Have you ever been to Japan? Specifically, have you ever been to Tokyo?
If you're after a sensory overload of sights, sounds, bites and delights then Tokyo is the place to go. I invited Aussie expat and now Tokyo local, Andy the owner and operator of DIG Tokyo Tours to share his insights of what's good in Tokyo.
Andy's tours are akin to what Newy Rides is all about - authentic, local experiences that go off the beaten track. Search him out next time you want to explore a new city. Let's get on with it.
With the reopening of Japanese borders to international tourists soon on the horizon, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about that elusive trip to Tokyo that's always been on the cards.
The lack of tourist traffic these past two years has empowered the locals to reclaim their city and what better way to experience this revitalisation and slice of ‘local Tokyo’ than to support the hardworking business owners that have persevered to breathe life into the streets.
For a bit of variety on your next trip, get out there and show your support for the following small businesses.
Follow the irresistible scent of barbequed chicken to the doors of Yakitori Ebisu. With four store-fronts intimately grouped together around Nishi Ogikubo Station, there’s no denying the popularity of this eatery that’s always overflowing with rowdy locals and yakitori connoisseurs.
Grab a stool at the smokey counter or arrive early to secure a table for a boisterous night out with friends. From the affordable menu, start with a selection of charcoal grilled chicken, pork or vegetable skewers followed up by a fistfull of tasty izakaya style dishes. The always in demand ‘iwashi-koroke’, a deep fried sardine and potato croquette, should be on the top of your order list if you’re in search of something tasty and unique.
With a mouthwatering offering of dishes, sake from prefectures far and wide and perfectly chilled draft beer on tap, it’s hard to go wrong with Yakitori Ebisu for that welcoming small town izakaya feeling in the big city.
Address: 3-11-5 Nishiogiminami Tokyo
Hiroshima Okonomiyaki Mikazuki
Hiroshima Okonomiyaki Mikazuki sits unpretentiously on one of the quieter corners in Koenji’s labyrinth of ‘shotengai’. Ideal for take-away picnics in Suginami’s surrounding parks, group get-togethers or late night dining, Mikazuki’s talented master and sparkling teppan set the scene for a memorable meal out.
As the store’s name hints at, Mikazuki offers a selection of Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, yakisoba and teppanyaki dishes. Choose between various seafood and meat themed okonomiyaki options or get stuck into a more adventurous mochi and cheese blend. The prices, while a little on the higher side than elsewhere in the neighborhood can easily be justified by the moody local atmosphere, generous servings and the theatrics of Mikazuki’s master sweating away at his craft behind the sizzling teppan.
Address: 2-17-7 Koenjikita Tokyo
Bar Mugen, hidden away in the basement of a nondescript office building, typifies Koenji’s edgy but always welcoming independent bar scene. Anime fans, neighborhood business owners and those solely out for a late night drink can all be found shoulder-to-shoulder at the toy laiden bar between the hours of 9pm and 4am.
The Hayashi’s, the husband and wife team behind Bar Mugen, greet each new face with a smile and a seat. A television placed prominently behind the counter screens a wide range of the couple's favorite anime. Requests from patrons are always encouraged and can be projected instantly via ‘D Anime Store’ which hosts an expansive catalog of 2,000+ anime productions.
The hours between 1am and 2am sees Bar Mugen at its busiest, catering to the late night regulars and Koenji’s hospitality workers treating themselves to a well deserved drink after work. With an even split of anime fans and local guests, an education in anime isn't required to enjoy a drink in the welcoming company of the Hayashis and their eclectic guests at Bar Mugen.
Address: 3-58-17 Plaza USA Building Koenjiminami Tokyo
About DIG Tokyo Tours
DIG’s passion is local Tokyo bike tours and intimate walking and street food jaunts in the vibrant Tokyo neighborhoods of Koenji, Asagaya and Nakano. DIG’s immersive ‘no fuss’ Tokyo tours have been uniquely crafted to give you an honest local insight into life here away from the tourist crowds. No staged demonstrations, kickbacks from local vendors or special treatment; you'll be queuing and navigating the neighborhoods as a member of the community on outings such as the Tokyo West-Side Cycling and Food Tour.
I hope to see you out and about over this side of Tokyo soon,
Website: DIG Tokyo Tours