Lost in digestion // 24 hours in Tokyo

 Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo

I’ve been in Shinjuku station for 60 minutes and I’ve been lost for 58 of them. It may be due to the fact that I’m enormously stupid or it may be because the station, Asia’s largest, is friggin’ enormous!

So big that more 3,500,000 people spill from its 200 plus seemingly identical exits every day. 3,500,001 if I ever find my way out, which I’m beginning to doubt. In fact, I think it may swallow me alive. Or perhaps I might swallow it? You see, everywhere I turn, even underground, is food.

I’ve only got a day and a bit in Tokyo, sans family, and I’m packing a must-see list the size of a novel, but as I walk past a particularly fragrant Ramen shop I can’t help but dive in and fall into the welcoming arms of a bowl of noodle soup. And, as I take the first amazing mouthful, I make a snap decision and screw up the list.

ramen in Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

Forget shopping centres, skyscrapers and shrines, I’m going on a self-guided Tokyo food tour. I have a little less than 24 hours left and like a greedy antipodean Godzilla, I’m gonna to eat my way through Tokyo. I throw down the gauntlet and set myself a challenge. 24 dishes in as many hours (give or take). I mean, I’ve already polished off a bowl of unagi don….

 Unagi Don in Narita

And a plate of sticky bugs in Narita a few hours ago (and that’s technically still Greater Tokyo)

Sticky crickets in Narita, JapanSo factoring in the need for sleep and the Ramen I’m scoffing as I come up with my wild plan, I’ll only need to eat something every 45.7 minutes between now and my deadline of 7pm tomorrow!

Easy peasy Japanesey.

Well, except that I’m already feeling a little full post ramen. Still, I figure I can manage a plate of the plump gyoza that I spot at around the same time I find the exit I’m looking for.

Glorious gyoza, Tokyo

Once I escape the station I discover that the streets of Shinjuku are also packed with food vendors. I stop for a plate of edamame here…

Edamame in SHinjuku, Tokyo

And for takoyaki there. I mean it would be criminal NOT to try at least one… or six of the unctuous octopus balls.

Takoyaki (octopus balls) Tokyo Street Food

I pop into one of the groovy wee Izakaya bars in Memory Lane to suck back a refreshing plum wine on ice (which, incidentally, I am now addicted to) and neck a pork belly yakitori.

Pork belly yakitori at a rnadom izakaya in Shinkuju

Oh, and a a plate of tuna sashimi.

Mixed sashimi at an isakaya in Tokyo

“You’ll do yourself an injury” cries my husband when I Skype Australia that night and explain my plan, “no-one can eat that much”. But I’m already seven dishes in and Raffles is behind me all the way. “Go mama, you can do it!” he shouts as I knock back a bean cake and bid my good-byes.

Fried bean cake, Tokyo

The following morning I make an early with a 5am pit-stop at Tsukiji Fish Market and after an hour of queuing find myself faced with the most incredible fresh ark shell sushi, whatever the hell ark shell is. All I know is that the crunchy sea thingy is sublime.

The most incredible fresh sushi you'll ever find in Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

I catch a train (having made my peace with the subway system) from Tsukiji to Asukasa, stopping only for a plate of delicious cold poached eggs in something something sauce that I pass by on my way.

Cold poached eggs in dashi

It’s barely 8am when I arrive at Asukasa so I figure tea and a little mochi is in order.


I’ve even time for a spot of traditional sightseeing before I resume my orgy of eating so take a leisurely stroll in the Edo period footsteps of the ghosts of geishas past to the Sensō-ji temple.

Sensō-ji with Tokyo Skytree in the background

It’s quite beautiful but once again the smell of something smoky and sizzling draws my attention. This time it is a glutinous rice and pork on a stick. And it’s soon added to the contents of my belly.

glutinous rice and pork on a stick at Sensoji, Tokyo

As is a cup of chicken kara’age.

Little cups of chicken ka'arage at Sensoji, Tokyo

Then it’s time for another train and a palate cleansing plate of cucumber dressed in sesame with a side of counter cultural mayhem in Harajuku.

 Cucumber in sesame. So darned good!

And a little Pork Katsu.

Pork katsu, tokyo

I hop a taxi to Ginza to find myself in an enormous department store where there are two massive floors devoted to the worship of food. I want to live here. In the actual department store.

I tackle some slippery prawn thingys.

Prawn things, department store, Ginza

And a fluffy sponge filled with sweet bean curd.

