Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

For our Christmas trip this year, we decided to head back to Tokyo. Every trip to Tokyo has been memorable and we’ve never had a bad experience there, so it was time to return! I’ll split this series into a few posts because there are so many images I want to share of this epic city. We started our trip in the trendy Shibuya area, known for its trend-setting clothing companies and hip restaurants and bars.

Most of the images below are from Shibuya, but some are from other areas that we visited while using Shibuya as our base. I’ve also grouped all of the restaurant recommendations into this one post to keep it easy to follow, and those restaurants were located across the city, including Roppongi, Shinjuku and of course Shibuya.  

The view everyone comes for with Mt. Fuji in the distance, taken from Shibuya Sky; GFX100 II 64mm ISO-80 1/240sec f/8
Tokyo Plaza entrance in Harajuku; GFX100 II 32mm ISO-1250 1/25sec f/4
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/2500sec f/1.7
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/6400sec f/1.7
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/85sec f/4

Hotel Indigo Tokyo Shibuya

Our goals for this trip were to eat and shop. Therefore, we didn’t stay in any fancy hotels and instead prioritized our budget on food, drinking and buying as much “Made in Japan” products as we could. Our hotel in Shibuya was the Hotel Indigo Tokyo Shibuya. As is typical at this time of the year, prices were high but manageable given our small room. 

LEICA M11 35mm ISO-1000 1/80sec f/2.4
View from the “Premium King Room With View” GFX100 II 32mm ISO-160 1/640sec f/4

We booked the “Premium King Room with View” and because I’m an IHG member, I think they upgraded us to a higher floor on the 27th. The room itself was well appointed but small as most hotel rooms in Tokyo are. Our room was just shy of 30sqm so it paid dividends to unpack the clothes by placing them in the closet so that the luggage could be stowed away. 

We decided against a breakfast package so that it would force us to go out into Shibuya to find breakfast. I’m glad we did as we came across several amazing coffee shops and got the chance to see and feel Tokyo waking up every morning. 

The service, cleanliness, and hotel overall were very good. Most importantly, the location was superb. I’d highly recommend this hotel even just for its location. You have everything within walking distance including Shibuya Station which was less than five minutes by foot. There are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from.

Early morning in the neighbourhood; GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/3500sec f/1.7
Good Good Not Bad coffee shop near the hotel; GFX100 II 55mm ISO-500 1/42sec f/4.5

Shibuya Sky 

One tourist attraction that gained popularity online during the pandemic was Shibuya Sky. It’s a roof top viewing area on top of the Shibuya Scramble mixed use office/retail/food complex. If you’re thinking of visiting Tokyo, it’s worthwhile to book tickets early as they tend to sell out a month in advance for the coveted sunset timeslots. 

The whole process of getting to the rooftop is very easy, however please know that the staff are very polite, but also very strict. You cannot take bags up to the rooftop and you can only take a camera and a phone. The camera can only have the lens attached to it and it must also have a strap. If you don’t have a strap, they will very kindly loan you a rope style strap to attach to your camera. Again, they’re very strict so come prepared to save the hassle.

Shibuya “Scramble” crossing below; GFX100 II 32mm ISO-160 1/340sec f/7.1

Once you take the elevator to the top, you arrive at the glassed-in viewing area first. I’d highly recommend going straight up to the rooftop and then spend time in the fully glassed-in floor later. On the rooftop, you’ll see a corner with a queue; this is for getting “the shot” of the Tokyo view. The staff will take a photo using their equipment first, then give you a few seconds to take a photo with your own gear. Please know that it’s run with military timing precision, so be prepared with all your camera settings ready to go. 

In that same corner, the glass is lower than the rest of the rooftop, so take some time to capture images of Tokyo’s amazing skyline. The staff are again very strict so it’s a totally different vibe than the Mahanakhon in Bangkok where you’re free to roam and do as you please. Most of the rooftop has glass that’s higher than can be reached so practice taking photos from different angles to avoid the reflections or bring one of those rubber bellows shades to block out the stray light.

Glassed in area is hard to avoid reflections, best to go to the rooftop; GFX100 II 32mm ISO-160 1/250sec f/8

The whole Shibuya Sky experience lasted about two hours for us. We took lots of images from both the rooftop and the glassed-in level. There are several restaurants and places to shop in the complex as well, although we found food on the street to be of higher quality and at a lower price. Overall, Shibuya Sky was worth the time and cost. I’d do it again if I could get a sunset timeslot.

Tokyo Skytree on the left and Tokyo Tower on the right; and GFX100 II 64mm ISO-80 1/550sec f/7.1

Amazing Japanese Food

As mentioned in the intro, the primary purposes of this trip were to shop and eat, and eat we did! Below are a few highly recommended places to check out on your next trip to Tokyo.

Sushi Ryuta Roppongi

 Chef Ryuta has created a masterpiece in this omakase sushi restaurant. I have no doubt this will be a Michelin rated restaurant in the future. The environment is very simple and cozy with bar seating only. 

Chef Ryuta and his team are super charming and warm. They took the time to explain every dish, including the source of all the ingredients. Most importantly, the food was incredible with the flavours perfectly balanced. 

LEICA M11 35mm ISO-640 1/80sec f/5.6

This restaurant was so far off the radar that they didn’t even have an English Google Maps entry. I put in the request to Google Maps to update their entry with the English name to make it easier for people to find it. Try to go now before it becomes too popular. 

While we were there, we were the only non-Japanese, however we all found common ground over the great food which led to casual conversations with the other customers throughout the night. The whole experience was like being in a top-notch Chef’s home, having omakase with his closest friends. It was brilliant and I’ll go back again and again.

