Stories Travel

‘Not eating’ In Tokyo

This story is written by a guest who came on the very first Eating Tokyo tour earlier this year. After the tours, we sought feedback from guests in order to refine and improve our offering for future guests. Trish provided us with this story as her feedback. We thought we would share it with you …

My greatest memory from my Eating Tokyo experience was actually somewhere where we didn’t go…here’s how it played out:

As we tried to take a vacant perch in his yakitori joint under the rail tracks in Shinjuku the guy behind the counter shouted a loud ‘No!’ and waved our party away.  Maybe he even brandished a skewer? Can’t remember, we were too busy stumbling down the alleyway in shock having seemingly met the only rude person in the city during our week.  Having recovered our breath after laughing we snuck around the back way so Sue could get a picture … including the burnt-out light fitting dripping black grease above the chef’s head, the bar now full of happy and presumably regular customers, oblivious to the strange jellyfish-like object swimming in the smoke over their heads.

In contrast, just a couple of days earlier we had sat in a gracious tatami mat room on chairs made for dolls, served delicate grilled eel and accompaniments presented like gifts in black lacquer boxes, waited on by elegant women in kimono.  And for the finale of our food adventure we watched with respect as a sushi master prepared slivers of marine delicacies and moulded them together with warm rice before placing each piece before us with the instruction “Roll towards you, one bite. No soy sauce, already seasoned.”  Given his air of quiet authority (not to mention the 60 cm knife blade he wielded with expertise) I did as I was told.  He was right, the flavours were perfectly balanced.

The visit to one of Tokyo’s top sushi restaurants topped off five days where Sue and Janice shared their knowledge of and their enthusiasm for not only the food but the range of marvellous experiences that city has to offer.  They bill it as a food tour but really it was so much more.  It was so relaxing (and time efficient) to have all the logistics and research taken care of so you could just savour the experiences: buying beautiful ceramics in Kappabashi, joining the subway crush on the way to Tsukiji market, watching the magic of takoyaki (octopus balls) being made; or marvelling at the plastic boxes of perfect tiny chrysanthemums for sale in the Isetan food hall.  There was also time for solo explorations and activities: we fitted in shopping experiences like Tokyu Hands and Cat Street and also organised our own visits to the national sumo tournament, the controversial Yasukuni war shrine and a Noh theatre performance.

It was a remarkable few days and so much fun.