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A Journeywoman's Top Tokyo Tips...

 

Fun evening entertainment...

Good value for entertainment includes stopping at a karaoke box. Notice I used the term, 'box”. It’s not a bar where you have to get up and sing in front of the entire office. Rather, you and your friend rent a room for two hours. Ranging in size from a closet to a small office-size, you get a sofa, microphone and big TV with a huge phone book of songs. The drinks are all you can drink for the two hours – usually costing $10 each, total. The staff will call your room when you have 10 minutes left – you can extend your time or sing your heart out for one last song.

 

Interesting restaurants to consider...

If you want healthy eats, try Otoya – it’s a fast-food style, healthy Japanese food restaurant – the sets are great value – you can get soup, rice, fish, pickles, drinks and sometimes dessert. Otoya was designed for women who lunch alone, so all branches are located on the second floor of buildings, to give women more privacy. Every station will have a branch of Otoya nearby, off the street level. Look up!

Starbucks is still the only non-smoking coffee shop in the city. While others may have a non-smoking section, it’s probably set right next to the smokers.

You’ll naturally want to try some sushi – it’s the best in the world. Look for a kaiten (revolving) sushi shop and plunk yourself down at the counter. You make the green tea yourself, set out a little ginger and happily pick away from the revolving counter. The different plates are color-coded according to price. Posted on the wall behind the chef and on the counter near you, should be a price list with the color-coding. Some dishes are quite cheap ($1.50/plate/2 pieces) and you can request some miso soup or pickles for the side. When you are finished, the waitress will rush over and count your dishes, giving you a receipt to pay at the till. In the newer sushi places, they have a scanner that counts the dishes at once.

I’d like to recommend two great cafes – both in Shibuya and both run by friendly, welcoming American women. The first is the Pink Cow. Open for several years now, it offers vegetarian food, western tex-mex and plenty of events – film nights, Stitch-n-Bitch, art shows, visiting cyclists, charity nights, costume nights, etc. The owner, Traci Consoli, is a Tokyo favorite and the atmosphere is fun and eccentric. It’s in the basement, so you need to print off a map however whether you're a local or a visiting Journeywoman, you will be greeted warmly. Website: http://www.thepinkcow.com/

The same goes for Cozmos Café, located nearby. Owner, Ronna Wagamier, hosts a lot of live music, performing arts, belly dance shows and she has a great menu to chose from which changes daily – curry, pies, nachos, etc. Open from 5pm, it can really get hopping. Again, print off a map and if you are lost, you can call for directions (as both are Western-owned). Great place to meet Westerners who work in Tokyo and to hear live music. Website: http://www.cozmoscafe.com

Lunch sets in Tokyo are the best value in the city – for 1200 yen ($12), you can get a full set of soup, salad, main, dessert and drink. This is a great chance to try a famous/expensive/unique restaurant without having an enormous bill. Indian restaurants offer all-you-can-eat buffets, sushi shops offer a set of fish, and even the hotels offer lunch sets – if you can, always chose that option – it’s the best value and best chance to try a variety of dishes.

My two favorite restaurants in Tokyo are TY Harbour in Shinagawa and Cicada in Hiroo. Both are owned by the same company and serve their house beer, brewed at TY Harbour. The July 4th bbq is the best deal of the year – out on the water, 3,000 yen and all the food you can eat for the day – ribs, chili, corn bread, etc. Always great service, lots of English spoken. Take a taxi from Shinagawa station. Website: http://www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp

Cabana (Ebisu) French/Californian is another choice with lots of vegetarian dishes and great service in English. A little pricey (my meal with appetizers, wine, and a main was 5,000 yen). It's located near the Westin Hotel. Website: http://www.cabanacc.com/

Doma Doma is the healthiest izakaya (A definitive feature of an izakaya is that it serves food as well as drink. Patrons typically sit on tatami mats and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style.) It's a chain that serves lots of sashimi and fresh options. You'll find them open until the wee hours at almost every station.

Monsoon Café also has many locations. The one in Daikanyama is quite large, also Ebisu and if you ever go out to Tama Plaza, theirs is huge with an outdoor garden, waterfall, mist. The food is mixed Asian and drinks are very well-mixed.

Mauresque serves French/Japanese. Their chef studied in France and speaks French. This restaurant is small and hard to find, there isn’t really a proper sign outside but it serves excellent food and has a huge wine selection. Shiroganedai. Tel: 03 3445 2880

Oto Oto located in Ebisu Garden Place is impressive if you have guests. Expect minimal design and a reasonable menu. If you print off the map/coupon from the internet, you can have a free drink/dessert. Print one coupon per person and you can do it every time you go there. It’s easy for people arriving on the limousine bus at the Westin. Address: Ebisu Glass Square B1F, 4-20-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku (Yebisu Garden Place) Tokyo 150-6090, Tel: 03-5791-7666.

 

Budget lodging in Tokyo...

For other women travelling to Japan I recommend Ryokan Toukaisou in the old downtown section of Asakusa in Tokyo. They offer single and double private tatami mat rooms. At this price ($US33 for a single), I would usually expect to share a bathroom but here each room has it's own shower, toilet, and soaking tub. The small town feel of Asakusa is wonderful to return to after a hectic day of exploring Tokyo. Website: http://www.toukaisou.com
Stephanie, Austin,Texas, USA

 

Avoid cleavage in Japan...

Japan is famous for its fashion-forward clothes and people here (especially in cities) dress up to an unbelievable degree. Yet we are also used to Western tourists wearing sneakers and casual clothes and we're not bothered by that. The big no-nos in this part of the world are showing cleavage, and allowing any parts of your breasts to show through tight tops. All the Japanese bras have a layer of foam to prevent this. I suggest visitors wear a double layer or a bra with a tiny bit of padding or a heavier sports bra. That should do the trick.
Jen, Osaka, Japan

 

A member in Japan writes...

I live in Tokyo, and find that tampons are readily available in every conbini (convenience) store and drugstore. I can't say for sure about outside of Tokyo, but I believe tampons are easily available throughout the country.

Also, one of the best restaurants in Tokyo (especially for the money) is a place called Kaikaya, near Shinsen Station on the Inokashira line, or less than a 15-minute from Shibuya Station. For info: www.kaikaya.com -- and tell them Alex-san sent you!
Alexis Alvarez-Suzuki, Tokyo, Japan

 

 

 

 

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