A Cool Guide to Japan - Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto
Time to travel! I put together a little (haha!) guide of our favourite places in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. I skipped most of the main attractions like temples (with a few exceptions) because if you’re going to Japan I’m sure you’ve got all that covered already, Instead I’m focusing on all the cool stuff: neighbourhoods, restaurants, bars, shops and such.
I have divided the guide into 4 parts:
General Overview, Food, and Shopping (basic tips on the topics)
Tokyo Guide (divided into neighbourhoods)
I hope you find it useful!
Many of you have already been to Japan and know the basics about the culture and do’s and dont’s. But just in case, here is a short overview of the things we found useful:
Politeness - Please and thank will get you anywhere! We said Arigato Gosaimasu about a thousand times on our trip: in shops, in restaurants, in the hotel, in bars…
A little bow goes a long way - At first it might feel weird but nodding or making a tiny little bow with your head is a nice gesture.
Not eating or drinking on the street - If you need an ice-cream break for example you’ll find that most places have a designed little terrace or tables for standing and eating your ice cream.
Smoking - If you smoke, keep in mind that walking and smoking is prohibited, smoking outside is allowed only in designated areas. Many bars and restaurants allow smoking, however we didn’t come across this much (albeit we didn’t go to bars or nightclubs much, it might be a different story there).
Littering - Hold on to your trash. Next to vending machines for drinks you can often find a rubbish bin.
Talking - Everyone else talks really quietly everywhere so it’s just good manners to do it too.
Queueing - The Japanese are experts on queuing, for subways, elevators, restaurants and such.
For more general tips on manners and etiquette, check this blog post:
Look up! - Many of the coolest shops, bars and restaurants are up a few stairs from the ground floor, and sometimes they can be difficult to find if you don’t have Google Maps to help you.
Pocket WiFi - a must when you go to Japan. We rented WiFi for the full duration of our trip through CD Japan and did not regret it. We shared one device between two people, chose the fastest option and never ran out. It will help you navigate the subway lines (sometimes Google Maps will even gives you the platform number). If you use Google Maps for saving places you want to visit it also helps you A LOT when trying to find them, since most streets don’t have names (they use a complex system of block and house numbers).
Tourist Attractions - Some of the main attractions (shrines and temples for example) can get very, very busy. Some people complain about going to places like Fushimi Inari to take beautiful photos but can’t because there are so many people in the way… Sigh. It’s not their temple so they should chill, right? But I know you guys are way smarter than that! And there are tricks on how to go to see any temple without them being too crowded, just google and you’ll get good advice on when to go. Usually very early or very late is the time to go, or in the case of Inari, walk all the way to the top because most people give up half way. Easy peasy.
Department Store Basements (depachica) - make sure you visit the bottom floor of good department stores, often they have really amazing food halls there. Plenty of stands with amazing, fresh and prepared food, both savoury and sweet.
Third-wave coffee - Tokyo is a great place for anyone who loves specialty coffee. So many cool coffee stands and cafés can be found here. You can even find specialty coffee maps available.
Matcha - Kyoto is heaven for matcha lovers. There are many places to buy good matcha, mainly because matcha hotspot Uji is very close by. It is also a great place to do a tea ceremony. We did one with Camellia Flower, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Desserts - We realised that desserts in restaurants is not so common, people like to get their desserts elsewhere. This means there are A LOT of places where you can get fantastic sweet elaborations.
Pancakes - The Japanese know how to make pancakes. You can find many restaurants that specialise in pancakes, and make them amazingly fluffy, with plenty of good toppings.
No tipping - Don’t tip, it might result in the staff running after you with the change you left because they think you forgot it.
Cheesecake - The Japanese are famous for their cheesecakes. There seem to be two main contenders for the position of best cheesecake in the country: Pablo and Bake. We tried Pablo and it was really good.
Seating charge - Some bars ask for a seating charge, which sometimes can include a snack. Many will inform you of this beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings.
We loved the shopping in Japan..! Especially in Tokyo you can find anything you ever dreamed of really. My favourites were:
Clothes (streetwear, sneakers, good quality dresses etc) - Some of my favourite brands were Beams, United Arrows - Beauty & Youth and Muji’s clothes. Remember to take your shoes off before trying on clothes!
Stationery and anything kawaii - So many shops with anything cute. Cuteness overload even.
Makeup and skin care - You can find so much fascinating and crazy stuff when it comes to skincare and makeup.
Uniqlo, Muji - local brands that are cheaper than elsewhere and have so much more options than their counterparts in Spain, for example.
Shopping malls - there are so many shopping malls, some of them really enormous.
Vinyl records - If you collect vinyl records you’ll see that Japan has a lot to offer, and for good prices. Especially Osaka was great for vinyl stores.
Tokyo is so enormous you can easily spend weeks there and feel like you haven’t seen more than a fraction of it. You take the metro for half an hour or more and still see skyscrapers around you. Our favourite neighbourhoods were Naka-Meguro, Shimokitazawa, Dainkanyama, Harajuku-Onomotesando and Tomigaya, all listed below together with other main neighbourhoods.
This neighbourhood is very flashy, with Lamborghinis cruising on the streets and all the luxury shops like Chanel and Hermes. But there are a few gems in there too!
Eggs N Things - This Hawaiian chain can be found around Tokyo, it’s such a fun place for breakfast and brunch! In Ginza it is a bit classier as can be expected, but without being offputting, quite the contrary! Make sure you order the pancakes, preferably to share between the two of you, because they are HUGE! Try the coconut sauce they bring you to the table, it’s really good.
Itoya - Heaven. 12 floors of paradise for those who love stationary, notebooks, pencils, greeting cards… Funny thing: they grown their own lettuce on one of the floors that you can buy and take home with you! Check out the café on the top floor of you get tired from all the shopping.
Uniqlo Flagship - You can find Uniqlo everywhere, but this 12-floor flagship store is excellent to find everything you might need. The prices are also cheaper than Spain.
Muji Flagship - In Barcelona we have a small Muji store, but this one is fantastic. Several floors, a café/restaurant, clothes, food….
Oedo Antiques Market - This antiques market takes place twice a month. You can find all sorts of fascinating things here, unique souvenirs, photo props...
Dover Street Market - The clothes here might not be so affordable, but go here to check out what’s the coolest streetwear in the world right now. The shop itself has interesting artwork and just checking out the cool people working there is fun.
Sundays in Ginza - When we went to Ginza on a Sunday the main shopping artery was closed for traffic, and it was fascinating to walk in the middle of a massive street surrounded by all the high buildings.
Department Stores - Ginza is the home of many department stores worth visiting, like Mitsukoshi that is the oldest department store in Tokyo (from 1673).
Craft Beer Bar iBrew - This small bar was fun, it has 42 taps of craft beer, both local and international.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods. A tree-lined river runs through this beautiful and quiet area, and is a real crowdpleaser during the cherry blossom season. You will find many hip shops and cafés here.
Traveler’s Factory - Notebooks (you can personalise them), stamps, papers… All with a travel theme. Adorable!
Trueberry - It might not be the cheapest, but if you are looking for a healthy start for the day this is a great place to go. Their chocolate smoothie is rich, thick and packed with things that are good for you.
Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa - The owner, Hisanori Yamamoto, has won a prestigious price of the best pizza in the world in Naples three years in a row. When we were there Yamamoto himself was preparing the pizzas! The walls are filled with his certificates and photos with famous people (like Jackson Browne) and all of his trophies.
Green Bean to Bar - I died a little bit here. A café and shop all dedicated to the cocoa bean. They create mind-blowing things: chocolate bars, hot and iced chocolate, eclairs, hot cocoa with hojicha tea, a fascinating Spritz made with cocoa pulp (!)… If you like chocolate you will adore this place, I guarantee you.
Very close to Naka-Meguro this hip neighbourhood has a young vibe to it, and is filled with lovely shops.
Saturday’s NYC - This shop is for men only, but they have very stylish things and you can get coffee here too. Sit down on the terrace in the back, it has lush green views over the neighbourhood.
