- It's less expensive to live in Tokyo than in the Washington DC area. We fed three people for less than it would to feed two people back home.
- Shimokitazawa is like a hidden gem in Tokyo, well worth the visit. This was our home base, and there are all kinds of excellent places to eat. My daughter found a dress she loved for 500 yen at one of the local shops.
- Almost everything we ate was perfectly prepared and delicious. The only exceptions were places not known for their food (Tokyo Disney Land buffet and Karaoke-Kan snacks).
- Even when the trains are crowded, very few people were rude (something made very clear as we were going through our layover back in the US).
By luck of the draw, we stayed in Shimokitazawa during their third annual Curry Festival. The curry festival lasted between 10/10 and 10/19 in 2014. As we were enjoying our breakfast al fresca at the Segafredo coffee shop, we were handed a map of over 100 participating shops all in the Shimokitazawa area. It was fun watching the town wake up around 10:00 am and the shop keepers setting up their displays along the main walking path.
We visited one major area of Tokyo a day and felt like we barely scratched the surface. A couple surprising things that were a bit of a culture shock were the number of shops that blasted unedited gangster rap from the US, and the sheer size of the major train stations. I think we clocked like 2 km a day in Shibuya or Shinjuku every time we went through those stations.
Probably the biggest highlight of the trip for me happened in Osaka. We were looking for a place to eat, and decided to try an izakaya around the corner from our apartment. I handled most of the transactions with my broken kindergarten level Japanese, but nothing prepared me for a restaurant who's menu was only in cursive style kanji. There were no pictures, and no English menu. Thankfully, the chef behind the counter read our bewildered faces and helped us out. Armed with no other recourse, my daughter breaks out with the 「お勧めは」 (o-susume wa) phrase we learned here. The chef recommended the sashimi, and then asked us what kind of meat we liked. I said 牛肉 (gyu-niku / beef), my wife and daughter said 鶏肉 (tori niku / chicken). I still don't know the name of the beef platter, but it was so tender it was like meat butter. Delicious. We found out on our second visit that the chicken dish was called チキンナンバ (Chicken Namba). It was fried chicken expertly prepared. This highlight was both because it was a victory in communicating without any English support, and because the food was so good.
I don't know how soon it will be, but we will definitely return.