Love Tokyo Awards 2017

Five Tokyo tips we discovered judging Time Out Tokyo's annual awards

We spent an incredible 72 hours judging #lovetokyoawards2016, so when Time Out Tokyo came calling this year, we eagerly packed our bags – and wore comfortable shoes – for another three days of traipsing across the Japan's capital to pick the best for this year's edition of the Love Tokyo Awards.

This year’s nominations were once again the key places that inspires 12.5 million international visitors to pack their bags and head to Tokyo each year. This year’s format was the same – Time Out editors from New York, London, Barcelona, Sydney, Bangkok and China converged on the Japanese capital and embarked on a flurry of tasting and reviews. Each of us were given strict instructions on what to look out for and checklists to fill up. Then we were off, walking, metro-ing and busing to incredible venues all over the city.

The top 5 tips we learned during this trip were:

1. Better go late than queue
While other editors queued for almost two hours before deciding on take-out visiting Kaneko Hannosuke, we lucked out with a nocturnal visit to just before it closed. We recommend sitting on the first floor by the bar with seven seats and watch as fresh seafood is converted into terrific tempura right in front of you.

Kaneko Hannosuke

Language isn’t an issue as there are only two choices: big or small portions. For just 950 Yen (55RMB) for the big portion, you get two huge prawns, squid and half a fish all lightly battered and resting on a sea of rice. We swore we wouldn’t be able to finish but we did anyway.

And then thought about the possibility of stuffing ourselves with seconds...

2. Kimonos aren’t just for ladies
When modern meets tradition, the results aren’t always great. An exception to this rule is Y & Son’s offerings in its stylish shop near the Kanda Shrine .

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We loved that the boutique is only for men and within, it offers its signature T-kimono designed as a cross between Western suits and the traditional kimono.

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You can buy off the rack though we recommend waiting two weeks for a bespoke fit. We weren’t the only ones that were wow-ed with the T-kimono winning in the best product category.

3. There’s a Harrods in Tokyo
Kidding. What we found was just as iconic at Mitsukoshi Nihombashi, Japan's oldest surviving department store chain, housed in a Renaissance-style building completed in 1935.

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Our morning visit saw us queuing with other shoppers waiting for its doors to be opened – testament to its enduring popularity. Within, its well-preserved art-deco interiors hold monuments in its own right, with an imposing statue of Magokoro (the Goddess of Sincerity) presiding at the building’s main hall overlooking an ancient marble hall containing fossils from the Jurassic period.

Come during the weekend at noon (or at 10.30am and 3pm) when its 1930's pipe organs are played while you browse nine floors of Japanese products. And if you get lost, just tell your friends to meet by the bronze lion statues inspired by the ones on Trafalgar Square and installed in 1914 by its main entrances.

4. Coffee is Tokyo’s drug of choice
And it’s hardly surprising, given the quality of coffee at its specialist cafes all over the city. At all hours of the day these venues are filled with people sipping a cuppa.

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This year’s nominees ranged from homely, neighborhood spots such as Higashi-Mukojima Coffee-ten, jazzy warrens such as Monozuki to the achingly hip Cafe Kitsune. Higashi-Mukojima Coffee-ten took home top honours this year – its no-bake cheesecake possibly tipping the scales – despite the stiff competition as Tokyo is one of the top places in the world to savour a cup of quality joe with its huge depth and breadth of cafes. Perfect for much needed pick-me-ups after all that walking, then.

5. You can’t just spend 72 hours in Tokyo
Having now spent 144 hours in Tokyo for two Love Tokyo Awards, we’ve discovered there’s just too much to see, do and most importantly eat through the city. We had three days to try out the best, but the rest ain’t bad. Check out our sister site Time Out Tokyo for its tightly curated picks of the city the next time you’re headed down.

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