license to operate a vehicle in Japan.

 

Alternatively, you can join a tour with knowledgable local guides. Tokyo Travel Assist offers a winery tour. They will use their expertise and take you to some of the best wineries in Katsunuma. If you want to get in contact with them, use this form on their website. They offer other tours around Japan as well, so take a look through their website to combine your winery tour with other activities to make your perfect trip itinerary.

 

Three best wineries

There are roughly 30 wineries in Katsunuma so it can be difficult for travelers to find the best winery to visit. We recommend the following wineries:

Mars Hosaka Winery

Mars Hosaka Winery is built on a low hill in Katsunuma. On a clear sunny day, you can even enjoy a view of Mount Fuji in the horizon.

Their wines are world-class wines that have won multiple awards in Japan and have gained acclaim abroad too. You can find precious aged wine here alongside many fresh bottles of Koshu wine.

Address: 8−1 Kamiimai Hosakamachi, Nirasaki, Yamanashi
Tel: 0551-45-8883
Email: Contact form
Hours: March – November: 9:00~17:00
December – February:  10:00~16:00

 

Mars Hosaka Winery

Katsunuma Winery

Katsunuma Winery is a winery with over 140 years of history. Their wines utilize only the indigenous Koshu grape variety, making them authentic Katsunuma wines.

Their famous line of wines called Koshu Aruga Branca Brilhante is incredibly difficult to find outside of Japan, so a visit to the Katsunuma winery is a must for those looking to get their hands on a bottle of Katsunuma Winery’s wine.

Address: 371 Shimoiwasaki Katsunumacho, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-0069
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~18:00

Grace Wine 

Grace Wine is a winery in Katsunuma whose wines have acquired numerous awards over the years. 

There is a wine bar featuring Grace Wine’s products inside of Ishiwa-Onsen station which is a little-known to tourists but a great visit for those looking to casually sample some of Grace Wine’s products.

Address: 173 Todoroki Katsunumacho, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-1230
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

Budo-no-Oka

Budo-no-Oka is not a winery but a local wine tasting center. Budo-no-Oka features a wine restaurant, a shop, a hotel, and a barbecue restaurant. We recommend Budo-no-Oka for those looking to not only sample but also understand the differences in different kinds of wine. You can try a number of wines from the Katsunuma region, making it an efficient one-stop-shop for travelers.

Address: 5093 Katsunumacho Hishiyama, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-1230
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

About Japanese whiskey

Japan is known around the world for its sake, or traditional Japanese rice wine. In shops around the world, you can try different varieties of Japanese sake. However, you may be surprised to hear that Japan is also becoming a hotspot for whiskey production as well. Japanese whiskey has been getting popular in recent years and consequently getting more expensive. What’s so unique about Japanese whiskey is that it utilizes pure water from the peak of Mount Fuji, giving it a unique and delicious taste.

Three recommended distilleries

Since most people are not aware of Japan’s growing whiskey market, most people also do not know where to find authentic Japanese whiskey distilleries. Here are three whiskey distilleries we recommend:

 

Suntory’s Hakushu distillery

Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery is a whiskey distillery located in Hokuto, Yamanashi used for the production of Suntory’s famous Hakushu whiskey. This distillery offers two ways to enjoy its facilities.

The first is to look around at your own pace without the help of a guide by exploring the history of whiskey in the Suntory Museum of Whiskey. Note that you cannot gain access to the production process if you choose to browse by yourself.

The second way is to join the Hakushu Distillery Tour where you can get exclusive access to the production area. You can watch malt whiskey production and enjoy the aroma of 10, 20, and even 30-year old aging whiskey in the warehouse.

Hakushu Distillery

Besides the tour, you can enjoy limited-edition whiskeys on site. The staff can offer snack pairings with different kinds of whiskey. After trying different varieties, you are welcome to buy a bottle for yourself.

At the Hakushu Distillery, there is also a forest restaurant called “White Terrace”. The restaurant offers mouthwatering dishes made with local ingredients. Furthermore, all of the dishes go well with whiskey! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the distillery in the countryside while sipping on some quality Japanese whiskey.

 

Tokyo Travel Assist offers a Suntory Hakushu Distillery and Tasting Tour. One of Tokyo Travel Assist’s knowledgable local guides will take you on a trip to Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery. Not only will you be accompanied by a friendly local during your visit, but also you will be escorted to and from your accommodation, so there is no concern about getting lost in the countryside. Be sure to check out the Suntory Distillery and Tasting tour page that gives you all of the details of the tour.

Address: 2913-1 Torihara Hakushucho, Hokuto, Yamanashi
Tel: 075-35-2211
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:30~16:30

Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery

Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery is in the Western part of Japan near Osaka and Kyoto. Similar to the Hakushu Distillery, the Yamazaki Distillery offers two ways to enjoy its facilities.

The first is to look around at your own pace without the help of a guide by exploring the history of whiskey in the Yamazaki Museum of Whiskey. Note that you cannot gain access to the production process if you choose to browse by yourself.

The second way is to join the Yamazaki Distillery Tour where you can get exclusive access to the production area. You can see the various steps of whiskey production here. The warehouse is also open to tour participants, where a guide will explain the process of whiskey maturation.

Address: 5-2-1 Yamazaki Shimamotocho, Mishimagun, Osaka
Tel: 075-962-1423
Email: Contact form
Hours: 10:00~16:45

Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba distillery

Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba Distillery is located Gotemba, a city located right beside Mount Fuji. This Distillery offers three kinds of free distillery tours. One is 30 minutes long, one is 70 minutes long, and one is 90 minutes long. The shortest tour is for casual visitors who are interested in learning the basic history and facts of whiskey through a movie. The tour includes one glass of whiskey for tasting.

The longer tours are for those who are more interested in the details of whiskey production. The 70-minute long tour is the most popular as it allows visitors to view the production process up close. Participants also get to try two different kinds of whiskey on this tour! The 90-minute long tour offers an exclusive opportunity for participants to walk through the maturation warehouse. The 90-minute long tour also offers a chance to sample two different whiskeys on the tour.

Address: 970 Shibanta, Gotenba, Shizuoka
Tel:0550-89-4909
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

About Tokyo Travel Assist’s Winery or Distillery Tour

Tokyo Travel Assist offers an amazing tour for wine or whiskey lovers visiting Japan. Tokyo Travel Assist offers completely customizable tours that are tailored to your wants and needs. You can go to wineries, whiskey distilleries, or even both! Although their tour page only lists the Suntory Hakushu Distillery Tasting Tour, you can let them know if you would like to visit some wineries in Katsunuma, or maybe go to the Suntory Yamazaki or Fuji Gotemba Whiskey Distilleries.

You can always trust Tokyo Travel Assist because they have knowledgable guides who will help you just like a friend before and during your trip to Japan. Their tour page features a number of tours that you can combine to make a perfect trip to Japan.

Conclusion

After reading this article, you probably feel like sipping on some wine in the shadows of Mount Fuji or tasting some aged whiskey in a real production plant. Now that you know the best wineries and distilleries in Japan, you can easily make a trip by yourself or with the help of a friendly guide.

Let us know how you plan to enjoy your time in Japan with wine or whiskey!

