We are getting up early today for Michelin Star ramen. But first, we are going to make a quick stop at Hayao Miyazaki’s Clock. World famous director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki has inspired a generation with his films and this clock is no different. Standing about 3 stories high and made with tons of copper, this mechanical masterpiece jolts to life several times a day, giving off quite the show starting at noon. The clock was about 30 seconds from our hotel so we were lucky enough to pass this everyday, but I recommend at least a short stop here even if you aren’t a Miyazaki fan.
Taking the train out to Nakiryu Ramen is not too long of a train ride and then about a 5-7 minute walk. Nakiryu is known for its Tantanmen– spicy, porky, and delicious ramen. Like most ramen shops in Tokyo, Nakiryu only seats about 10 people at a time, you order by vending machine, and people start to line up early. The staff is very nice and provided an English menu to help us order on the vending machine. The soup itself has a bold red pepper flavor and the noodles are thin with a great chew to them. We opted for an egg, extra braised pork, and a wonton. This is one of the best bowls of noodles I have ever had and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since I walked out of the restaurant.
**Pro-tip from some unprofessionals – They do run out daily! So they limit you to one bowl per person (understandable) but the play here is for just a couple bucks you can order extra noodles and add them to your leftover broth at the end of your meal and boom– extra bowl of ramen. **
Now it’s only fair that since we doubled up on those noodles we should double up on some walking and Meiji Jingu is the perfect place. Only a short train ride from our ramen lunch on the Yamanote Line we are getting off at Yoyogi Station and walking down the street a few yards to the entrance to the park. An incredible wooden tori gate marks the entrance and a beautiful path lined with trees guides your way to the shrine. The area is well kept and the tall trees offer a quiet retreat from the excitement of Tokyo. At the center of everything is a beautiful Shinto Shrine that is a pretty magical sight to see in central Tokyo. Whether you are here to appreciate the architecture and natural beauty of the site or immerse yourself in the Shinto traditions, this site can’t be missed. You can even get a snack and explore the gift shop on your way out, and I am a sucker for a good gift shop.
If you are starting to feel that early morning ramen wake up call, head over to little nap coffee on the edge of Meiji Jingu for a quick pick me up. If coffee is not your thing and you still need a sugar rush then take a short walk over to Takeshita Street in Harajuku where sugar knows no bounds and everything you thought you knew about fashion disappears.
Totti Candy Factory is a great shop right at the edge of Harajuku that is popular for huge rainbow cotton candy and other sweet treats. Eddy’s Ice Cream is also a good place for a little sweet snack and is perfect for your pink, cute, instagram dreams. Pompompurin Cafe is a fun spot for some cute character-driven food and sweets. Yes, this is not your gourmand Japanese food experience, but its really fun and worth checking out.
You could spend days in Harajuku and not see everything so spend as much time as you want eating and shopping. Maybe get something from BAPE? Spend your afternoon at an Onsen? Enjoy a walk in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden? Or if you haven’t had your fill of sweets yet, head over to Shibuya or Shinjuku for some Honey Toast. A delicious loaf of sweet white bread with a super soft crumb is hollowed out and the insides are cut into cubes, coated in butter and honey, and toasted. The cubes are placed back inside the hollowed out loaf and topped with all kinds of toppings. Ours was filled with ice cream, a mixed berry compote, whipped cream, and a little chocolate sauce.
And now for the most talked about tourist attraction in Tokyo that completely divides travelers into two factions: those that say “YES! you must do this, it’s a one of a kind experience!” and those that completely hate it and think it’s a cheesy tourist trap. Of course we are talking about Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Well we are planting our flag firmly in the middle. Yes! it’s a completely one of a kind, wild, cheesy, fantastic, tourist trap. It’s over priced and you will not see a Japanese person in the crowd, BUT it’s honestly a fun time if you set your expectations early before you get there. It’s a wild mix of cheesy 80’s sci-fi movie effects, college sports team mascots, laser floyd style light show, singing, and dancing mess. Go once! Find a discounted ticket online… but go once.
This day leaves you in the middle of Shinjuku so you have an endless amount of ways to end your night at your fingertips. Wind down with some drinks in Golden Gai, nerd out at the Godzilla store, grab a mochi donut at Mr. Jim’s, or get some soba at Konjikihototogisu.