For me, Tokyo really was love at first sight. The people, the sights and the hidden enclaves of serenity make this capital one of the most compelling cities on the planet. Tokyo is, in equal parts, sophisticated and modern. The genuine kindness and polite nature of the locals immediately make you feel comfortable, despite the somewhat foreign, high-octane landscape of the city. Best described as a neon-lit playground for the senses, Tokyo is an absolute must-do!
Where to stay
1. Park Hyatt, Shinjuku
It's no wonder that the Park Hyatt has the incredible reputation it does. With views as far afield as Mount Fuji on a clear day, the hotel is best described as a modern hybrid of Japanese-French Art Deco. The rooms are luxurious, and for a touch of home you can soak in the large tub with the scent of Australian-made Aesop body products. Conveniently located just a short walk from entertainment and commercial centre of Shinjuku, the hotel is also situated opposite a park, perfect for that moment of respite from the hustle and bustle.
2, 3 Chrome-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku Tokyo
2. Mandarin Oriental
Like many luxury hotels in Tokyo, the Mandarin Oriental is perched atop a skyscraper, which means the views are unquestionably some of the finest in Tokyo. Service is impeccable and no detail is overlooked. The restaurants are Michelin-starred and the rooms are the kind of comfort you need after a day of sight-seeing, shopping and enjoying the many delights of the city.
This hotel is for the design obsessed. Replete with its own café, gallery and store, CLASKA is a multi-purpose space. However, like the rest of the building, the hotel is considered and modern. Our number one tip before booking this hotel would be to do your research. All rooms are beautiful, but vary quite significantly in size. Regardless, this very cool hotel had us wanting to move in asap!
Where to eat
1. Teppen Onnadojo and Teppen Otokodojo
This can be a little confusing. Teppen is actually two Izakayas across the street from one another - Teppen Onnadojo is run by women and Teppen Otokodojo is run by men. Both have phenomenal food - some of the best yakitori we tried in Tokyo. These little gems are tucked away in the backstreets of Shibuya and are loud, energetic and fun - and totally worth visiting over and over. This is not where you go for a quiet, romantic meal, rather pop past with some friends and indulge in the broad menu offerings.
Teppen Onnadojo: 41-23 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya 150-0042
Teppen Otokodojo: 37-13, Udagawacho, Shibuya 150-0042,
A word of advice: make a booking. Kanda is one of those places that everyone wants to eat at... and with good reason. While the setting is simple and pared back, the food is a gastronomic delight. It's incredibly fresh and the ingredients used in each dish are in season. Go, go, go!
3-6-34 Motoazabu, Calm Motoazabu 1F, Minato 106-0046
Ok, so this one should be saved for an occasion - a very, very special occasion. Narisawa is one of those once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences where the food is curated to such an extent you may be a little nervous to eat the art that has appeared on the plate in front of you. Needless to say, it should be eaten (every last piece), for it will be one of the finest meals that crosses your palate.
2-6-15 Minami Aoyama, Minato 107-0062, Tokyo
A fantastic Hollywood movie moment in the heart of Tokyo to be had at the famed Kill Bill Vol. 1 restaurant, Gonpachi. While slightly on the touristy side, the rustic feel (with bamboo, wood and lanterns) is great and the Izakaya and cocktails are tasty. If you're a Tarantino fan, then don't miss Gonpachi.
Gonpachi, 1F, 2F, 1-13-11, Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku
Top 3 cocktail bars
1. New York Bar
It's time to get Lost In Translation. Make like Bob and Charlotte and indulge in a couple of Suntory Whiskeys with the incredible Shinjuku cityscape as your backdrop and live jazz to set the mood.
New York Bar, Park Hyatt, 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo
2. Bar Gen Yamamoto
For a really special cocktail experience in Tokyo, visit Bar Gen Yamamoto. We were really blown away by each and every element of our time here - the intimate space itself (there are only eight seats available around the bar), the 'liquid fine dining experience' being served up by sole owner and bartender, Gen Yamamoto and the taste explosions of the concoctions themselves. There is an art to what Mr. Gen Yamamoto is serving up and we can't wait to visit this spot again.
Yubinbango106-0045 Tokyo, Minato, Azabu 1-6-4 Anniversary Building 1F
3. Y&M Bar Kisling
Found in the Ginza district, Y&M Bar Kisling is where you go for your nightcap - it's dark, moody and feels like you are on a movie set. Head bartender, Mitsugi Yoshida, has a signature cocktail - the 'Yoshida Martini' - however, this is only available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For the martini fan, it is certainly worth trying! We loved this quintessentially Japanese bar.
Park Hyatt Tokyo 52F, Shinjuku 163-1055, Tokyo Prefecture
Top 3 coffee shops
1. The Roastery
Fans of Nozy Coffee can now get their fix while in the fashion center of Tokyo at The Roastery, conveniently located on Cat Street. The beans change frequently, and the staff happily answer any questions regarding the daily brews. They've also sell Cronut-esque 'New York Rings', among a variety of other pastries. Big tick from us.
Nozy Coffee at the Roastery, 5-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
2. Switch Coffee
This tiny café in Meguro is mecca for coffee lovers in Tokyo. Pots of the various brews line the counter for customers to sample before deciding which drink to buy as an espresso, pour over or French press. A small bench out front is the perfect place to bask in the sun while sipping your latte before starting your day!
Switch Coffee, 1-17-23 Meguro, Meguro, Tokyo
While we doubt you will be missing home (Tokyo will have stolen your heart), for a little piece of Australiana, Bill Granger has placed a bills cafe atop the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. Granger now has a bigger restaurant footprint in Japan than in Australia, so pop past for seasonal, Aussie-style brunch and a flat white.
Bills, 7F Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Where to shop
This is the district to shop for your high-end retail, think: Prada, Stella McCartney, Issey Miyake. We can't go past the flagship Comme de Garçons flagship store. If for nothing else, pop by to marvel at the incredible architecture - the Prada boutique is designed by Herzog & De Meuron.
5-2-6 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
As one New York Times writer puts it, "Found Muji is proto-Muji, where you find Muji-esque items before they become Muji-fied". This store is where it all began. Stock up on the brand's hard-wearing, beautiful everyday items.
Found Muji, 5-50-6 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
While you may think me biased for naming Restir as the coolest boutique in Tokyo simply because it stocks Lumira, I can assure you I'm not. This store is the coolest boutique in Tokyo in its own right - the brands and the space itself lend itself to retail heaven status. With every last detail considered, it's a real treat to step inside Restir. Factor in some serious shopping time - you won't be leaving this store in a hurry.
9-7-4 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo
Daikanyama Tsutaya Books
The most incredible spot to stock up on fashion and design magazines. Spread across three buildings - all tied together by Magazine Street - be prepared to while away the hours in this most amazing bookstore (or is it a library, cafe, record store?). Regardless, it's an absolute must-do for anyone travelling to Tokyo.
150-003317-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo