Though we've visited Tokyo a few times before, we've never been in Japan for cherry blossom season or with family, so for this quick three-day Tokyo trip, we dedicated our time to sakura hanami (enjoying the transient beauty of the cherry blossoms) and immersing ourselves in the art, history and pop culture that is so unique to Tokyo.
Day 1: Shinjuku Nightlife
We arrived just in time for dinner, and slowly strolled a few laps around Golden Gai before enjoying our first meal in Japan with Dave's family - sushi - ordered from a giant iPad with pictures of the various rolls, sashimi and sides. Dave's dad realized at this meal that sushi did in fact contain raw fish, the first of many culinary firsts on the trip.
After dinner, we enjoyed a walk around Shinjuku, played a few video games (including a cutting-edge 4D VR game where Erin battled samurai in a moving seat with heat and water effects), then returned to our tiny but super efficient Tokyo hotel rooms, each equipped with super-soft Japanese pajamas.
Day 2: Samurai Art and Cat Cafe
We started in Ueno Park, taking in the cherry blossoms along with the crowds, many of them Japanese teens from the country side dressed in traditional attire to get the perfect sakura Instagram pic.
We moved on to the Tokyo National Museum, where we marveled at samurai swords, room-long paper scrolls and beautiful painted screens. Dave enjoyed the bevy of school-girls dressed in traditional uniforms like an anime movie come to life just as much as the art. Dave's family are art museum enthusiasts, so we took our time taking in the works in each room, until we were all starving for lunch.
A few attempts to find the perfect ramen shop went awry, so we settled on some soba near the train station and, of course, it ended up being delicious. Instead of dessert we opted to hang out at the Calico Cat Cafe, feeding sliced turkey to the very cute but also very jaded cats.
While Dave's fam took the night off, we headed out to see our favorite new band Khraungbin play at Club Quattro, and finished off the night with our favorite - Ichiran ramen.
Day 3: Harajuku and Yanara
We started day three by heading to Harajuku, where we took in some street style, marveled at the squishy toy trend and ate some crepes and bubble tea.
Next, we trained over to the Yanaka neighborhood for a small group food tour in one of the less crowded, more historical Tokyo zones. We sat outside on the deck of a traditional home turned brewery and snacked on edamame and roasted sticky rice cakes, and then visited temples, photographed more cherry blossoms, and sat down on tatami mats for a delicious, perfectly presented lunch of sashimi and fried tuna. We shopped for kimonos and snacked on the local versions of donuts before heading back to the future in Shinjuku for an afternoon rest.
For our last dinner in Tokyo, we opted to class it up and hit the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Hotel, of Lost in Translation fame. As we flew up the lightening-quick elevator to the 52nd floor, we felt like we were entering a new, super luxe but timeless world. A jazz singer and three-piece band entertained the smartly dressed diners and bar patrons, and everyone seemed happy to be surrounded on all sides by the twinkling lights of the futurescape all around us. We felt like ballers as we were seated in a semi-private sunken room, and we continued the over-the-top vibe by ordering courses of lamb, scallops, roasted chicken, salmon, veggies and duck-fat fries, capped off with a trio of desserts.
While the Brauns taxi-ed home to Shinjuku, we took a long walk through Shibuya to take in the midnight cherry blossoms, set against the glowing neon signs dotting the still-busy streets. We headed to our favorite Lawson's to pick up some snacks for our train the following morning (Galbo minis, matcha milk teas and egg salad sandwiches).
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