Daikanyama T-Site - One of my absolute favourite shops in Tokyo (see photo above). Or anywhere ever. Three buildings of fascinating, interesting, beautiful and cool magazines and books. In the food/cookbook section you can find actual food to buy. There is a room with an entire wall of different pens you can buy.
Minä Perhonen - This beautiful clothes brand is expensive, but do visit their shop for inspiration. Beautiful dresses, skirts and blouses in beautiful materials.
Log Road - This (short) walk reminds me a bit of the High Line in New York, except that there are shops in between all the greenery. We walked through it in the evening when the shops were already closed, and the fairy lights lit the way.
Spring Valley Brewery - A big cool space for a brewery, go here for very fresh craft beer and great food.
Daikanyama is close to Shibuya, and if you walk along the river towards Shibuya station you’ll see a few super cool bars like one with a circus theme, complete with a little tent where you can sip your drinks.
Another favourite of ours! Such a hip neighbourhood, it feels like a village of its own. Go here for vintage shopping, or for a few drinks in the evening.
Shimokitazawa Cage - Not sure how to explain this: it’s like a caged kids playground but for adults. Get food and drinks from the nearby food stand (when we were there Spring Valley Brewing had a beer truck on location), go inside the cage (it has chairs and tables) and enjoy your feast. In the evening there are pretty fairy lights, and DJ:s and bands perform there frequently.
Book and Beer - Not very easy to find, but in the bottom floor of a small building you can find this little place that sells books and also beer if you get thirsty from browsing.
Ichiran Ramen - One of our favourite ramen places has several locations around the city, and one in Shimokitazawa. Go in, place your order in the machine, check which seats are available on the blinking lights on the wall, go inside and sit down. The seats are individual, but you can partially remove the separating wall between you and your hungry partner. Once you sit down you note down on a paper the strength of the broth, how seasoned you want the dashi, if you want extra noodles, if you love it spicy… It’s also in English so no worries! You ring a bell when you’re ready to order, give the staff the tickets you received in the machine and the paper. Then just wait and your ramen will be delivered to you in a whim.
Tap & Growler - This craft beer bar is small but very friendly and has interesting choices both on tap and in bottle/can. On the end of the street, only 50 metres away, there is another super cute bar where you can sit outside in the garden or in little huts. I don’t know the name of it but you will see it for sure (go left when you leave Tap & Growler).
Norah’s Coffee Table - We had breakfast in this adorable tiny café close to the train station. Norah comes from Norah Jones, and you’ll see in the deco all sorts of inspiration from her music (and Beatles too). Go here for good specialty coffee and delicious pancakes.
Without Stand - This coffee place has a few locations in Tokyo, and it’s very stylish and fun. I loved their caramel macchiato.
City Country City - Located on the fourth floor of an office building you can find this record shop and super adorable café.
Upstairs Records & Bar - The owner spent many years in Brooklyn, NYC, where he owned a record shop. He came back to Tokyo with 40.000 vinyl records and opened Upstairs Records & Bar. Go here to browse for vinyl records and have a drink at the bar and chat with the cool owner.
A few places I would have loved to go but they were closed/we didn’t have time: Flipper’s and Pluffy Cafe that both have really great looking pancakes and breakfast/brunch food. I also wanted to visit Fog, a really great looking interior deco shop.
Shinjuku is insane. So many people, so busy, so crazy. And fun!
Watering Hole - 15 taps of craft beer and a lovely staff.
Golden Gai - A grid of a few narrow streets filled with tiny bars that fit about 5 people each. Some take a cover charge but most don’t. A few bars are for members or locals only.
Books Kinokuniya - Probably the best selection of books about Japan in English, translated Japanese writers and a lot of literature in English and other languages. I could have spent hours here. It is located on the 6th floor.
Kit Kat Chocolatory - In the basement of Seibu department store you can find amazing things, it’s great for wandering around, but you can also find this little stand focused on different flavours of Kit Kats. They don’t have a huge selection though.
