Insider's Travel Guide to Tokyo, Japan

What you can’t do in Tokyo, well, you’ll be hard pushed to find it anywhere else in the world, either. Most visitors explore temples, shrines, the Tokyo Tower Observation Deck, the Shibya Crossing and of course - ‘that bar’ from the movie Lost in Translation (it’s at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, by the way). Japan as a whole has a reputation of being hard to scratch the surface and experience daily life beyond being a tourist. To help, we asked a Tokyo local to share her favourite places to eat, drink, dance and explore in the Japanse capital:

A bit about our insider:

Meet Natsuko, our Tokyo insider

Meet Natsuko, our Tokyo insider

Name: Natsuko Kakuda
Place of birth: Yamanashi, Japan
Occupation: Fashion at Issey Miyake
Hobbies and interests: Travelling, languages and different cultures
How long have you lived in Toyko?  I moved from my nearby hometown to Tokyo 16 years ago. 


A bit about Tokyo: 

How do you best navigate your city?
Usually the subway. If it's late at night and the subway has closed then I'll take a taxi, though they can be expensive here in Tokyo. 

What do you think Tokyo does better than other cities?
It’s very safe, clean, punctual and convenient. You can also easily find high quality food. 

Cherry Blossom in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom in Tokyo

Where is your favourite view of the city?
Rather than a particular place, I'd say anywhere during cherry blossom season; it's usually towards the end of March and the beginning of April and is really beautiful. 

Any etiquette tips for visitors?
Japan has a lot but we don't expect non-Japanese to get them all right, all the time. We give a lot of gifts, so perhaps bring something if you're staying with locals, or as a gift to
thank someone for something. Taking shoes off outside any home is important, as well as outside temples and some restaurants. Eating and drinking whether in a restaurant or elsewhere actually has a lot of nuances to it too. (ED: Read our Japanese etiquette guide for more information before you travel). 

What is your favourite building in Tokyo, and why?
I love the building of the university I studied at; Tokyo Women's Christian University. It's a 1920's building, plus chapel and beautiful gardens. 

Mount Fuji in Yamanashi, Japan. Just a two hour journey from Tokyo.

Mount Fuji in Yamanashi, Japan. Just a two hour journey from Tokyo.

Where is your favourite respite from hectic city life?
Honestly, this is difficult in Tokyo. It's a very busy city. But I'd suggest taking at trip to my hometown of Yamanashi. It's only about a two hour drive or train ride from Tokyo and is a much slower and much more traditional Japanese way of life. It's known for hiking and fishing, and we have the most famous place to hike in all of Japan - Mount Fuji. For solitude, it doesn't get much better than this!



Tell us about the food scene:  

Which dish is a must-try?
We have so many. For example, yakitori, sushi, yakiniku , ramen , soba , udon , karaage , yakisoba. I really could go on. 

Japanese food is not all about sushi....

Japanese food is not all about sushi....

Where is your favourite local spot to eat? 
I've been going to Ed. Parlour in Ginza for years. They serve great Japanese beef, as well as tuna sashimi and the chef cooks an amazing curry. 

Which restaurant has the best atmosphere?
For me, it's Ed. Parlour. It's a small and friendly place to visit, whether you have been going for years or if it's your first time. There are only six seats in here, so the staff know me well!

Where serves the best value for money dining options?
I'd say Sansei in Yotsuya, Shinjuku, for good beef. It can be tricky to find, but is worth the search (see the location here). 

Where is the best place to splurge on a delicious meal?
Tokyo has lots of Michelin starred restaurants including Joel Robuchon for modern-french cuisine, and Sushi Yoshitake for something more traditional. 


Now, onto the nightlife: 

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's most popular neighbourhoods, day or night.

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's most popular neighbourhoods, day or night.

Where might we find Tokyo's best cocktail? 
For me, it's the Pina Colada at Costa Latina (but the Pina Colada is not on the menu, so you'll have to ask nicely)

Where might we carry the night on, post midnight?
Karaoke bars are where many locals tend to head after a night of eating and drinking. Our karaoke bars are soundproof rooms for just you and your friends, so no need to worry about singing in front of strangers. You'll find them all over the city. 


For culture vultures: 

Who is your favourite local artist?
I love Hiroshige Maki, he's a clothes designer. 

Final words: 

Can you sum up why you love living in this city? 
Despite it's large scale, I've got lots of great friends here in Tokyo, who I love to spend time with. We also have such great food. I love to take advantage by combining evenings with food and friends. 

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