The Ultimate Tokyo Guide: Food, Attractions and Experiences

The Ultimate Tokyo Guide: Food, Attractions and Experiences

Tokyo, Japan’s capital with its neon-lit streets, is the largest and most populous metropolitan area in the country. A city that prides itself on its ability to constantly change and reinvent itself, Tokyo is one of those cities that will wow you at every turn. With a rich cosmopolitan food scene, one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world and amazingly clean grassy parks, what’s not to love?

With the endless number of things that you can do – splurge on sushi at every street corner, witness the cherry blossoms fall gently all around you as if you were in a movie, a hands-on authentic sushi or gyoza making workshop with a local Japanese family, or even savour grilled chicken from lantern-lit yakitori stands. You may be asking yourself, where do you even start?

So here is the ultimate guide that will help you navigate your way around Japan. Food, attractions and unique experiences that you must not miss out on can all be found below.

Want to know where to get the best eats? Here are the top 5 BonAppetour foodie picks:

1. Zakuro Nihonbashi

The first place that comes to mind for ‘food you have to try in Japan’ would be shabu shabu. Not just any shabu shabu, but the best one from Zakuro. Zakuro serves the finest quality of wagyu beef to cook in your own shabu shabu pot.

With just the right mix of atmosphere, amazing service and out of this world food, it is a perfect spot for tourists like yourself to settle down together with your friends and to enjoy some high-quality dining.

Why Zakuro? Since there are about a hundred other shabu shabu eateries out there! The differentiating factor would be their special ornate copper nabe (cooking pots) that have been handcrafted and been in use for almost 60 years, exuding a sense of treasured antiquity.

Setting the special ornate copper nabe over a stove heated by charcoal produces more heat than gas fire, so as to bring out the flavours in the dash (stock). Come and enjoy a shabu shabu meal perfectly accompanied by beautifully marbled wagyu that will arouse your palate with an undeniable mix of aromas and flavours.

2. Wako Tonkatsu

Entering a japanese restaurant wherever you go, in the section under rice there will always be this dish that says ‘tonkatsu’. You may or may not have ordered it but know that any tonkatsu you may have tried so far cannot beat this restaurant’s Wako Tonkatsu’s pan-crusted deep fried pork cutlet. Crispy and crunchy on the outside yet juicy and soft on the inside.. oh so delicious.

Usually served with fluffy, soft Japanese white rice with a stack of cabbage on the top, pickles and miso soup. Wake Tonkatsu, due to its wide knowledge and expertise in the field of Tonkatsus, offers you two choices: the Rosu-Katsu (loin) and the hire-katsu (fillet).

The loin involves a lot more marbling, hence it’s juicer compared to the fillet. Choose wisely because though they might look vaguely similar, they are all different in taste.

3. Momose

If you were looking for one of Tokyo’s hidden gems, Momose is one of them. Only known to locals, with rarely any tourists crowding the area, there are long lines meandering outside of the restaurant at all times of the day. Momose is an old tempura restaurant that serves the best tempuras in town. The tempuras are crispy and delicious. You do not only get tempuras at this restaurant, there are a myriad of other dishes to choose from. Catch a seat at the bar where you will be able to see the sushi chef slice finely into a slab of tuna and putting together the ultimate flavourful sushi.

4. Tsujita

A franchise restaurant that is popular both in Tokyo and LA. With over a hundred different ramen stalls selling similar types of ramen, Tsujita sets itself apart by creating their own specialty called the tsukemen, otherwise known as the dipping ramen.

The noodles of the Tsukemen are thick, soft to bite into and are served with dipping hot broth full of flavour, and bits of pork to provide that extra crunch. Go and check out what their little shop has to offer. Definitely a ramen experience not to be missed.

5. Mentsudan

This sanuki udon joint, is run by Kazutoshi Tao who is the chief of an udon club and a gourmet columnist. The udon that you will devour at this joint is handmade by noodle experts from Kagawa. Like many other udon joints in the city, it is an unassuming spot for anyone who wants to eat udon in Japan.