Tap Stand - A craft beer bar with 22 taps, a great atmosphere and really good pizzas.
Don Quijote - You have to visit a Don Quijote on your Japan trip, it’s a must. DQ is a crazy department store where you can find absolutely anything you might ever have wanted. It’s packed with stuff and it feels like a maze, and the prices are quite fair. It’s a good place to find souvenirs, or a suitcase which you will probably need after spending time here…
Yoyogi Park - This big park stretches out between Shinjuku and Harajuku, and it is a wonderful place to visit when you need to get away from all the craziness.
Nestled between Shinjuku and Shibuya, Tomigaya is a small but very hip neighbourhood with a lot of atmosphere. I particularly loved Mimet, an adorable café on a quiet side street. Other places worth checking out are Shibuya Publishing and Booksellers, Sebastian (shaved ice), Archivando (lifestyle shop), Camelback Sandwich & Espresso, Ahiru Store (natural wine bar), Monocle Shop, Fukamachi Endo Stationeery & Coffee, Path Cafe (Dutch pancakes) and Cacao Store.
You can't avoid Shibuya, it is kind of the heart of Tokyo! It might be crazy around Shibuya crossing, but there are plenty of quiet side streets to discover.
Tower Records - on the top floor there is a cool cafe and a decent selection of books in English (albeit quite expensive).
Øl by Oslo Brewing Co - Super cool bar with a Nordic flair, craft beer, drinks and food.
Tokyu Hands - If you are crafty or just looking for anything you ever might need in your life like leg spray or personal safety devices or washi tape then make sure you check out this multi-floored paradise.
Shibuya Crossing - You cannot miss this famous crossing where so many people pass every day. If you are looking for a good photo opportunity don’t go too early, because (surprisingly) it can be a bit empty. If you want a good view from above go to Starbucks next to the crossing, you can sit by the window and take all the photos you want from there.
Hachiko - Next to the Shibuya Crossing make sure you visit the statue of Hachiko, the faithful dog who waited for his owner by the train station every day, even after he had passed.
Tsutaya - in the same building as Starbucks above you can find one of the many Tsutaya Book Stores in the city. Their magazine selection is very impressive, and they have a very cool café (Wired) on the top floor.
And People - Although this café is in the middle of where it’s happening, it’s located on a quiet side street which makes it very peaceful. It is one of my favourite cafés we visited, it feels like a tree house with lots of vintage items, cosy sofas, curtains between the tables for added cosiness and good food and drink.
Mikkeller Tokyo - The coolness level of this craft beer bar is through the roof! It feels like we walked through a maze before finding it, walking on one side street after the other. On the ground floor one wall is completely open, so you can sit and sip on your tasty craft beer by the window, watching the world go by, and checking out the little shrine across the street.
Beams - Cool brands in different price ranges compete for your attention in this unique shop.
Far Yeast - Craft beer and good food! We loved their steamed dumplings.
This neighbourhood is great for vintage shopping (particularly south of the train station, close to EAD Record) and has a few other cool spots.
Without Stand - This coffee place has a few locations in Tokyo, and it’s very stylish and fun. I loved their caramel macchiato.
Floresta - Animal shaped doughnuts, so cute and organic too!
Outdoor Style Kitchen - Hammocks and many dishes are served in small black pots, all very camping style.
Craft Beer Market - There are many Craft Beer Markets throughout the city, make sure you visit at least one for good craft beer and tasty food. Some of them also have good lunch deals.
Kichijoji - Close by Koenji there is a neighbourhood called Kichijoji with a beautiful park called Inokashira. Do visit this peaceful park that has a big pond, a zoo and nice cafés.
On the second leg of our trip our hotel was located here, and it was very convenient. Close to almost everywhere, and good restaurant options.
Hotel Risveglio Akasaka - A fairly recently opened hotel close to the subway station where we stayed for a week. Cute room and not too tight.
Yona Yona Beer Works - A very popular craft beer bar, with really good food. They have 18 different craft sausages!
