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Last Licks in Tokyo

November 30, 2019

One more day in Tokyo before flying home. NPS is back in the very same room at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo with the progeny for another night. After taking the Shinkansen back from Kyoto it was time for sushi with Rio.

Lots of sushi pictures and videos on apothecaryshed.

Then it was off to “the local” for a pre-game negroni (that is, the Tippler’s Arms).

The Tippler’s Arms will make you a cocktail

Then a local train to Kitazaswa to see the Dead Bambis. First a fuel stop before the show.

The Dead Bambis are very loud and very good. (Earplugs are a necessity at these shows!). See more pictures and videos of the show on apothecaryshed.

Then a visit to a new bar in Shinjuku bound to become a classic—Jeremiah. We met the owner K in Kyoto at Bees Knees and he told us about his new project in Tokyo. K then met us in Tokyo. Awesome.

Blue blazers, corpse revivers, extra fun shots. Just go!

Finally it was across the street to the LGBTQ neighborhood Hanazono Nishi for some people watching and dog patting.

Short, but fun last day in Tokyo!

Pontocho Misoguigawa in Kyoto is a legend. Incredible Japanese/French fusion food served Kaiseki (懐石) style. If you miss your milk, butter, and cream while in Japan, just pay a visit.

Chef (and owner) Inoué Téruo is a delight and a master. His annual trips to France show in his cuisine.

The Thousand Kyoto

November 28, 2019

Outside art at The Thousand

The brand spanking new hotel called The Thousand in Kyoto is a high design treat. Open, artful, tasteful, and gorgeous. We arrived via Shinkansen from Tokyo and walked the few hundred feet to the hotel. We had some tea.

Green Tea at The Thousand Tea Room

Yoshi meets the progeny

Kubota Ramen

Our first order of business was meeting Yoshi (@kemono4shikazu) who NPS met last time around in Kyoto. Yoshi is a delightful person. He took us to Kubota Ramen, a great way to start out a visit to Kyoto.

We stopped by Saredo coffee on the way back to check in.

Check out Yoshi’s super terrific band!

We booked an incredible Japanese style suite at The Thousand and were assigned 803. An amazing room indeed!

Leave your shoes in the anteroom

Pile your suitcases by the closet

Suite 803

The suite features a terrace overlooking the train station.

Of course the shower here is NPS approved.

The shower room includes a tub

And also of course, the toilet is complicated (and plugs in for power). Not sure what

Plug in your toilet

Not sure we even want to know what “pulsate” does.

After stashing our stuff and a short respite, we headed out to Nishiki market for some consumer spending.

Bees Knees Kyoto is a great bar

As it was cocktail hour, we stopped in at the incomparable Bees Knees bar. Great cocktails and super people. We had some Japanese renditions of classics (CR#2, Last Word, Aperol Spritz), and then it was
off to dinner.

We wandered into Steak and Wine Ginjiro for a very touristy meal of Kobe beef and bad wine. These kinds of restaurants pervade Nishi-kiyacho Ally and can probably be safely skipped. The food was good nonetheless.

Table art at Ginjiro

Never flown

Kobe

Our attempt to visit the French bar was thwarted by crowds of tourists so we had some ice cream and refactored our plan. Next we went to Nokishita711 for some gin. Simply put, Nokishita711 is a very strange place. NPS is not so sure whether that is good or bad. A “root of all evil” cocktail was interesting indeed. But the whole scene is just a little too too.

Nokishita711

Um, a cocktail?

And then for the last few cocktails and shots of the evening, it was back to Bees Knees. We had a few with the owner. Too many shots later, we somehow managed to make it home.

We bow to the owner of Bees Knees

Sazaracs

Sleeping in late was mandatory after the raging party at Bees Knees. It was all those extra shots all around that did it.

The good news is that there is no more perfect food to cure a hangover than ramen. In Japan, evemn commercial ramen is great.

A visit to Fushimi Inari in the late afternoon put us at the top in perfect time for sunset. Magical. See lots of pictures and videos on apothecaryshed.

Get a fried chicken dinner at Sugar Hill. Delicious.

The gym at The Thousand is pretty standard issue for a hotel. Seems bigger because of mirrors. Up early to work out is good.

Breakfast on day two Kyoto was at Kawa Cafe, a French/Japanese fusion place right on the river. Highly recommended (though it is rather strange that a cafe can’t make a macchiato!).

Kawa visitors

Deliciousness at the Kawa Cafe

The walk back down was beautiful.

Walking Kyoto

In fact, being in Kyoto for autumn is a thing. Do it!

Autumn in Kyoto is gorgeous

The obligatory trip to Arashiyama included the temple gardens. Should have done that last time!

Bamboo for you

Arishayama Shadow

Obu cafe is worth a visit.

Lunch in touristland

Excellent espresso in Japan can be found at Karusa Kyoto.