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VIP Treatment https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/vip-treatment/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/vip-treatment/#respond Tue, 24 Sep 2019 21:48:09 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3473
Mt Fuji day trip from Tokyo by charted vehicle with photographer guide for VIP
We were travelling with an elderly and our guide, Tony was very attentive to the small details to ensure my Mother (82 years old) would be able to enjoy the trip with little cause for concern. He also showed us areas where more locals were enjoying the views of Mt Fuji and stop at nice bakeries to fuel our energy.
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The Only Guide You Will Need for Osaka – Plus a Guided Tour! https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/the-only-guide-you-will-need-for-osaka-plus-a-guided-tour/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/the-only-guide-you-will-need-for-osaka-plus-a-guided-tour/#respond Sun, 22 Sep 2019 13:46:54 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3436 Are you a foodie in search of your next gourmet destination? Or perhaps you are you looking to visit Japan’s Western region, but don’t know where to start? Then you have come to the right spot. Tokyo Travel Assist’s Osaka Guide will provide you with the essential information you need to make the most of your visit to Osaka, Japan’s Western centre and culinary capital.

About Osaka

Osaka is the economic and political centre of Western Japan. Osaka is the third-largest city in Japan by population and is the center of Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area known as the Keihanshin metropolis. In the Asuka and Nara periods, present-day Osaka was known as Naniwa. The significance of the name Naniwa still remains as Naniwa-ku is the name of one of the 24 wards of Osaka city.

Osaka was briefly the capital of Imperial Japan in the 7th and 8th centuries. Furthermore, Osaka was an important economic center in Japan as many of its residents were merchants during the Edo period (1603-1868). During this time Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a significant Japanese political figure known for unifying Japan after the Sengoku (warring states) period, built Osaka castle to signify the significance of Osaka in Japan’s political and economic realm.

Best time to visit Osaka

Although each season in Osaka has its own appeal, Osaka has a pleasant climate making it easy to visit the city at any time of the year. The summer can be hot and humid and can reach temperatures of up to 37, most days hover around 30 – 35. Winter is also very comfortable as the daily low rarely falls below 5. Winter in Osaka is also very short compared to other places like Tokyo, Hokkaido, and even Korea.

If you like mild weather, then spring or fall is the best season for you. The months of October and November in Osaka are absolutely beautiful with a comfortable temperature without much rain. You can also enjoy the changing leaves. Spring is also beautiful with cherry blossoms in bloom, but many places with the best cherry blossom viewing spots are packed with tourists and locals alike.

Traveling to Osaka

There are many ways to access Osaka from various parts of Japan. If you are coming from outside Japan and want to directly come to Osaka, then you should fly into Kansai International Airport (KIX), the gateway to Osaka and the Keihanshin area.

From KIX, the train is the best method of transportation to reach the city centre. There are two main train companies that service KIX: Nankai Electric Railway and Japan Railway. Japan Railway offers the Kansai Airport Rapid Service and the Haruka Limited Express train. Nankai Electric Railway offers the Nankai Railway Airport Line. All three of these train services offer efficient train services, so the best way to decide which one to use is to see which one stops closest to the accommodation you plan to stay at. Although Osaka is smaller than Tokyo, it is still a large city with many confusing train lines and stations. The internet is your friend when it comes to researching arrival transfers.

From KIX as well as from other areas in the greater Osaka area, limousine bus services are a good choice. Limousine busses are convenient because they connect downtown Osaka to a wider range of locations throughout Osaka prefecture and even other regions like Kobe, Kyoto, and Nara.

Taxi is the easiest and most comfortable way to transfer in and out of Osaka, but it is the most expensive. Taxis in Japan’s major cities are not cheap, and a taxi ride from KIX to central Osaka costs around 20,000 yen.

If you are already in Japan and are seeking to visit Osaka, then you have even more transportation options. From all over Japan, JR trains or busses are quite convenient. If you are in Tokyo or Nagoya, perhaps a ride on the world-class Shikansen (bullet train) would be an interesting choice for you. Shin-Osaka is the Shinkansen station that serves the Osaka area.

Alternatively, you can take domestic flights from all over Japan. Japan has a number of low-cost carriers (LCC) that fly from almost any part of Japan into Osaka. The country’s two best airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, also have many flights each day that come and go from Osaka. 

Currency exchange in Osaka

While Japan is a technologically advanced nation in many respects, personal finance is one part of life that is still very old-fashioned. Cash is king in Japan, and it is hard to go a day without using some cash. Furthermore, many establishments still do not accept credit cards or debit cards, so travelers in Japan should always carry some cash while in Japan. 

There are a number of ways that you can exchange your currency into Japanese Yen in Osaka. Upon arrival at KIX, there are a number of currency exchange counters inside the airport. While these are very convenient for travelers, most airport currency exchange counters do not offer a good rate. If you are pressed for time and are in immediate need of cash for your taxi ride or whatnot, then these counters are useful. Otherwise, you should seek out better options within the city.

Post offices and banks offer currency exchange services with satisfactory rates. You can find a bank or post office almost anywhere in Japan, and they can deal with most currencies. Banks used to be the only institutions that were permitted to provide exchange services under Japanese law, so you can trust their services.

Bank and post office ATMs also accept foreign credit and debit cards for exchange, along with convenience store ATMs which are connected to a network of different Japanese banks. Please note that bank ATMs in Japan do not provide 24-hour services, and most operate only a few hours before and after bank hours. If you are in need of cash in the middle of the night, it is best to go to a convenience store.

Districts of Osaka

Kita (Umeda) Area

There are two main city centres, with the Kita, or Umeda, area being one of them. Its counterpart is the Minami, or Namba, area located South of Umeda. The Kita area is home to a large business district and is the busiest transportation hub in Osaka. This area is also home to Osaka station city, which is an enormous network of underground shopping malls. This type of city-under-a-city is only in Osaka!

There are also a number of aboveground shopping and entertainment facilities. Grand Front Osaka is the newest and most popular of them since its opening in 2013. It has numerous interconnected skyscrapers that have stores, restaurants, offices, residential spaces, and even some small parks.

Umeda has many other things to offer besides shopping. There are many hotels and other lodging services in the Kita area. It is incredibly convenient for tourists, and also makes for a great visit.

In terms of entertainment, you can find Umeda Sky Building in the Osaka station area. Umeda Sky Building is an incredible 173-metre tall skyscraper that has an open-air observation deck on the top of the building. Hankyu Entertainment Park, known as HEP, is another entertainment area that is centred around the HEP Five and HEP Navio buildings. Here you can find the famous bright red ferris wheel on top of the HEP Five building!

Minami (Namba) Area

The Minami, or Namba, area is located South of Umeda. Although the Minami area is close to the Kita area, the atmosphere and selection of attractions is completely different! While Umeda feels modern and new, Namba feels like the traditional Osaka seen in media. Namba is home to Dotonbori, which is probably the most famous landmark in Osaka. Dotonbori is a street full of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment along the Dotonbori canal.

North of Dotonbori is Shinsaibashi shopping street, which is more focused on shopping than food. The atmosphere is calmer than that of Dotonbori and there are less wacky signboards in Shinsaibashi. Next to Dotonbori is Hozenji Yokocho, a narrow stone-paved street filled with traditional Osaka cuisine. Upon entering Hozenji Yokocho you might feel like you teleported back in time! This quaint little street is filled with establishments that offer local dishes such as okonomiyaki and kushi-katsu. You 

Located west of Shinsaibashi is an area popular among young locals called Amerika-mura. In its early days around the 1960’s, this area centered around Sankaku Koen Park (literally “triangle park”) was filled with stores that sold American import goods, with surf-themed clothing and vintage clothing being the most popular items. The area remains a hub for young people and remains the home of many shops specializing in American products.

On the South side of Namba station is an area called Den Den Town which is perfect for the self-proclaimed “nerd” crowd or just those with interests in electronics, anime, or games. Similar to Akihabara in Tokyo, Den Den Town is filled with stores that offer computer parts, various electronics, manga, anime, and more.

