Just got back from a week in Tokyo with the husband and I think it was straight up right there in the top 3 most amazing trips we’ve ever had.
We’ve done Tokyo twice before with the kids; it’s one of our favourite cities in the world. Tokyo checks all the boxes for a good time – delicious food, all the desserts one could possibly want to taste, bizarre but delightful experiences, lots of shopping, efficient transportation and warm hospitality. Even though I only know like 5 Japanese words, I always feel at home in Tokyo. Maybe not necessarily my home I suppose, but the home of a favourite aunt who fills your plate with the most yummy food.
This trip, I was looking forward to doing all the things we normally would not be able to when we’re traveling with kids. I love them with all my heart but when there are 5 babies all up in my face telling me they’re tired or bored every 2 minutes, it can be very difficult to perform basic human functions in a city like Tokyo. Even easy things like shovelling food into my mouth took tremendous effort – I remember having to stand outside the crowded izakayas to tag team eating during our previous trips.
Here are some of the memorable things we did this time around:
1. Bike tour around the city.
I’ve developed a bit of a love affair with bike tours. It’s in that sweet spot between a bus tour (where you cover a lot of ground but always feels impersonal) and a walking tour (which is more intimate but you get to see much less).
We found Soshi’s Tokyo Bike Tour after checking several reviews and had the most incredible afternoon cycling around the city. Soshi took us on a super chill 3-hour bike ride starting from Ginza shopping district across the Nihonbashi bridge, through little alleyways to a quaint shitamachi (like a Japanese old town that used to house Kabuki theatres years ago), stopping by at Ryogoku sumo wrestling stadium, across Akihabara tech city, around the Imperial palace and finally to Hibiya park. We got to visit some very charming little alleys that we would never have explored on our own, and the cherry on top of this amazing cake was hearing stories about these places from a local.
2. Robot restaurant.
Tokyo has some of the most bizarre experiences one can possibly try and it’s characterised but an evening out at the Robot restaurant in Kabukicho. While planning the itinerary, just looking at photos of the place online was enough to trigger seizures I never knew I had. I can only describe this as an insane take on a Disney parade but with too much acid or speed or ice. I don’t know what it says about me that I really enjoyed it. It was so committed to being campy and absurd and outlandish and just so much fun.
*The only thing I’ll say about it is that while they claim to be a family family establishment, I definitely would not bring the kids till they’re much, much bigger because their little brains will explode from this much visual stimuli.
3. Creepily awesome arcade at Kawasaki.
In line with the theme of bizarre but wonderful experiences in Tokyo, we also visited the Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki, a creepy dystopian Kowloon themed arcade that redefines hardcore. I wasn’t sure about this one at first because haunted houses are not my idea of a great time.
Turns out that this measures very low on the haunted scale and as far as theming goes, is a solid 10. Whether you’re a fan of Hong Kong’s gritty Kowloon Walled City, this arcade is nothing if not completely dedicated to providing an immersive experience, which was surprisingly fun.
4. Eat all of the food.
I don’t even know where to start with this. There is so much delicious food in Tokyo that you’ll definitely find something that speaks to your palate. We had gyozas in Harajuku, yakitori at Memory Lane, sushi at Tsukiji, street snacks at Asakusa, ramen + soba everywhere, and the desserts…good heavens, the desserts were unbelievable.
If I had to pick one favourite meal though, it would have to be Satou steakhouse in Ginza. I’m not a fine dining type of girl and my favourite meal back home is a hearty $2.50 ban mian which I would be happy to have every meal for months. But I do love a good piece of meat and the matsusaka beef from Satou is unquestionably the most delicious thing I’ve ever put into my mouth. It’s pricey for sure but for a special night out, this was from start to finish a most delightful experience. All of the courses were a home run and the staff were warm without being intrusive.
We didn’t actually eat at this yakiniku bar, but if anyone asks, this shall be my new motto in life. Hashtag no meat, no life.
5. Go for drinks.
One of the benefits of being without kids is being able to go out for drinks and spend the night talking. We had sake tasting at Kurand Sake Market and whisky/cocktails at classic Japanese bars like Zoetrope.
I didn’t think I’d love Japanese onsens this much but I do. The first few seconds of stepping into a geothermal hot spring (springs?) feels like you’re being cooked, but totally in a good way. And then after a while when your body acclimatises, you start to feel your problems wash away in the relaxing warm water. There was a very decent hot bath at our hotel (Hilton Shinjuku), but we also visited Oedo Onsen Monogatari at Odaiba. It’s admittedly more touristy and crowded that I would have liked but the place was big enough to still be relaxing. Also, Japanese massages are pretty amazing.
We got to do some really fun things this trip but what made it special was getting to spend a whole week with the one person I like most in the whole world. There’s something magical about getting away to a different city that lets you discover the side of yourself that had been locked up and stored away in a dusty little box back home.
We’ve spent so much of the past 11 years being solid, responsible adults who had to take care of the kids and bills and homework and chores and healthy meals and more bills and work stress that it was necessary to let go of the spontaneous, free-spirited, super fun part of ourselves. I mean, it’s hard to put on the hot and exciting wife hat when I’m wearing my boring make-sure-the-kids-are-fed-and-home-is-in-order wife hat all day, every day.
I tell myself that I’ll get to that box again someday but then a year passes and then another and then another and years later, that box is still there, now hidden behind all the other boxes of lost toy parts and old books and leftover craft supplies.
I’m grateful for the life we have and I wouldn’t trade it for anything (and also, I missed my babies every moment till my heart hurt) but it was a treat to spend a week feeling like kids again. We held hands and walked for hours under the stars like teenagers; the way we used to when we first fell in love. We stole kisses on escalators and on sidewalks. We did a lot more than steal kisses but you probably don’t need to know that. We talked and laughed and talked some more until it felt like we would run out of words, but that would have been okay too because just being together in silence was good enough for me.
It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been together for 18 years and married for 12. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the same time, this feels like the only life I can remember, waking up every morning next to this wonderful man.
We’ve only been back home for 2 days and being able to hold my babies again makes my heart complete. It also suddenly feels like the trip was whole lifetime ago because that box is back up on the shelf again, this time displayed a little more prominently so I get to glance at it from time to time as I go about my day.
I’m happy to do all the boring grown up stuff with this man and for however long that box remains on the shelf, it makes me smile to remember that we’ll always have Tokyo.