Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is one of the premier luxury hotels located in the heart of Roppongi. One of the things on my itinerary was to experience afternoon tea in Tokyo, and the menu from the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo caught my eyes. The reservation was made a month in advanced, and the hotel clerk took her time with me (language barriers) so that was appreciated. We had an extremely day ahead of us, and booked the afternoon tea for the 2 pm time slot. The rest of the time included exploring Harajuku, Sumida Aquarium, and shopping at the Tokyo Skytree Solamachi (popular shopping mall in Tokyo).

It's located in a rather affluent area of Roppongi (Tokyo Midtown), but away from the bustling area of tourists. The street leading up to the hotel was relatively quiet with a few more hotels within the vicinity. Afternoon tea takes place at the Lobby Lounge & Bar located on the 45th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo. We were seated in the middle of the establishment looking outwards to the large windows filled with natural light. There was a spectacular view of Tokyo.

The wait staffs were all refined, polite and extremely helpful. My cup of tea was never empty, and they often came by to check up on us. Japan doesn't have a strong tipping culture, so they refused to accept additional tips. Ritz-Carlton Tokyo does have a mandatory 13% service charge but that's clearly stated on the bill and menu. 

Sign that points to the steps of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo.
The lobby with the elevator to the 45th floor.
Lobby Lounge & Bar.


In terms of prices; afternoon tea in Tokyo seems so much more expensive compared to the places in Toronto. The afternoon teas available in Toronto are no more than $50 per person. However, this was our first time in Japan, so we wanted to make the best of it. I opted for the Afternoon Holiday Tea (¥5,000) and he got the more expensive option; Ritz-Carlton Afternoon Tea (¥7,500). The second one had more delicacies such as foie grias terrine and caviar which I got to try as well.

There was a bit of a wait but our 2 three-tiered metal stands finally arrived with its elegantly presented items.








Afternoon Holiday Tea (¥5,000) --- $54 CAD

Pate de Champagne, champagne jelly
Crab Charlotte
Turkey sandwich, cinnamon honey flavor
Jambon, cream cheese in crepe
Goat cheese, chestnut crostini

Strawberry yoghurt verrine
Paris-brest
Macaroon
Truffle
Caramel orange chocolate
X-mas cookie

Lemon & raisin scone with clotted cream

Close ups of some of the items from the Afternoon Holiday Tea.

The Ritz-Carlton Afternoon Tea (¥7,500) --- $82 CAD

Foie gras terrine, truffle coulis
Salmon mousse, smoked salmon
Smoked scallop and tuna tartar, sour cream
Chicken terrine, mushroom, dried tomato
Crab, avocado, caviar
Prosciutto ham, prosciutto mousse

Strawberry yoghurt verrine
Paris-brest
Macaroon
Truffle
Caramel orange chocolate
Christmas cookie
Lemon & raisin scone with clotted cream
Sat, Dec 14, 2013 (Day #5)

I-Land Patio

I-Land Patio is an 660 square meters large patio area within the vicinity of the Shinjuku I-Land Tower. There are a variety of restaurants and shops at I-Land Patio, so it's a great place to relax if you're ever in Shinjuku. For those who enjoy eating outdoors; there is an open courtyard area with chairs and tables available.


Address: 6-5-1, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Open Hours: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm

The L.O.V.E Sculpture

The LOVE sculpture is an iconic sculpture based on a pop art image by artist, Robert Indiana. There are countless versions of the sculpture worldwide, and luckily there was one in Tokyo. It is located right outside of the Shinjuku I-LAND Tower in Nishi-Shinjuku, and it's definitely not hard to miss.


Welcome to Akihabara


After finishing up taking photos of the LOVE sculpture; it was time to head to Akihabara. Akihabara is a district that is well known for their otaku culture (anime and manga), and a central shopping area for the latest electronics. It was unbelievable as to how many shops there were that was devoted to anime and manga.

Lunchtime @ Chimney

Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013    
Meal: Lunch
Location in Japan: Akihabara, Tokyo

Before exploring Akihabara and all of its glory; it was time for lunch. We randomly picked Chimney; an  izakaya that was along the route to Gundam Cafe.


The izakaya is located in a small alley a few steps away from the JR Akihabara Station, and it's right next to a 7-11.

