TOKYO // DAY TWO: VEGAN RAMEN, POKEMON, & HARAJUKU

Our second morning in the Japanese capital saw us much more awake than the first, having been able to sleep for more than three hours. After much deliberation over where to visit first, we decided that we hadn’t had enough Japanese food yet. I consulted google to find somewhere vegetarian-friendly, but the internet provided me with one better in the form of T’s Tantan (T’s たんたん) , an entirely vegan Japanese restaurant located in Tokyo Station. It sounded perfect, so we got ready and caught the subway.

Upon arrival, however, the sheer size of the station and its labyrinthine floors, jam-packed with shops and restaurants, busy commuters and clueless tourists alike, meant that we would have to work for our food. After wandering around for almost an hour, furiously googling as we drifted in and out of wifi zones, we finally discovered that the restaurant was, in fact, located in a part of the station beyond the barriers. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase a ‘platform’ ticket at Tokyo Station for only ¥140 – there are an enormous amount of shops and restaurants beyond the barriers, and the shinkansen (bullet train) can also be viewed – and we came upon the restaurant almost immediately after passing through the gates. (see the end of this post for details about the location of T’s TanTan)

Despite the frustration, it was definitely worth the perseverance; the food was truly excellent – my meat-eating friends were just as satisfied as I was – and I was delighted to be able to eat authentic Japanese food with absolutely no concerns about unexpected meat (or even dairy). The menu boasted a range of different dishes, from ramen to curry, and overwhelmed by choice, it took me a while to decide. Luckily, it’s possible to order side dishes, so I went for a main of ramen, with a small curry to accompany it. We also ordered a portion of soy meat in a tasty sauce to share between the five of us. Altogether, I would say we paid around ¥1100 each.

As we had discovered during our restaurant hunt, Tokyo Station is predictably enormous. There’s a section of the underground food and shopping area – thankfully not located behind any barriers – that is dedicated to beloved characters, from iconic Japanese favourites like Pokemon and Tamagotchi, to the Moomins and beyond. Immediately sucked in by the almost unbearable cuteness of it all, we accidentally spent far longer than we had anticipated browsing in these shops on our way back to the subway.

When we eventually managed to tear ourselves away, we headed to Harajuku. Famous for its unique shops and the extravagant fashion of its patrons, this area had been another favourite of mine a few years ago. Unfortunately, for whatever reason – perhaps just because we were visiting on a busy Saturday – outlandish fashion was difficult to observe outside of a few select shop windows. Nevertheless, we walked around for hours, eventually becoming desperate to find a cafe that wasn’t full, just so we could ingest some much-needed caffeine and rest our weary, aching feet. Finally, we stumbled upon a slightly strange coffee shop, sponsored by an electronic cigarette company but very much upholding the indoor smoking law that remains in Japan. They did a great coconut latte, though, so I wasn’t complaining.

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Next, we began to search for somewhere to have dinner, but not before panic-buying some umbrellas after the arrival of a sudden downpour. Along the way, we passed Kiddy Land, a huge, multi-storey toy shop that my friend Hanako had shown me back in 2013, and I couldn’t resist taking my friends inside.

Our search for food took us down some Harajuku side streets that felt very European, lined with cute restaurants, high-end shops, and the occasional piece of interesting graffiti. This area seemed a little too expensive and European, though, and because Hana was leaving the following day, she wanted to get in some more Japanese food while she could. A great deal of walking and some queuing later, we found ourselves in a delicious tempura/tendai restaurant.

Harajuku by night
Harajuku by night
graffiti on the backstreets
dinner

Once we were satisfied, we decided to go back to Shibuya, as Hana wanted to see it once more before leaving. Once there, we first went to karaoke, which is possibly my absolute favourite thing to do. However, we were a little taken aback when we discovered that you pay per person in Japan, whereas in Korea you simply pay for the room. This, combined with being in a popular tourist area on a Saturday night, made the expense yet dearer, but we didn’t mind too much – despite the popularity of noraebang (Korean karaoke), the various establishments in Seoul are much slower at gaining new western songs, whereas in Japan they have them much sooner after release; this gave us far more to choose from, and we could have easily stayed for hours. However, Japan is also not as generous when it comes to giving free time (it is unusual if you don’t receive at least an extra 15~20 minutes free at a noraebang in Seoul), so once our overpriced hour was up, we headed to a couple of bars for some drinks. We had hoped to stay out a while, but for whatever reason – perhaps we were just looking in the wrong places – we couldn’t find anywhere we particularly liked, so after a couple of hours, we called it a night.

the view from our karaoke room
the view from our karaoke room

How to find T’s Tantan (T’s たんたん)

If not arriving into or departing from Tokyo Station, you must buy a platform ticket (¥140).

Follow signs for the Keiyo Line (京葉線 Keiyō-sen); there is a street named ‘Keiyo Street’, full of restaurants and shops, and T’s Tantan is located at the end on the right hand side.  If coming from the Keiyo Line, it is the first restaurant on your left as you enter Keiyo Street.

English menus are available. An average meal will cost around ¥1000, give or take a little.


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