Known on Instagram as @blindsaay, Lindsay Arakawa shares her local guide to Tokyo, Japan, including where to relax, eat the best soba noodles, and dance the night away.
Known for her hand-drawn text layered on dreamy film photographs, artist and freelance social media strategist Lindsay Arakawa’s family has resided in Hawai’i for several generations, migrating across the Pacific decades ago from their native Japan. After years of working in NYC with clients like Netflix, Instagram, Vice Media, and Coach (to name just a few) Arakawa took on perhaps her greatest challenge yet in early 2019 when, after a number of visits, she moved across the world to Tokyo’s Yoyogi neighborhood.
“I’m sure most people already know this, but Tokyo is truly like no other place you could ever visit,” Arakawa says. “It’s chaotic, but calm at the same time. And the food! The food is the best thing on the planet. Soba noodles, onigiri (stuffed rice balls), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), gobo (braised burdock root)—gimme all of it.”
Here, the creative shares her guide to a perfect day in Tokyo, beginning with low-key visits to cozy cafes and ending with high-key karaoke and DJ sets beneath the neon lights of Shibuya.
Lindsay Arakawa’s Perfect Day in Tokyo
9 a.m. – Chai Tea Lattes > Cold Brew
I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but my friend Alyssa recently turned me onto chai tea lattes during her last visit to Tokyo. At the moment, my favorite place to grab one is at Streamer Coffee Company. They have a bunch throughout the city and are some of the only coffee shops I’ve come across that offer almond milk as a substitute.
10 a.m. – Just Like Grandma Used to Make
A Japanese breakfast might be one of my favorite things (it usually consists of grilled fish, miso soup, some kind of pickled veggies, rice, etc.), but they’re usually best when homemade and prepared by your grandma. Since neither of my grandmas lives in Tokyo, I’ll sometimes walk over to 15°C by Yoyogi-Hachiman Station for breakfast.
If I’m in the area, I really love stopping for a break at SIDEWALK STAND BAISEN&BAGEL in Nakameguro. I haven’t come across too many bagel shops in Tokyo, so I’ll go here when I’m craving one. They also have another location that doesn’t do bagels and tends to get more crowded, so this location is a nice alternative.
An ideal morning activity for me would be sitting in a local coffee shop and reading a book. The morning light in Japan is so comforting and restaurants here do such a great job of creating a peaceful atmosphere. Right now I’m reading Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson, and I’ve been taking it with me to Sigourney Bake & Coffee.
When I first moved to Japan, I was eating all kinds of food all the time because everything is so tempting and delicious. Now that I’ve been here for a year and have realized that that isn’t the most reasonable approach, I’ve been gravitating towards a lot of soba noodle restaurants for lunch. There are so many to choose from throughout Tokyo, but some favorites are Oomura-an in Hatagaya, 夢月 in Shimokitazawa, and Soba Yamato in Yoyogi-Uehara.
2 p.m. – Afternoons Without Agendas
Tokyo is such an ideal city for walking around with no agenda and stumbling upon many interesting places and things. In the afternoon, I’m usually looking for a place where I can chill and have a moment to relax a bit, and one of my favorite places to do that is at Daikanyama T-Site. It’s full of art books and good music, there’s a selection of English books here, and Daikanyama is a fun area to bring visiting friends, too.
4 p.m. – One Must, One Show
5 p.m. – A Quiet Place
I’m not sure how exciting this is, but when I want to get out of the craziness of Shibuya, I’ll head up to the cafe on the top floor of Tokyu Hands for some quiet time.
7 p.m. – Hard to Go Wrong With Chicken on A Stick
Whenever I have friends in town, my boyfriend and I always take people for yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) at KushiWakaMaru in Nakameguro. So tasty, so lively, so affordable, so fun! Plus, Nakameguro is a fun area to walk around and introduce to your visiting friends.
For a late night out in the city, you can usually find us in Shibuya. We tend to play UFO games, sing karaoke, go bowling, drink Highballs, and on the rare occasion, we’ll end up at SOUND MUSEUM VISION to see our friends DJ. Another bar in Shibuya that we recently discovered and instantly fell in love with is Campy!bar at PARCO.
The Tokyo Essentials
How to Get Around Tokyo
My advice would be to look into the best way to get around the city that’ll best match your travel style. The train stations can be a little hectic and having an idea of how you plan to get from Point A to Point B ahead of time might help to reduce the level of frazzle you might encounter.
What to Know Before You Go
Japan is a country of many unspoken etiquette and rules that everyone follows out of respect. For example, standing on the left side of the elevator, not eating/smoking and walking around, taking your shoes off before you enter a dressing room, etc. As a visitor, respecting and understanding these rules is key!
Where to Stay in Tokyo
If I were visiting Tokyo for the first time, I’d stay in either Ebisu or Yoyogi-Hachiman. Both areas are close enough to the main areas of the city but are also far enough that you feel like you’re going back to a quieter part of town (that still has a good amount of tasty restaurants and fun bars!) at the end of the day.