They didn't have an English menu available but their menu consisted of beautiful colored photographs of the food items. I love how Japan displays their food menus; with photographs of every item, and also using fake plastic food at the front (which I will explain in another post).



I ordered the yakitori platter (¥819) which came with five skewers of grilled meat. I absolutely loved each skewer as the meat was tender, and flavorful. My personal favorite was probably the grilled chicken and sausage.


The soup base for the Japanese hot pot (¥680) was pretty, but there were a lot more veggies than seafood in the pot.



 We were both curious about this fish head dish (¥714 x 2 = ¥1428) so we decided to order two (one for the both of us). The sashimi pieces were different but I found the head to be quite hard to eat.


The chicken udon (¥580) was a decent dish but nothing too spectacular. Instead of alcohol, we decided to order two cups of coke (¥600).

The total cost for lunch was ¥4107 for the both of us.

Desserts @ Gundam Cafe

Originally, I wanted to have lunch at Gundam Cafe, but the menu didn't really appeal to me. Therefore, we decided to go to the Gundam Cafe for some desserts after lunch.

Exploring Akihabara

It was already getting dark in Akihabara when we decided to go exploring the district. However, the district is extremely bright due to the illuminating lights from all of the shops and buildings.

UDX Building of Akihabara Crossfield.
Gashapon machines are everywhere in Japan; prices vary between 100-500 yen.
I spent about an hour exploring K-Books and the other stores in the same building. The fourth floor was entirely dedicated to selling gashapon toys and figures. The toys here were a lot more expensive than what you'd find in the machines though as the higher-priced items were 800-1500 yen each (popular/collectible items).

Don Quijote

Don Quijote is a huge discount store in Japan and there are multiple locations in various cities. They offer a wide selection of Japanese products such as food, kitchen and cleaning supplies, costumes, figures, candies, cosmetics, health care and so much more. The Akihabara branch has 8 floors in total, and you can literally spend hours shopping there.



Quick snack @ Home Cafe (Maid Cafe)

Located on the 5th floor of Don Quijote is the @ Home Cafe; a popular maid cafe. Unfortunately, photography was strictly prohibited inside so I couldn't take any pictures of the interior. It was definitely an interesting experience having the maids addressing me as "mistress". However, like a majority of novelty and themed restaurants; people usually come to these places for their atmosphere and ambiance, and not the food. I opted for the @Home Cafe Special Omelet Rice (¥1,1000). I thought that my omelet was pretty overcooked but I did like the cute heart drawings with the ketchup on my egg.


Dinnertime @ Tsubame KITCHEN Marunouchi

Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013    
Meal: Dinner  
Location in Japan: Akihabara, Tokyo

 We decided to head back to our hotel after Akihabara. However, we were still hungry so we decided to look for a quick bite to eat. We definitely ate a lot more meals than we would in Toronto. Anyways, our last food adventure of the day was at Tsubame KITCHEN Marunouchi in Marunouchi Oazo.



Tsubame KITCHEN Marunouchi specializes in German sausages.


I ordered the grilled sausage (¥890) and a side order of bread (¥210). Had I known that the portion of this dish consists of nothing more than one piece of sausage; I'd probably gotten another dish. However, the sausage was definitely delicious and full of flavor.


My boyfriend ordered  the homemade vienner sausages & eisbein (¥1100).

After dinner, we decided to call it a night and headed back to our hotel.


Tokyo is an incredibly populous city with no shortage of food, shopping and entertainment. Originally we were only going to stay there for 4 days but I extended it to a full week as there are a lot of districts in Tokyo to explore. Below are some tips that I thought could be helpful before visiting Tokyo.

Affordable Eateries

Eating out in Tokyo doesn't have to always be expensive. There are several budget friendly restaurants all throughout the city. Places with affordable eats are sushi belt (kaiten-zushi), machine operated restaurants, ramen houses, convenience stores, and underground food market in department stores. You can have a filling meal for under $15 per person.

Amenities in Hotels

There are certain items that you don't need to pack in your suitcase as you can (a) buy them in Tokyo or (b) they're provided by the hotels. All of the Japanese hotels that we stayed in provided the following amenities: pajamas or yukata, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor, soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, alarm clock, hair dryer, iron (on occasions), and slippers.