Ittenbari Ramen - A small but very popular ramen bar, their miso ramen and salt broth ramen are very recommendable.
Ikinari Steak - We loved this low-key place so much we went there several times..! It is a chain for steak (they even have a branch in NYC!) where you get good quality meat and you pay per weight. Those who speak Japanese go to the chefs and ask for the quantity they like and they cut and show the meat to you, but if you don’t speak Japanese the staff will order it for you. You get a bib beforehand because the meat comes out sizzling hot, and you get steak sauce that might just contain a little something something because it’s VERY ADDICTIVE. We were blown away by the juiciness and the flavour of the meat.
Itamae Sushi - We had amazing sushi here, sitting by the bar overlooking the sushi chefs. This street is packed with good restaurants and bars.
This area is more traditional, with A LOT of temples and shrines to visit. There are several streets lined with restaurants and outdoor tables in the evenings.
Suzukien Asakusa - This is matcha heaven. 7 different strengths of matcha ice cream to choose from. I tried the 2nd and the 6th and it was fascinating to compare the two.
Sensoji temple - One of the more famous temples in Tokyo. The surrounding streets are interesting too, with stalls and shops.
Imado Shrine - The Cat Shrine! If you love cats like me then this shrine is a must. When we were there we saw an actual white cat sleeping on the steps of the shrine.
Matsuchiyamashoten Park - In this park you will find a fascinating shrine dedicated to world peace. You can buy big radishes outside that you leave in the shrine as offerings. The park is small but really beautiful.
Oshiage Nyamko - 3D latte art (cat art cafe). We didn’t go here unfortunately (it was closed when were were meant to go) but who wouldn't want their latte with 3D foam kittens on top?!
Suzuhiro Kamaboko and Craft Beer - We went here for Takoyaki which are octopus-filled balls, a typical street snack in Japan. So yummy!
Wired Hotel Asakusa - a really cool new hotel, where the concept has been created by a design team from Portland, Oregon. The rooms are very spacious, the restaurant/café in the lobby has good food and hosts guest DJ:s and artists. We stayed here for a week and loved it.
In addition to being a Midtown of some sorts, it is also an entertainment hub with lots of bars, mainly catering for foreigners.Here we also saw posters warning tourists for scams, not something you would expect in Japan. We did not spend a lot of time here, except for:
Ichiran Roppongi - because of their amazing ramen. Check out more info on their Shimokitazawa location above.
Sunshine Juice Roppongi - We went here for a healthy breakfast one day, and found a lot of good options, with a map of the origin of the ingredients on the wall.
Lilla Dalarna - A Scandinavian restaurant run by Japanese, how cool is that?!
Akihabara and Ueno
Ueno has a traditional feeling to it, while Akihabara is famous for its endless lines of electric stores, arcades, maid cafés and anime and manga spots. We found a wonderful quiet spot right across the river, the Hitachino Brewing Lab. In addition to tasty and fresh craft beer they also have a terrace overlooking the neon lights of Akihabara.
Maach Ecute - This small shopping center is ultra cool and worth having a look in for beautiful design.
Maguro-donya Miura Misaki-kou - There are many places for conveyor-belt sushi in Tokyo, and it is a really fun experience! Here you order on a screen at your seat and it will be delivered to you like a mini-train, and you can also pick what you want from the conveyor belt.
Ameyoko Market - Tokyo’s last open air market, fascinating with all the stands and the intriguing fish and seafood.
2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan - an arcade under the train tracks, all Japanese made goods, most of it handmade.
Harajuku - Onomotesando
Harajuku is famous for its fashion and youth culture, and well worth spending time in, especially for shopping. It weaves in together with Onomotesando and creates a hub for all those looking for the coolest streetwear, sneakers and vintage clothes.
Nike Kicks Lounge - Get your sneakers painted by graffiti artists for very cheap. They make the coolest designs and take about 30 minutes to paint your kicks.
Undefeated - If you are looking for the coolest brands in streetwear right now then this is where to go.
Sneakers: If you are looking for more sneakers check out Gettry, Chapter, A+S and Pulp 417.