Best coffee in Kyoto?! Could well be.

The Straight bar makes an excellent Japanese Negroni.

A once (or twice) in a lifetime experience involves dinner at Pontocho Misoguigawa. Just wow.

Dinner at Pontocho Misoguigawa is not to be missed.

And to top off the evening, some jazz and a Gin Rickey at Hello Dolly.

Hello Dolly jazz

A gin rickey (DC’s signature drink) in Japan

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen. See more on apothecaryshed.

Fuji

Kyoto, NPS will be back for sure!!

Five very impressive showerheads for The Thousand Kyoto

After a 19 hour trip from Washington, the Tokyo Station was a welcome sight. A quick taxi ride to Rappongi and we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. NPS is traveling with the progeny. We’ve been here before, and it is great to be back.

Taxi stand Tokyo Station

Tokyo on arrival

Checkin was smooth. We requested a Twin Club Deluxe room with an extra bed to suite three adults. Our room 1013 is on the concierge level where the club is. Super convenient for breakfast and cocktails.

1013 twin club

The bathroom is spacious and well appointed with an NPS approved shower

Omnipresent screen

1013 is a very nice room, just fine for three adults.

The elevator hallway

A late dinner at The Oak Door steakhouse was impressive indeed. One of the best steaks NPS has ever eaten. Just wow.

Porterhouse (off menu)

The sides were just as fantastic as the steak.

And then it was time for much needed sleep. Sleeping on planes in pods is a fitful and pretty much unfulfilling experience. (United Polaris remains among the best in the business for international travel).

Some tips for Japan travelers. Make sure to reserve a wifi device for your wanderings so you can connect your phone(s) through that. You can pick up your device on landing at Narita at the fourth floor post office. Then get some cash if you can. Japan is all about cash. Finally, try to get a Japan Rail Green pass before you arrive. This trip, the US Post office screwed up delivery of our passes by imposing a six week delay. That meant we had to purchase passes on arrival (still recommended, but more expensive). The US Post Office sucks.

Shibuya mural

Day one in Tokyo started kind of late due to the inevitable jet lag suffered by the progeny. We started at Shibuya station to see the famous mural, the dog statue, and the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection. We also had some soup.

Tokyo Sunglasses

Next was a walk up towards Meiji Jingu that took us by an excellent sunglasses retailer, and the pedestrian shopping streets (very different) Ometesando and Takeshita. Trifles were acquired.

Espresso on the Street

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a magical place. Any source of peace is much needed for NPS at this juncture. Shinto.

Meiji Jingu

We exited the north end of the shrine by some yellow ginkos and walked up to a small mall to share a bottle of french wine.

Samurai Museum

There was just enough time to stop in at the Samurai museum (well worth a peek) before dinner.

Sushi at Makoto Sushi was outstanding.

Then it was off on a cocktail bar crawl of sorts. Sadly Ben Fiddich was full (a reservation is a must, but the only slot we could get by phone was for 6pm, too early for us). So we found a nearby dive bar. Three bar was very professional. Nice ice. Great Negroni measured with care.

We walked from Three Bar through piss alley. Golden Gai was our final destination for the day. We visited Baobab (the first vinyl bar in Tokyo) to listen to some old funk and drink some rum. Then it was off to our final destination Le Parrain (a godfather themed, old school, very smokey bar). Great cocktails included a Jack Rose, and over sweet Old Fashioned, and a Corpse Reviver #2 or two. (Special thanks to Jacques Bezuidenhout for excellent cocktail and food data.)

Le Parrain cocktail round

Day two in Tokyo also got off to a late start, this time because two of three of us on this trip work working (hint: not NPS who is “retired“). The day was devised with some help from Patrick who has lived in Tokyo for 10 years or so. The trip began at Hinade pier where we caught a city ferry up to Asakusa pier. The trip was about 40 minutes and a fun way to get around Tokyo.

Fuji Ramen (Tokyo)

Fuji Ramen shop

Our first stop of the day was at Fuji Ramen near Senso-ji temple. Absolutely delicious ramen!

The weather was drizzly at Senso-ji, which somehow seems to fit the mood of the temple. (See more about this visit on apothecaryshed.)

Walking Tokyo

From there, we walked to Kappabashi street to see the kitchenware and plastic food.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

A taxi delivered us to the Ueno park area where we spent an hour looking at impressionist paintings from France (because what else are you supposed to look at while in Japan?) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The people at the art museum, though teeming, were absolutely silent as they looked at the famous paintings. (See up and down art on apothecaryshed.)

Vending

A short walk through the park and a quick cab ride deposited us at our last stop, Akihabara. The progeny was familiar with all of the Anime stuff. NPS simply watched in awe of the breadth of Anime culture.