Basics

Aiport: Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) to Narita International Airport (NRT)
Ambulance/Fire 119
Country code: +81
Currency: Yen (¥)
Electricity voltage: 100V 
Language: Japanese
Police: 110
Time zone: +14 hours ahead of Toronto

Comfortable Shoes

I can't stress this enough as it's so important to wear comfortable shoes in Tokyo. There's a lot of walking involved as even some line transfers on the subways are 500-900 m away from one another. 

Credit Cards + Cash

Credit cards are widely accepted in many restaurants and all (large) department stores. However, there are some places that only accept cash so it's best to have some on hand. I've found that many of the souvenir shops nearby popular sites only take cash for smaller purchases.

Don't forget to inform your credit card companies that you will be overseas so that they won't flag the charges as fraudulent. 

Don't Eat and Walk

It is considered rude to eat while you walk in Tokyo (and all of Japan). It is also highly not recommended as there are hardly any garbage cans on the streets of Tokyo.

Escalators

The (unspoken) rule of taking the escalators in Tokyo is the exact opposite as that in Toronto. In Tokyo, you keep to the left if you're standing on the escalators, and walk on the right.

photo credit: yahoo news
Free Wifi

About 85% of the hotels that we stayed at offered free wifi in the rooms. Wifi was available only in the lobby of the other 15%. I found that the wifi signals were pretty good for most of the trip. Starbucks also offered free wifi but we weren't able to connect to it as you have to be a member (site to join was all in Japanese). Lastly, Tokyo Metro offers free wifi at 30 subway stations so you can surf the internet while underground. You can only access the service five times per day and use it for only 15 minutes per connection.

Hotels

Hotel check-in varies between 2 pm to 3 pm, and check-out varies between 10 am to 11 am in Tokyo.

Rush Hours

Try to avoid traveling during rush hour as it can be difficult to get on the trains. The peak rush hours are between 8 am to 9 am in the morning, and 5 pm to 6 pm in the afternoon.

Shopping in Tokyo

Shinjuku is a great place to buy clothes, books/magazines, souvenirs, beauty, stationary, crafts, and electronics. Some popular places to shop in this district are Isetan, Takashimaya, Odakyu, Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera and Tokyu Hands.

The district to shop for the latest Japanese fashion trends has to be Shibuya. There are several department stores in the area, along with specialty stores catering to both the locals and tourists. Some popular places to shop in this district are Shibuya 109, Tokyu Hands, Don Quijote, Shibuya Mark City, Seibu, Parco, Marui, and Loft.

There is a street called Takeshita Dori in Harajuku where you can find trendy fashion shops, and boutiques (catering to the younger generations). 100 yen stores are also very popular in Tokyo, and the popular Daiso has a large branch here.

Located nearby Harajuku is an upscale shopping area called Omotesando. Here you will find tons of luxury brand goods such as Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Emporio Armani, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. For the kids and those who are kids at heart; there is a multi-floor toy store called Kiddy Land with a lot of amazing products.

Akihabara is well-known for their large selection of electronics, and toys. It is also a central area for otaku culture, so you will find a lot of anime and manga related items here.

Ginza is an affluent district in the city of Tokyo, and is known for its high-end shopping worldwide. There are countless numbers of luxury stores, and large department stores offering high end fashion and products. 

Smoking Indoors

Smoking in Tokyo is permitted indoors. Therefore, many restaurants have both smoking and non-smoking areas in their establishments. However, there are rarely any barriers to block the smoke from entering the non-smoking areas.

Subways

 The subway system in Tokyo is both a convenient and inexpensive approach to traveling around the huge city.

Taxis in Tokyo

We took the taxis in a couple of the cities that we visited for many reasons (constant hard rain, got lost, getting to the JR station was faster than taking the transit, etc ...). We found that taking the taxi in Tokyo was the most expensive of them all. The meter started at ¥710 (nearly $8 CAD). I was feeling slightly sick one day, and needed to return to our hotel.

Our 16 minute ride from Meiji Shrine to our hotel cost about $25. To compare the cost; our 10 min taxi ride from our hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, to JR Hiroshima Station was under $10.