Nihonryori Tagetsu Omotesando

Chef Hideo Mochizuki created some of the most beautiful kaiseki-style food we’ve ever seen. His warm hospitality and deep care for how the food was presented was like watching a true master in action. Every detail in how the food was prepared, how it was presented and how it was plated were executed to absolute perfection.

Along with the great food, we had the extraordinary experience of being seated next to the most delightful older Japanese couple. The gentleman engaged us in conversation, and we found out that he had worked in the USA before. He shared stories about their life in Japan and how he had been going to Tagetsu since it opened in 2013!

The whole experience was truly magical and we’ll definitely go back again and again. I’d highly recommend it.

TeppanYaki KOBE Beef Steak EBISU84

No trip to Japan would be complete without having the world-famous Kobe Beef. For this trip, we tried two restaurants. EBISU84 was the perfect way to experience our first Kobe Beef on this trip. 

The Chefs were all super professional and friendly, paced the courses with ideal timing and delivered perfectly made steak as the finale. We loved sitting at the bar and would recommend doing the same. You have the choice of Wagyu or Kobe Beef. Since you’ve come all the way to Japan, go for the Kobe Beef!

SushiDan Ginza

Hiroyuki Sato’s new creation after obtaining a Michelin Star at his previous establishment, is a tiny authentic Edomae sushi bar. It’s located with The Restaurant complex (need to go inside and walk past the other small restaurants). 

Head Chef Takehiro Arakawa was charming and welcoming towards us. He took the time to explain how each piece was made, the ingredients and why it was made that way. The fish he uses were unique to me and the style in which they were made were also unique. 

I loved the experience and would go back again. The only thing I’d recommend is to ensure you have a reservation as this small restaurant was very popular and were constantly turning people away. 

Yakitori Tsukada Nakameguro & Shibuya

No trip to Japan would be complete without my favourite Japanese BBQ. This time, we tried Yakitori Tsukada at both locations. The interior design of these restaurants is so perfect; it’s that beautiful Japanese simplicity that belies how much effort went into making it so beautiful, clean and tranquil.

The food was excellent and the service top-notch. There wasn’t much English spoken but menus in English made it easy to point at what we wanted. I’d highly recommend getting an Umeshu Soda (plum wine soda) to go with your Yakitori and try out the Suntory Masters Dream premium malt beer. The silky texture of this beer was incredible.    

GFX100 II 55mm ISO-500 1/42sec f/1.7

Tora Izakaya Shibuya

While walking around late in the evening around Shibuya, we felt the urge to have some izakaya. We checked Google maps and found Tora within a five-minute walking distance. Upon entering, we realized that this was very much a local hot-spot! 

The place was packed with Japanese workers blowing off some steam. While there wasn’t much English spoken, the staff made all-out efforts to make us feel comfortable and confident in what we ordered. The bacon wrapped vegetables were amazing as was the selection of yakitori. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, Tora would be a great way to see how locals eat. 

Imahan Tokyo Sukiyaki Shinjuku

For Sukiyaki, we decided to go a bit upmarket and chose Imahan in Shinjuku. Imahan serves top-quality Kuroge Wagyu and seasonal ingredients in Sukiyaki, Shabu-shabu, Steak and Kaiseki cuisine. We had one of the lunch packages which was cooked by a lovely woman at our table.

My favourite part was having the leftover egg with the perfectly made white rice. The mixture of the egg, a bit of beef fat and the Japanese rice was divine!

Torikizoku Izakaya Multiple Locations

If you’re craving for izakaya and want something very easy to manage, Torikizoku is for you. Their digital iPad ordering system makes it super easy to get exactly what you want and how you want it. You can be in and out within an hour and have that perfect pre-drink or post-clubbing snack. 

The food quality was excellent and the place was packed every time we visited. They have multiple locations around Tokyo so you can keep an eye out for one and give it a try. Super delicious, super convenient, super inexpensive. You can’t go wrong with that!

Mon cher ton ton Roppongi

To celebrate a birthday, we decided to go upmarket for some Kobe beef at Mon cher ton ton. The décor of this restaurant was beautiful, especially the main bar seating area. However, due to its popularity, there were no bar seats remaining and we had to book a private room; if we could have done it again, we would have preferred a seat in the open area, ideally at the bar. 

Mon cher ton ton; GFX100 II 50mm ISO-800 1/10sec f/3.5

The food was excellent and the portions huge. The price was also equivalently huge and worth it for this special occasion. I should note however that this was the first restaurant on this trip where the staff felt distant and cold. The staff were super professional, but perhaps a bit too professional. There was little to no conversation; perhaps this is just the way it’s done when you dine in a private room.

Summary

Shibuya is a fantastic place to call home in Tokyo, with an endless selection of food, shopping and places to have fun. For the next post from Tokyo, we’ll move to Shinjuku, another amazing place to call home, but I think, looking back, we would have preferred to stay in Shibuya for the whole trip. There were just so many cool local shops in Shibuya that we loved visiting, and we felt that the four nights was not enough. 

I hope you enjoy the pics and that it inspires you to visit or revisit the amazing city of Tokyo! 

More Images

GFX100 II 55mm ISO-80 1/40sec f/11
Shibuya; GFX100 II 80mm ISO-250 1/58sec f/1.7
Tokyo Plaza entrance in Harajuku; GFX100 II 32mm ISO-1250 1/25sec f/4
Tower Records!!! GFX100 II 55mm ISO-80 1/45sec f/11
LEICA M11 35mm ISO-160 1/80sec f/4
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-800 1/42sec f/4
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/52sec f/1.7
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-125 1/42sec f/4
GFX100 II 55mm ISO-160 1/4000sec f/1.7

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