I FIRST ENCOUNTERED TOKYO during a 10-hour layover at Narita in 2011, when I tacked on an extra four hours (round trip) of travel time and took the Shinkansen bullet train into the heart of the city. Those few hours in Tokyo may have been the most exhilarating of my life. I was enamored, and decided to go back a week later to properly experience it while on a two-week hiatus from Saturday Night Live.
These first two trips started my love affair with the city and its culinary landscape. This is where I learned about ramen. I ate the noodles as often as I could, and my life has never been the same since.
Years have passed, bowls have been slurped from, and my affinity for Japan has only grown. I needed to get back, but I wanted to go deeper. The next level. So this time around I met up with some seriously amazing locals to help tap into the real Tokyo. The non-touristy Tokyo. The insider’s guide. Armed with famous Tokyo ramen bloggers, fixers, local musicians, and friends, I found it. Here are some of my favorite experiences.