You walk up to the counter, order your noodles, then pick your toppings and make your payment. Fast and efficient. An added extra incentive to come to this restaurant is that there are DIY beer pouring machines where you can drink until your heart’s content!

Want to make your trip more worthwhile? Try dining with a Local in their home where they will cook up delicious Japanese delicacies! Join our home chef Mayuko in her little kitchen to cook up a beautiful feast.

In-between breakfast-lunch and lunch-dinner, you should visit these few attractions that have all played a vital role in shaping Japan today:

1. Meji Shrine

The completion of the Meji Shrine in 1920 was dedicated to the deified spirits of the 19th-century Emperor Meiji (first emperor of modern Japan) and Empress Shoken. Emperor Meiji was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1867 at the peak of the Meiji Restoration when Japan’s feudal era came to an end and the Emperor was restored to power.

The Edo Period was a dark time in Japan’s history where Tokugawa Leyasu gained control of Japan and ruled unfairly, helping the rich like himself and making the poor much worse off. The shrine was destroyed during the Second World War, eight years after the passing of the Emperor Meiji, but was rebuilt shortly after that.

The serene yet austere atmosphere of the shrine offers spacious walking paths for you to take a relaxing stroll around the park. A 40-foot-high torii stands tall at the entrance of the 200-acre park, lined with thousands of cypresses, and offers a hideout from the urban and bustling Tokyo.

At the Meji Shrine, there is a communal water tank where you will be able to submerge your hands and mouth to purify them before offering up a prayer to the gods. Writing your wishes on little pieces of paper and tying them onto the prayer wall or tossing some yen into the offering box are some of the local activities that you can take part in.

Whilst doing this, bow your head twice, clap twice and bow once more. This is a typical Shinto (indigenous faith of the Japanese people) activity. Open from sunrise to sunset, you must seize this chance to immerse yourself in some local practices and history.

2. Tsukiji Fish Market

The name Tsukiji Fish market should not sound foreign to you, for it is the world’s largest, busiest, and stink-free fish market.

Seeing rows and rows of fresh fish and other seafood and the bustling atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers, and tourists moving around the market has attracted many tourists from around the world. Handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day, it is a favourite destination for tourists to come at 5 a.m. to witness the live tuna auctions.

Tip: Before you go to the market check the website if the auction will be open to the public that day and then apply at the Osaka Fukyu Center (fish information center) at the Kachidoki gate, on a first come first basis of only 120 people every morning. Registration starts at 4.30 a.m.

As Tsukiji Fish market is one of the largest in the world, you would need to know how to navigate yourself around it. There are several off limits areas to the public as well as an inner and outer market where different activities occur.

The inner market is where raw ingredients can be found and bought whereas the outer market has sushi, cooked food etc for you to indulge in. To ensure that daily routine of these Japanese people runs smoothly, you should strictly follow the map and stay on the course meant for tourists, and not venture off.

Several rules you need to take note of when going to the market:

  • You are only allowed into the wholesale markets after 9am
  • Do not enter restricted areas
  • Do not obstruct traffic
  • No large bags or suitcases
  • Advised not to wear high heels and sandals for it is wet
  • Do not bring small children or pets
  • No smoking
  • Do not touch anything unless you have the intention of buying it

If you follow these rules, there shouldn’t be a problem and your time at the Tsukiji Market should be a breeze and an eye-opener.

Due to the number of tourists that visit the Tsukiji market, authorities are concerned that the current infrastructure will not be able to accommodate the growing number of people visiting every year. Therefore the market is scheduled to move to a new location in Toyosu in November 2016.

3. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), the Shinjuku Gyoen was built to serve as Tokugawa Leyasu’s residence, the Emperor at the time. Afterwards, during the Meiji restoration period, the Shinjuku Gyoen was converted into a garden for recreational and entertainment for guests.

