After spending a major public holiday in Osaka and Kyoto, the hustle and bustle of Tokyo doesn’t seem foreign at all when we arrive at the busy Tokyo station. We had caught an early train from Kyoto to Tokyo, and although zipping past small rural towns, paddocks and Mt Fuji at lightnight speed, we arrive in Tokyo ready to continue our journey.
The problem with this being our later half of the trip was that we had gathered a considerable amount of luggage with us, and although we wasted a good hour or so travelling across Tokyo to Shinjuku, trying to check in to our Airbnb, realising that we were too early, trying to scour a luggage locker at the station before realising that it was going to impossible to leave our luggage anywhere. So we took it with us to lunch.
Our lunch plans were to visit the Michelin starred restaurant in XX, however we were once again disappointed to rock up an empty, and closed restaurant due to public holiday closures. Dismayed, we walked down the busy touristy strip, trying to find a restaurant that was large enough to fit not only the two of us, but also our bulky luggage (it was not easy). Which is how we ended up at Asakusa Tokyo.
Asakusa Tokyo is a chain of restaurants all over Tokyo serving predominantly tempura and soba/udon. It’s a cheap, no frills, and food comes at a speed that is almost faster than a fast-food style. There’s tempura just about anything on the menu, and you can order the pieces individuall with beer for a satisfying snack, or if you’re after something a little more substantial, you can order the set meals. We go for the latter option, which come with a selection of tempura, rice/noodles, soup and a side- all for under 1000 yen ($12)!
Tempura Selection with Soba Noodles (980 yen)
Our dinner at Fukusuke Horikawa was one of our first sushi meals in Tokyo and probably the only unplanned one as we had actually a last minute change of plans for the day and ended up in Ikebukuro. We were looking for a nicer place for a special dinner when we came across the lifts to the Sky restaurants located on the 58th and 59th floor and had a peek to see what was up there.
We were pretty much sold once we stepped foot in the lift, a sky themed ride up from ground floor straight up to the restaurant levels, I was so mesmerised that by the time I took my camera out, the ride was already over!
There’s a handful of restaurants on the 59th floor, each with views but we chose Fukusuke Horikawa as it was one of the few Japanese options available. We made a quick reservation and returned for an early dinner- an excellent decision as it not only meant that we got to choose a nice window seat (with incredible views!) but we also got to watch the sun set and the city turn into a beautiful fluorescent lit environment.
We had expected to pay an arm and leg for the nice views, but we were surprised to find that the menu was very reasonably priced, with sushi sets starting from 1620 yen (~$20AUD) for dinner (less for lunch) and drinks on par with most other restaurants we’d been to in Tokyo. We thought we’d go a little fancy an opted for one of the fancier looking multi course sets (Yuraku set, 5400 yen ~$60AUD) and chirashi sushi to share.
Our Japan trip was really planned around food, and for the Tokyo part of the trip, we were spoilt for choice when it came to ramen.
On my first trip to Japan, Rokurinsha was on our list of ramen restaurants to try, however we were not successful in visiting as the queues were just too long to fit into our itinerary. This time I allowed plenty of time to make sure we got our bowls of noodles before we left the country!
Even so, it took two attempts before we finally made it (I forgot to factor in the fact that they close shortly after breakfast service!). And even though we had timed it so that we visited just as they were opening, we still found ourselves queuing for over an hour, with plenty of hungry tourists keen for a taste of the famous ramen.
Our Airbnb host had kindly provided us a guide to the local area, and starred all the restaurants he recommended- this was the only one with three stars so we had to try it. If you’re anything like me and plan your trip around recommendations on the internet, you’d never end up at this restaurant (search the name up on google and you’ll barely find a mention). About the tiniest ramen bar I’ve been to, Ramenso Chikyu Kibo inconspicuously tucked away within the quiet residential area of Fushimi (not to be confused with Fushimi Inari).
Blink and you’ll miss it.
There’s no signage to the restaurant, nor is there any type of fancy décor. When we first walked past it before they opened, we honestly thought it was a warehouse. And we probably wouldn’t have realised it was the restaurant we had on our itinerary were it not for the line of people outside!
Before you hop in line, order from the vending machine- we’d used a couple of these before at other ramen shops so we thought we’d be fine…..until we realised none of the options were in English. Since the only word I could really read was “pork” and “noodle”, which wasn’t particularly helpful in this situation, we took a random stab at the machine and ordered two of the dearer options thinking it’s probably be more interesting than the cheaper ones.
The machine spits out coloured plastic tags instead of tickets, with a different colour corresponding to a different ramen (there were a couple of people in line with the same colour as me so I figured I was off to a good start). As the waiter informs us, the shop sells large sized ramen- so if you don’t think you can finish it all, add a peg to the tag to indicate you want a smaller portion. You’ll probably want to add the tag, even if you think you’re hungry, because if you order the regular size, you have to finish it all!
The restaurant is mostly self-serviced- there’s a little shelf at the entrance where you grab your heated hand towels, chopsticks and water. Place your tag on the counter and your ramen will be served. Hopefully you will be hungry too…..
Mystery Ramen #2 (regular size) 900yen
If there’s one thing that screams Kyoto, it would be the red gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha. You know. The tunnel of red that’s on the cover of pretty much every guidebook that every existed. We’re not big on temples and shrines, but you can’t really tell people you’ve been to Kyoto unless you have a photo with the red torii gates to prove it!
The problem with visiting during public holidays is that there are too many people to take one of those signature shots with gates and nothing else in the photo, but I did manage to snap a quick one before the crowd got in the photo. I’m happy 🙂
The red gates line a pathway that goes some 4km or so up the mountain, with plenty of shrines on the way, but as I said, we’re not shrine people (and nor are we fit people) so we only went part of the way before heading back down.
I consider myself much more of a food person (if you haven’t figured out by now), so the market stalls selling food at the entrance to the shrine were of great interest to me!