Roof Garden Harajuku - on the top floor of a small shopping center you find this lush green getaway that is shared between Starbucks and a craft beer stand. The terrace is filled with plants (and plenty of seating) and has beautiful views over the city.
PDX Taproom - The owner lived in Portland, Oregon for years, and when he came back to Tokyo he created this craft beer temple dedicated to Portland. It’s very close to Cat Street so you can come here and rest your legs and have a chat with the cool owner.
The Great Burger - We were on the lookout for the best burger in the city and this place was on the top list. It did not disappoint! We waited in line for a bit (as you do for all of the best places here) and had a tasty wagyu burger and a grilled cheese sandwich. They have three spaces next to each other, one focused on donuts and such. Here they have 32 burgers on the menu!
Smokehouse - If you are thirsty for craft beer whilst shopping, TY Harbour Brewery has created a safe haven where in addition to quenching your thirst you can also eat good smoked meat.
Monkey Time - Extremely cool shop (for men) that recently collaborated with top brand Stampd. Check out the changing room, with a framed t-shirt signed by Kendrick Lamar. He chose this shop to launch his Damn album.
Cat Street - Start off your shopping spree on this street with top streetwear brands and more.
Takeshita Street - A pedestrian street that is the epicentre for all that’s weird and trendy.
Baird Beer Taproom - When all the glitter and the glam gets to you, turn on to a quiet side street and find this taproom with plenty of fresh craft beer and good food. Try their gyozas, you won’t be sorry.
Gyre Building - Check out this crazy piece of architecture that looks like a game of jenga!
Hi Cacao - A small chocolate stand on hip Cat Street. Go here for their good quality cacao drinks and desserts. We loved their soft serve covered with high quality chocolate. They have a small terrace nearby where you can devour your drink or dessert.
Aoyama and Minamiaoyama
Some true gems can be found in these trendy neighbourhoods close to Shibuya.
Fred Perry - regardless if you like the brand or not, you should check out their store. It’s a large open space divided into three separate floors, and with a food truck in the back. Impressive.
Aoyama Flower Market Tea House - Flowers and food, can you imagine a better match? This is a beautiful flower market that hides a secret inside: a beautiful lush green tearoom that looks like a greenhouse, and serves food inspired by seasonal flowers. I had a rose parfait with rose jelly, rose petals, vanilla ice cream, cherry jam and cake, and of course a rose soda to go with it.
Found Muji Aoyama - A Muji with a special themed collection, when we visited the theme was Finland. Very beautiful and inspiring.
Trueberry - It might not be the cheapest, but if you are looking for a healthy start for the day this is a great place to go. Their chocolate smoothie is rich, thick and packed with things that are good for you.
Fico and Pomum - Another great place for a healthy breakfast or lunch.
Raw Tokyo - A cool weekend market with food trucks and local food items (above).
Skyhigh - The place might be small, but they have a long list of healthy options like smoothies and smoothie bowls. I had a blue majik (spirulina) bowl, pretty and so tasty!
This city is insane in so many ways! And great for foodies. Osaka has A LOT of vinyl record shops, make sure you get your hands on the map with all the shops if that’s your thing.
Kamon Hotel Namba - We stayed at this fairly new hotel and really enjoyed it! It is smack bang in the middle of everything, but on a quiet side street so it doesn’t get too noisy. There is a restaurant with excellent udon on the bottom floor, and a rooftop terrace.
Luke´s Lobster - I REALLY wanted to visit Luke’s Lobster and I was not disappointed. Delicious lobster, crab and shrimp rolls, drizzled with butter and herbs, and with the softest bun you can imagine. You can also find Luke’s Lobster in Tokyo.
Osaka Museum of Housing and Living - A fascinating museum that depicts how Osaka used to be 200 years ago, with houses and buildings you can go in to. They simulate both day and night time while you walk the streets in the museum.
Ohatsu-Tenjin Shrine - An adorable relationship shine, go here with your loved one for some fortune!