We cabbed back to the hotel for a brief pit stop before an incredibly great dibber at PST Pizza Studio Tamaka (in Roppongi close to the hotel). Recommended by friends of Jacques, the pizza at PST is Italian style and absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

Our final stop before crashing and burning in the jetlag haze of day two was the Mori tower. The view of Tokyo and surrounds from 50 floors is not to be missed.

Day three started way early for a trip on the Shinkansen to Kyoto, about which see this NPS blog entry.

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Great to be back. This place is an NPS recommended home base in Tokyo.

On the way out of Japan, NPS spent one last night in Tokyo at the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula is situated near Tokyo Station right by the high fashion (and expensive) Ginza district.

Check in was a bit chunky when we arrived, because the front desk was understaffed, but we were eventually serviced and upgraded into a city view suite. Room 1712 had not only a spacious set of rooms, but also chauffeur services and breakfast in the room for 500 yen.

Peninsula common area

Sitting room features comfy couches and chairs

The bedroom sub suite is set apart from the living room. There is an extra toilet for entertaining.

Extra bathroom

Makeup desk

Bedroom

The window of the bedroom (by the desk) over looks the city

The spacious bathroom has multiple sinks and a non-plastic shower. The shower could use better water pressure.

Huge tub with city view

Shower

Luggage room and walk in closet

All in all this is one of the best laid out and most interesting suites NPS has ever stayed in.

A visit to the nearby high fashion mall cost us a pretty penny in designer clothing. And then it was off to dinner at the great hole in the wall Sake No Ana. Worth a visit!

Tokyo traffic

Sake no ana

Sake lineup one

The victor

Sake lineup two

The second victor

At sake no ana, dinner is Japanese pub food. You know, like waygu beef cooked on a rock.

The peninsula also provided airport transportation to Narita in a BMW which was well worth the price on the last day of a long trip. We were ferried to the airport in style and helped through the checkin process. Security was very very fast leaving time for sushi at Kyotatsu (terminal one near gate 34).

Five showerheads foe the Peninsula hotel. Very chic in the fashion district of Tokyo.

Hotel Kanra Kyoto common area

What do you do when a plan completely falls apart? You refactor. Even in Japan. As it turned out our second Ryokan reservation was not for Kyoto but rather a small town 2.5 hours away in Kyoto province. Not figuring that out until the afternoon of the reservation was a eensy little problem.

Nishiki Market

No worries, there are plenty of nice hotels in Kyoto. So we stopped in a cafe for an espresso and a weird bird sighting and we found the Hotel Kanra.

Check out this guy’s feet

Hotel Kanra is very chic and stylish with an art vibe. We checked out two rooms and chose to stay in the annex in a small double. Room 301 looks like this.

The shower is not plastic, though it does include a plastic chair.

After checking in and charging up out devices we headed out for dinner at an incredible French/Japanese fusion restaurant called Misoguigawa. This is haute cuisine at its finest with French ingredients and Japanese service. Just wow.

On the way to the restaurant we walked through the Gion, then crossed the river and found the Stardust Club. There was live music, cigarette smoke, and much fun.

Gion

The next morning, it was off to see the Bamboo in Arashiyama.

For more bamboo, see apothecaryshed.

Then the bullet train back to Tokyo. We left enough time post-bamboo for sushi at the huge Kyoto station. NPS really enjoyed the sushi train.

Fuji peeks through the clouds

Four showerheads for Hotel Kanra Kyoto. A reasonable place for a quick night in Kyoto.

First you leave Tokyo on a bullet train. Eventually you end up on a tiny local that chugs up the mountain at an unhurried pace through a set of switchbacks. And then you arrive. Peace.

Gora Kadan is situated on a hillside just a few minutes walk from the Gora train station.

Hakone local

The welcome ritual is relaxing and very upscale. The big bucks come here to relax. And relax they do. Gorgeous setting. Natural hot springs. Mountains. Art.

After checking our bags, we headed out for some Soba and some art.

Soba

Sculpture in

We made an early afternoon visit to the Hakone Outdoor Museum. Just wow. Go to see the sculpture.

Then it was back to Gora Kadan to meet our room assistant and find our private accommodations (Japanese style).

Yes, you will need a private hot spring tub. Check out the view from the glass shower!

Strangely, the bathroom was divided into two sections somewhat far from each other. The obligatory Japanese toilet had many buttons.

After donning kimonos, we headed back upstairs for a soak in the public hot springs. Follow the washing rituals! Turns out that our sex segregated hot springs were mostly private since we were the only guests there. Then a glass of champagne after bathing and a swim in the pool. Pictures are not allowed in the public guests areas at Gora Kadan. The design is classic upscale Japanese. An incredible place to visit.

Kaiseki dinner is served in the room and takes at least two hours. Follow that with a massage and you have a perfect spa visit.

Kaiseki dinner

Five showerheads for Gora Kadan plus extensive hot springs and luxury of the highest order.