Japan

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This list is by no means exhaustive – in fact in barely scratches the surface. It's mostly just some places where we enjoy eating when we're in Tokyo – nothing very fancy and often day-time spots where we can go with Haruki. I haven't included opening times or addresses, but where possible, the name is linked to somewhere where you will find more information.  

TOKYO:

Naka-meguro: The area we always choose to stay when we visit Tokyo. This neighbourhood is central and rarely feels too busy. There are lots of restaurants and cafes in the area, as well as the beautiful Meguro river which runs through. Around March/April when it's Hanami (Cherry Blossom Festival), the area is full to the brim with revellers hoping to catch the fleeting moment of spring when the trees suddenly burst with blossoms along the river. 

To eat:

  • Afuri Ramen, Nakameguro – A famous ramen shop serving yuzu-flavoured ramen. It's a chain so there are other locations.

  • Oden Samon, Nakameguro – Your nose will lead you there once you exit the station. Just a minute walk away, this restaurant specialises in Oden, foods such as daikon, carrot, fish cakes, egg and my favourite Kinchaku (tofu pouches filled with mochi) are braised in a broth and sold per piece. Here it's a chicken dashi and on the weekends, lines of people wait to perch on a stool in this newly opened Oden restaurant. We ate here a lot, it's of course delicious (actually one of my favourite meals on our last trip), but also they have outside seating which meant we could go with a pram, something that can be tricky in many of the smaller restaurants.

  • Toriyoshi, Nakameguro – A really excellent Yakitori restaurant. Come with a few friends and try everything on the menu. It's incredibly popular so going with a toddler proved a little difficult (hour waits for a table) but one evening we happened to be there at 5pm, just as they had opened and were seated immediately.

  • Sue Zen, Daikanyama – This small eatery does traditional set lunch which inlcludes a protein (the mackeral is always wonderful), rice, miso, pickles and depending on your choice, tamogoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette). It's always wonderfully comforting. There is both tatami and western seating.

  • Urara, Daikanyama - Directly next door to Sue Zen is a small outdoor cafe which specialises in Kakigori – shaved ice. On a hot day, there'll be lines out the door. They use seasonal syrups and my favourite is the one with sweetened condensed milk.

  • Blind Donkey - After closing one of favourites BEARD, Chef Shin Harakawa has now partnered with Chez Panisse alumni Jerome Waag to create a new restaurant called Blind Donkey which is currently operating out of the former Beard space. While I haven't eaten there in this new form, the meal I had at Beard was so special and a truly wonderful experience. Very thoughtful and interesting food, prepared simply. It's now casual French and has an ever-changing menu depending on seasonality and availability.

  • Eatrip, Shibuya – The loveliest restaurant in a beautiful setting in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. A focus on fresh, organic and seasonal Japanese produce. The menu is ever- changing, depending on produce availabilty which they receive from local farmers.

  • Salmon and Trout, Setagaya – Modern Japanese dining, amazing sake and again, local seasonal produce. This one is a little out of the way, but really lovely.

  • Maisen, Aoyama – Always a must! Very very good Tonkatsu. There are plenty of them in Tokyo and you can find stands in most Depatchikas (Department Store basement food halls), but I love the one in Aoyama, located in an old bath house.

  • Tonki, Meguro – Another Tonkatsu joint. It's usually busy so you'll be ushered to seats where you wait until eventually you're directed to a seat at the bar. It's like a beautiful symphony. Each person has their role – someone crumbing, another frying, one person to cut the crispy pieces of breaded pork. There'll be a person floating around ready to top up your cabbage and rice, if needed. There's an orange glow inside, it feels nostalgic (the mid-century interiors help with that). Although I still favour Maisen, it's still worth it for sure.

  • Brown Rice Canteen, Shibuya – All vegetarian! Great set lunches and wonderful setting. 

  • Merci Bake, Setagaya – Perhaps my most favourite little cake shop in Tokyo. French-themed and super cute. They often have new items but you can always rely on the richest chocolate cake, a layered banana one to be in the cabinet. Just a few tables inside and they often sell out.

  • Uneclef, Setagaya – Another favourite bakery! They too sell out before closing time so it's best to head there earlier. They make delicious filled breads, buns and a Japanese hot dog which is actually super delicious. It's worth sitting in if there's a table as their coffee is wonderful too

  • Life-Son, Sangubashi – A great spot for lunch – interesting pasta, very good pizza! A really great place to come if you have kids as there is an outdoor area with shade and plants.The interiors are handmade, relaxed and feels a little like a cafeteria which I loved. The neighbourhood is great to explore too.

  • Tarui Bakery, Sangubashi – A sweet little bakery next to Life-Son! They have really good proper bread, banana loaves, savoury buns and sandwiches.

  • Viron, Shibuya – An institution in Tokyo. French Bakery serving up some of the more classic pastries and breads. If you see a line, it's usually for their cafe upstairs which is popular for brunch. Don't wait in the wrong line like I did!!

  • Harrits Donuts, Yoyogi Uehara – Great coffee and Maybe the best donuts you'll ever eat. Full stop.

  • Higashiya, Ginza and Ayoyama – A MUST VISIT! My favourite wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionary) shop in Tokyo. The flagship store in Ginza is the place to go for the full range of seasonal mochi and sweets. The Aoyama store, Higashiya Man specialise in Manjū. I always bring their beautifully packaged sweets back to Australia as gifts.

  • Sunday Bakeshop, Honmachi – Another favourite bakery in Tokyo! A real neighbourhood feel about this place. The owner is lovely and makes phenomenal ice cream sandwiches aka ice-sando in summer! The counter is filled with interesting and unusual takes on traditional cakes. Love this place!

Some favourite coffee spots:

  • Omnibus Coffee, Nakameguro and other locations

  • Bluebottle Coffee, Nakameguro and other locations

  • Cafe Kitsune, Aoyama

  • Fuglen Coffee, Yoyogi

  • Sidewalk Coffee Stand, Nakameguro

  • Switch Coffee, Meguro

Some favourite places to shop:

  • Department store basement food halls aka Depatchika – You'll be there for hours!!

  • UNU Farmers' Market, Aoyama

  • Food and Company, Meguro

  • Arts and Science, Aoyama

  • J'antiques, Nakameguro

  • Makie Home, Daikanyama

  • T-Site, Daikanyama

  • Muji found, Jingumae

  • Fog Linen, Setagaya

  • Archivando, Shibuya

  • Shibuya Publishing, Shibuya

  • Hakujitsu, Taito

  • Syuro, Taito

  • Kappabashi Street