Wednesday, October 9, 2013

36-hr itinerary for a friend

A very dear friend of mine is Tokyo bound later this month, staying at the  Cerulean Tower, a classy place in the Sakura-gaokacho neighborhood of Shibuya ward (ku). Because this places her southeast of Dogenzaka, right on the 246, my friend will be reasonably close to some prime places to visit, like the Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world (and terrific for people watching), and the Tokyu Food Show, a noisy hall of gourmet vendors in the basement of the Tokyu Department Store at Shibuya Station. (One of the entry stairwells to the food show is right by the statue of Hachiko, the world-famous dog.)

If you like Japanese woodblock prints, I told my friend, you're in luck, because you won't be far from the Ota Museum, located at 1-10-10 Jingumae, just off Omotesando dori, the popular shopping street (follow the alley around the corner from the large Softbank). Below the gallery, down a back stairwell, is a fantastic shop selling tenegui, traditional Japanese dyed cloths that make lovely dish towels, dust covers, wall hangings, curtain ties, kerchiefs and head wraps.

The Meiji Shrine is a definite must-see, and would be worth its own taxi ride from the Cerulean hotel, but also quite convenient from the Ota museum. Walk outside the gallery and back onto Omotesando, turn right and head uphill in the direction of the Harajuku station; cross the bridge that spans the train tracks (a famous hangout for various costumed youth) and enter the complex from the east end of Yoyogi park. From there it's another 10-minute walk along the gravel path, through the giant cypress torii gates, to the shrine complex.

If she chose a stroll down Omotesando instead, some highlights would be Kiddyland, an delightful toy and novelty store, and Oriental Bazaar, offering antiques, vintage kimono, plates and bowls and more kitschy souvenirs too (because who doesn't want a Hokusai "wave" mouse pad?). A good coffee stop would be Anniversaire Cafe.

For dinner I recommended a traditional kaiseki meal at Akasaka Kikunoi, located at 6-13-8 Akasaka in Minato-ku. I had a memorable lunch there with friends Mizuho, Sandra and Anna back in June 2012; the chef's bento - listed on the menu as a Kodaiji Feast (and priced at about a third to a quarter of what the place charges for an evening meal) had us all swooning. Some pics:

 Where did they get these umbrella sake cups?!

 Dessert choices

 The cooks escorted us out down the pretty garden path -
even wiping rainwater off Sandra's bicycle seat!

If your friend had 36 hrs in Tokyo - and was staying in Shibuya-ku - what would you recommend?