Pretty fluffy sponge filled with bean curd and mochi stuff, Tokyo

But I’m starting to feel the need for respite from both crowds and the delicious temptation of two levels of Japanese delicacies. So I walk (read: waddle) along the tree-lined streets past Hermes, Dior and Gucci to neighbouring Marunouchi, a suburb that rocks a refined Double Bay meets Park Avenue vibe until I find sanctuary in the tranquil lobby of the fabulous Peninsula Tokyo.

Peninsula Tokyo

I’ve just started sipping on a cleansing green tea and am loosening my belt when suddenly it dawns on me where I am… only the home of that most iconic of Asian culinary experiences, afternoon tea at the Peninsula. Arse!

Y’all know what’s gonna happen next…


Afternoon tea at the Penisnula Tokyo

What was I thinking? I’m already full. This is heaven and hell, the platter of decadent loveliness is outstanding but there is so much of it, I hurt. And I still have five meals to go. Nooo…

There’s wi-fi in the lobby so I call home and (with a mouthful of scone) tell my disappointed son that I am defeated… I can’t go on. But Raffles, my guru of gluttony, gives me a motivational pep talk and tells me to get off my expanding butt and kick my second stomach into gear. I scoff one last finger sandwich, harden up and ready myself to keep eating.

Bloated, I’m beyond walking or public transport so hail a million dollar taxi. As we drive away I spot a Ladurée store bursting with pretty macarons and the sight of it actually makes me throw up in my mouth a little. I’m that full. I avert both my eyes and my belly.

An hour later, I’m in the most delightful izakaya in the hipster haven of Shimokitazawa, Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhood and quite possibly my favourite spot in all of Tokyo.

izakaya in funky Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

And of course, I’m eating again. This time it’s a plate of spicy chicken yakitori washed down with some apple wine.

 CHook on sticks, Tokyo

As I’m about to leave a random plate of agedashi tofu appears, one of Raffles’ faves. I take it as a sign and scoff that too.

Agadashi Tofu, Tokyo

Back in Shinjuku I squeeze in a little plate mixed plate of sashimi before I meet some fellow writers at yet another izakaya.

Mixed sashimi plate , Tokyo

Here, much to the disgust of my companions, I also find myself shoving a chicken’s reproductive system down my neck.

Chicken bits with raw egg yolk, tokyo

It’s actually good and had I not been close to death by overeating, I’d have thoroughly enjoyed it.

At 6pm I’m 23 meals down. And conveniently in a restaurant. Of sorts.

Dancing girls at Robot Restaurant, Tokyo

Tokyo loves a themed restaurant but the title for Tokyo’s most out there has to go to Robot Restaurant. I’ve never tried LSD but I’m fairly certain the effect would be something like a visit here. Picture giant fembots, bikini-clad warrior princesses hang gliding from fire breathing pterodactyls and a panda bear riding a bull through a line up of 10 foot robots.

Crazytown Tokyo. Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku

In fact, by the time the giant mechanised shark – ridden by a mermaid – eats an eight-foot tall robot warrior, I’m barely raising an eyebrow.

But with less than an hour on the clock, I can’t bring myself to eat one of the bento boxes on offer. I. Just. Cannot.

At 6.55 one of my colleagues reaches into her bag and pulls out a packet of senbei, a type of Japanese rice cracker, and with a look of excitement, throws them to me. She points out that I can still get this experiment in conspicuous culinary consumption across the line.

“Do crackers actually account?” I ask.

They do now. I shove a “wafer-thin” cracker into my mouth expecting that at any moment, just like Monty Python’s chunderous Mr Creosote, I will actually explode.

But as the clock ticks over to 7pm, I’m still intact. I’ve done it. 24 dishes in 24 hours in Tokyo. And to celebrate, I’m going to slip into a food coma. G’night.

23 Comments on Lost in digestion // 24 hours in Tokyo

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm (10 years ago)

    I love Japan’s theme restaurants! And don’t worry those train stations are so confusing. That’s why you need to know the exit of the place you’re trying to locate. It’s virtually impossible to navigate otherwise.