Our friendly taxi driver in Tokyo.
Tea Bags are Provided in Hotels

All of the hotels that we stayed at provided us with an in-room kettle, packets of instant coffee and green tea bags. These were refilled daily when the maids clean up your room.

Tipping

Tipping isn't practiced nor expected by the wait staff in Tokyo (actually all of Japan).

Tissues

Many public facilitates in Tokyo don't have any paper towels or hand dryers in their washrooms. So it's highly recommended that you bring yourself a hand towel or tissue papers when you go to the bathroom. Don't go wasting money on buying tissues; as you will see plenty of people handing out free packet of tissues on the street (used as a form of advertising).

Tokyo Metro (Subway)

The subway systems in Tokyo may look super complicated at first, but it's so efficient. Many of the main sights are very close by to the main stations, so traveling to each tourist destination is easy.

If you plan on traveling a lot in one day using the subway then I'd recommend getting the Special 1-Day Open Ticket. The ticket gives you one day of unlimited subway travel in Tokyo. However, this is only valid on the Tokyo Metro lines and not the Oedo lines. For visitors from abroad, you can buy the tickets for ¥600 each but this price is only available at either Narita Airport and Haneda Airport. 

If you didn't buy enough passes for your travels at the airport; it is also available at every ticket machines located in all subway stations. However, you will have to pay the full price as the locals do at ¥710 per pass.

Vending Machines

There are an abundance of vending machines everywhere in Tokyo that dispenses cold or hot drinks, snacks and food. I was taken surprised when my canned Tulley's Coffee (130 yen) came out of the machine pipping hot!


Bon Voyage :)

Travel Tips - Tokyo, Japan

by on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Tokyo is an incredibly populous city with no shortage of food, shopping and entertainment. Originally we were only going to stay...
Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013  
Meal: Desserts  
Location in Japan: Akihabara, Tokyo

  Akihabara is a district in Tokyo, Japan, and is known for its Otaku culture. There are several themed cafes in the area, and one of the more popular ones has to be the Gundam Cafe. This specific cafe is themed after the Gundam series, and they offer a decent selection of food, snacks, and drinks. Many of the food and drink items are based off of the series, and there's even a small souvenir shop next door for your Gundam needs.

Personally, I am not a fan of the Gundam series, as I have only watched a few episodes when the original one aired years ago. However, despite not being a fan, I was still curious about the cafe when I read up on it. So I added the Gundam Cafe to our itinerary since Akihabara was already on the list to explore.

The "Gundam Cafe" sign shines brightly at night.
We arrived in Akihabara for a very late lunch at Chimney; an izakaya that was outside of the JR Akihabara Station. After finishing our meal, we walked about 5 minutes to the Gundam Cafe for some desserts. There was a small line-up outside of the cafe, and we waited about 15 minutes before being escorted inside.

A gundam statue greets you at the front door.
I am not too sure if the specials change monthly or what not.
Gundam Cafe serves alcoholic drinks at night so make sure that you have your I.D on you.
You can enjoy watching episodes of the series on the big screen TV while eating and drinking.
The menu.

I opted for the fondant au chocolat (¥590). The dessert was a simple yet warm chocolate cake topped with 3 pieces of Smarties, and decorated with peach sauce. The size of the cake was pretty small, and I finished it up pretty quickly. Overall, I thought that the chocolate cake was good but it's nothing to write home about.


The Haro latte (¥380) on the other hand was disappointing. The drink tasted lackluster, and there was a lot more foam than milk in the cup.


The boyfriend decided to go for the Heero & Relena dessert plate (¥890). It was a dish of mille-feuille, mixed berry, vanilla ice-cream and with a shot of espresso. He wasn't particularly too happy about his dish as the mille-feuille was just three pieces of tasteless crackers, instead of being three layers of puff pastry.

Service was pretty slow as it took them about 30 minutes to bring out our two desserts. Naturally, I took the time to take a few photos of the interior while we waited. Even though the desserts and service were both disappointing; it was still a nice experience to try out at least once.

Gunpla Yaki (a baked pastry with red bean paste inside).
Gundam Cafe seats 60 people.
Haro!

[Japan] Gundam Cafe

by on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013   Meal: Desserts   Location in Japan: Akihabara, Tokyo   Akihabara is a district in Tokyo, Japan,...