We kick off a new series about Japan!
Despite the fact that I am now a 5-hour flight away from Tokyo (as opposed to a 12-hour flight in the past), I still only managed to travel to Japan at about the same rate as before, roughly once a year.
In 2019 Bryan and I traveled to Tokyo over the long Easter weekend (a 4-day holiday in Hong Kong!). Because we only had four days, we tried to make the most of it, leaving Thursday evening on a red-eye flight to arrive in Tokyo first thing Friday morning.
First Stop: Disney Sea
After stopping at our hotel around 6AM to drop off our luggage (and shower), we got on the subway to go to Disney Sea.
We had heard that Disney Sea could be very, very crowded. We have always been strategic Disney park goers, arriving first thing in the morning to avoid crowds, strategizing which Fast Passes to get first and making a beeline for popular rides during non-peak times. We like to maximize our time at Disneyland, and in general, I think we do pretty well.
We were terrified of navigating Disney Sea (one of the most popular theme parks in the world) on a holiday weekend.
Thankfully, our decision to go on Good Friday (a working day in Japan) paid off handsomely. Even though we were tired from getting off of a red-eye flight, we had a blast at Disney Sea and it wasn't too crowded!
I'll be publishing a separate post sharing some more details about our visit. [update: click here to see the Disney Sea post]
Cherry Blossoms! Sakura!
I love Japanese cherry blossoms so much, yet it had been close to a decade since we had gone to Japan during the springtime.
To be honest, I thought I had missed cherry blossom season. I had heard that the blossoms had come early due to unseasonably warm weather in Japan. However, right before I left for Japan, a colleague told me that her friend had just sent photos over from Shinjuku Gyoen and there seemed to be TONS of blossoms.
It turns out that Shinkuku Gyoen plants over a thousand varieties of cherry blossoms, including many late blooming varieties. Even though we were about 3 weeks past season, we still saw lots of gorgeous blooming trees.
I loved it so much. We spent an entire morning wandering around Shinjuku Gyoen, which is easily accessible by both the JR and the subway.
I couldn't resist and picked up a few Totoro themed plates this trip. Unlike past trips, I didn't have a chance to go to Studio Ghibli nor pick up any Totoro cream puffs.
We had absolutely fantastic tempura at Tempura Fukamachi. The batter was light and delicate, the ingredients were fresh, and all-in-all it rivaled my favorite tempura place, Tempura Kondo for about half the price (during lunchtime). More details in a separate post to come. [update: click here for the link to Tempura Fukamachi]
We were quite curious to visit Sushi Ishiyama. We have been following Chef Ishiyama for close to 10 years, since his days at Sushi Kanesaka and then Sushi Ya. We enjoyed a lovely lunch there.
Sukiyaki at Imafuku
We savored luxurious Wagyu A5 beef prepared in two different styles of sukiyaki at 1-Michelin starred Imafuku. Surprisingly, it was our first time ever having sukiyaki in Japan. We love it and would highly recommend Imafuku, which was excellent.
Il Ristorante Luca Fantin
Our highest end meal of the trip was at an Italian restaurant called Il Ristorante Luca Fantin, which has been receiving A LOT of accolades lately. The meal was phenomenal and certainly did not disappoint. I loved seeing Chef Luca Fantin's approach to Italian food using local Japanese ingredients.
Ramen at Afuri
We have always liked Afuri Ramen, especially their yuzu ramen, which is my favorite. The one is Tokyo is in Ebisu, very close to the hotel that we often stay at (the Westin Tokyo). On Monday, the last day of our trip, we grabbed a quick lunch here before heading to the airport to fly back to Hong Kong.
I didn't know it at the time, but now I know that Afuri Ramen is opening up in Hong Kong sometime this month (!) in Tsim Sha Tsui inside The One. Can't wait to go back!
And that was the end of our quick, four-day Easter Cherry Blossom Eating trip to Tokyo. I'll never tire of Tokyo, and this trip was even more special due to the unexpected cherry blossoms.
Next up, full posts for all the restaurants that I briefly described above.
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[…] April over Easter weekend we visited Tokyo during cherry blossom season! Although the flowers bloomed earlier this year, we were still thrilled to catch some late blooming […]