Similar to the Meiji Shrine, it was destroyed during the war and rebuilt later in 1949 as a public park. Since then many locals and tourists fill the park, especially during the cherry blossom period.

A tranquil garden that will appeal to all of you who seek to escape the busy and urban city centre. Shinjuku Gyeon National garden is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. Because it is so huge, it is split into 3 gardens – The Japanese, English, and French Garden.

The first of the three, The Japanese Garden, is the oldest and most traditional. It features large ponds dotted with large koi fishes and lined with well-manicured bushes all around. Several pavilions can be found around the garden where you can take a short rest from walking around the park.

The first two weeks of every November, there is a chrysanthemum exhibition where you can view the beautiful arrangement of flowers and also buy a few seedlings if you wish to go home and nurture them.

The second park, The English Garden, is a personal favourite. The large lush green lawns that extend as far as the eye can see are truly an amazing and beautiful sight. You can nestle under a tree for some shade and have a small picnic together with your loved ones. Despite being in the centre of bustling Tokyo, the air in the park feels especially fresh and rejuvenating. Spread your arms out and take in a large breath of air 🙂

Lastly, The French Garden features a rose garden and beautiful meandering paths where you can take a leisurely stroll. Walking through the garden, the branches of the beautiful trees will hang above you. Watch as the sun rays try to break through the leaves. A beautiful sight!

4. Ueno Onshi Park

Ueno Onshi is another park that you have to visit, as it is one of the first parks in Japan that was designated as a public park. A feature that makes Ueno Onshi Park one of the must-see parks of Tokyo, is the Kaneiji temple. It is one of the city’s largest and wealthiest temples, which was the home of the Tokugawa clan during the Edo period.

He lead the country into political stability and economic growth under shogunate (military dictatorship). The beautiful cherry blossoms that fill the park have also become one of Japan’s ‘Must-sees’.

Kaneiji temple, similar to the other 2 attractions mentioned, was destroyed during the world war two but later rebuilt and designed similar to a western-style park in 1873. Other features include several famous and well known museums such as the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum for Western Art and even Japan’s first zoological garden.

5. Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo tower opened in 1958 and since then served as both a telecommunications tower and a tourist attraction. Its design and architecture was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, just smaller and painted in red and white. The tower is over 333 metres tall and a good place to enjoy a 360-degree view of Tokyo.

This particular attraction is one that the Japanese people hold very close to their hearts. Not only because it is a vital landmark in Tokyo’s skyline, but also because it played a very important role in Japan’s growth. This structure acts as a tribute to all the hard work of Japanese ancestors and the people today, that contributed to Japan’s rapid industrialisation as well as economic growth.

Today, despite being one of Tokyo’s oldest transmitter, it is the most distinguished throughout the Kanto region. Transmiting radio, digital radio and digital television.

If these attractions are too tourist-packed for your liking, and you are looking for something off-the-beaten path, here are some other experiences you need to take part in in Japan:

1. Capsule Hotels

With so many interesting concepts and experiences to delve into these days, we often ask ourselves ‘what inspired this idea?’ The Capsule Hotel came about first in 1979 designed for Japanese men who were too busy to go home or too drunk and missed the last train home. They are designed like Lego blocks stacked on top of one another. The width of each capsule is similar to the width of a coffin (not the best analogy, we admit…)

These capsule hotels were originally designed for men only, as there was a reasonable amount of risk for women staying in such places. However there are several capsule hotels all round Japan that offer ‘men only’ and ‘women only’ sections.

Though its original purpose was meant as such, there is no sign saying you can’t try it out for a night. All you need is a keen sense of adventure and a leap of faith from the usual comforts of the hotel room with room service and your individual toilets.

2. Sumo Wrestling

Wherever you come from, you would definitely have a national sport. Baseball for America, Rugby Union for New Zealand, Golf for Scotland, and for Japan, Sumo Wrestling. Sumo wrestling is a competitive full-contact sport where wrestlers attempt to force their competitor our of the circular ring, or touching the ground with anything other than the soles of their feet. The men who usually take part in Sumo Wrestling weigh more than 330 pounds (about 145 Kg).