To final major sightseeing sight in Namba is Kuromon Ichiba, an enormous covered market filled with a variety of street foods and souvinirs.

Places to visit

Universal Studio Japan

Osaka is home to one of the six Universal Studios theme parks in the world, and was the first Universal Studios park to open in Asia. The park is incredibly large and is the second-most-popular theme park in Japan after Tokyo Disneyland. It features many attractions made in the style of many internationally acclaimed franchises like Toy Story, and also has some attractions that are based on Japanese anime or video games. There are eight areas in Universal Studios Japan: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Waterworld, Jurassic Park,  Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Each season offers a different experience at Universal Studios. Many young people love Halloween and dress up for a visit to the park. There are a variety of scary shows and actors dressed like monsters roaming the park. Christmas is also popular, as the romantic atmosphere is popular among couples. During each season, characters are dressed up differently. It might be fun to visit during each holiday and compare your experience!

Cup Noodles Museum

Did you know the creator of instant noodles was a man named Momofuku Ando who resided in Osaka? He created the first instant noodles in 1958 to help with the post-war efforts in Japan. The Cup Noodle Museum in Osaka is dedicated to Momofuku Ando and shows the history of instant noodles in through interactive exhibits. You can even create your own original cup noodles at the museum, or try to make instant chicken ramen from scratch! Experiencing the processes involved in the production of instant noodles will change your perceptions of instant noodles forever.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the most famous aquariums in Japan. Located in Tempozan Harbour Village, the aquarium is filled with over 620 species of marine life in 15 different tanks over 8 floors. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan focuses on marine life in the pacific rim, with each tank representing a different area of the pacific rim. The huge aquarium has penguins, dolphins, and turtles, but the most famous sea creature in the aquarium is the whale shark. As the aquarium is indoors, it is the perfect activity for tourists, whether they are solo travelers, couples, or families.

Umeda Sky Building

Umeda Sky Building is an incredible 173-metre tall skyscraper in Umeda. It has an open-air observation deck called the “Floating Garden Observatory” on the top of the building. Here you can enjoy a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. On clear days you can even see as far as Awaji Island, which is nearly 100km away from Osaka.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle was built under the instruction Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a Japanese historical figure attributed to the unification of Japan after the Sengoku period. The castle was intended to be a symbol for the newly unified country in Osaka, which was a political centre of Japan at that time. The castle went through much hardship, as it was destroyed by enemy warriors in 1615 and rebuilt soon after only to be burned down after being struck by lightening in 1665. The Osaka Castle that stands today was built in 1931. The castle is surrounded by moats, gardens, and towering stone walls. You can leisurely enjoy the castle by strolling through the large park that surrounds the castle before going inside. There are many historical exhibits inside with artifacts from various periods of Japan’s history.

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi shopping street is located North of Dotonbori and is more focused on shopping than food. The atmosphere is calmer than that of Dotonbori and there are less wacky signboards in Shinsaibashi. The shopping arcade itself is roughly 600-metres long and is covered, making it a safe place to visit even on rainy days. The shopping arcade is unique because it hosts both low-end chain retailers and small boutiques with enormous department stores and upscale fashion labels.

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is a street full of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment along the Dotonbori canal. The area is characterized by its bright signboards. The Glico Man, pictured in the image below, is the most popular place to take a picture in Osaka. You should do the running man pose and take a picture with him. Otherwise, look for landmarks like Kuidaore Taro, a mascot representing Osaka’s obsession with food. While most people walk through the streets of Dotonbori, you can also experience the area from the canal itself by taking a river cruise through the canal.

Kuromon Ichiba Market

Kuromon Ichiba is an enormous covered market filled with a variety of street foods and souvenirs. Here you can find fresh produce, local delicacies, and dine at one of the many street food stands. The name Kuromon Ichiba means “black gate market”, and is named after a temple with a black gate that was located nearby. Locals and tourists alike are attracted to the market for its quality and selection of foods. The best part about the market is that it is entirely covered, so you can enjoy your food adventures even if it is pouring outside.

Minoo

Minoo Park is a forested park located about 30 minutes outside of central Osaka. The park is considered to be one of the best spots to see the changing colours of leaves in the fall. Here you can enjoy an easy hike that passes by old shops, temple buildings, and even a waterfall. During the autumn months you can try a special snack called momiji tempura, which consists of maple leaves deep-fried in tempura batter. Although the best season to visit Minoo Park is fall, you can still visit the park at any time of the year as a small escape from the city.

Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum

During the Edo period, Osaka was the hub for arts and culture in Japan. Ukiyoe art is one of the most popular among the many different art forms that were popular in Japan at that time. One type that was particularly popular in Osaka is called Kamigata Ukiyoe from Kamigata, an old name for the Osaka-Kyoto region. This type of art was different from other ukiyoe art because the art style was developed before the Edo period. There is a museum in Osaka called the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum that features the only permanent exhibit of Kamigata Ukiyoe in the world. You can learn about Japanese art and culture throughout history and look at some authentic works of art that can only be seen in Osaka.

Don Quijote

If you are in need of Japanese souvenirs, then you must make a visit to Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a discount chain retailer that sells a wide variety of items from daily household goods, personal hygiene products, electronics, novelty goods, and even souvenirs. The stores are famous for the chaotic store layout that stimulates your senses. Don Quijote is the perfect one-stop-shop for all of your shopping needs. There are Don Quijote stores in Namba, Umeda, and a Mega Don Quijote near Osaka Tennoji Zoo.

Now that you know about the different areas of Osaka and best places to visit, why not get in contact with Tokyo Travel Assist and go on a guided Osaka adventure?  Their friedly and knowledgable local guides will take you to many of the must-visit places listed in this article. Check out the Osaka Enjoy Tour page to learn more!

And let us know how you plan to enjoy your time in Osaka. If you have any questions, our friendly team at Tokyo Travel Assist is here to help you at any time.

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A Guide to Food in Tokyo, Plus a Gourmet Tokyo Tour https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/a-guide-to-food-in-tokyo-plus-a-gourmet-tokyo-tour/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/a-guide-to-food-in-tokyo-plus-a-gourmet-tokyo-tour/#respond Sun, 15 Sep 2019 14:03:41 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3386 Tokyo, one of the world’s biggest cities, is a food-lovers paradise. There are world-class restaurants around almost any corner in central Tokyo. With so many options, it can be excruciatingly difficult to decide what to eat! After all, there are language barriers, cultural differences, and more that make it so hard. This article will help make your trip to Tokyo less intimidating by giving you the essential advice you need to navigate Tokyo’s restaurants and bars. Read on to learn the A, B, C’s of Japan’s culinary culture.

Criteria to decide where to go and what to eat

First things first, you need to decide where you want to eat. So, here are some criteria for you to consider before narrowing your choices of restaurants down:

Budget

Budget is the first tool you can use to decide where to eat. In Japan, lunch is always much more affordable than dinner. If you are on a tight budget, then you should aim to go to nicer restaurants at lunch rather than dinner, and stick with cheap eats for meals later in the day. Most restaurants have lunch sets which include a main, a side, and a drink, usually for 1000 JPY or less.

Sometimes, you can even get a full lunch meal at a high-class restaurant for the price of a family restaurant meal! Another tip to save money is to check out local areas for food. There are various alleyways and whole neighbourhoods in and around Tokyo that are dedicated to food, and usually at a good price. Your stomach will be full and your wallet will stay happy.

