We begin a new series on Japan! In fact, this series will be divided into two parts, mostly because I visited Japan TWICE since moving to Hong Kong. Ha ha, Japan is quite close now, only a 4-5 hour flight away, so I've taken the opportunity to visit as often as I can (since I do love visiting Japan so much).
My first visit to Tokyo was in November 2017. I had only been living in Hong Kong for about two months by that point in time. However, it was the first time ever that I would be missing the beautiful fall foliage for which Boston is famous.
I vowed I would see foliage somewhere, even if I couldn't fly back to the US. I was thrilled to find out that Tokyo's fall foliage season is later than Boston's, and would peak right around Thanksgiving holiday!
When a friend told me she needed to go to Tokyo over Thanksgiving for work, I jumped at the opportunity to hop along for the ride.
The foliage in Tokyo is stunning this time of year. I highly recommend visiting places like Shinjuku Gyoen, Hibiya-koen Park, the grounds around the Imperial Palace, or Inokashira Park (right next to Studio Ghibli).
Though I didn't get to see cherry blossoms this spring, I got to see this unique flower that only blooms for one month in the fall!
I decided to visit Studio Ghibli again (my second time!) because I knew the studio was playing the 15-minute short movie sequel to My Neighbor Totoro, called Mei and the Kittenbus. This movie is super, super cute. If you're a Totoro fan, especially if you love the catbus, you will absolutely love this movie.
You can't see this movie anywhere else in the world. They only show it at Studio Ghibli periodically, rotating it among many other short films that they show.
You need to purchase tickets for Studio Ghibli in advance because they easily sell out. The easiest way is to get them at a travel agency outside Japan. I bought mine in Hong Kong and it was pretty easy.
After visiting the museum, you can eat at the cafe or wander around Inokashira Park, which had gorgeous foliage during the fall. I wandered through the park and walked all the way back to the subway station, where I took the train back to Shinjuku Station.
I spent an afternoon hanging out with Marc Matsumoto from No Recipes exploring the depachika (underground food halls) at Isetan in Shinjuku. Marc recommended his favorite seasoning salts, dashi powders, and other things (like fresh yuzu kosho!!!!). It was great hearing about his life living in Japan as a TV host (!) and private chef.
One evening, we experienced a true farm-to-table Japanese izakaya called Potsura Potsura that has been getting a lot of recognition lately. I'll share my whole meal here in a separate post. We sampled Maisen's famous tonkatsu deep fried pork cutlet sandwich for lunch one day, and enjoyed a traditional Japanese teppanyaki another night.
Another evening I visited Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai, a lovely tofu house that makes its own tofu and serves it as part of a kaiseki meal.
The restaurant is nestled in a Samurai house enclosed by Japanese gardens at the foot of the Tokyo Tower.
The surrounding gardens are beautiful and the Tokyo Tower looks majestic at night.
I had a multi-course kaiseki meal, which I'll share more in detail in a future post. Highlights? The tofu in soy milk broth was out of this world.
We ended the trip with a simple and *very* reasonably priced sushi lunch at Sushinigiri right next to our hotel in Ebisu. Our lovely 10-course lunch was the perfect amount of food and only cost USD $33 per person, all-in (we just drank green tea for beverage).
All in all, I HIGHLY recommend coming to Japan for fall foliage. The weather is crisp and cool, the colorful leaves are so pretty, especially in Japan's many well-manicured gardens or alongside old, traditional buildings.
Up next, detailed posts from this first trip!