About a half hour from Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum features ramen shops and a recreated 1950s Japanese town.
Home to about a quarter of Japan’s population, Tokyo is a city of polite people with a refined, simple and elegant aesthetic who also adore gaudy kitsch. Here, there’s no apparent contradiction between the beauty of a single orchid and an Hermès bag, an ultramodern skyscraper and an ancient Buddhist temple.
Best Free Show and Sushi in Town
The Tsukiji Fish Market is Tokyo’s largest fish market, moving 2,000 tons of fish every day around the world. Get there by 5 a.m. to watch the fascinating daily tuna auction, where a good-sized tuna sells for tens of thousands of dollars. Just walk in and stroll around, but stay out of the way—this is a busy workplace. Then eat at Sushi Dai on the perimeter of the market. Never had sushi at 6:30 a.m.? You’ll wonder why after you settle into the tiny bar. The wait is worth it. (Tsukiji 5-2-1)
At NUNO Tokyo, experts have pioneered interesting ways to weave using new technology and materials. You’ll find their stuff in MoMA’s permanent collection, but visit the source and shop at this hip store, located in the Axis Building in the fashionable Roppongi neighborhood.
Nuts for Noodles: Soba & Ramen
The Japanese take their soba—buckwheat noodles served in a hot or cold broth with a dipping sauce—seriously. They demand it be stone ground fresh daily, and you should, too. Every detail is perfect at Honmura An, where Yoko Ono likes to slurp (it’s encouraged) when in town. Among the 5,000 ramen shops in Tokyo, the favorite of Tokyo foodie Shinji Nohara is Kaduya near the residential neighborhood of Meguro. It’s reminiscent of an old-school ramen joint from Juzo Itami’s film Tampopo, and its raman features complex layers of chicken, pork, dried sardine, dried mackerel, dried kelp and vegetable broths.
Take traditional green tea in a relaxed atmosphere at Higashiya, where you don’t need to scrunch uncomfortably on tatami mats. For cocktail lovers, imagine an intimate, dark bar with a wall of bottles from around the world. Barkeeps in tuxedo shirts hand-chip clear ice to conform to the shape of your heavy crystal glass and then gently slide your perfect drink across the bar. Welcome to Wodka Tonic. It’s open 365 days and won’t close until you’re ready to leave.
Sky contributing editor Rudy Maxa, host of 78 travel episodes on public TV, is cohost of the syndicated radio show Rudy Maxa’s World with Christopher Elliott.