Ramen alert! Two brothers feast their way through Japan for the first time. Above is the Hakone Open Air Art Museum. All photos by Nicolas Jammet.
By Nicolas Jammet for Fathom | That first taste of Japan can linger for months. Especially if you like to eat. Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet and his brother Patrick saw just enough in Japan — shrines, sushi, shops, scenery — to delight all the senses.
So, What Brought You to Tokyo?
A love of Japanese food and culture and a feeling that I needed to finally visit and explore this country.
What Was the Best Tip You Got Before You Left?
Farryn Weiner, who is easily my most well traveled friend, gave me a list of incredible recommendations and insisted I take two days to visit the town of Hakone to experience the traditional ryokan and visit the Open Air Art Museum. It was the highlight of the trip, aside from all of the incredible sushi. We took a direct train from the Shinjuku station — it's called the Romance Car. The 90-minute ride took us through Japanese countryside. We had incredible views of the mountains.
What Did You Do?
I traveled with my twin brother, Patrick, and we spent a total of eight days in Japan: six in Tokyo and two days in Hakone. We toured the Tsukiji Fish Market, explored the Hakone Open Air Art Museum, relaxed in natural hot springs, and spent a date meditating at the Hakone Jinja Shrine.
Throughout the trip, we enjoyed a few life-changing meals (more on those below). We stayed at The Westin Tokyo in Ebisu, which was pretty central and a great neighborhood to walk and explore. Lots of cool shops.
What Did You Know on the Last Day That You Wish You Had Known on the First?
How important it is to make reservations ahead of time at certain restaurants.
This Was Especially Great
Daikanyama T-Site book store tour. This is an unreal book emporium. I came planning to stay around 30 to 40 minutes and ended up spending almost four hours. Apart from the endless aisles of books on design, architecture, and food, there is also an incredible collection of literary magazines and vintage books, as well as a great cafe and bar on the second floor. I can't wait to go back.
Speed Round of Favorites
1. Cafe/casual hangout: Cafe upstairs at the Daikanyama Tsutaya bookstore — perfect to sit and read and drink tea.
2. Neighborhoods to explore: Aoyoma and Daikanyama. These neighborhoods both have incredible and unique stores with cool Japanese brands that you can't find in the United States. Also, the design of the shops is a great source of design inspiration.
3. Meal or meals: Gogyo ramen (burnt miso ramen). The flavor of this miso was deep and rich, unlike any ramen I've ever had.
One Place You Didn't Get to Visit, But Wish You Had
I was looking forward to visiting Kyoto, but to do it right, you need at least three days, and we didn't have enough time. I'll be back soon.
How incredible the convenience stores are. The 7-Elevens and Lawsons are especially amazing. And Japanese actually eat there. The stores are immaculately clean, and, unlike convenience stores in the United States, offer fresh, delicious snacks like rice balls and ready-made meals, often made with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
You Can't Stop Thinking About
Traditional Japanese breakfast. We had it almost every morning. It usually consists of steamed rice, miso soup, and various side dishes of broiled fish and fermented vegetables. The fish is just so incredibly fresh.
The Kodak Moment
Standing at the Hakone Jinja Shrine Temple off the lake on New Year's Day watching thousands of Japanese people makes wishes for the year.
The #1 Tip You'd Give a Friend Who Is Going to Tokyo?
Find a friend who lives in Tokyo or knows the city well enough to show you around. That's the best way to learn and experience the city.
Would You Go Back?