Location

 There are incredible restaurants all over Tokyo. It is hard to go wrong with most restaurants in the city. That being said, some areas offer different kinds of restaurant experiences than others. Whether you are looking for fine dining or late-night pub grub, you should learn about the different areas of Tokyo and their specialties. You can check out each main area of Tokyo in the location guide section below.

Your personal taste

You can also decide where to eat based on your own taste preferences. Is ramen your favourite food? Then checking out the different types of ramen would be a good idea. Are you a big fan of sushi? Then trying cheap and expensive sushi could be interesting. If you don’t have any favourite Japanese foods or are new to Japanese cuisine, then a trip to Japan would be a good opportunity for you to take your tastebuds on a culinary journey through different Japanese delicacies. For more information on types of must-try foods in Tokyo, check out the Japanese food guide section below.

Atmosphere

There are so many kinds of restaurants with completely different atmospheres in Japan. Figuring out which one you want to experience can also help you choose your next meal in Tokyo. There are traditional Japanese style restaurants with elegant and traditional vibes, such as Ozashiki with geisha or kaiseki meals. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the cosmopolitan experience of Tokyo, then perhaps you would be interested in a meal at the top of a skyscraper. You can experience a delicious meal while observing the concrete jungle from atop.

Another category of restaurants that are so unique to Tokyo are themed restaurants. I am sure most people know about the famous Robot Restaurant, but did you know about the hundreds of other themed restaurants and cafe in Japan’s capital? You can find a themed restaurant for almost anything in Tokyo, whether it be your favourite characters, ninjas, or even prison! If you want a truly unique Tokyo experience, then the themed restaurants of Tokyo are definitely something you want to experience at least once in your life.

 

Tips to enjoy eating in Tokyo (and in Japan)

Don’t have to pay tips

If you are from North America, then you are probably tired of calculating how much to pay in tips at the end of every meal. Luckily, tipping is non-existent in Japan. Even if you tried to tip, most restaurants would not accept your money. There are even stories of restaurant staff chasing after customers to return 1 JPY (= 1 cent) of forgotten change! In Japan, the cost of superior service is already included in the price. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy your meal without going through your wallet for spare change.

Water is drinkable, and at no cost

Japan has a good water system. So, you never need to worry about the quality of the water you are drinking. At most restaurants, you can get unlimited amounts of water for free! If you are someone who likes to stay hydrated, take advantage of this service when you are in Japan.

For vegans and vegetarians

Veganism and vegetarianism are not as well known in Japan as it is in other parts of the world. Especially in rural areas, finding vegetarian food can be extremely difficult. Luckily, Tokyo has the most options for vegans and vegetarians in the whole country. You can even find vegan ramen in Tokyo! Places like Afuri and T’s TanTan serve up delicious veggie ramen for vegans and vegetarians. For bistro-style meals perfect for taking pictures, look to Nagi Shokudo, Ain Soph.Ginza, or Veganic To Go.

Another way to experience Japanese cuisine that is both authentic and safe for vegans and vegetarians alike is to try Shojin Ryori, which is food prepared for Buddhist monks who are prohibited from consuming animal products. You can find high-end Shojin Ryori in Tokyo at places like Daigo, which has two Michelin stars, or Komaki Shokudo, where lunch is surprisingly affordable.

Smoking policies

Most restaurants in Japan no longer allow you to light up your cigarettes at any given moment. However, many establishments, especially family restaurants and izakaya, allow patrons to smoke inside. In family restaurants, there are often separate spaces for smokers and non-smokers, divided by a door or a strong fan. That is why you may be asked the phrase kin-en 禁煙 (non-smoking) or kitsu-en 喫煙 (smoking) when being escorted by your host. Beware, though, if you are sensitive to smoke. Most izakaya (Japanese-style pub) will allow patrons to smoke inside without restrictions. For those who like to smoke while enjoying good drinks and good food with their peers, perhaps this is a chance to experience something unique.

Seating charges and complimentary appetizers

In Japan, most bars and izakaya apply a seating charge called an otoshi (お通し). This charge is usually to cover the cost of a small dish that the bar or izakaya will serve to you after you order your drinks. For example, a common dish is a small plate of tofu, or maybe some cooked vegetables. Basically, you can think of the charge as the cost of a compulsory appetizer. Japanese people always eat snacks while they drink, so it is never questioned in Japan. Usually, the otoshi only costs a few hundred yen, so it is not a huge cost to dwindle on.

 Alcohol consumption in public

Japan is one of the handful of countries in the world that has no regulations on public alcohol consumption. You can also buy alcohol easily at most convenience stores and supermarkets. Many Japanese people take advantage of these laws by enjoying themselves on picnics with alcohol or even a beer on their commute home. Hanami, the celebration of cherry blossoms, is a huge event marked by large picnics at parks with cans of alcohol decorated with cherry blossom motifs. While you may run into a few rowdy people on the weekends at night, most people are generally well-behaved, even in the absence of open container laws. 

Names of restaurants

Most Japanese restaurants only display their name in Japanese characters, so be careful if you are searching for a certain spot. Some technology will allow you to translate writing through your phone camera, but otherwise, you should keep a screenshot of the establishment’s name in Japanese in your phone for reference.

 

Japanese food

Below is a list of some of Japan’s most iconic dishes. Did your favourite make the list?

Nigiri-zushi

Nigiri-zushi is the most basic type of sushi that you can find in Japan. If you go to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant (kaitenzushi), you can find popular nigiri-zushi like salmon, tuna, scallop, or squid at a cheap price. Although nigiri-zushi looks so simple and easy to make, mastering the art of making nigiri-zushi takes much skill and effort, which is why high-end nigiri-zushi is so expensive. Of course, the taste is 100% worth the price.

Tempura

Tempura are foods that are deep-fried in a batter that is comprised of ice-cold water and flour, often mixed just enough so as not to activate wheat gluten. Usually, seasonal vegetables and seafood are used to make tempura. Good tempura has fresh ingredients that is covered in light and fluffy batter, resulting in a super fluffy yet crisp bite.

Soba

Soba is a type of thin noodle that is made with buckwheat flour. Soba has been incredibly popular ever since the era of samurai. Each area of Japan has a special type of soba that can be served either hot or cold. Soba is very popular in rural areas, but there are a number of famous soba restaurants in Tokyo as well.

Udon

Udon is another type of noodle that is made from wheat flour. The noodles are thicker than ramen or soba noodles and can even be chewy. Udon is thought to have existed in Japan for nearly 1000 years. Udon can also be served hot or cold, Each area of Japan also has its own take on udon noodles.

Monjayaki

Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter that is very popular in Tokyo. The ingredients are similar to those of okonomiyaki, with cabbage, seafood, eggs, and flour being the main ingredients. However, the ingredients are chopped very finely and mixed with more liquid so that the end result is a gooey batter-like food that tastes amazing. Many people also swear on purposely overcooking their monjayaki to get a crispier bite.

Tsukudani

Tsukudani is a type of food that is comprised of small pieces of seaweed that are cooked with mirin and soy sauce. Tsukudani makes a great companion for plain white rice as the flavour can be quite intense by itself.

Nabe (Chanko-nabe)

Nabe is the name for Japanese-style hot pot. Typically, seasonal vegetables alongside konjac, tofu, and seafood, or meat are simmered in a light broth, such as miso broth or chicken broth. Nabe is popular in the colder months because it warms up your body from the inside. There is also a special kind of nabe called chanko-nabe, a hearty nabe that is commonly eaten in large quantities by sumo wrestlers. You can feel like a sumo wrestler if you try some authentic chanko-nabe in Tokyo.

