There are loads of Seven Eleven shops for you to get milk etc and tap water is safe. I didn’t see any cafes etc that offered English tea so take your own teabags.
If you buy alcohol at an UK airport, they don’t put it in a sealed bag. That means that it’ll be confiscated if you have a stopover. But on your inbound flight, China and Japan airport shops do put liquids in bags and so you will be able to take liquid home. Also take a pen on the flight as you’ll have to complete a entry form on the flight. You won’t need to prebook a visa for Japan.
Japan has amazing alcohol. You’ll be able to get wine, including rose wine out there. Please try Japanese Plum wine as it’s amazing, and I mean bloody amazing! Some plum wine may have a strong fume smell but it will still taste the best. You can buy Japanese plum wine online in the UK. Before I hit the karaoke bars in Japan, I would knock these bad boys back for dutch courage… and it works. Drink prices are fair, by fair I mean they are cheaper than Canary Wharf bars.
Eating out can be as expensive or cheap as you like. I could get a big bowl of beef with rice and a beer for £6. Matsuya was one of my favourite places to eat. It’s quite a good place to eat for solo travellers.
So now we have to discuss chop sticks. 99% of the places will serve food with chop sticks and if you’re anything like me, it’s a struggle. Only advice I can offer is, do the best that you can and take napkins.
Sushi is vast – you can pay a lot or not very much, but quality tends to be high everywhere so you don’t need to worry so get stuck in as it’s always going to be better than here in the UK.
You can go for conveyor belt sushi (where it goes round on a conveyor belt and you take what you want), which may be fun and good if you don’t know what you like, but the chains are also good (e.g. sushi zanmai you can find everywhere and is cheap) and this tends to be made fresher.
Tuna comes in three qualities – red (non fatty), pinkish (mid fatty) and whiter “chu toro” (extra fatty) – the fattier, the better and creamier. Definitely try the seared tuna or salmon (“aburi” toro/salmon) which is grilled with a blow-torch. Popular choices are sea urchin and salmon eggs.
Most sushi restaurants will also have cooked other dishes too, like grilled fish, if it turns out not to your liking.
In my previous blog (The Kill Bill Effect), I mentioned the Kill Bill restaurant. Food is good most of the time and a bit westernised-Japanese, but it’s foreigner friendly and a great setting. You are then a short walk from the Roppongi nightlife district, should you want to venture there (again, a bit more westernised but still a uniquely Japanese experience). I went here alone and it was great. It’s definitely a selfie 🤳 central location.
New York Bar and Grill – 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku – and featured in the film Lost in Translation – jaw-dropping views, food and drink. Again, v pricey but superb. They also do great buffet brunches at the weekend which are great value if you are hungry!
Nobu (Robert de Niro’s Restaurant) in Toranomon (not far from Roppongi) pricey but I heard it’s fabulous – the black miso cod is to die for. I think they do decent priced set menu too. Again, it’s a bit westernised but very accessible for foreigners and amazing food. I will try this restaurant in my next trip. Who wouldn’t want to go to a Robert De Nero restaurant! No one.
Food to try;
Ramen (Tonkatsu style) – Like a soup with noodles and pork in
Oyakadon – Rice and Chicken meal
Omonomiyaki – pancake thing with pork and seafood normally
Yakisoba – tasty noodles
Yakitori – Chicken skewers (Momo is particularly good!) watch out as you may end up being given heart, lung or liver!
There’s ‘american’ restaurants out there, also McDonalds, KFC, Denny’s etc.
Many restaurants have English menus. I’ve noticed a lot of ‘younger’ Japanese people speak English. The Japanese won’t speak English unless they know it well because they don’t want to insult you.
The Japanese do not accept tips in restaurants/bars etc because it is seen as an insult. This is the same with Taxi’s.
In Japan you cannot smoke walking down the street but there’s smoking areas. In restaurants you can ask for non smoking. Smokes are cheap in Japan and they will be the same price across the country. In most shops, you get a free lighter if you buy a carton… value for money if you ask me.
O-Hi-Yo Go-Zai-Mas – Good Morning
Kon-Ban-Wa – Good Evening
Ari-Gat-O – Thanks
Ari-Gat-O Go-Zai-Mas – Thank you very much
Su-Mi-Ma-Sen – Excuse me/Sorry/Getting someone’s attention
Go-Min-A-Sigh – Sorry
Su-Mi-Ma-Sen Itch-E Och-A High Ku-Da-Sigh – Excuse me, 1 green tea and Sochu please.
Gen-Key Des-Ka – How are you?
Gen-Key Des – I am good thanks!
If you have a strong accent, speak slowly to the Japanese so that they have a better chance of understanding what you say. I learnt this the hard way, with my strong Essex accent.