The tallest building in Tokyo was our first stop our next day. Standing below the tower and looking up you can’t help but feel just a teensy-tiny bit minuscule and insignificant. The Sky Tree stands at 634 meters tall and was opened in 2012 to visitors. It held the record for tallest building in the world only for a brief period of time until the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai finished construction. We were pretty excited to see it…however, unfortunately for us, we arrived at 9:00am, which apparently in Tokyo wasn’t early enough! There was a 4 hour line up….minimum. We would have had to wait 2 hours just to buy tickets and wait another 2-3 hours AFTER THAT to go up the tower. Insanity!
On a beautiful sunny spring day in Tokyo, the last thing we wanted to do was wait around in line all day, not when there were a million other amazing things to do in Tokyo. So we took a few cool photos and then waved “sayonara” to the Sky Tree with a promise to come back next year.
Since we knew that the cherry blossoms blooming 2 weeks early was nothing short of a small miracle we decided to hit up as many parks as possible. We figured we would save the indoor stuff for another trip when Tokyo wasn’t so beautiful in spring, chances are my parents might come back next year when I will leave Japan to return home. We made up our minds and headed to the Imperial Palace Gardens to enjoy relaxing, walking around and taking a few great photos with the beautiful cherry trees.
It was at this point we officially began to feel the onset of cherry blossom fever. Symptoms include:
- Taking far too many pictures of yourself, your loved ones and the blossoms themselves
- A feeling of giddiness
- Desire to skip through the park like a small child
- Inability to suppress frequent sighs and exclamations over how pretty the trees are
- A bittersweet sensation in the pit of your stomach because you know the beauty of the blossoms will last no more than one week.
After some hanami-ing we were feeling a bit peckish so it was off to Shinjuku Crossing for my absolute favourite place to eat in Tokyo: Tsurutontan! It’s a very famous udon restaurant where the only thing bigger than your appetite after looking at the very delicious-looking menu is the bowl of food served! Interested? You can check out their Japanese website here!
Ok, non-foodie people I beg you to bear with me while I rave about my favourite Tokyo restaurant. Let me start with the fact the food is to die for or, at the very least, drool over! The specialty of this restaurant is udon noodle dishes served in GIGANTIC bowls that are bigger than your head, and I have yet to eat a single thing on their menu that wasn’t the king of noodle dishes. For those of you reading this blog who have never heard of udon, heavens knows I hadn’t until I came to Japan, Udon is a type of thick Japanese wheat-flour noodle that is often served in a noodle soup or covered in a delicious sauce.
My personal recommendation at Tsurutontan is the sukiyaki bowl. It’s a classic Japanese dish that this restaurant has nailed the recipe for! The noodles are tender, the assortment of veggies generous, the thinly sliced beef absolutely mouthwatering and it’s all covered in a sukiyaki broth which is salty, flavourful and a little bit on the sweet side. My mother agreed to try my recommendation and loved it!
Aaaaand brave soul that I am I deviated from my favourite sukiyaki udon bowl in favor of a seasonal speciality that was new to the menu and only there for a limited time. I chose the Genovese Seared Chicken Udon (地鶏のたたき ジェノベーゼのおうどん – 新宿店) which was a really tasty combination of basil-flavoured udon covered in a creamy tomato sauce. While it was really yummy, and I loved it, I wouldn’t recommend this dish to a tourist visiting Tokyo because it’s more like spagetti than traditional Japanese udon.
While the best part of visiting Tsurutontan is undeniably the food, the atmosphere of the Shinjuku location is super cool and hip too, which adds immensely to the experience.
It has a gangster-goth sort of feel. You enter the restaurant using a dark staircase which leads into a dimly lit room decorated in black with accents of red. The staff uniform’s are of the same color scheme, all black with hints of red here and there.
All-in-all it just adds an air of secrecy to the place that makes you feel like you’ve stumbled on the cave of food wonders!
***As much as I would love to recommend Tsurutontan to everyone visiting Tokyo I have 2 warnings:
- Don’t go if you don’t speak Japanese. There isn’t an English menu, everything is in kanji, katakana and hiragana, and the staff doesn’t speak English.
- It’s a busy place, so I really recommend making a reservation unless you want to wait in a long line-up (ex: 1-2 hours during peak times!)
- Name: TSURUTONTAN SHINJUKU
- Phone #: 03-5287-2626
- Address: 〒 160-0021, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 2-26-3, Amimoto building B1F
- Website: www.tsurutontan.co.jp
After eating to the point we all had to loosen our belts a few notches we headed over to Shinjuku Park to walk off our udon-food-babies.
The shoppers in Shinjuku wear some pretty cool outfits! So keep your eyes peeled when walking around this area.
You would think that after seeing cherry blossoms yesterday, and even again that morning, maybe we’d be a little sick of them by this point. NOPE! Somehow, our trip to the dark and mysterious Tsurutontan made us super excited to see sunshine again and the 1500 cherry trees of Shinjuku Park were absolutely splendid in full bloom.
Just as a random little side note, I was super happy looking back on these photos because I was so pleased with how the alterations I did on this new dress worked out. I bought a really cute tapestry dress from ASOS and then altered it a little at home, making the skirt a bit more A-line than tulip. All-in-all I think it turned out rather nice don’t you? I wore this dress for the first time that day and I felt super feminine wearing it; it was nice to feel pretty when you are taking lots of pictures with cherry blossoms!
When we first arrived at the park it was absolutely packed, yet somehow we stayed so long walking and talking in the park that we were the last ones there! You can even see the security guard in this picture herding us out of the garden (ooops we got a little lost and accidentally tried to go out the wrong gate!). That’s the secret to enjoying the parks of Tokyo though, not to rush through them. Take your time!
Another fantastic day full of quality family time, cherry blossoms, delicious food and delightful conversations!