Becoming a professional sumo wrestler is very demanding and nothing like a vacation at all. Training begins at five in the morning and continues until the afternoon with few breaks. Their training includes them whamming their bodies into an opponents body and slamming against wooden planks. The saying blood, sweat, and tears really describes their life to a tee.

If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three grand tournaments that take place in January, May and September, then this is an eye-opening experience to definitely indulge in!

3. Komadori Sanso

Shukubo Komadori-sanso is a mountain lodge that is centuries old. Getting there may be a challenge, but as they say ‘nothing good comes easy’. From the city centre, it involves a 3 hour journey to the lodge. Two trains, a bus, a cable car and a 15 minute walk is all you need to finally reach the lodge. Every minute spent travelling there would be worth the time (trust us!), from beautiful panoramic forest views to relaxing in the mountains with a natural waterfall massaging your back. Something off-the-beaten path for you to experience.

4. Oedo Onsen Monogatari 

Who does hot springs better than Japan? Anyone who has been to Japan and tried their onsen will agree with me without any hesitation. Ode Onsen Monogatari offers both open air and private onsens served together with traditional Japanese food.

Housing over 6 different baths, including those you can lie down in a tub with lukewarm water for summer. The water is drawn from 1,400 metres underground and the thermal baths are believed to be able to relieve your nerves, muscle and joint pain.

5. Dine with a local

If you are really looking for a off-the-beaten path experience that gives you an insight into local life, this is one to try. Organised by BonAppetour, you will be given the opportunity to go to a local’s home and dine at their place, eating lovely home cooked food, sharing stories about Japan, introducing must-eat restaurants and many more. The possibilities are endless!

Head over now, to subscribe as well as sign up and book the next meal that you are going to have with your hosts.

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6 Ways to Indulge in Fine Dining without Breaking your Wallet

6 Ways to Indulge in Fine Dining without Breaking your Wallet

While fine dining could be an everyday option for some, for others, the idea of visiting an upscale, exquisite and posh restaurant could be daunting or simply, unnerving. The cause of this nightmare is none other than the hefty bill one has to fork out to enjoy a taste of the finest quality. Yet, it never stops us from indulging in our guilty pleasure once in a while, whether is it on a special occasion or just to pamper ourselves with a treat at the end of the week. Thankfully, taking a few steps will just do the trick in realising our dream of acquiring a fine dining experience without breaking the bank.

Here are the 6 ways:

1. Engage in social dining platform to experience fine dining with local hosts at their homes.

Fine dining and wallet friendly probably sounds paradoxical but this is precisely what social dining platform like BonAppetour specialises in, providing a fine dining gastronomical experience for you with local hosts without burning a hole in your pocket. Fret no more about reservations, simply search for a local host that has an opening for dinner, and you would find yourselves immersed in a local’s company for a gourmet fix for the night.

2. Maximise your dining experience at the off-peak hours

Ditch candlelit dinner for a daylight light-hearted meal that guarantees wallet-friendly bill. In general, lunchtime fine dining is priced lower and the best deals such as set lunches could easily be caught despite the smaller portion. Also, enhance your meal experience by dropping by on weekday nights like Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid scrambling against the crowd for a table, and needless to say, every waiter would probably be at your disposal.


3. Have your cake and eat it too

A meal just wouldn’t be complete without desserts, and they are probably ranked as essential for our sweet-toothed meal buddy. Tapping into our needs for instant gratification, the price of desserts in fine dining restaurants are strategically hiked up. Hence, a smarter way of consumption would probably be picking a nearby cafeteria for pastries and a cup of tea that costs you a quarter of your bill at the restaurant. 


