48 Hours in Japan

Email sent: Jun 20, 2013 9:01 am
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48 Hours in Japan

This week we bring you GO Tokyo/Kyoto, replete with our food/hotel tips, adventures, some great stores and beautiful photos. As incredible as Japan is, it's a world away from English speaking culture and getting on the subway can be crazy intimidating, so we relied on an awesome travel agency, Black Tomato, to tell us how to do it right. See below for everything from how to cut fish for sushi to a beautiful tea ceremony in Kyoto.



P.S. Keep an eye out for our full list of what to eat, see, do, where to stay and more in our Japan guide, coming soon as part of goop's city guide app.


This week’s goop collaboration

Getting There & Travel Notes

When making restaurant reservations, and for many of the temples, you almost always have to go through a travel agent or hotel concierge. Also, for many of the more coveted seats, like a few of the restaurants we list below, it’s best to book pretty well in advance.

Black Tomato’s Japan experts were super helpful with everything from getting reservations, to advance temple authorization in Kyoto and more - we'd totally recommend them if you're planning a trip to Japan or elsewhere in the world. We also love that they send you a Japan-related novel to read on the plane.

goop’s 24 hours in Tokyo

Start the day at...

Tsukiji Fish Market

The whole ocean is here at Tsukiji fish market. This is where the best sushi-ya’s in town come to auction for the highest-quality cuts of fish each morning, and after that locals and other restaurateurs come to see what’s fresh in for dinner. Here’s what we saw:

Entrance to the market.

It’s a big place.

The scene.

See more photos here »

Sushi Making

After the market, we head over to a nearby sushi school to learn how to make sushi - from fileting the fish to perfectly forming the rice for the nigiri to putting it all together.

1. We use in-season horse mackerel. First, slice off the head. Then, make a clean slice along the belly and wash away the blood and guts. Dry the fish and place back down on a clean, dry cutting board.

2. Holding the fish steady with one hand, use the knife to slice the top half away from the bone. Then, place the half (with bone still attached) flesh side down on the cutting board. Starting from the top, slice the fish away from the bone.

3. Place both halves flesh side up and run your fingers along the top to feel for any extra bones – remove with tweezers.

Get the full recipe here »

Grab a mid-morning coffee and browse books and shops in Daikanyama.

Tatsuya Books + Anjin at Daikanyama T-site

Tsutaya is a Japanese DVD rental chain, but what makes this bookstore remarkable is that it's housed in the architecturally-stunning Daikanyama T-Site, spread across three interlinked buildings. The store itself is prolific, with everything from art books, hoards of magazines, antique periodicals, English-language titles, music, DVD's and more with high-tech features like browsing for titles on tablets. The lounge/café upstairs, Anjin, opens early and closes late and is as cool looking as the rest of the store, with beautiful couches, lamps and furnishings, including the bar, which is made out of stacked books.

See the shopping district here »

Lunch at Ramen Street

1-9-1 Marunouchi
Tokyo Station, B1, Chiyoda

Inside the maze that is Tokyo Station is this little alley with a few special shops, invited to be part of this much-frequented (by locals and tourists alike) ramen destination...

Read the rest here »

Next, see some art at...

Scai The Bathhouse

6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-Ku
03 3821 1144

This gallery, featuring some of the best contemporary art in Tokyo, is housed in this former bathhouse. The venue is almost as impressive as the work.

Heading back towards the hotel, stop along the way for some specialty shopping.


2-2-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku

The rice bar

The just few months old Akomeya, by rice retailer Sazaby League, is like a Japanese Dean & Deluca on steroids, in the best possible way. With thousands of rice-related products, including wooden boxes used for measuring rice and sake, rice pots and beautiful utensils, food products such as crackers, and much more...

Read and see more here »

Check In

Peninsula Hotel

1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
03 6270 2888

The Palace Hotel

1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
03 3211 5211

Time to check in, regroup and refresh before going out again for the evening. A couple of our choices include the Peninsula Hotel and The Palace Hotel, just a few blocks apart. Both are stand-alone luxury hotels (a rarity in Tokyo where most hotels occupy the top floors of other buildings), which overlook the Imperial Palace. The Peninsula’s rooms are particularly luxurious, yet still maintain a distinct Japanese feel.

Pre-dinner drinks at...

Gen Yamamoto

Anniversary Building 1F, 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku
03 6434 0652

Gen is bringing serious mixology to town. Having started at Bar Totto in NYC’s little Tokyo and then at the bar at Brushstroke, he’s returned to Tokyo to open up his namesake where he serves an innovative cocktail tasting menu, which includes his (amazing) signature sweet tomato cocktail. Not your typical bar, there’s no music and little talking, just the sound of really well made cocktails being shaken and stirred in the minimally-decorated, handsome room, which is dominated by a long wooden bar.

Dinner at...

Kasumicho Suetomi

Yawata Bldg., 3rd fl., 4-2-13 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku
03 5466 1270

Kasumicho Suetomi is located on the third floor of a random building on a street full of much more obvious restaurants - you will never find it if you don't know about it. Take a dingy elevator up to be greeted by the kimono-clad hostess who guides you into the tiny dining room with only about 10 seats...

Read more here »


Check out our sushi option here »

If you’re still feeling lively, go for drinks and dancing at...

Le Baron

Aoyama Center Bldg B1F, 3-8-40 Minami-Aoyama
03 3408 3665

First in Paris and now in NYC as well, Le Baron in Tokyo has its own unique scene and a nice change up from the foreigner-heavy nightlife in Roppongi. A great place to dance.