      July 23, 2014 at 7:59 am (10 years ago)

      I’d love to go back and do more of them. They’re a hoot! (the theme restaurants not the stations) 🙂

  2. Have A Laugh On Me
    July 23, 2014 at 8:03 am (10 years ago)

    OH MY GOODNESS YOU ARE MY HERO! And yes I just yelled all that, I’m in awe and little disgusted at that chicken guts. But wowsers I knew you could do it. I might have to do a similar thing with alcohol one day – a shot every hour…. could get messy. I bet it was not pleasant in your digestive tract the following day! Thanks for linking gorgeous x

      July 23, 2014 at 8:11 am (10 years ago)

      HAHA! if you ever do the 24 hour alcohol challenge count me in. We could live tweet it… 😉

  3. Kimberley
    July 23, 2014 at 8:08 am (10 years ago)

    My god, this post made me hungry. Tokyo is frikking awesome, yes? I lived there for 3 years a while ago and put on so much weight (curry, katsu and gyoza are NOT dieter’s food let me tell you). The only thing I didn’t “get” in Japan was chicken gristle and natto. I mean, come on. But thanks for the trip down natsukashii lane, I’m off to buy some japanese curry cubes! Kx

      July 23, 2014 at 8:13 am (10 years ago)

      I know! I did take it to the extreme but I swear I put on about three kilos in 24 hours! A 24 hour sashimi challenge might have been better on my waistline. 🙂

  4. Amanda Kendle
    July 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm (10 years ago)

    This is brilliant! And now I’m starving!! Not quite starving enough to manage quite as much as you did (although if I had to do it, I would definitely be picking Japanese food too). Love it!!

      July 25, 2014 at 11:24 pm (10 years ago)

      Thanks. It was fun but painful. The days after I had bellyache but it was worth it to taste so many different plates of deliciousness. 🙂

  5. Vanessa
    July 25, 2014 at 8:14 am (10 years ago)

    Oh wow, that is an impressive and tasty looking day. Which one was best?

      July 25, 2014 at 11:14 am (10 years ago)

      A tough call Vanessa. It was all pretty good. Afternoon tea at the Peninsula was pretty spesh but in terms of the Japanese cuisine the morning hit of fresher than fresh sashimi at Tsukiji fish market was unbeatable. Worth queuing for an hour for

  6. Ai Sakura
    July 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm (10 years ago)

    Missing Tokyo sooooo badly now! All those yummy sashimi and sushi is making me droool!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

      July 25, 2014 at 11:22 pm (10 years ago)

      It really is the best sashimi in the world. Not much comes close here is Sydney

  7. Seana Smith
    July 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm (10 years ago)

    Fooooood!!! This is hilarious, an epic culinary journey which has made me guffaw… and drool!

      July 28, 2014 at 8:43 pm (10 years ago)

      Thanks Seanna. It was a fun but not to be repeated attempt. Just thinking about it makes me feel full again! 🙂

  8. Shelley @Travel-Stained
    August 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm (10 years ago)

    My goodness! Your stomach is amazing! but chicken’s reproductive system?? Ew. 😉 Did you run across any chicken sashimi while there? A friend swears by it, but I feel afraid. Very afraid.

      August 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm (10 years ago)

      I did see it but didn’t try it. Next time. I’m brave and have a cast iron gut x

  9. Kelly
    February 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm (9 years ago)

    So many interesting types of food! Not sure how I feel about the insects or the chicken’s reproductive system though 😛

  10. meetoo
    February 4, 2015 at 8:25 pm (9 years ago)

    So desperate to visit Japan and soak up all its kookiness!! Sounds amazing (not sure I could manage 24 dishes tho… unless they were ice cream)

  11. thebeautyofeverywhere
    February 5, 2015 at 9:32 am (9 years ago)

    Aaah this post made me want to go back to Toyko immediately!! It’s hard not to want to eat everything in sight, so many incredible options. From mochi treats to ramen…yum.

  12. Leah
    February 7, 2015 at 9:21 pm (9 years ago)

    With Japan at the top of my Destination Bucket List at the moment and an empty tummy, this post was pure torture. I want to go now! My tummy is grumbling. My wanderlust is peaking. Oh my gosh! I envy you right now, food coma included #teamwanderlust

  13. Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    March 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm (9 years ago)

    Oh my goodness. Take me with you next time! Whenever I travel I am always looking at what is on offer to eat and disappointed when I miss out on trying something before I go. Seriously, 24 dishes in 24 hours. That is awesome!

  14. Fairlie
    June 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm (9 years ago)

    LOL – I loved this post. I’ll be in Tokyo this time next week…but I don’t intend challenging for your crown! I’ll spread the 24 out over a few days or so… 🙂

      June 13, 2015 at 3:08 pm (9 years ago)

      You will love it but I strongly advise spreading out the eating unless you want to be in physical pain for a week and gain double digit kilos. 😉


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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