4. Abandon your ‘Top 10 restaurants to visit’ list and be your own list maker

Discard your list of must-go restaurants that have most likely made a name for themselves in the fine dining industry. Backed by popularity among the restaurant-goers, prices for cuisine in these established fine dining restaurants are off the roofs. Why not take a day off at be your own list maker? Be adventurous and unearth new restaurants in your neighbourhood. Who knows? A future Michelin restaurant could await to be discovered at the turn of the street.

5. Buy online discount vouchers

There are plenty of websites that facilitate consumers’ access to cheap deals and savings without forfeiting on the quality of the commodity. So why cut yourself short when you can enjoy both exquisite dining and massive cost savings through using platform like DealslandsUK where you can get exclusive deals and huge savings of up to 80% at restaurants by keeping a lookout for coupons or vouchers offered on the site.

6. Be the chef for the day

Who says that fine dining has to be provided or catered? Swap that business attire for an apron a day and be transform your house into a fine dining ambience for a heart-warming dining experience for your close friends and family. The upside for such venture is definitely the ability in serving customised food to your guests that have a dietary requirement. Did I mention that you will also get to sharpen your culinary skills and perhaps receive a bottle of wine from your grateful guests?


Photo credits: 12 | 345 | 6



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5 Handy tips you must know if you are solo travelling in Barcelona

5 Handy tips you must know if you are solo travelling in Barcelona

Home to 9 UNESCO world heritage, it is no surprise that Barcelona welcomes 7.8 million globetrotters from all around the world as of 2014, and proudly acclaims its rank as the top 5 European countries to travel to. For thrill seekers who are planning a solo jaunt, Barcelona promises an adventure of self-discovery and self-indulgence that offers much liberation. To soften any turbulence during your expedition, here are 5 tips that are pulled together to make your trip a smooth sailing one.

1. Be accountable for your own safety

Armed with bulky luggage and disoriented in a foreign land, tourists make easy bait for quick theft. To counteract such unwelcomed guests to your pockets would be to plan well ahead your arrival. It is definitely recommended to schedule your arrival at a new location before the night falls so as to give yourself ample time to navigate your way to the accommodation and deposit your baggage. Also, while it is not uncommon that solo travelers are constantly on the lookout for cheap thrills, never risk your safety while practicing frugality. Flag down a cab if it is pitch dark to make sure that you are safe and sound for exploration the next day. 


2.  Be alert and instinctive

Instead of veering off from famous tourist attractions like La Sagrada Familia or Las Rambles that are hotbed for thieves, read widely on prevalent scams and pickpocketing techniques so that you are regularly in check for your valuables. It is always a wise decision to decentralize your money and place them in different compartments to avoid putting all eggs in a basket. There is no better advice than to listen to your instinct and intuition. If you feel that something is amiss, switch to safer routes and be constantly in the public. After all, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

3. Be solo but open to travel companions

While solo travelling does have its perks, having a travelling companion in your solo trip may be equally rewarding! Finding a travel companion would be a breeze if you are staying in hostels where virtually every person you see is a travel enthusiast and would hop on to any impromptu plan that makes a great addition to their to-do list. Another alternative channel would be to partake in bond activities that bring travelers together, providing a platform for you to mingle and share travel hacks with.

4. Putting on a disguise

Looking fancy is probably something you are not interested in if you are on a solo sojourn, and we suggest you swap those ritzy wallets and Swarovski phone cases to battered ones to lessen it as a target for wallet lifters. In addition, having a phony phone conservation on the cab with ‘somebody’ explaining your location, your estimated time of arrival as well as the car plate license would easily create an illusion that you are accompanied.  Acting as an effective protective measure against ill-intentioned cab drivers, you can be pretty sure that you will arrive at your designated location in one piece.  

