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If you take one splash of Vegas, a hint of New York and twist it with a whole lot of Japanese epicness then you start to begin to grasp a little bit of what Tokyo is like.
The biggest & most populated city in the world, landing in Tokyo is, and always will be an experience.
Our first night we were meeting a friend, Dan, who had been residing in Tokyo for the last 2 years. “Meet me at the west exit of Shinjuku station” he said, “and good luck”, so naively we trundled along to said Shinjuku station. Upon arriving, the sheer size of this place was clear. 3 million people (that’s more than the entire population of Paris) pass through this station every day. There are two hundred exits. I mean that’s just ridiculous. Somehow we did manage to find each other, but we were quite late, as of course we got pretty lost along the way!
Walking around Shinjuku is just a minefield of lights, buzzing action and crazy shit for want of a better description, but happily it pretty much lived up to what our expectations of how crazy Tokyo would be.
As a part of our first night drinking in Tokyo experience, Dan took us to local drinking area “Golden Gai”. A stones throw away from the neon lights of Shinjuku these six alleyways and multiple tiny passages are crammed full of nothing but bars – around 200 of them in fact – but the catch? Many of them seat less than 10 people max. They are tiny. We ventured upstairs and ended up in a small 5 seater joint run by Abe-Chan, a super friendly chap who let us try so many drinks, from his prized sake to home-made limoncello.
We loved the “Golden Gai” drinking experience and of course it’s one ‘Tokyo to-do’ we’d highly recommend for a late night stop – before you burst straight through the door of the closest bar though, we recommend you read here about choosing which venue is best to park your arse in.
Tsukiji fish market was the start to our 3rd day, which unsurprisingly is the largest fish market in the world. We of course had the obligatory sushi breakfast knowing this is as close to “off the boat” you’d ever get in a big city. It was delicious and well worth the early start.
The Watering Hole – a small microbrewery about 15 minute walk from Shinjuku station (assuming you pick the correct exit!) was our next stop. They had an interesting local and international selection and pretty cool atmosphere, an absolute world away from the rest of Tokyo.
Luckily, friendly chap and beer lover Abe from Golden Gai had given us some recommendation as to where to head.
Our first stop was Spring Valley Brewery in Daikanyama, a fantastic two story set up in a more residential part of town. Serving an extensive range of their own beer, here they specialise in food and beer pairings which you can do with a full meal or as tasting flights. Their Daikanyama Sparkling, a light sparkling beer served in a champagne flute which tasted very much like a sparkling wine was particularly fancy!
Next stop was Baird Beer in Shibuya, again with a fantastic selection of food (NB Japanese licensing laws mean you have to serve food with drinks). A slightly wider range of beer, and an attempt to draw in the real ale lovers, they have a combination of keg and cask ales available. The set up was half classic Japanese restaurant, half pub, but we enjoyed a couple of drinks before moving on. After sampling the beer Tokyo has to offer, it was time to try something more traditionally Japanese. Sake? Not yet. Karaoke of course!
Well it’s safe to say our experience of Japanese karaoke did it’s job. We stumbled out of our “all you can drink” private karaoke booth about 5 hours later. Returning home after what can only be described as an epic tube journey at 8am on Tuesday morning.
We did ourselves and Tokyo proud.
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