Yakitori

Yakitori is the name of grilled chicken skewers in Japan. These skewers are grilled over charcoal, and often served with just salt or in a special dip called tare. There are many types of yakitori that use different parts of chicken, such as kawa (skin), nankotsu (cartilage), and momo (thigh). Yakitori is a popular street food in Japan that you can find at any summer festival. You can never go wrong with yakitori.

Kappou

Kappou cuisine is a type of traditional Japanese cuisine that is somewhat similar to kaiseki in terms of the types of ingredients. However, a unique point about kappou cuisine is that the diner and chef are deliberately placed in close quarters so that diners can immerse themselves in the entire cooking experience from preparation to presentation. Kappou restaurants are usually quite small and are more expensive than the other foods on this list. However, kappou cuisine is uniquely Japanese and should be experienced by travelers seeking out authentic Japanese experiences.

Japanese bread

Japanese bread is different than bread found in other parts of the world. Shokupan, which is Japanese white bread, is super fluffy and a little bit sweet. Other sweet breads called kashi-pan like melon pan or an-pan are also very popular. These breads are super delicious, not too sweet, and always affordable. You can find these breads at any supermarket or specialty bread stores around Tokyo.

 Japanese sweets

Japanese traditional sweets called wagashi are a must-try in Japan. These sweets are small and look almost like a piece of art. Many of them are based on sweet red bean paste and combined with things like mochi, chestnuts, or Japanese agar. You can enjoy wagashi with a cup of authentic Japanese green tea. It is highly recommended to try the wagashi and tea combination when you go to a traditional Japanese garden to get the full experience.

International cuisine

Although you may expect Japan to be the master of its own cuisine, you may be surprised to find out that many chefs have achieved recognition for their skills in foreign cuisine such as French or Italian cuisine. Many restaurants in Japan of foreign cuisine have garnered multiple Michelin stars over the years. Some areas of Tokyo are famous for certain types of foreign cuisine. Shin-Okuba, right next to Shinjuku station, is popular for its Korean cuisine. Kagurazaka in Chiyoda-ku is famed for French restaurants, and Ikebukuro is known for Chinese food.

 

Location

Although each of Tokyo’s 23 wards is pretty diverse, each area still has its own charms. Below is a list of Tokyo neighbourhoods divided into casual dining and fine dining.

For casual dining

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is known as the centre of Tokyo. Here, you can find basically anything that you would ever look for in Japan. Therefore, there is an abundance of casual dining establishments in the Shinjuku area. A famous alleyway of pubs called Golden Gai is a must-visit place for pub enthusiasts who want to experience a true Japanese izakaya.

Yurakucho

Yurakucho, although physically close to high-end areas like Ginza and Tokyo station, is surprisingly full of affordable dining options. Yurakucho is home to an area called Gado Shita, (literally “under the tracks”), a cluster of Japanese cheap eats. You can find izakaya, yakitori, and more. On Friday nights you can be surrounding by Japanese salarymen in their suits, celebrating the end of the week with their colleagues.

Asakusa

Asakusa is a part of shitamachi, or old-town Tokyo. Here you can eat popular Japanese foods like tuna sushi, tempura, and soba for a low price. Monjayaki, which is a food from Tokyo, is also very popular in Asakusa. If you are looking for casual dining options but still want to experience authentic Japanese cuisine, then Asakusa is the perfect place to find your next meal. It is also conveniently located next to Sensoji Temple, so you can fill up on good food after a day of sightseeing.

 

For fine dining

Tokyo station

Tokyo station is one of the many doors in Tokyo as it is the disembarkation point for many people coming into Tokyo by the Narita Express or bullet trains. It is also the home of many corporate headquarters, so it is considered to be one of the many business districts. Unsurprisingly, there are many fine dining options in the area. You can find upscale izakaya, sake tasting bars, various sushi restaurants, and even dining options with views above the city.

Ginza

Ginza is probably the most well-known upscale shopping and finance hotspot of Tokyo. Here you can find all of the best luxury brands and more. It is obvious that there are also many fine dining options in the Ginza area as well, many of which are internationally recognized for their quality. Ginza is well-known for having many of the city’s best sushi establishments. Here in Ginza you can also find the best marbled wagyu beef, and even try a kaiseki meal.

Shiodome

Shiodome is a neighbourhood practically a part of the Ginza area. Here you can find Shiodome City Center which is a skyscraper that has many fine dining options that offer breathtaking views of Tokyo. Maybe you can try a sky bar on the 41st floor, Japanese barbeque, and even fresh seafood. You can definitely find a fine dining option for you at the convenience of the mall-like skyscraper.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku has literally everything that Tokyo has to offer. You can find any dining experience imaginable in the city. So, Shinjuku is an obvious pick to try some of Tokyo’s best upscale restaurants. You can try a Michelin star kaiseki meal, and even award-winning Japanese-Spanish fusion. You are bound to get a culinary experience that will please all of your senses in Shinjuku. You can easily find a high-end restaurant in amongst the many towering skyscrapers that offer splendid views. Shinjuku is also home to many of Tokyo’s best luxury hotels that offer fine dining options.

Azabu

Azabu is famous for having embassies, luxury condominiums, and great fine dining. It can be slightly difficult to navigate as many of the best restaurants are hidden away in alleyways or basements. Nevertheless, Azabu is home to some of Tokyo’s best food. Many locals like the Azabu area for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other events. You are bound to find the best service and best ingredients at any high-end restaurant in the Azabu area.

Local food

If you want to experience authentic Japanese cuisine, then you should try local Japanese foods that Tokyo residents love to eat. These local foods are easy to enjoy and can be found in many parts of Tokyo. Try some uniquely Japanese from famous department stores or maybe some street foods and enjoy an afternoon of tabe-aruki (trying foods at restaurants while walking).

Depachika

Depachika, which is short for department store basement, refers to entire basement floors of Japan’s famous department stores that are dedicated solely for food. These basements of department stores, like Takashimaya, Seibu, or Tokyu, are usually reserved for an array of takeaway food. You can find just about every kind of Japanese food you can imagine all in one place for your pure culinary enjoyment. Shop alongside the many local residents looking for additions to their dinner. You can find a variety of low-end options like fried foods (shrimp fry, croquettes), to high-end options like wagyu beef, gourmet pastries, and more.

Depachika

Our recommendations to experience “depachika” are Isetan in Shinjuku, a huge deparment store that has a famous depachika with a variety of foods from salads to pastries to meats to expensive fruits to bento boxes. Basically, you can find anything here. We also recommend Shinjuku’s Takashimaya, another gargantuan department store that also offers an amazing basement full of foods from your wildest dreams.

Sometimes entering an environment as hectic and unique like the depachika of monstrous department stores make it daunting for visitors to visit. No worries though, as Tokyo Travel Assist has a perfect tour for anyone interested in experiencing a real department store basement with the guidance of a local Tokyoite. Tokyo Travel Assist’s service is superb and their local guides are all knowledgeable and friendly. You will certainly have a great depachika experience if you join Tokyo Travel Assist’s “Depachika” tasting tour! Take a look at the tour information page for all of the details.

Street food

Another category of local foods that are popular and delicious are street foods. Japan’s street food culture is slightly different than that of other places because it is a cultural no-no to eat while walking. So, make sure you eat your foods beside the store that you bought them from. Here is a list of some of Japan’s best street foods that you should try on your next trip to Tokyo;

Yakitori

Yakitori is the name of grilled chicken skewers in Japan. These skewers are grilled over charcoal and often served with just salt or in a special dip called tare. There are many types of yakitori that use different parts of the chicken, such as kawa (skin), nankotsu (cartilage), and momo (thigh). Yakitori is a popular street food in Japan that you can find at any summer festival. You can never go wrong with yakitori.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki are octopus balls that grilled in a hemispherical grill. To make takoyaki you have to spin the batter while it cooks to make the spherical shape! Inside of each ball is a piece of octopus, and they are usually topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and seaweed flakes. Some places offer special versions with toppings like cheese, eggs, and onions. Be careful when you try takoyaki though, the insides are piping hot!