Snaps from Around Town

Ginza by night.

left: The super-cool Omotesando Koffee in the Omotesando hills; right: New friends at Tsukiji market

See more snaps here »

goop’s 24 hours in Kyoto

In the morning, take the bullet train to Kyoto. It’s best to get your sightseeing done first to avoid crowds and heat.


Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital, remains the cultural capital of the country with countless World Heritage sites including a couple thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. These are only a small few that have impressed us.

Moss Temple

56 Matsuo Jingatani-chō, Ukyō-ku

You must write by post to visit the Moss Temple, or Saihō-ji, which still requires all visitors to trace Buddhist sutras (prayers) before being able to walk through the beautiful gardens.

Silver Pavilion

2 Ginkakujicho Sakyo Ward
075 771 5725

The Silver Pavilion, aka Ginkaku-ji, is not actually silver, but was intended to be before construction was halted due to war and then eventually abandoned when its presiding Shogun Yoshimasa died.

Shogun: de facto rulers of Japan between 1192 to 1867, appointed by the emperor.

See more temples here »

Lunch at...


28-3 Teranomaemachi, Hanazono, Ukyo-ku
075 462 4673

Close to the Golden Pavilion and the Rock Garden is this restaurant where many monks from the temple across the street and others nearby come for the shojin ryori (vegan temple food)...

Read more here »

Traditional Tea Ceremony

After lunch, experience old Kyoto by participating in a traditional tea ceremony. Tondaya, the perseved Machiya townhouse where the tea ceremony is held, belongs to descendants of its original family (who still live here) but has also become somewhat of a historical landmark in Kyoto, as it’s one of the only ones left of its kind – apparently it’s quite expensive to preserve and upkeep such a traditional structure. The lady of the house poses for us above. Notice how small the original doorways are, which you have to crawl through during the traditional ceremony.

See the rest of the tea ceremony here »

Kimono Shopping


Muromachi Dori, Oshikoji-agaru, Nakagyo-ku
075 212 8676

Next, head to the contemporary kimono shop Omo. Stylist Motoko Morita who runs this cute shop will help you pick out everything you need to rock contemporary geisha style. If you can’t spring for the whole kimono (they are expensive) there are also shirts made from extra kimono fabric and shoes to choose from.

See more of the shop here »

Continue shopping at...

Sfera Shop

SferaBuilding 2F, 17 Benzaiten-cho, Higashiyama-ku
075 532 1139

Opened a few years ago in the historic Gion district, Sfera may be Kyoto’s coolest shop. With a café on the first floor, furniture and furnishings on the second, including a variety of gorgeous Japanese pottery, and a gallery space and bookshop on the third. It’s a must for design lovers. Oh, and there’s also a bar (separately owned) on the top floor, which doesn’t get going until nighttime.

See more photos here »

Check In

Hoshinoya Ryokan

11-2 Genrokuzancho, Nishikyo-ku
050 3786 0066

This stunning ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in the west of Kyoto is for those looking to unplug and relax. You get to the resort by boat, and the ride over on the river between the mountains is just breathtaking. Once you get to the resort, you’ll be greeted by a welcome song of chimes and led to one of the luxury ryokan style rooms overlooking the river. In the morning, have a Japanese breakfast in the room before joining in on breathing exercises by the water. This is a really unique place.

Hyatt Regency

644-2 Sanjusangendo-mawari, Higashiyama-ku
075 541 1234

The Hyatt Regency is a modern and comfortable city hotel in a perfect location for getting in and out of the town center. The concierge and management here are really great for any kind of information on Kyoto you may need.

Pre-dinner drinks at...

Bar at Kanga-an

278 Kuramaguchi-Higahiiru, Karasumadori, Kita-ku
075 256 2480

Have a drink at this discreet bar in the back of the Kanga-an temple. Rad.

Dinner at...


3-283 Miyagawasuji, Higashiyama-ku
075 531 5999

Just opened a couple of years back, this tiny six-seat restaurant has already earned itself two Michelin stars. Run by a young husband and wife duo who are innovating the traditional kappo cuisine (fine food served over the counter that falls somewhere between a formal kaiseki and a casual izakaya), the food is incredibly fresh and seasonal, with a heavy focus on fish and veggies, many of which are grilled. Even though everything is quite simple and allows the flavor of the food to star, there’s something in every dish that is exceptional and unique.

An Evening with a Maiko

4-296 Miyagawasuji, Higasiyamaku
075 531 0606

An evening with a maiko (an apprentice geisha) can be difficult and pricey to book (it's even more difficult to book a geisha). But many teahouses, like the one listed here, are happy to offer these geishas-in-training for some traditional Kyoto-style entertainment. It’s truly special to sit next to one of these almost mythical young, painted women who sing, play instruments and are educated in traditional Japanese dance and the art of conversation.

Snaps from Kyoto

left: Kappo cuisine in action; right: Citrus graters at knife shop Artisugu.

left: View from the Hoshinoya resort boat; right: Yuka and matcha at Aijiro.

See more snaps here »

And a Poem...


Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

by Martha Postlewaite

Special thanks to Black Tomato for flying us over and hosting us on a few of the activities. We'd also like to thank the hotels listed in this issue for kindly hosting us on our trip.

This week’s goop collaboration

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lemon socks print

Natasha Law for goop

set of 7 wide band thongs

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Hansel from Basel for goop


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