5. Worry a little less, enjoy a little more

Perhaps it is your first attempt in embarking on a solo jaunt, and you are in a bundle of nerves. Instead of preoccupying your mind with scenarios and coming up with 101 ways your trip could go wrong, sit back and relax! As much as you have to be cognizant of your surroundings, tap on your identity as a solo traveler and take advantage of solo benefits! One of the luxuries is to be flexible with your itinerary and travel on your own terms, you can even abandon certain sightseeing spots for an afternoon coffee break. It’s your call!

Being a solo traveler is really a privilege that not everyone gets the chance to enjoy, and you certainly do not have to wait for someone to bestow you that entitlement. As the saying goes, ‘Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer’. What are you waiting for? Start packing your bag and take a leap of faith! I promise you that you will not regret it.






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A Family Friendly Barcelona

A Family Friendly Barcelona

Traveling with kids is no easy task. Not always fascinated by stunning architecture or the variety of Tapas and Cava available, Barcelona might seem like an unlikely place to bring your children to for a family holiday. However, Barcelona definitely has more to offer than just architecture and food, that is suitable for travelers of all ages. Here are six activities that can keep both you and your little ones entertained.


1. Tibidabo Amusement Park

The Tibidabo Amusement Park is a must go for families with children. With 25 rides like classic roller coasters and even a haunted mansion to discover, great shows and street theater performances, the Tibidabo Amusement Park promises a fun-filled time for family members of all ages. Plus, get a bird’s eye view of Barcelona on the Giradabo, a Ferris wheel in the park’s Skywalk area. Less than an hour away from the city center by public transport and shuttle buses, the Tibidabo Amusement Park should definitely be visited with your entire family.




2. CosmoCaixa

Why not pay a visit to one of the largest and most exciting museums in all of Spain? With an endless amount of interactive exhibitions that include an exhibition on how sand dunes develop and move, by making your own sandstorm, and there's even a planetarium to explore! Definitely do not miss their 1,000 m² jungle greenhouse which is home to 30 m tall trees from the Amazon, and you can even see animals from the tropics, some of which are even free-roaming! There is certainly bound to be something for everyone in this museum, both children and adults alike.



3. Visit the Aquarium

With 35 different tanks, 11,000 animals and 450 different species of marine life to discover in Barcelona’s L’aquarium, it is definitely an attraction worth visiting for all families. Spend an afternoon in awe, traveling through an underwater tunnel 80 meters long, playing "finding Nemo" with your kids, and observing the myriad of ocean creatures that call one of the largest oceanariums in all of Europe their home. The L’Aquàrium de Barcelona is definitely a must go for a fun family day out.


4. Visit the beach

A trip to Barcelona is not complete without visiting its prized beaches. Enjoy the sun and sand with your little ones as you bask in the glorious beaches of this coastal city. You can even have a picnic day by the beach, with lots of space for your children to run around and play. The best part? You do not have to travel hours upon hours out of the city to have some fun in the sun, with the Barcelona beach only being a mere 20 minutes away from the city center by Metro! 


5. Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a stunning musical display of colored lights and water acrobatics, that come together to produce sheer magic. Just minutes away from the Espanya metro station, the magic fountain is certainly not one to be missed when you are in Barcelona. Both your kids and yourself will definitely be in for a treat as this visual spectacle is one of the most visited attractions in all of Barcelona.  It should be noted that the fountain does not operate on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and show times vary throughout the year.


6. Take a Cooking Class

Expose your children to the culinary wonders that Barcelona has to offer by taking a cooking class! Get their hands down and dirty through an interactive cooking class that engages both you and your children, while learning about the culture and cuisine of Barcelona. Your young ones will surely have a blast making and eating the delicious food, that they helped to make. Many of our BonAppetour hosts offer cooking classes, like David, who will teach you how to make Paella from scratch! This is certainly a great way for the whole family to learn more about the city, while having delicious and authentic food, straight from a local's kitchen. 

Barcelona is definitely not a city just for adults to enjoy, but for the entire family as well! Hopefully, these tips have helped you plan a fruitful trip to Barcelona. If you think that we missed out something important, do let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear more about your plans to travel to Barcelona.

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