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped caked named after a fish called tai, or seabream. These cakes have usually filled with red bean paste, but you can find taiyaki with custard, whipped cream, chocolate, or even sweet potatoes inside. Some shops even fill taiyaki with savory foods like sausages! Taiyaki is the perfect street food to take a picture of because of its unique shape. You can usually find taiyaki shops selling taiyaki for just a few hundred yen.

Japanese crepe

Japanese crepes are probably the most famous sweet street food in Japan. You can find these unique desserts, which are rolled into a cone shape and consumed without any cutlery, in areas like Harajuku or Shibuya of Tokyo. Takeshita Street is the most popular place for Japanese crepes. You can find these delicious desserts with fillings like strawberries, bananas, ice cream, and even chewy rice balls. Some places also sell savory crepes which are filled with sausage, tuna, chicken, eggs, and cheese. Japanese crepes are similar to burritos in their shape and are a perfect on-the-go snack!

Yatai

You can find more street foods at yatai (open air food stands) offer a variety of foods in some local festivals in summer. The most common yatai are takoyaki, yakitori, and grilled seafood. A favourite for children is chocolate-dipped bananas. Although most festivals with yatai occur during the summer, you can find some festivals in other seasons as well. Yatai fare usually goes for a few hundred yen, so you can try many things without breaking the bank.

Japanese fast food

Gyudon

Gyudon is Japanese for beef bowl, which usually consists of fresh white rice topped with beef and onions simmered in a soy-based sauce. You can also crack a fresh raw egg over the beef if you are feeling adventurous. Gyudon is incredibly popular among Japanese salarymen because a bowl of gyudon is so cheap, usually around 500 JPY. The atmosphere of gyudon chains make it easy for solo customers to enjoy their meal alone, and the service is always fast. Yoshinoya and Matsuya are the two most popular gyudon chains in Japan. You can find traditional gyudon as well as special variations with kimchi or different cuts of meat. 

Tendon

Tendon is Japanese for tempura bowl. Tendon is similar to gyudon if you substitute the beef for seafood and vegetable tempura. Tendon is another cheap fast food in Japan that is welcoming of solo travelers. Tenya is the most popular chain for tendon, and they tendon sets that are very affordable. 

Soba

Soba is a type of thin noodle that is made with buckwheat flour. Soba has been incredibly popular ever since the era of samurai. Each area of Japan has a special type of soba that can be served either hot or cold. Soba is very popular in rural areas, but there are a number of famous soba restaurants in Tokyo as well.

Udon

Udon is another type of noodle that is made from wheat flour. The noodles are thicker than ramen or soba noodles and can even be chewy. Udon is thought to have existed in Japan for nearly 1000 years. Udon can also be served hot or cold, Each area of Japan also has its own take on udon noodles.

Gyoza

Gyoza is the name of Japanese potstickers. Gyoza is usually filled with ground pork that has been mixed with chives, garlic, ginger, and cabbage, but there are variations with seafood or just vegetables. Gyoza is very popular as a side at ramen restaurants, but there are some establishments that are famous for their gyoza. Japanese gyoza dumplings are unique because the bottom is crunchy while the top is soft, and the inside just tastes so good!

Ramen

Ramen is probably the most sought-after fast food in Japan. The thin noodles in savoury soup is a match made in heaven. The most interesting part about ramen is that there are regional differences in the type of soup ramen is made with. Soups from Northern and mainland Japan tend to be light, with shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce) ramen being very popular. The more South you go, the richer the soup gets. Tonkotsu soup, which is popular in Fukuoka or Hakata ramen, is made from the bones of pork. The soup is so rich that you cannot even see through it! It is recommended that you try a few different types of ramen to see how different each regions bowl of noodle soup can be.

Yokocho

Yokocho refers to alleyways filled with small eateries, shops, and pubs. These alleys are often lined with hole-in-the-wall bars and eateries and lit with paper lanterns and retro neon signs. Walking through a yokocho makes you feel as if you have traveled back in time. These nostalgic alleyways have been left basically unchanged since the post-war era, although some areas are experiencing revitalization with the introduction of hipster-style restaurants or pubs. A typical yokocho establishment seats 10 people or less, and are dirt cheap. You can fill up with 1000 JPY or less. Yokocho offer a great opportunity to connect with locals. Beware that due to their small size, most yokocho pubs will not be able to accommodate large groups. 

Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho is the most famous yokocho alleyway in Tokyo. Filled with run down stalls and old buildings, you are placed back in the Showa era when you visit Omoide Yokocho. It used to be the site of a black market after World War 2, and changed to its current form in the 1960’s. Due to its popularity, you will have no trouble navigating the various pubs and restaurants as they welcome foreign visitors with foreign-friendly menus and service.

Monjayaki

Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter that is very popular in Tokyo. The ingredients are similar to those of okonomiyaki, with cabbage, seafood, eggs, and flour being the main ingredients. However, the ingredients are chopped very finely and mixed with more liquid so that the end result is a gooey batter-like food that tastes amazing. What is so cool about monjayaki is that you get to prepare it yourself! Staff bring the ingredients to your grill area and then you get to have fun chopping and mixing the ingredients. Many people also swear on purposely overcooking their monjayaki to get a crispier bite. Asakusa is the place to go try monjayaki! 

Izakaya

Izakaya are small Japanese pubs that serve cheap alcoholic beverages alongside small savoury dishes. Izakaya are unique from normal bars because you always sit within your group, which provides little chance to connect with other people. Another big part of izakaya is the amount of food that people eat while drinking. In Japanese culture, it is expected to have some kind of side, called otsumami, with your alcohol. So, customers at izakaya are expected to share dishes of fried chicken, yakitori, sashimi, nabe, and even buttered potatoes. Please note that most izakaya will make you pay otoshi, which as explained above is like a charge for a compulsory appetizer. Also, be aware that smoking is permitted at most izakaya in Japan.

Izakaya are full of local residents, so you may be worried about entering one by yourself due to all of the unspoken rules and customs. You should consider Tokyo Travel Assist’s Izakaya Japanese local bar tour! This tour will take you through an izakaya bar experience where you can enjoy authentic Japanese pub grub. It is a great opportunity to experience some unique Japanese culture in the presence of a friendly and knowledgeable local guide. Check out the Tokyo Travel Assist Izakaya tour page for all of the details.

Fine food

There is a multitude of fine-dining options in Japan. As of 2019, Tokyo has the most Michelin stars of any country in the world. You can find fine-dining options for almost any type of cuisine in Tokyo. 

Traditional Japanese restaurants

Traditional Japanese restaurants serving kaiseki or kappou are considered to be very fancy. You are usually able to watch the master chef prepare your meal from start to end. It is almost like a show! Japanese traditional restaurants in Tokyo have a very elegant atmosphere and customer service is always top-class.

Nigiri-zushi

Nigiri-zushi is considered to be fine-dining amongst Japanese people. It is quite difficult to become a renowned sushi chef, and training can take years or decades. High-end sushi restaurants are completely different from those found in foreign countries, where sushi can be very casual. If you go to a fancy sushi restaurant in Tokyo, we recommend you to try omakase, which means that the chef will serve you what s/he deems is best based on the fresh catch of the day.