Nakazaki - A surprising and cute neighbourhood with cute cafes and vintage shops. Walk around these calm streets to get away from the craziness downtown.
Eggs N’Things - This Hawaiian chain is adorable! So leafy green, and so great for massive pancakes and breakfast and brunch items. We visited the one in Umeda, but they have several locations, including in Tokyo (see the Tokyo guide).
Beer House Molto - Up on the 31st floor of the Hanky Grand Building you get tasty craft beer and amazing views of Osaka (see above).
Pablo - This is supposed to be one of the best cheesecakes in Japan (Bake is another chain with a similar reputation), and it was really good. They have so much good stuff to choose from here, like a cheese tart with white peach and Earl Grey Summer Tea Time.
America Mura - Cool shopping district, also great for vinyl diggers and sneaker heads. Good for vintage clothes.
Shitennoji Temple - The site for the first state-supported Buddhist temple in Japan, from 593 AD.
Rubin Records - Such a pretty record shop with lovely music from the speakers and a friendly owner.
Fun Space Diner - Easily one of my favourites in Osaka. It says Glam Lodge by the entrance, and it is indeed decorated like a lodge, all wood, lots of plants… They have a lunch deal where you order a main course and you get a veggie buffet with free juices, teas and coffees. At night they have all you can eat bbq buffets with all you can drink too..! I had their spicy chicken burger, so good.
Alice on Wednesday - This quirky shop is for Alice in Wonderland fans, you crouch through a tiny door and find two small rooms with lots of Alice trinkets.
Biotop - Another favorite of mine. On the ground floor there is a little green house flower shop, a café and home deco shop. Second and third floors are for clothes, and the top floor is a cosy green rooftop terrace that is great for drinks (I loved the sours and the mint-apple soda) and tasty pizza.
Tokiwa Camera - Just a one minute walk from our hotel we found a really good camera shop, with a lot of second hand lenses. I bought a second hand lens for more than half of the price of a new one.
Brooklyn Roasting Company - A huge space under the train tracks with specialty coffee, pizza and beer.
Fuji Namba - A decent sized Muji with several floors, including a cafe/restaurant. Don’t miss the food section!
Taito Station - A six-floor arcade that is worth checking out for the fun games. We also did purikura: you take photo booth photos and afterwards you can adjust a million things like lipstick colour, eye size and such. Then you get the photos printed on stickers.
Craft Beer Gulp - A bar with lots of atmosphere, good choices for craft beer, and great-looking food (we had dinner reservations so we couldn’t eat here!).
Zundo Ya Shinsaibashi - This ramen place is open 24 hours, and it was one of the best ramen I had during the whole trip. Great gyozas too.
Dean and Deluca - Are you a fan of this New York-based deli shop? You can find one at the Shin-Osaka Station.
Kyoto is temples, temples and more temples, so be prepared for sightseeing! The pace in Kyoto is much more calm that the other cities we visited, and especially the traditional neighbourhoods are so beautiful. There is plenty to see, do and eat here!
Fushimi Inari - You have probably seen photos of this temple many times, and it really is worth visiting. Make sure you go early (or late) to avoid the crowds and wear comfy shoes.
Ninna-Ji Temple - A Unesco World Heritage Site that was founded in 888 and has a beautiful five-storey pagoda (see above).
Kinkaku-Ji Temple - Also known as the Golden Pavilion and one of the symbols of Kyoto. It was built in 1397 as a retirement villa for the Shogun and eventually converted into a Zen Buddhist temple.
Ryoan-Ji Temple - A beautiful temple surrounded by lots of greens and a big pond. Inside the temple you will find a famous zen garden, wiith 15 boulders grouped in a way that it is possibly to see only 14 of them no matter where you stand on the garden’s veranda.
Gion - Amazing old houses, beautiful restaurants and intriguing bars in this very traditionally Japanese neighbourhood.
Forum Kyoto - Go to this cool bar for good craft beer, tasty drinks and a little something to eat.
River walk - We loved walking along the river, it is are packed with cosy restaurants. Some of them have terraces with beautiful views.
