This is the second part of our story about our recent trip to Tokyo. Today we cover the restaurants and places we ate at in Shibuya, Akihabara and Ikebukuro. Shibuya is a place we are familiar with. But the other two areas were new to us, having only heard of them and seen on the map. So we were curious to see what they were like.
Shibuya is probably our favourite district in Tokyo. It is very vibrant, full of energy and there are lots of food and shopping to cater for all tastes and budgets. It also feels wholesome and feels less gritty than, say, Shinjuku. The main tourist attractions here are the famous Shibuya road crossing and the statue of faithful dog Hachiko.
We came across this small restaurant that seemed popular with the locals. Each table has its own stove on which customers grill their own food, mostly shellfish.
There was this instruction board with the title “How to cook great tasting shellfish” – but all the actual instructions were in Japanese! Undaunted, we ordered an assortment of raw scallops, clams, vegetables to cook ourselves and a couple of cooked food dishes. I have lost track of the prices but the individual scallops / clams were around Yen 350 each. The total bill was about 5,000 Yen. We did quite well – just let the shellfish cook in their shells till they open!
The Beam Building houses interesting shops. Ishibashi Music which was the biggest guitar shop we have seen and below it was a large manga shop which will make fans of Japan pop culture weep with joy.
At the bottom of Beam Building is a Croissant shop. They make a Japanese version of croissant in fish shapes with red bean fillings. They look like the red bean fishes that are sold in the Takashimaya food court, but these were made with flaky croissant skins. Yummy with coffee!
We also learnt that cat cafes are really popular in Tokyo. We came across quite a few during this trip. Some were packed and appointments were necessary. Some were just money spinners and not nice at all. The best one that we went to was Mocha Cat Cafe. It is in the building next to Beam.
We selected the 10 minutes for 200 Yen option. Just enough to look-see and snap pictures. The decor of Mocha Cat Cafe was like a classy apartment. The cats were friendly and the number of humans was kept low.
Tower Records was also nearby. Record stores are an endangered species so it was nice to walk through and browse the wide vinyl records selection.
We had heard about Akihabara before. It is supposed to be the place to go for electronic goods. When we got there, we realised that while there are still some electronic goods stores, the main attractions here are the merchandise for anime and manga fans. Japanese pop culture is really the driving force in this town. The stores were packed and anime characters are used for all kinds of products! The arcade games which uses pincers to pick up toys were popular. But we have yet to see anyone win any toy. The pincers are too weak to pick up the toys (yes, we tried).
Next to the Akihabara Station is Akibaichi building which has many restaurants. We selected the Hisago Tempura Restaurant for lunch. There were several set lunch options for lunch. We tried the normal tempura bowl (1,080 Yen) and a big shrimp tempura bowl (1,620 Yen). They were really good and also value for money.
We saw a cat cafe in Akihabara, but did not go in as it was packed with people trying to play with the bored cats.
Then we saw this signboard – was it a rabbit version of the cat cafe? Yes, but the ‘rabbits’ are not the four-legged kind.
Ikebukuro is not a place on many visitors’ list. We concluded that it is a place to visit if you are a fan of Pokemon, cosplay and Japanese pop culture in general. Near the train station was Parco Building . It has our favourite tenants – Ishibashi Music and Tower Records. These outlets are not as big as the ones in Shibuya but have a more laid back feel. The song selection boxes in Tower Records looked really retro.
The main attraction at Ikebukuro is this mega mall known as Sunshine City. It has all kinds of stores in it, including a huge Pokemon store.
We had lunch at Toraji. We thought it was a Japanese restaurant, but found out too late that it was a Korean restaurant specialising in Korean BBQ. We selected two set lunch deals with some meat for grilling and some cooked food items. The food was ok but not great.
Fans of Pokemon will surely be happy to see this store. It was packed with both locals and tourists. There were giant statues of some of the popular characters. Our favourite was Charizard with Pikachu on its back.
There was also a cat cafe in a building near Sunshine City. Nekobukuro Cat’s House had nice cats but they were all shy, hiding from the hordes of visitors. One lucky lady seemed to have a bond with one of the cats.
There was also a pet shop with super cute puppies and evil aliens.
Animate seems to be very successful store for Anime fans. There were two outlets here. One of them is the place to go for cosplay fans.
There are big department stores near the Ikebukuro station. We had dinner in a restaurant in one of these buildings. We had a fugu set dinner (3,800 Yen each). Some parts of the fish were served in sashimi slices and the bony part of the meat were cooked steamboat-style. The presentation of the meal was good but the taste of fugu was bland.
This concludes our two part summary of our 2015 Tokyo adventure. Thanks for reading.
That’s all folks!