Fusion

Another way to enjoy fine-dining in Japan is to try some fancy fusion food. Japanese chefs are known for combining Japanese elements with international cuisine like Italian or French cuisine. When East meets West in these restaurants, your mouth will be so satisfied.

International foods

Although Japan may be known for its native cuisine, there are also many restaurants specializing in other styles of food. You can find refined Italian, French, Chinese, and even Indian food in Tokyo. It might be worth a try to compare it to food back home!

After reading this article you should now be aware of the different types of restaurants and foods in Japan. You should also have an idea of which area you want to try for your next food journey! Let us know how you plan to satisfy your taste buds on your next trip to Tokyo. If you need any assistance, Tokyo Travel Assist is always here to answer your questions or take you on a tour.

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A great way to spend a 13 hour layover in Japan https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/layover-in-japan/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/layover-in-japan/#respond Fri, 30 Aug 2019 01:01:01 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3372 Tsukiji Fish MarketI was dreading a 13 hour layover in addition to an airport transfer from Haneda to Narita on my return flight back home to the US. While I was researching my transfer options form Haneda to Narita, I stumbled into this layover tour with Travel Assist. I was already in transit when I decided to inquire on a Friday. Tony was very responsive. After a few emails back and forth, I was set up with my layover for Monday. Tony picked me up at Haneda on a brand new Discovery Land Rover. I ate my way around Tsukiji Fish Market, Photo op at the red shrine gate, strolled through the Meiji shrine, viewed the Tokyo from the Shinjuku Metropolitan government building, and had lunch at a local restaurant called Tsujihan. I was also able to shop for souvenirs and a bottle of Sake. The drive to Narita from Tokyo to Narita was breeze and comfortable. I did not have to worry about lugging my suitcase since it was safe in the vehicle the whole time I was touring. The tour was personalized to me. To top it all, Tony brought his camera and took my pictures along the way. Such a value added feature to the tour. I recommend this tour to anyone who has to spend a long layover in Japan, a great way to turn a negative to a positive experience.

Thank you Tony!

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A Guide to Narita and Haneda Layovers and Tours https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/guide-haneda-narita-layovers/ https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/guide-haneda-narita-layovers/#respond Wed, 21 Aug 2019 12:23:42 +0000 https://www.tokyo-travelassist.com/?p=3306 Have you recently booked a trip with a somewhat lengthy layover in Tokyo and are wondering what to do with your time? Lucky for you, there are so many things to do in Tokyo even with a short layover! This article is going to show you what you can do with your layover in Japan and even introduce an amazing layover tour in Tokyo. Keep reading to learn more!

Visa status

Before we move on to discuss activities for layovers, it is important that all visitors to Japan should be aware of the applicable visa regulations. After a long flight, maybe as long as 9 or 10 hours, you would want to go through immigration and customs as smoothly as possible. Therefore, you should prepare by applying for the necessary visa for your visit to Japan.

As of 2019, there are 66 countries have the right to enter Japan without a visa for short stays. Some are valid for as short as 2 weeks while other countries can stay in Japan visa-free for nearly 3 months. If you are unsure of the visa requirements for your country of citizenship, you should check the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan here to see your status

Layovers shorter than four hours

If you happen to have a layover in Japan that is shorter than four hours, it is probably in your best interest to stay at the airport. Whether you are transiting through Haneda or Narita Airport, the queue for security or boarding may be too long to actually exit and enter the airport. Also, most sights are about an hour (perhaps two from Narita) away. So, a layover shorter than four hours is definitely not enough to explore Tokyo, no matter how curious you may be. Do not worry though, you can still enjoy the atmosphere of Japan from inside the airport too!

The information of the Narita Airport is here, and Haneda here.

Haneda Short Layover tour plan (four to six hours)

Haneda Airport is the most convenient for exploring Tokyo on a layover. If you have a layover in Haneda that lasts about four to six hours, then you have the opportunity to check out the popular spots of Japan. Of course, you will still have limited time and may be able to choose only one or two of the spots below.

If the layover is in the morning…

If you have a layover in Japan starting in the morning, then you are in luck for some good sightseeing in Tokyo. A morning layover often means you will miss the tourist crowds at most sights. If you take a train from the airport to the city, you may even get to experience Japan’s notorious morning train rush. Here are some of the best tourist attractions for those with morning layovers:

  • Tsukiji Fish Market: Tsukiji Fish Market is the most famous market in Japan. Here you can try super fresh fish at great prices. Although the inner market has recently closed, the outer market of Tsukiji is still thriving. A trip to Tsukiji is perfect for a morning layover because many shops close by 2 pm.
  • Meiji Jingu: Meiji Jingu is Japan’s most popular Shinto Shrine. The Shrine is named after the Meiji Emperor. Now it is a popular spot for prayer, especially during the New Year’s Holidays. You will enjoy the shrine with a tranquil atmosphere because there are fewer tourists in the morning at Meiji Jingu. If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding!

If the layover is in the afternoon… 

Layovers in the afternoon provide you with more flexibility. You will also be surrounded by more people, which may add to your authentic Tokyo experience. Here are some of the best tourist attractions for those with afternoon layovers:

  • Shibuya crossing: Shibuya crossing is the highlight of the Shibuya station area. The iconic scramble pedestrian crosswalk is a must-visit for any tourist in Tokyo. Enjoy crossing the road with as many as 1000 other people amongst the towering skyscrapers. Shibuya crossing is about 36 minutes, one-way from Haneda Airport and 90 minutes away from Narita Airport.

  • Shinjuku: Shinjuku is the center of metropolitan Tokyo. Here you can find Tocho Observeraty, which is a part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. At Tocho Observatory you can go up to the free observation deck that sits over 200 metres above the ground. The view at night with the city lights is especially magical. Shinjuku and the Tocho Observatory are about 1 hour away from Haneda Airport and roughly 1.5 hours away from Narita Airport.
  • Harajuku and Takeshita-dori: If you are interested in the Kawaii cute fashion of Japan, then Harajuku is a must-visit for you. Harajuku is undoubtedly the fashion capital of Tokyo. A stroll at the famous Takeshita-dori will give you the chance to see the real trendsetters of Tokyo. Numerous shops that line the streets of Harajuku are filled with wacky and unique clothing items. Harajuku and Takeshita-dori are located roughly 40 minutes one-way from Haneda Airport and 95 minutes away from Narita Airport.
  • Tokyo Tower: Tokyo Tower is an iconic orange-coloured structure with two observatory decks for tourists. Located in central Tokyo, Tokyo Tower is a great viewing spot for any visitor to Tokyo. It is also one of the tallest observation decks in Tokyo. Mount Fuji can even be seen from the top observation deck on clear days. Tokyo Tower is located about 35 minutes one-way from Haneda Airport and 90 minutes away from Narita Airport.

  • Roppongi Hills: If you ever wondered where all of the posh Tokyoites go to hang out, then look no further than Roppongi Hills. Known as “The Hills”, this area features shopping facilities, a major business and residential building, plus a beautiful open-air observatory deck. Roppongi Hills is about 45 minutes away from Haneda Airport and 1.5 hours away from Narita Airport.
  • Imperial Palace: The Imperial Palace in the middle of Tokyo is home to the Emperor of Japan and his family. Japan’s Imperial Family is one of the longest-reigning empires in the world. Here you can enjoy the beautiful greenery of the Imperial property which used to be the site of Edo Castle, home to the Tokugawa Shogunate. There are beautiful gardens open year-round to the public on Palace grounds. The Imperial Palace is located about 1 hour away from Haneda Airport and almost 90 minutes away from Narita Airport.

