A couple of months ago I received a very unexpected phone call from Macadamias Australia asking if I had a valid passport and if I wanted to do a cooking demo in Tokyo for a group of Japanese journalists and bloggers.
I think I said yes at least 15 times. In the one sentence.
Armed with recipes for macadamia pesto and a raw chocolate macadamia tart (no ovens needed ... not many kitchens in Tokyo have ovens apparently, I think because space it at such a premium) and my very best linen outfits I jumped on a plane bound for Tokyo. I used to detest plane travel, but the ten hours in economy felt nothing short of luxurious. I binged on Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Karl Ove Knausgaard alternatively, with no little people telling me they needed to do a poo. No one touched me at all. Smiling people brought me hot tea whenever I wanted. It was heaven.
The job was also a dream, with a translator and nodding from the crowd and lots of business cards presented with two hands instead of handshakes. I nearly lost myself to fits of laughter when one of the journalists asked me to talk more about this diet of mine when I consume nothing but macadamias and water for a month at a time, for "beauty reasons". Something had got lost in translation and I was thankful to keep it together enough to clear up the confusion before any detox-determined Japanese people embarked on this crazy regime.
When the job was finished, I met up with a very close friend from Sydney for a few days together, wandering the streets of Omotesando, eating and shopping. (Amo you are a total star, I love you to bits). And what follows is a bit of a guide, based on the places we loved. If you ever find your self in Tokyo for a couple of days, I think you'll find some useful links here. And please feel free to add any of your own tips in the comments section below.
A SMALL GUIDE FOR TOKYO
This is such a great area to stay in. Not too hectic, lots of gorgeous cafes and within walking distance to the madness and bright lights of Shibuya. We stayed in this lovely AirBnB apartment which was the perfect size for the two of us. The hosts Miwako and Naoto were extremely helpful with restaurants and booking taxis and everything really. I mentioned I wanted to buy a Japanese knife and the next thing I knew Miwako handed over a pile of pamphlets from the best knife shops in Tokyo.
Pan & Espresso We ate breakfast here every morning because it was a) very good and b) it was the only place open at 8am. Tokyo does not get going until after 10am.
Omotesando Koffee Incredible cafe - the fit out is worth the visit alone. Very good coffee.
Little Nap Coffee Stand From Omotesando, on the other side of the wonderful Yoyogi Park there is this super gorgeous cafe. It is absolutely tiny, stylish and has excellent coffee.
Tora Nanadaime It is easy to miss the entrance to this wonderful charcoal grill restaurant. There is just a doorway leading down the narrow stairs into the small restaurant. The food is very simple - fish, pork and vegetables cooked on skewers over coals in a large open fire pit - but it is very good. We went twice.
XEX On the top floor of a small arcade in Daikanyama, down the hill from Omotesando is this excellent restaurant. One half is Italian, the other half is Japanese ... go to the Japanese side! (Thanks for the tip Hannah).
The ones that got away: We tried twice to go to both of these restaurants. Eatrip - which looked amazing in the best location next to The Little Shop of Flowers and Miyakawa, a small traditional tempura restaurant on the skinny end of the Omotesando boulevard. When I go back to Tokyo I am calling, or getting someone to call, to make a booking for both.
Kohoro The most gorgeous ceramics store ever. This is in Tamagawa which is at least 20 mins by taxi from Shibuya (we caught the bus back which was much cheaper). Worth the trip. The aesthetic of the store is perfect.
Lisette A couple of doors up from Kohoro is this lovely clothes shop. Amazing linen skirts and dresses and beautiful woollens.
Quico Back over in Omotesando there are lots of great shops in the backstreets. Quico has an excellent range of linen and silk dresses and tops and some lovely homewares.
The Little Shop of Flowers Gorgeous flowers and when we visited a lovely, small exhibition of ceramics too.
Yoyogi Park Just next to Omotesando is this beautiful park. On Sunday around 1pm the rockabilly gangs meet up at the Harajuku entrance to have their dance off. Well worth watching with a cold Asahi beer in hand. A man who has been living in Tokyo on and off for the past 25 years said he has seen little improvement in their technique. Nearby is the Meji Shrine an incredibly beautiful building in amongst a forest of huge trees. It is hard to believe you are in the middle of Tokyo.
I was so taken with the way things looked in Tokyo, how beautiful and refined everything was, from food to outfits to interiors.I put a call out on instagram for some reading recommendations to understand this better and several people suggested the essay In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. It is beautiful.