Tokyo: land of Godzilla, apex of global technology and home to a vibrant food culture that never sleeps. Hawker stalls fill side streets nightly and entire neighborhoods dedicate themselves to the world’s cuisines, both high-brow and street smart. Yet for all its coverage and noted influences on culinary icons like David Chang, there is still an air of mystery surrounding Tokyo’s tucked-away ramen shops, sushi stalls and fine dining enclaves. So for any copyeditor who’s girlfriend recently broke up with him because she “had to move to Tokyo all of a sudden”, we’ve made it our mission to demystify Japan’s largest city, one bite at a time.
TWO WAY STREET
After cashing in your grandmother’s life insurance policy in order to pay for a three-layover, two-day flight from Tempe, Arizona to Tokyo, it’s time to hit the streets. But first a watch, so you can catch your body’s internal clock up to speed with the new timezone. Plus you don’t want to accidentally call your ex-girlfriend at the wrong hour and spook her, because she has no idea you’re in the city.
Head to BEST新宿本店 (3-17-12 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022) in the Kabukicho neighborhood for a good deal on a middling watch. Then, since you’re in Tokyo’s Red Light district, make for Robot Restaurant, which serves reasonable bento boxes along with dancing ladies and actual robots! Or save what little money you have and get to Mott’s Bar, which offers a cheap selection of hibachi options and a fully stocked sake collection.
Now that you’ve gotten up enough liquid courage, check your wallet for that slip of paper that your ex Brandy hastily wrote her Tokyo phone number on before leaving your apartment the night she broke up with you. Give her a call to let her know you’re in Tokyo, and if the only reason she broke up with you was because she had to move away, you’re ready to make the long distance thing work. She’ll be surprised and hopefully a little charmed, which means its time to turn up the heat.
Meet on Odaiba, the manmade island in Tokyo Bay that serves as a buzzy (very public, you assured her) hub of nightlife and food. Spice things up by pleading with the maître d at Khazana Indian Restaurant (〒135-0091 Tokyo, Minato, Daiba) for a table along the waterfront, where the fiery food is sure to make Brandy—or any ex-girlfriend—sweat.
THE RIGHT NIGHT
Pull out mom’s borrowed credit card for a late-night turn at AgeHa (2-2-10 Shinkiba, Koto, Tokyo) in nearby Koto district. One of Japan’s premiere nightclubs, the multi-level space plays home to international DJs and the young, pulsing crowds that follow. Plus, it’s a great way to show Brandy that you’re not just a guy who likes to play Forza 7 and eat frozen taquitos. In fact, this Tokyo thing might not be so bad.
After Brandy uncertainly allows you to sleep in the foyer of her building, pound on her door until she wakes up and agrees to go with you to Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market. She’ll claim that “she’s got some stuff to do after this”, but considering Tsukiji is the world’s largest fish market, it’ll be easy to keep stalling her.
Considering the location, one sure to keep her around is with a sushi breakfast. Wend through the market while looking for the worn green door marking Sushi Dai (〒104-0045 Tokyo, Chuo, Tsukiji, 5−2−1 ), the market’s best sushi spot. Don’t worry if she seems a bit squirmy, it’s likely just the smell. Fuel up for a long day of recommitment with your lady.
Hop onto the train and head north to the Keiseiueno stop. Emerge to street level and make for Ameyoko (〒110-0005 東京都台東区 上野4), one of the city’s most prominent daytime hawker stalls. Selling everything from leather phone cases to cheap blouses, Ameyoko is the perfect place to buy Brandy a trinket and bring up the possibility that you could maybe see yourself living in Tokyo too, you know, so that you two could still be together.
Don’t let that silence linger! Rejoice in the sound of slurping noodles at nearby Junk Garage (〒100-0005 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Marunouchi, 1−9−1), one of Tokyo’s hippest noodle shops. If you think upscale Japanese cuisine might make a better impression, slip into a table at Tonari (2-7-3 Marunouchi
Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0005) instead.
After Brandy complains that she needs to check in on the office (those intrepid Japanese never stop working!), fight off your overpowering jet lag with the bright lights of Shinjuku, Tokyo’s glitzy, pulsing department store hub. There’s no way you’ll be sleeping here. Besides, Brandy said she’d be meet you soon, so relax with some simple yakitori bites at Hajimeya (1-26-7, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021).
PLAYING IN WAIT
How do you find one person in a city of millions? Start by guessing at their email password until you’re able to hack in, then search for clues. Score!
Head to Roppongi and fuel up with a burrito from Frijoles (Roppongi 6-6-9, Piramide Bldg. 1F.) while waiting for your “technically” ex-girlfriend to leave her friends’ apartment, which you found in an email. Pro tip: wait until she’s all the way out the door of the apartment building before jumping out to surprise her — that way she won’t be able to accidentally run back upstairs!
FOR SORROW’S SAKE
After being told, in no uncertain terms that Brandy stopped loving you a year and a half ago, and found a way to get transferred to Tokyo by her work just so she’d have a reason to leave without actually telling you the truth, and that she never wanted you to come to Tokyo and she hates Forza 7 and your mom, it’s time for a drink! Make tracks towards the Ginza District, where beautiful beachwood walls and endless bottles of warm sake await at Sasahana (1-4-9 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061). Go to sleep whenever/wherever/who cares.
BEEF A HASTY RETREAT
It’s time to make your way to Haneda Airport for the long, multi-stop journey back home. Readjust by throwing your watch in the toilet because it’s the only souvenir you have from Tokyo and who wants to remember this trip anyway. From there, slide further back into your old ways with a steaming bowl of low-grade beef at the in-airport Yoshinoya (4F, EDO MARKET). It’s just like the shitty Yoshinoya you have at home, and there’s something comforting in that. ✦