Sujinchaya mochis - They have mochis to die for! For example: a mocha with mint flavour outside, inside white chocolate, white bean paste and orange, or an outside of bamboo charcoal, and inside coconut, white bean paste, mango. They even have savoury ones. You can find their stand at the Beer Garden below.
Neo Sujin Town Open Air Beer Garden - I loved this place! A whole bunch of containers put together for an open air beer garden, it has lots of great options for eating and drinking and it's super cosy at night with fairy lights! Make sure you check out the mochi stand mentioned above: they have many really fascinating options where the outer shell is made with one flavour and the inner creamy part is made with a mixture of other flavours that all go perfectly together.
Before 9 - A bar with a wonderfully Scandinavian flair that only the Japanese can recreate and make their own. Go here for craft beer, artisanal sake, and cool food.
Beer Komachi - I loved the vibe of this craft beer bar, and the food looked really intriguing (unfortunately we had just eaten when we stopped by).
Taiyaki - Unfortunately I don’t know the name of this place (see above), it was a tiny stand very close to the Nishiki Market, but keep your eyes out for it because this was heaven! You can choose what’s inside the pastry (I chose chocolate) and a flavour of soft serve you want on top. Yum!
Geisha spotting - If your dream is to see a real, live geisha then Kyoto is a good place for it. A good time for geisha spotting is around 5PM, in the Gion neighbourhood, where you might be able to spot a geisha or a make (apprentice geisha) rushing by to do her errands. We were lucky and saw a maiko passing by, and it really was an experience.
Arashiyama Monkey Park - Up high on the hills in Arashiyama there is a colony of wild monkeys that you can visit. I was surprised how they didn't really care about the visitors and went about their usual business, and how they were very active and played around even though it was close to 40 degrees. It's a bit of a climb to the park so bring water if it's hot and wear comfy shoes. Close by you can also visit the famous bamboo forest.
Ippudo Nishikukouji - This is a famous ramen chain and I highly recommend it! Plus: they have vegan ramen!
Nishiki Warai - A modest restaurant that serves okonomiyaki and it’s friends. It is perfect for beginners because here you don’t have to cook your own meal, it’s all prepared for you.
Nikishi Market - Known as Kyoto’s Pantry, go here to fill your tummy with tasty things from the hundreds of food stalls you’ll find here. It’s truly intriguing!
Kimono Forest - Next to the train station in Arashiyama there is a small exhibition of traditionally dyed kimono fabrics. It's very beautiful and worth a visit, and it's quite peaceful.
Camellia Flower Tea Ceremony - Kyoto is a great city to do a tea ceremony, and we opted to do one with Camellia. It takes about 45 minutes (a full ceremony takes hours we were told) and gives you a bit of insight into the art of making matcha. Book in advance to make sure you get a spot!
Finlandia Bar - I adore this bar in beautiful Gion (and not only for it’s name!). Go here for well-made cocktails and for a cosy chat with your friend or loved one.
Kyoto Brewing Co - Loved this brewery and the atmosphere! You get craft beers straight from the brewery, and pizza served from a stand outside.
Tonkatsu in Tokyo Station - Train stations are often gold mines when it comes to good food, and so is Tokyo Station in Kyoto (confusing name I know). Go to the top floor and join the line for this great tonkatsu restaurant, it’s really worth the wait. I don’t know the name of this place I’m afraid, but it’s the only one serving tonkatsu on the top floor.
Pancakes in Tokyo Station - On the bottom floor (by the Southern Entrance) you can find a cafe that displays beautiful pancakes in the window (similar to the ones in the photo). Go! They’re worth it. They also have French Toasts that look interesting, they are served in dices..!
Nara - A short train ride from Kyoto takes you to beautiful Nara, that has a park filled with deer that really love snacks..! They are not afraid of people, and you can buy crackers made especially for the deer to give to them. They can be quite bold and take a nip at your clothes to get your attention. Super cute and worth the trip! Make sure you grab lunch in Nara too, you will find lots of great places to eat.
I hope you have found this guide useful, write any questions you might have in the comments field!