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Coming back with another cultural and ramen tour guide of Japan and this time I thought I would introduce the capital with the area surrounding Tokyo station! Again, when traveling through Japan, and particularly the areas near Tokyo, it can be quite confusing trying to navigate in a way where you are conscious of time as you want to squeeze in as much as possible during your visit. And during your hectic day, trying to find a good, quality ramen shop for lunch or dinner can be almost impossible with the countless restaurants in the area. Well this guide is here to help as I will walk you through a sample tour squeezing in three tourist destinations as well as three high quality ramen restaurants you can visit throughout the day! Without further ado, let’s get started with a morning visit to the biggest train station hub of Japan, Tokyo station!
Let’s aim for an early start here and meet at Tokyo station at 8 am, but don’t leave the gates! The great thing about the station is that it is home to a number of phenomenal restaurants such as the popular Ramen Street which is a convenient alleyway filled with top tier ramen shops. However, the one we want to go today is located within the gates of the station, hence not stepping out of the station just yet. Make your way towards the Yaesu exit and you’ll see it tucked away in the corner near some coin locker right before the gates.
8:00 am; Nippon Ramen Rin Tokyo (NIPPON RAMEN 凛 RIN TOKYO)
1 Chome−9−1 東京駅グランスタ B1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda City
Since Tokyo station is so busy at all times of the day, the restaurants and shops located inside have a pretty early opening, ramen shops included. One of the benefits of this early start at Tokyo station is that you can get a proper breakfast ramen which is what we’ll do here at Nippon Ramen Rin Tokyo. The master originally started Noodle Lab Q in Hokkaido and when this space opened up, he was offered to open a branch location bringing along his wealth of ramen knowledge. In the short time since he has opened in the confines of the station, Rin Tokyo has made quite a name for themselves and is constantly churning out fantastic ramen bowls daily.
The ramen to grab is the Shoyu Ramen which is made up of a stock using Tokyo-X brand pork. The pork is primarily used as a premium variety of tonkatsu, fried breaded pork, but Rin Tokyo uses the femur of this breed for the broth. Included with the pork bones are some Nagoya Cochin, a brand variety of chicken, to give a varied flavor profile. Shoyu tare and a bit of Chiyu chicken oil finish the bowl and the thin snappy noodles work perfectly with the soup. Pork chashu, some green onions, and a slice of nori dried seaweed top the bowl for a simple, but elegant bowl of ramen. Once you finish with your breakfast ramen, let’s head out of the station towards the west, Marunouchi side exit for our first tourist destination!
9:00 am; Imperial Palace/Hibiya Park
1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City
Once out of the station, make your way west and you’ll soon hit the Imperial Palace, home of the royal family of Japan. While you can’t go inside the Imperial Palace for obvious reasons, you can walk around this beautiful area and check out the different statues, bridges, and gardens right outside the moat. South of the Imperial Palace is Hibiya Park which includes a beautiful flower garden as well as an amazing view of both the Imperial Palace and Tokyo station. The park is quite big for central Tokyo and has a ton of hidden gems scattered throughout so be sure to explore a bit and see the different areas the park has to offer. Once you’ve done a bit of exploring, let’s head out for lunch in the ritzy Ginza district of central Tokyo.
12:00 pm; Ginza Noodles Mugi to Olive (Ginza Noodles むぎとオリーブ)
6 Chome-12-12 Ginza, Chuo City
For lunch let’s head to Mugi to Olive, a perennial Tabelog Top 100 ramen shop and one of the more popular restaurants in Ginza. Keep in mind your schedule when you make your way here as they are known to run out of soup during lunch service so try and arrive at least by 12:00 to secure yourself a bowl! You won’t be disappointed with your early arrival as this is one of the finer ramen establishments in Tokyo, so prepare your tastebuds for a flavor rollercoaster ride!
What makes Mugi to Olive so special is their use of clams which bring out a fantastic flavor to the soup. Pairing with the clam stock is their shoyu tare which is absolutely divine and really enhances the shellfish flavors. Noodles pair perfectly with their delectable soup and the plentiful toppings make for an incredibly satisfying and filling meal. Be sure to add their namesake olive oil infused with shallots (hence the name) which provides a bit of fat and flavor to the bowl for a phenomenal mid meal flavor change. Despite being in a rather high end, expensive area of Tokyo, Mugi to Olive makes sure you leave with a happy stomach and wallet!
1:00 pm; Ginza
Once you finish up with your ramen at Mugi to Olive, be sure to check out the surrounding area which is essentially the Rodeo Drive of Japan. Ginza is packed with shopping options from more budget friendly brands like GU and Uniqlo to the more upscale shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The main street is also home to a number of department stores like Mitsukoshi, Matsuya, and Wako where you can browse the different clothing stores as well as check out the food floor where you can purchase the high class expensive fruits you’ve probably heard about online. A ton of high end, Michelin star restaurants call Ginza home as well so be sure to grab a gourmet map at the station to see all of the available options.
6:00 pm; Men Cry (MENクライ)
1 Chome−3−4 山谷ビル, Shiba, Minato City
Once you finish exploring the ritzy area of Ginza, make your way down either by foot or by train towards Hamamatsucho station. By foot it is probably about a 30 minute walk, but is only a five minute train ride from Shimbashi station which is right next to Ginza. I would recommend the walk to burn off some calories, as well as explore the city a bit more, but if you’re pressed for time, definitely hop on the train. Once there, head a bit south of the station to find Men Cry, one of the newer shops in the area, but one that has been peaking the interests of many ramen enthusiasts.
What makes Men Cry so special are their noodles which are insanely thick cut and have an almost mochi like texture to them that has gourmet hunters salivating. The selling point here is definitely the noodles so up to you which you’d like to try between the Shoyu and the Iriko Ramen. Even the Abura Soba which is a sort of soupless ramen comes with the thick noodles so anything on the menu is recommended. For a bit of a rounded ramen experience, I would suggest going for the Iriko which is a type of Niboshi dried fish used for steeping soup. The translucent soup is packed with umami and the noodles soak in the soup nicely. It does impart a bit of a fishy aftertaste, but is otherwise top notch.
7:00 pm; Tokyo Tower
4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City
Finally, after dinner, head west towards the tall orange obelisk to take yourself to the base of the famous Tokyo Tower! While it can be quite pretty during the day, the Tower shines brightest in the evenings and has a certain hue to it that you just can’t get until night falls and the city lights come on. If you arrived a bit early before sun down, be sure to check out the temples and shrines nearby to soak in a bit of Japanese culture. The tower is open until 9:30 pm with the last elevator up at 9, so be sure not to go too late so you can enjoy the observation deck. From there you’ll have a gorgeous night time panoramic view of the city that you can’t get anywhere else and a perfect way to cap off your day in central Tokyo!