Tokyo, THE return – Episode Three

tokyo golden gai

Golden Gai in Tokyo

Our third day  in the Japanese capital was the kid’s day focused on a trip to Odaiba, which we knew well but from our childless days. Odaiba is a zone reclaimed from the sea and dominated by malls and parks Japanese-style. Before this visit, we had already visited Odaiba’s fake french village, and witnessed a marriage officiated by a fake priest in a fake church. We had already tested some of the cars at the Toyota showroom, climbed the Fuji TV building for the view, and played dancing/singing/drumming games in the numerous arcades… but we realized  there was still a lot to discover if you were looking to entertain little ones.

odaiba tokyo

View from Odaiba

Odaiba and the Kids

Getting to Odaiba is an attraction in itself – you can ride a driverless train, or in our case a train driven by our Little G, and  the train passes over the Rainbow Bridge offering magnificent views of Tokyo, Tokyo Bay and Odaiba. Take a look…

After arriving at Odaiba and prior to the main attraction of the day, we hit the beach… Japanese-style: an artificial beach with a Statue of Liberty thrown in. It was then onto the highlight, Legoland!It starts with a walkthrough of a lego-scale version of Tokyo’s landmarks… in case you don’t get to see them all in real life.

tokyo statue liberty odaiba

Tokyo’s Liberty Statue

French Restaurants in Tokyo

The evening was reserved for the parents and for our romantic night out we headed to our favorite French restaurant located in the neighborhood of our old apartment. You are spoiled for choice and quality when it comes to restaurants in Tokyo and this one, run by French, is a good example. Actually many French restaurants in Tokyo (and there are a lot!) are run by Japanese, who have worked in France for some time under grand-chefs, and who in true Japanese style are completely dedicated to what they do. French music from the 30’s, French cuisine (with a dash of Japanesey), nice decors (bordering on kitsch), (nearly) grammatically correct french menus all offer a glimpse into how the Japanese comprehend and appreciate the world outside their islands.

 Go for a drink at the Golden Gai

Our culinary escape was followed by a escapade in the Golden Gai (gai means street) quarter of Shinjuku. This is a mini neighborhood of small streets and and tiny buildings all housing bars on several floors. Some of the bars seem to only welcome the local regulars but others encourage foreign patrons to enjoy the cosy atmosphere and weird and wonderful interior decorating. We wandered the streets for a while looking for a place that took our fancy, and one that was not too touristy. We ended up at The Albatross, where we soaked up the feeling emanating from the jungle of decoration, the others drinking at the bar, and the barman himself, who must struggle to remain standing at the end of the night with all the drinks he shares with the patrons! Over our Umeshu Sodas (I recommend this plum alcohol and soda drink) we dusted off our Japanese skills and settled into a nice little evening… while reflecting on why we had never managed to come to the Golden Gai before!

Shinjuku golden gai

Golden Gai little alleys

Our small adventure in Tokyo has come to an end. I hope that our little trip will provide some motivation for you to experience yourself this vast city with so much to offer … after living there seven years I realized I still have a lot to discover!

 Voyagista’s tips

  • *For entry to Legoland you can reserve tickets on the internet (in English), where you specify the hour of your visit. The tickets cost 1,500 to 2,000 yen for entry during the day, and 1,300 yen after 4pm. Better to go as late as possible in the afternoon to beat the crowds. *We were also recommended Kidzania, which will be for our next visit: here, the kids can experience working in different jobs through various activities. Wednesday is English day at Kidzania.

  • There is an Onsen (hot baths) decorated in historical (Japan Edo Period) style at Odaiba if you want to try bathing Japanese-style (without having to head out of Tokyo to the mountains!).

  • We went for dinner at Chez Olivier, which is tres bon French food if you want to break from sushi and yakitori. It is close to Yasukuni Temple, the cherry blossoms at Chidorigafuchi, and the Hirakawa gate for the Imperial Palace.

  • If you want some other yummy ideas of where to eat in Tokyo try Eatpia

  • The choice is vast at the Golden Gai, take a walk around and sidle into the one (or ones) that entice you. As in the rest of Japan, communicating in English will only get you so far here and there is normally a cover charge for entry to the bars. The red light district of Kabukicho is next door if you want another experience.

What would you perfect day in Tokyo include? Are you now considering a visit to Legoland, trying out a Tokyo French restaurant and having a drink at the Golden Gai?

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