A Cozy Izakaya, a Park With a View, Authentic Swords, and a Beer Museum

In this issue we bring an izakaya with a classically trained chef, a place to buy authentic swords, and a museum of beer history for one of Japan’s most prominent breweries.

Kotaro; A Cozy Izakaya Founded by a Classically Trained Chef

Kotaro is a cozy izakaya in Shibuya serving food cooked by a classically trained chef.

It’s not often you’ll find an izakaya staffed with an actual trained chef. Don’t get me wrong, izakaya food is absolutely one of my favorite things about Japan. But to up the ante with a chef completely dedicated to his craft really takes the experience to a new level.

That’s Kotaro. A teeny, tiny shop you’d totally pass by without thinking twice about it — but inside is something special. And when you’re adventuring in Japan, this is the type of place that will forge memories than last forever.

Expect to spend about ¥8,000 per person. AMEX card accepted. (Tabelog)

“Kotaro is a modern izakaya run by Chef Kotaro Hayashi and his team. If you are unsure as to what to order, you can sit at the counter and ask for the Chef’s ‘omakase’, which literally means “leaving it up to the chef to choose the dishes.” You’ll have the chance to taste a variety of creative twists on Japanese classic izakaya dishes.” Kotaro, A Must-Try Izakaya in Shibuya, Tokyo!

“There’s no menu, so state your preferences and let patron-chef Kotaro Hayashi choose something for you. The food respects tradition but is not bound by it, and Hayashi’s hipster-like affinity for the handcrafted comes through in every dish.” Kotaro

“The restaurant is popular so you have to book well in advance. You could call from overseas to place your reservation, about a month in advance. I believe the phone lines open up at 1:30 p.m. The staff can take your reservation in English.” Shibuya Kotaro 高太郎

+Map pin to Kotaro

Take a Break in Shiba Park

Shibakoen (Shiba park in Japanese) is a popular park in Minato with a fantastic view of Tokyo Tower. 

It’s a bit on the small side so if it’s a busy time of year, such as cherry blossom season, expect the park to be very full and cramped — while everyone jockeys for photo opportunities.

I also recommend going in the late evening when Tokyo Tower lights up and looks absolutely incredible. The calm, tranquil park and iconic lights from Tokyo Tower is a splendid evening with a loved one — or a hot cup of coffee. 

Map pin to Shiba Park

Buy Authentic Japanese Swords at Japan Sword

Japan Sword, a sword shop in Toranomon (Minato), is where you come if you want the real deal — the truly authentic Japanese sword.

It’s a little tiny shop but they have a lot to pick from. Some items will be around $200, but the top-end stuff is super expensive — plan for that if you want to take home something really really cool.

The staff is really knowledgeable and can help you pick the right item to become an heirloom in your family.

Map pin to Japan Sword

Enjoy History While Imbibing Beer at the Museum of Yebisu Beer

If you enjoy beer… The Museum of Yebisu Beer will be super interesting for you, especially if you enjoy beer tasting/sampling. It’s a “must-do” on your trip to Tokyo.

Not only will you get the chance to see the humble origins of one of Japan’s more prestigious breweries, but you’ll get to sample some too.

Get the “tasting set” for a variety of three beers and a snack. Plus they also have some excellent food if you’re a little hungry (or prefer food with your beer).

Oh, and there’s interesting vintage photos, bottles, and collectibles from the era — and a cool fact: the museum is on the grounds where the brewery stood until 1988!

Map pin to Museum Yebisu Beer

A Multinational, Multi-currency Wallet App to Streamline Sales

JCB and NTT are working on something that could be really cool for tourist (assuming it becomes available to app stores outside Japan). A wallet app that can create virtual pre-paid cards from multinational banks — and do currency exchange.

Imagine being able to walk into 7-Eleven and buy what you need, then scan it to hop on a train, and walk into a movie theater and buy tickets — all without pulling yen out of an ATM, or carrying cash on you.

Though I’d still recommend carrying cash, that will make Japan much easier to enjoy.

The multifunctional app, which enables users to instantly create JCB brand virtual prepaid cards, provides a range of useful services, including cashless payments, mobile remittances, account settings and map-based searches for JCB merchants, for the convenience of international students, businesspeople and international residents in Japan.” (acrofan)