See You, Tokyo

On my way back to Takikawa after a great stay in Matsumoto, I spent one last night in Tokyo. Having already visited Tokyo’s major attractions before and knowing some old favorites, I wanted time to enjoy a city I’ve grown to love before not returning for an indefinite period of time.

First off, July in Tokyo is hot, and that disrupted my plans as I schlepped my duffle through the city until I checked into my capsule hotel at night. When I arrived at Shinjuku Station, I grabbed a nitro iced coffee from Verve and then took the Yamanote Line to Ueno Station. By the time I reached Yamabe Okachimachi for tonkatsu for lunch, I’d sweated through my shirt and was ready to gulp down every tiny glass of tea I got. The restaurant was just a single counter with many people eating alone on their lunch break, and the tonkatsu teishoku set was great, if heavy for a hot day like this.

I walked back to Ueno Park and spent some time there drinking coffee and people watching. Ueno Park has always been one of my favorite places in Tokyo for its slightly dated feel, its long paths, and all the different people who walk through it. Whether on a warm January day, for hanami, or in the sweltering July heat, Ueno Park is always somewhere I want to visit when I’m in Tokyo.

At one point, the heat did become a little much, so I ducked inside the National Museum of Nature and Science for a while. I particularly enjoyed the exhibits about Japanese wildlife and geology. There is also a 360 degree theater that had 3D shows on dinosaurs and the like that were interesting. A lot of the signage in the museum is only in Japanese, though.

In the evening I went back to Harajuku for coffee and to try one of their famous crepes. Japanese crepes are good, but the ones in Harajuku aren’t any different from those elsewhere except that they’re from Harajuku. I also stumbled upon Deus Ex Machina Coffee, a shop that had been on my list. Their coffee was really good, and inside are some bikes that you can look at.

For dinner, I had amazing curry at Yogoro, a small joint in nearby Shibuya, and the walk back to the train station from there was quite peaceful. One of my favorite things about Tokyo is that in a city of its size, it’s so easy to find quiet neighborhoods and really livable places.

Once I checked into Capsule Hotel Hatagoya, a favorite from my last visit, for the night, I dropped my bags and was back out for a drink at the Bar Ben Fiddich, a recommendation from my sister from her visit. The bar is inside a typical Japanese building with bars on different floors, and you have to walk through what feels like an apartment staircase to arrive so you feel like you’re trespassing. Inside, the bar creates a completely different environment. When I first stepped in, I thought I was intruding on a private party, but then I realized that people sit down and enjoy watching the bartender deftly mix drinks, finding something therapeutic in it. The mojito I had here was the best I’ve ever tasted, and it was a good place to sit for a while after a hot day in Tokyo.

On my way back, I walked back through the surrounding part of Shinjuku as I’d visited that area my first night in Japan. At the time, it seemed so unique and “Japanese,” but by then it didn’t seem particularly special, and it was cool to have a visible marker of how my relationship with Tokyo had evolved over the year. 

Before flying back to Hokkaido in the morning, I got breakfast at Ichiran and coffee from 4/4 Seasons, a relaxed, quiet shop that’s open early in the morning (rare in Japan) and serves amazing pourover. I bought some beans to take home as well as another iced latte for my trip back.

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