Whoever said that Tokyo is a daunting place for first-time visitors couldn’t be more right. With its dizzying array of tourist attractions, not to mention the complex railway system and the high cost of living, one wouldn’t even know where to start exploring.
Ranging from the wildly expensive to wonderfully free of charge, here are five places that are must-visit for first-timers and seasoned travelers alike.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ginza
During his trip to Japan in April 2014, United States President Barack Obama dined at this modest 10-seater restaurant with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He reportedly proclaimed its sushi “the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life,” and for good reason.
One course consists of about 20 servings of sushi, masterfully prepared right in front of you and served one after the other by Ono himself or by his son Yoshikazu. Those who have seen the film would know that Ono and his apprentices observe strict, rigorous practices in order to achieve and maintain excellence. This is reflected in its mouth-watering menu that includes only the freshest catch of the day from the famed Tsukiji fish market—from fatty tuna and eel to octopus, salmon roe, and clam—sitting atop a bed of vinegared rice and lightly painted with soy sauce. They even have their own way of eating the sushi—you have to consume it all in one bite!
Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
Take a sneak peek at how well-loved classics such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away were made through various exhibits; one can also browse through (and buy) books and trinkets at the library and gift shop. Don’t forget to catch the animated short films screening exclusively at the museum.
Photography is not allowed inside the museum, but you may take photos within the café and castle grounds, including the rooftop where you can find the hulking bronze statue of the Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky standing in the middle of a small garden.
KitKat Chocolatory, Ikebukuro
Located at the basement of Seibu Department Store, KitKat Chocolatory (short for “chocolate factory”) has been packed to the rafters with locals and foreigners since its opening in early 2014. Delicate, delectable, and distinctively Japanese, these gourmet chocolate bars make great gifts for friends and loved ones with a discerning sweet tooth. Featured flavors have included exotic ones such as Purple Potato and Cream Cheese, as well as three special variants by Japanese chocolatier Yasumasa Takagi: Special Chili, Sakura Green tea, and Sublime Bitter made from handmade dark chocolate.
Read the full bucketlist inside Asian Dragon Magazine’s January-February 2015 issue.
[Photographs by Angela Ignacio]