We were lucky to visit Tokyo at the heart of the cherry blossom season (sakura), which that year was at the beginning of April. It added a magical touch to this unforgettable discovery of one of the most fascinating cities in the world. We spent four days in Tokyo and therefore had to make some choices, luckily we were oriented by our friend Laure who had lived there for many years. There is much more we wish we had time to visit, however that was a good start and it has triggered our wish to return. Hereafter is an overview of our discoveries.
The Nakameguro canal is not to be missed during the sakura season. The cherry trees bordering the canal create a spectacular landscape. We were there on a Saturday afternoon and there were crowds strolling along, taking pictures and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The neighborhood with all its cafes, bars and restaurants is buzzing day and night.
Daikanyama is a dynamic neighborhood, filled with little shops featuring emerging brands. We particularly enjoyed our stop at the beautiful Tsutaja bookstore, sipping coffee in their comfortable lounge.
Omotesando - Harajuku - Shibuya:
This is also a nice area to explore over the weekend.
We started with a visit at the NEZU museum and were charmed by the splendid architecture by Kenzo Kuma and also by the peaceful atmosphere in the Japanese garden where elegant women in their kimonos gathered for a traditional tea ceremony.
We then walked along Omotesando avenue admiring the architectural creativity of top brands’ flagship stores such as: Prada, Tod’s, Chanel, Vuitton, etc. Once we reached Harajuku station we went into the park, followed the leafy path that goes all the way to Meiji Jingu temple. Once there, we were lucky to witness a traditional wedding ceremony. Later on we went to the other side of Yoyogi park, which was crowded with families picnicking under the cherry trees. We also met many cosplay girls in their manga gears who were happy to snap pictures with us. At the entrance of the park, we had fun watching a dance contest between numerous Elvis Presleys.
From Harajuku station we went down the narrow Takeshita dori where all the cosplays shop for their costumes. We finally had a lunch break at Design Festa restaurant where we had Do It Yourself omelets (Osaka style).
We continued our visit with a walk on the pedestrian Cat Street (crossing Omotesando between Bulgari building and Kiddy land store). It led us all the way to Shibuya, which was fun to see at night with all the billboards lighted and karaoke and videogames stores packed.
Ginza – Fish market – Hamarikyu gardens:
We were quite unlucky with the weather while touring the Ginza area. However we still enjoyed the architecture of the flagship stores such as Hermès, Chanel or Mikimoto. We made a stop at the Peninsula hotel just to have a look at the lobby designed by Taniguchi. We were recommended to have lunch at one of the food corners in the department stores however we decided to walk further and reached the fish market for a memorable sushi feast at Sushizanmai.
Afterwards we had a lovely and peaceful promenade in the gorgeous Hamarikyu gardens. We ended this afternoon sipping a drink with a view at the Conrad hotel.
Ueno and Yanaka:
Ueno parkwas absolutely packed with people coming to photograph the cherry trees. Japanese crowds are not oppressive and we were surrounded with friendly and civilized people with whom we took so many pictures of the magnificent blossoming trees.
We made a stop at theNational Museum where we had decided to focus exclusively on the Horyuji treasure gallery both for its exceptional collection and its minimalistic architecture by Taniguchi.
On our way walking to the Yanaka neighborhood we stopped at the lovely teahouse Torindo. We were charmed by the narrow streets of Yanaka, it was like a walk back in time. The cemetery is a quiet and scenic place where cherry trees where also blossoming.
We ended this walk with a stroll along the commercial and pedestrian Yanaka Ginza where we bought tasty fresh sushis from a street vendor. From there we took a taxi to the crowded but picturesque Asakusa temple.
Mori Tower: exhibitions with an impressive view at night
National Museum (Horyuji treasure gallery)
21-21 Design site: exhibitions – architecture by Tadao Ando
Teyandei: nearby the Nezu Museum, excellent food, warm atmosphere for dinner. Booking required since it has limited seating.
Ganchan: traditional tepanyaki restaurant, eating at the counter, close to Hyatt in Roppongi
Design Festa: ideal for lunch, Do it yourself Osaka omelet, in Harajuku.
SUSHIZANMAI: sushi restaurant in the fish market
Sushi Kanesaka, Misuzu Building: one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo (high end)
Maisen: for an authentic Tonkatsu in a “cantina” atmosphere
Gompachi: ok for a group, otherwise too touristic – that was more of a disappointment for us