On a summer weekday afternoon, my BFF (Best Friend Forever) and I decided to take a trip out to Tokyo. We had talked about a plan, but with two bright-eyed girls in the big city anything could change in a heartbeat. I knew for certain, however, we would have a great time no matter what. So, with our cameras in tow, yen in our wallets, and an entire afternoon to spend, we were off to paint the town red!
[Now closed] Lunch at Pizzeria Sole & Luna, Hiro-o: We began our girls adventure in Hiro-o, a prominent upmarket residential and shopping neighborhood in the district of Shibuya. Just two blocks away from the station, we found Pizzeria Sole & Luna. Here they serve Naples style pizza made with select vegetables and ingredients from farmers all over the country. I ordered the Sole lunch set which included a refreshing salad, pizza, and drink for 1,250yen. I chose the Pizza of the Day because of my ‘try something new’ attitude. Haha. Joke’s on me. A pizza with cheese and tomato meat sauce, topped with mushrooms and an egg made over-easy was delivered to the table. I guess I only heard “mushroom” and was sold. Needless to say, it was superbly delicious. My BFF ordered the Luna lunch set for 1,550yen and selected the Margherita. Overall, both pizzas had the signature airy crust, charred exterior and chewy interior. Add an iced coffee. Magnifico!
Details: Kousei Hiroo Bldg. 1st fl., 5 Chome-16-6 Minamiazabu, Minato, Tokyo 106-0047. Tel. 03-6721-7082. Monday to Friday 11:45am-4:00pm; 5:30pm-11:00pm. 365 days a year.
French Bakery Boulangerie Burdigala Hiro-o: Time to burn off some calories. Well, maybe not quite yet. Just across the street from Pizzeria Sole & Luna is a French bakery called Boulangerie Burdigala. We just had to go in after seeing the colorful almond macarons in the window. I immediately gravitated towards the Pain au Sucre because it reminded me of Otap, an oval shaped puff pastry that’s toasted and flaky, sprinkled with sugar on top; a native product from the Philippines. My BFF decided on a miniature type muffin called Canelé de Bordeaux. They are known for a wonderfully caramelized exterior protecting a luscious, creamy core. We each decided to get both – a no brainer! With our purchases in hand, we proceeded to Hiro-o Station on the Hibiya Line.
Details: Minami-azabu 4-4-66, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3280-2727. 8:00am-7:00pm. Website: http://www.burdigala.co.jp/
Photo Opp at Takeshita Street: Just 12 minutes from Hiro-o, we arrived at Harajuku Station. Directly across the station is Takeshita Dori. The narrow 400-meter long, pedestrian-only street is famous for fashion catered to Japan's more interesting subcultures, including lolita, punk, gothic, and hip hop. At the entrance of this popular street, the Welcome sign will capture incoming visitors and display the activity on its large electronic billboard. With just the right angle, wave “Hi” to the camera, snap a shot, and upload that photo to all of your social media outlets to prove, “I was here!” At the opposite end, look for the red Harajuku (原宿) sign in front of Spinns #2 shop off on Meiji Street.
Details: At JR Harajuku Station, take the Takeshita Exit and walk directly across the street.
Luxurious Body Srubs at Laline: While walking along Ometosando Street, a bright white interior full of fresh floral fragrances stopped us in our tracks. Body scrubs, bath soaps, fragrances, make-up and more! You’ll even fall in love with the chic beauty bags for all of your essentials. If you’re still undecided, try testing a small sample of one of the many luxurious body scrubs available on your hand. Made with avocado and himawari oils, you won’t want to leave Harajuku without a small tub of heaven.
Details: 150-0001 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 6-chome, No. 3 No. 9 Jingu Central Building 1F. Tel. 03-6418-6255. 11:00am-9:00pm Daily. Website: http://www.laline.jp
[Now closed] American Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery: To my surprise neither one of us devoured the goodies from Boulangerie - yet. So, we decided to check out the new cupcake shop from New York City’s West Village: Magnolia Bakery Japan. Magnolia specializes in classic American desserts, including cupcakes, banana pudding, cakes, icebox desserts, cookies, brownies and cheesecakes. So many choices, not enough room in our tummies! We finally both decided on two cupcakes each with buttercream icing; one to eat now and the other to take away. I also included a Coconut Macaroon, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Homemade Lemonade. These sweet treats surely took my taste buds back to good ole American style baking. The cake was so moist and fluffy with just enough icing requiring you to lick it off your finger. Loved the warm, vintage décor, too. A perfect setting for two girls nibbling on cupcakes and a little chick chat at the table. Just like the scene from Sex and The City for which Magnolia is famous!
Details: 5-10-1 GYRE B1F, Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo. Tel. 03-6450-5800. Monday to Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm.
Ice Cream at Ben & Jerry’s: I remember when a Ben & Jerry’s franchise opened up in my childhood neighborhood of Chula Vista, CA. We welcomed the all-natural ice cream from Vermont with the funky fresh flavor names. My all-time favorite is Mint Chocolate Chunk and my current being Japan’s limited flavor called Matcha Made in Heaven (Matcha flavor, made using tea from Uji, Kyoto, with pecan nuts). My BFF chose Cherry Garcia, named for Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Enjoy a scoop in a cup or fresh made waffle cone!
Details: 4-12-10, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku Omotesando Hills moisture building 1F. Tel. 03-5772-1724. Monday to Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm, Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm. Website: http://www.benjerry.jp/
Korean Cosmetics at Etude House Harajuku: My first and last visit to Etude House was October 2013. But, that location was Etude House Shinjuku and the Harajuku location did not yet exist. My BFF and I easily found the new shop in La Foret and so I went to town on replenishing a few things. For all the Etude House fans, this shop is selling a limited supply of the cutest souvenir cosmetic bags printed with the name JAPAN and a whimsical art piece depicting the city's famous landmarks.
Details: 1-11-6, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. La foret Harajuku, Floor B0.5F. Tel. 03-3470-7245. 11:00am-8:00pm. Website: http://www.etude.jp/home
Shopping at Top Shop, H&M, and Forever 21: Finding clothes in US sizes sold in Japan can be a very challenging task. However, shops like UK’s Top Shop, Sweden’s H&M, and US’s Forever 21 always come to the rescue. And when a new season is just around the corner, you can bet amazing deals are waiting to be pulled right off of the sale rack and into your shopping bag. Whether your needs are accessories, cotton t-shirts or a little black dress, you can walk out feeling like a million bucks – in Japan.
Details: All three stores are listed on the Takeshita Street Map and located adjacent to each other on Meiji Street.
By now the sun has completely set and it's 9:00pm. Time to catch the train back home. I hope your travels allow you to have a fun-filled itinerary during your stay in Japan. Until next time, Sayonara!