Yoh-san is the man! Smart, chatty, energetic, fun-loving and perceptive of tourist needs, he works in another industry but helps tourists on his free weekends to practice English and meet travelers; he really knows what makes for an insider experience in Tokyo. Best of all he becomes a friend...
He took my family to-
Tsukiji Area (inner and outer market where we saw seafood stalls with local produce and I bought a top notch sushi knife while learning about the blades with Yoh-san's translation help); we also went to an INCREDIBLE sushi restaurant in a little side street that a writer friend recommended but we would not have found without Yoh-san. A side note here - I treat my local guides to the same meals and drinks as mine - that's up to you although I really recommend it.
We also visited Ueno Station Area and surrounding attractions.
We walked through park where we saw some kimono clad beauties, and the passed by a shrine.
We also visited Ameyayokocho and the fascinating long lines of shops built UNDER the railway tracks near Ueno-okachimachi Station. We shopped and played mean rounds of Taiko drumming at an arcade game hall. Enjoyed an hour hanging out at a street-side Izayaka (a Japanese gastropub) crowded with merry makers and tried a deep fried bean pastry
We walked through shopping alleys to the oldest Tokyo shrine, Sensoji Temple, and went to a charming and tourist-free traditional clothing store (with very comfy but funny-looking traditional underclothing!)
Intelligent, classy and accomplished Nobu-san (who is a tea ceremony Master!..wow...) showed us so much of Tokyo in a lightning strike 4 hours, using subway amid nutty Sunday crowds. He was wonderful and would have given us more time but we had an early dinner appointment. He is NOT doing it for money but to show foreigners how to enjoy Tokyo, meet people and practice his English. He's a really busy professional (not related to tourism) and helping tourists in his spare time so is very busy and only available at limited times. He has tons of local knowledge and explained a lot of Tokyo that is weird or puzzling to foreigners (and even to other Japanese!) We did -
Shibuya Area -
Hachi Statue (of the famous dog) which a stray cat huddled for shelter
Crazy Shibuya Crossing and view of it from Starbucks
(He protected me while I took photos while crossing)
Akihabara Area -
..and walked past Maid Cafes, the famous AKB theater, saw girls dressed as maids paid to innocently accompany and converse with men, and explored famous anime store Mandarake (full of collectors' old toys, Doujin for men or women, dolls and their parts), then ran through Radio Kaikan(a building which rents out displays for collectors selling their figurines in thousands of show cases).
And I tried to play Pachinko but it wasn't worth the 1000 Y fee!
West side and waling over to north of Shinjuku station.
Omoide yokocho (tons of small closet sized restaurant-bars) and a superb tonkatsu curry chain
Don Qijoute, Godzilla road, Kabukicho, Love Hotel area, Golden Gai Bar Area and Hanazono Shrine.
I really recommend you TRY to book time with him. With all the places he showed us, my son and I returned to hang out in, and found fantastic bars and eateries in Shinjuku the next night where we met and chatted with some amazing chefs and a heavy metal bass guitar- playing bartender (yes, go to Turan Bar)!
DO NOT MISS experience of a professional sushi teacher (took year for qualifications at prestigious school) who speaks English, and is the nicest person, happy and loves teaching. He teaches at a medium high level enough so you can REALLY make your own California rolls, decorative rolls and nigiri (the sushi that has a tablespoon of rice with a sliced piece of topping). Communication excellent and very clear - you do need to take a train out of Central Tokyo to Tsunashima Station in a southwestern ward of the city, about 30 to 50 minutes out depending on the train transfers which are really easy for me a 1st time explorer here. I wanted to special class, paying for my own salmon and tuna, and Chef Hide agreed to teach me how to slice the fish which is VERY difficult. He made sure my adult son and I practiced many times even making the little rice beds (called shall by sushi chefs) which also difficult as it has to adhere without being squished to pulp! My son did amazingly actually producing restaurant quality nigiri (surprising chef Hide) while, I an experienced well traveled cook, sucked. But he was so clear in teaching that I am confident more practice will knock my guests socks off - you wont find a teacher as comprehensive, patient and generous with time anywhere else. I've taken cooking classes in at least 8 countries and this was one of the most enjoyable.
It was so much more than a sushi class - we enjoyed the little town and chef Hide's family. His two comedy-loving and friendly young sons were entertainment all on their own. I really loved seeing such an otherwise unknowable part of Japan…I recommend 10000% !
Note - chef Hide usually teaches 7 nigiri toppings and two kinds of rolls, but I focused on cutting and using two types of fish topping, I would not recommend if you are not already really skilled with a knife as sushi knives are surgically sharp.
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