GO LOCAL: TOKYO.

The taste of Tokyo, like a local

In our Go Local Guides, we’ve teamed up with local insiders from popular travel destinations; giving you their money-saving tips on how to get a taste of the places they call home, without breaking the bank.

Go Local Tokyo Guide

Think Japan’s capital is super expensive? Not necessarily so when you cycle and eat your way around the city like a local. Kio Yamamoto, Tokyo writer and keen cyclist, shows us the flavours of her hometown.

There are more restaurants in Tokyo than stars in the sky. For the visitor, the city’s food scene can be intimidating — but eat like a Tokyo local and you will discover top food experiences that won’t break the bank.

Noodles Every Hour

Soba and Udon are the fast food staples of the city. You’ll see commuters and workers standing up and tucking in to bowls of buckwheat noodles in dashi broth on corners clustered around every station in Tokyo. Many people enjoy this dish for breakfast, but soba spots are often open 24 hours. My go-to is Yoshisoba right next to the ticket vending machines in Shibuya station. Here a bowl of shrimp noodles with a tempura Tenkasu and pickles will set you back no more than ¥500 (£4.24).  This is a great example of how, in Tokyo, chain restaurants can be just as good as either the more touristy spots or the back-street indies.

Yoyogi Park: Freedom for Free

Yoyogi Park is a beautiful green lung in the heart of the city where cycle lanes crisscross from every angle – and it doesn’t cost a penny to experience. This is where Tokyo people love to express themselves away from the city noise. Watch the fabled Rockabilly dancers do their thing every Sunday, and be amazed by Japanese music students playing violins and saxophones in the open air. The Meiji Shrine here is a serene homage to an Emperor over on the Shinjuku side of the park, in sharp contrast to the consumerist utopia that is the shopping area in the surrounding streets.

Love Your Sushi and Save

The best food deals in Tokyo come at lunchtime. Sushi is a lunchtime classic — and Omakase (set menus) are often great deals. Simply say “I trust you” to your sushi chef and they will blow your mind. Try the Nigiri (Eel) special at Sushi Noike in the Old City, which starts at ¥1300 (£11.03).  Alternatively, you can try speedy futuristic sushi - Uobei Sushi - in the small street that runs behind the 109 Store in Shibuya. Order your sushi (from ¥100 - 85p - for 2 pieces) on an iPad and it is delivered on a high-speed conveyor. Take your plates off the tray, press a button and the tray whizzes back to the kitchen. Cheaper than any other type of sushi and it’s pretty amusing!

Tokyo is a Cycling City

Many guidebooks sing the praises of Tokyo’s food culture – but rarely mention that Tokyo is one of the world’s great cycling cities. There’s no better way to work up an appetite, burn off the calories and see one of the world’s greatest cities up close and personal. We suggest going to see the super cool kids at Tokyo Bikes. The bikes are great and you can wheel around the city for as many miles as you like. (¥2500/£21.22 first day, ¥1500/£12.73 extra days).  

Great Value Ramen

Ramen is one of Japan’s most famous food exports. Tonkotsu Ramen is my favourite. This place is in a side street from Mark City Shibuya. Look for the open fronted yellow shop. Take a counter seat, order their ramen for ¥500 (£4.24) and watch the staff at work. If you’re hungry, save some of the soup and shout “kaedama kudasai!” and you’ll get an extra serving of noodles for free.

Tokyo Views: Go Economy or Go Luxe

If Tokyo’s huge sprawl is best experienced on two wheels, it is best viewed from the either the Tokyo Tower or the Mori Tower. Located in the Minato City area, the Tokyo Tower is a huge copy of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, rendered in orange and white. It was built as a communications mast at the end of the nineteen fifties and is a bargain to enter at ¥900 (£7.64). The Mori Art Museum offers just as stunning views atop the hyper-modern corporate offices and luxury shopping malls of the Mori building in the Roppongi Hills neighbourhood. At ¥1800 (£15.28), entry is double the price of its mid-century cousin, but you get the stunning contemporary art, restaurants and shopping in the bargain. And of course you get to see the totemic Tokyo Tower from there too.

Best Burgers on the Planet

Japanese people have a knack of adopting food from around the world and making it their own. And according to many people you can find the best burgers in the world in the Japanese capital. One of the best is Aloha Table, in the cool Nakameguro neighbourhood. The Hawaiian themed bar comes with a Pacific vibe. The wide range of burgers all come with tasty Wagyu beef, and cost from ¥1000-2000. (£8.49-16.98).  American style happy-hour deals are common in many of Tokyo’s best burger joints.

Karaoke Madness

And of course no all-day, cycle-and-eat tour of Tokyo would be complete without Karaoke. Japanese people love to let loose and sing their hearts out while sharing a few drinks. There’s none finer in all of Tokyo than Karaoke Kan  featured in the iconic film ‘Lost in Translation.’ Ask for room 601 or 602, go for the ‘h?da’ option (which basically means “free for all”) – and round-up one of the most memorable trips to Tokyo imaginable (around ¥3,000/£25.46 per person).

Tokyo Mojito

Mojito

¥875
(£7.43)

Tokyo Coffee

Flat White

¥447.50
(£3.80)

Tokyo Hotel

Holiday let for two*

¥13,578.22
(£115.25) per night

What:

Where:

How much:

Must Do 

Mori Art Museum: cutting edge modern art and stunning city view

106-6150 Tokyo, MinTO City, Roppongi, 6 Chome-10-1, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 53

¥1,800 (£15.28)

Local Tipple

Japanese Whisky: Nikki/Suntory Blend

Restaurants and Bars

¥1000 (£8.49)

Dinner

Mos Burger (tasty Japanese brand)

Everywhere in Japan

¥800 (£6.79)

Transport

Taxi (Equivalent 30 minute walk)

¥1500 until 11pm, ¥2,000 after. (£12.73-16.98)

Tipping

Across Japan

Tipping is not required or expected in Japan.


Go Local Guides

Our insider city guides - packed with tips from locals in the know.

* Self-catering.

Disclaimer: Any views or recommendations in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Halifax. All costs shown are approximate at publication. The exchange rates used were the applicable rates for travel money on 22 August 2019. Halifax is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Date: September 2019