  • Ginza: Ginza is the chicest part of Tokyo filled with upscale shopping, food, and entertainment. Ginza used to be the site of a silver mint and transformed into its current upscale form during the post-World War Two era. Now, one square foot of land in Ginza is worth over 10 million yen, making it one of the most expensive areas for real estate in Japan! Ginza is about 35 minutes away from Haneda Airport and about 75 minutes away from Narita Airport.
  • Asakusa: Asakusa is home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, called Sensoji. In Asakusa you can visit the stands selling traditional Japanese snacks and souvenirs that lead up to the main temple. The architecture at Asakusa is amazing and provides an interesting contrast to the urban sprawl of Tokyo. Asakusa is located about 45 minutes, one way from Haneda Airport and 1 hour away from Narita Airport.

  • Akihabara: If you know anything about Japanese otaku culture than you must have heard of Akihabara, Japan’s paradise for anime-lovers. Parts of the town are dedicated to electronic goods while other areas are surrounded in everything anime. Maybe a visit to one of Akihabara’s famous maid cafes would become the highlight of your trip! Akihabara is located about 35 minutes away from Haneda Airport and 1 hour away from Narita Airport.
  • Odaiba: Odaiba is a famed entertainment and shopping area located on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. The island was originally built during the Edo period to protect Japan from foreign invaders! Now in Odaiba you can see the famous Gundam towering over you while looking at mainland Tokyo from the sea. The train ride to Odaiba is quite scenic too. Odaiba is located roughly 40 minutes away from Haneda Airport and about 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Narita Airport.

  • Oedo Onsen Monogatari: If you are interested in Japan’s famous hot springs, then a visit to Tokyo’s Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a must! Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a famous onsen theme park that welcomes tourists to make their first onsen experiences memorable and fun. It is located about 40 minutes away from Haneda Airport and 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Narita Airport.

In terms of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Ota-ku is the closest ward and easy to access from Haneda airport. However, if you have at least four hours, we recommend that you go to more popular districts to enjoy your layover time. We also recommend that you use tour services to make your sightseeing hassle-free in an unfamiliar country with limited time. Take a look at our layover tour here.

Haneda long layover tour plan

In a Haneda long layover plan, you can visit two or three sites mentioned in the list above, maybe more, depending on the length of your layover. Luckily there is more flexibility when you have more time in Tokyo. Of course, what your layover tour will look like depends on your personal preferences and travel style. For those who can’t decide what to do, we recommend that you enjoy Japanese gourmet foods at a good restaurant. If you want to fully enjoy your long layover at Haneda Airport, you should consider joining a tour.

Narita short layover tour plan

In the Narita short layover tour, you will go to Narita city and the famous Naritasan temple. Naritasan is one of the most popular temples in Japan. You also have the option to spend some time in the airport and enjoy the various shopping and restaurant options. Most of Narita’s famous tourist attractions are located near the airport, so you can pick a spot or two to visit.

Narita Long Layover tour plan

In the Narita long layover plan, there is a wider variety of attractions to visit. You have the option to visit many cool places in the Narita area, or you can head to Tokyo if you are feeling curious. It takes roughly 60 minutes to head to central Tokyo, but you can still visit some of the most famous tourist spots in Tokyo, like Asakusa or Akihabara. If you want to look at the different spots you can visit, check out the above section on the Haneda layover plan. Just remember that you need time to get to and from Tokyo back to the airport!

Recommended tour services

There are so many tour services in Tokyo, so it can be hard to filter through all of them to find specific layover tours that accommodate your flight times. While there are only a few, there is still a wide variety of layover tours that service Tokyo’s airports. Pick up the popular tours for you either at Haneda, Narita, or both below.

Haneda layover tours

  • Outech’s Haneda Layover Tour: This tour is perfect for those transiting through Haneda Airport. Their tours of Tokyo last 3 hours and bring you to all of Tokyo’s best tourist spots including the famous Tokyo Tower and Ginza. The times for the tours are flexible and you will get your own personal English-speaking guide! Find out more about the Outech’s amazing Haneda Layover Tour.
  • Tokyo Travel Assistant: Tokyo Travel Assistant is a service that provides a variety of tours throughout the Tokyo area. Tokyo Travel Assist’s services are also completely personalizable as they can adjust the itineraries to your schedule and travel needs. You can tell them where you want to go, whether it is a well-known sightseeing spot or a hidden gem. Tokyo Travel Assist is one of the best choices for those who want personal yet professional service. Plus, they have a number of knowledgable English guides who can guide you in a private vehicle or with Tokyo’s public transportation network. Check out Tokyo Travel Assistant’s information on their webpage or read the next section of the article.
  • Tokyo Private Tour’s Haneda Layover Tour: If you have a layover of 6 or more hours at Haneda, then look no further than Tokyo Private Tour’s Haneda Layover Tour. This completely personal tour will pair you with an English guide who will bring you to some famous Tokyo sights including Tsukiji and Tokyo Tower. You will be driven around in a private vehicle of your choice. For those looking for a completely individualized yet quality experience, then this is the tour for you. Check out Tokyo Private’s Haneda Layover Tour!

Narita layover tours

If you are interested in Narita Airport layover tours, why not take a look at the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program. It is free of charge as local volunteers will guide you around town. It almost sounds too good to be true (don’t worry though – these tours are guaranteed to be great)! It is definitely worth checking out Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program’s web page for more information.

From Narita to Haneda and vice versa

If you have one of the harder layovers starting in Narita and departing from Haneda and vice versa, then you are in luck. Tokyo Travel Assistant provides layover tours specifically for those with somewhat confusing and anxiety-inducing layovers that may make travelers skip out on exploring Tokyo. Tokyo Travel Assistant is an amazing service with knowledgable locals providing tours and assistance to tourists coming to Tokyo. Their service can cater to layovers that start in both Narita and Haneda Airport. Also, the tours are private and completely individualized, so you are guaranteed to get the best customer experience. If you want a hassle-free yet fulfilling layover experience in Tokyo, take a look at the Haneda Narita layover tour.

Baggage delivery and storage

Now that you know you want to explore Japan’s top spots, there is a question of what to do with all of your luggage! Luckily, there are a variety of baggage storage services at both Haneda and Narita Airport.

  • Haneda Airport: There is a luggage storage service at Haneda Airport. A piece of small-sized luggage is 300 yen to store, while a medium-sized one is 600 yen and a large-sized one 900 yen to store. Check out this website to learn more.
  • Narita Airport: There are many luggage storage and delivery services at Narita Airport. The price varies depending on services, but baggage storage services at Narita Airport normally cost less than 1000 yen per day. For more details, check the information here.

Luckily, the two major airports for Tokyo are filled with amenities and activities. At Narita Airport, you can enjoy great shopping at all of Japan’s top retailers. Furthermore, there are a wide variety of restaurants featuring local and international cuisine that fit most diets. On the other hand, Haneda Airport has a great spot for taking photos of airplanes with Tokyo’s concrete jungle in the background. The inside of Haneda Airport also features a beautiful area called Nihonbashi Bridge that replicates the old traditional landscape of Japan.

Layover in Haneda airport

If you have a short layover in Japan, you can still enjoy a taste of Japan with a wide variety of amenities and activities offered at Haneda airport such as:

Layover in Narita airport

If you are doing a quick layover at Narita Airport, here are some of the things you can enjoy:

After reading this article, you definitely have the tools to create your own memorable layover experience in Japan. Remember that local tour guides can help make your experience smooth and enjoyable! Let us know how long your layover in Tokyo is and how you plan to spend it below.

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