Whether it’s a big celebration or you just need a grown-up weekend away, Tokyo beckons with its delicious food, funky shopping, and raucous nightlife. This is not a “spa weekend” where you will come back refreshed but your soul will come back alive! Do the juice detoxing before you go because it’s wheels-up on sleep and nutrition once you land in this city that barely sleeps.
Where to Stay
- The sleek and modern Grand Hyatt is superbly located in Roppongi Hills. Being able to walk to most places makes the price tag easier to justify because taxis are ¥¥¥¥! There is a zen-like indoor pool to flush out the toxins.
Where to Eat
- After a big night out, there is no better spot to refuel than Lauderdale (across the street from the Grand Hyatt). You can stumble across the street for your caffeine fix and be quickly revived by their amazing “caf’é au latte” and unforgettable croissants. While the caffeine work its magic, be sure to order their signature breakfast soufflés (20-25 min) or the “mama’s garden” omelet.
- Gonpachi is an institution in Tokyo (since inspiring the restaurant fight scene in Kill Bill). It feels part theme-park part-restaurant serving kushiyaki (skewers), sushi, noodles, and tempura. It’s an experience! Insider tip: they will give you the set menu but there is an a-la-carte menu too, just ask!
- You can’t leave Tokyo without emptying your wallet for some life-changing sushi and sashimi. There is no shortage of places to do this but Fukuzushi is nearby the Grand Hyatt and an excellent choice and they will usually try to take into consideration foreigner’s palates in preparing the menu.
- If sushi isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy Tokyo’s take on Mediterranean cuisine at Cicada. The new location near Ometesando station is hugely popular and has great outdoor space.
- If you are a connoisseur of ramen be sure to try Afuri for the trademark yuzu ramen, Butagumi for tonkatsu, Harajuku Gyoza-Ro for gyoza and Sushi Matsukan, for a more traditional sushi restaurant.
- If you need a hearty Western meal, head to Savoy for a delicious margarita pizza (during the week you can get a set lunch with salad and unlimited peach iced tea for 1000 yen).
Where to Drink
- The Oak Door Bar (in the Grand Hyatt) is your pre-dinner drinks spot to gather while you wait for your friends to get ready.
- Say “Hey, Geronimo!” and down a shot at the infamous Geronimos shot bar in Roppongi.
- If you’re all shopped out, sit outside on the terrace at Two Rooms and enjoy the food and view.
What to Do
- For a no-frills scrub down that will leave your skin as smooth as the day you were born, make haste for Adam & Eve (a short walk from the Grand Hyatt). Be warned that this is neither relaxing nor particularly pleasant! Book a Korean body scrub and then proceed to the sauna area where you should thoroughly wash yourself and soak in the tubs before being called. There is no smiling nor soothing music here but you will definitely lose a pound of dead skin after your scrub is complete. It’s open seven days a week and 24 hours a day. Don’t fret, there is a separate section for men and women but leave your modesty at the door!
- If being scrubbed raw is not your thing, try Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari – a natural onsen theme park. You can don a yukata (robe) and try different natural hot springs baths. There are many signs and directions in English to show you the ropes.
- Window shopping is a sport in Tokyo! To take in some of the high-end and a bit of the quirky, start from Omotesando station and walk along the tree-lined avenue all the way to Takeshita-Dori. Be sure to meander off the main road through the back streets into Harajuku where you find trendy boutiques and coffee shops tucked away from the main drag.
- If you need to bring back some souvenirs to pacify the littles, hit Oriental Bazaar for reasonably priced but high quality gifts offering everything from antique kimonos to “I Love Tokyo” T-shirts, very reasonably priced, but high quality shop — the china and tea sets make wonderful gifts
- If you have the time and energy after all of the eating and drinking to do something cultural, try to squeeze in a trip to the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park or Senso-ji Temple in Asakausa or the Tsukiji Fish market (this one would require a very early morning or maybe just heading there straight from the karaoke bar!). Nezu Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest and prettiest shrines (think red tori gates!) and Sensoji Temple at night is a must see.
Where to See a Different Side of Tokyo
- The Black Rose (just south of the Nishi-Azabu crossing) is a tiny, legendary S&M bar that is not just for men. You can people watch or partake in the candle wax dripping and whipping. Don’t leave without seeing the show by the bartenders that involves a hydraulic floor and some fancy footwork by the talented staff, er, dancers.
- Sing your heart out: Karaoke bars are an institution here and should not be missed! Belt out some Dancing Queen at Ban Kara – a karaoke stage with a live band and spotlight!
- Step back into the 80’s at Bauhaus for live covers of decades music and an extensive song list.
- If at all possible, fly into Haneda airport (not Narita!) to save yourself the very long journey from Narita into the city. You can start the fun, faster, by going into Haneda.
- Cash is king! (Be sure to pay attention to the zeros on the bill so you don’t mistakenly give your taxi driver 10,000 instead of 1,000)!
- Book an airport van to whisk you in comfort and style to the hotel with Tokyo MK Taxi. They offer regular taxis to Alphard Vans and everything in between. There is also the more economical Airport Limousine Bus service that is a convenient way to/from Haneda/Narita with large, clean, comfortable buses — direct to major hotels.
- For a big group it’s usually easier to order “omakase” (chef’s choice) at sushi restaurants. But be prepared to be adventurous.
- Go glam: Tokyo dresses up!
- Do NOT leave your hotel without both a card with your hotel address and Japanese directions for where you are headed!
- It’s easy to offend in this etiquette-is-supreme culture, but do your best to learn some Japanese words and customs. An ‘arigato’ here and a ‘sumimasen’ there can go a long way!
- Don’t be shy! People are very helpful and kind. If you need help rather than asking “Do you speak English?” (which will get you a flat NO, because they think you are expecting fluency), ask instead “Do you speak A LITTLE BIT of english?” You will always get a yes, because all Japanese schools require six years of english classes! If you are really in a bind write it down on paper, it is easier to read English than trying to understand your foreign accent.
- Go with a theme! It’s no secret that Japanese girls love to dress up so get local and choose a wardrobe-theme for one night. We went with a deconstructed female tuxedo. Only in Tokyo — nobody blinked.