3 Jul 2019 | Cherry Cai
Tokyo, a city that never sleeps and packed to its brim with activities and restaurants; it captures the heart of everyone who visits. Chefs Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess are two such individuals whose fascination with the city lead them to co-author Only In Tokyo. This beautiful book contains not only insights into some of the best food spots in the city, it also features snapshots of the lives and work of creative individuals who call Tokyo their home. Below are notes from Michael and Luke themselves on this incredible city.
Japan, and Tokyo in particular, has been my muse for decades. Every trip brings a little more depth to my understanding of this complex, multi-layered city. But it is enormous, and spatially it can be confusing, particularly when you travel mostly underground. A more manageable way of comprehending Tokyo is to think of it as a number of smaller cities merged into one – Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ginza … Each one has its own feel, its own personality.
The restaurant scene can be equally bewildering. With something like 160,000 restaurants in Tokyo, there is a problem of too much choice. Where do you start? I like to break it down into styles of food. When visiting, I always try to have sushi, ramen, yakitori and an izakaya meal at least once. But your preferences may lean in other directions. Make your own itinerary, but leave space for serendipitous discoveries. The thing with Tokyo is that on your walk to your lunch or dinner booking, you will without fail pass a number of other restaurants that look just as enticing as the one you are heading to.
Also think about the level of restaurant that you would like to dine at. Tokyo has some of the world’s best high-end restaurants, as pointed out by the number of Michelin stars. But you can eat very well at all levels in Tokyo, from cheap ramen, to mid-range izakaya, to gastro temples. Mixing it up is the best approach.
Don’t expect or attempt to get a handle on the entire city, even if you have a number of trips under your belt. Feeling like you will never truly know the place is partly what is so fascinating about it. And if you allow some flexibility in your plans, you will end up at some unexpected places that could well be the highlight of your trip.
I guess I’ve been there just under twenty times now, and every visit is different – each one a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’.
As always, I can’t wait to go back.
This book can be credited to what is known as the ‘Tokyo effect’ – a gradual and considered exploration that supersedes the initial onslaught of lights, sounds and tremendous crowds. Two people, many stories: our foray into the societal fabric of Tokyo, the capital of one of the most fascinating cultures of the world.
So familiar yet so foreign. If Japan is enigmatic, then Tokyo is the heart of that riddle, its rhythm and essence so utterly alluring that it demands to be explored. It has a depth that keeps travellers in a constant state of rapture and delight. Whatever your vice, Tokyo has it covered.
Eating and travel photography happen to be my vices, and it’s mission impossible to call it a wrap every time I leave Japan. More often than not, I’m contemplating the next encounter with leads from new discoveries and old friends. No one trip is the same, but familiarity grows a little each time.
I feel tranquillity in Tokyo, even though it is the largest populated metropolitan area in the world. The feeling seems counterintuitive, yet Tokyo begs you to relax and enjoy each layer, facet or slice of whatever you may have stumbled upon, or booked months in advance – always in the knowledge that you’re without a hope of ticking all boxes, even in a lifetime of tours.
This book, a fine sliver, is just one narrative to begin your journey. Suggestions have been compiled from friends and colleagues who live and breathe Tokyo on a daily basis, and who call that behemoth of an industry – hospitality – their home. From here you have a starting point to create your own relationship with this captivating city, and to plot a course that can happen only in Tokyo.