Kiwi Kitchen: Delicious Salads in Tokyo?! CAN.

while tokyo’s perfected the juicy, tubby cheeseburger (blacows, brozers), the thin-crust italian pizza (savoy, seirinkan), and even debatably the BBQ (with options like hato’s in nakameguro, white smoke in juban and b&loin in shibuya), there’s one thing that remains perpetually difficult to find here: delicious AND healthy western-style options.

happily, this seems to be changing in recent years for the better – with the growing popularity of acai bowls, green smoothies stands popping up in train stations, and the opening of places like urth caffe in daikanyama and island veggie in hiroo.  but it wasn’t until we happened upon sweet, unassuming, new-zealander-owned little Kiwi Kitchen in shirokanedai that we discovered…
AND ALL OF THE DESSERTS (here we have coconut custard cream bars, “lolly cake” – whatever that is, but inevitably something as quaint and delightful as its name, banana chocolate cake, chocolate fudge cake, carrot cake…)
in the most adorable little setting…
i apologize for yelling.  it is an unusual find.
we ended up with the following:
thai red chicken curry, some sort of chickpea-arugula-orangey-sundried-tomato-tasting salad, and a spinach soup, and:
a steak pie, basil and edamame and rice and feta-ish salad, and beautiful little cappucino.
my dining partner (AND LIFE PARTNER) (ahaha… ha *waves to BF*) and i took bites of our respective salads, turned to each other with solemn, reverent eyes as round and saucerlike as the vessels which contained our holy manna, and mumbled some ecstatic and incoherent version of the following:
“best salad of LIFE… best salad in world… ALL of world!”
i will say that i would give the steak pie a miss next time, because it was a little bland for me (the BF liked it though). but the salads and the thai red curry were… best in world.  best in life.  and certainly the best salads i’ve had in tokyo, where a “salad” is often a sad little bundle of limp greens with some dubious-looking pale cream spattered over it and maybe (if the chef were feeling particularly thrill-seeking that day) a bunch of grated carrots shoved in somewhere.
also, despite being quite full, i could not resist:
the coconut custard cream bar, with a bundle of EXTRA whipped cream on the side (my kind of place).  however, i wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one unless you could split it with someone, and both of you really, really enjoy large blocks of thick and jiggling custard cream (which i should’ve known from the name, but somehow thought it would be more mousse-like than a thicker custard).  i dutifully polished off the top icing layer and some of the crust, but left most of the custard jiggling ominously on the plate.  moushiwakegozaimasen, kiwi kitchen.
they even have an adorable little outdoor seating area for sunny days:
goodbye, new favorite lunch spot in tokyo!!!  VE’LL BE BACK!!!
(note: but not on sundays, since they’re not open then. why, kiwi kitchen? you make my heart so full of sad… yet also, of happy.)
– sonsons

details / dokodesuka?

Kiwi Kitchen (map here, 12 minutes from Shirokanedai station, 16 minutes from Hiroo station)

6-16-22 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo

open: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day except sunday

Buono: Quick-fix Tempura

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Hot and crisp kakiage-don mmm

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Old-school handwritten menu :)

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The suspiciously trippy-sounding umeshu…

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Tempura salt to cater to the different tastes – mountain pepper, matcha, and good ol’ fashion plain one

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Dessert which was mehhh – fruits from a can…

While staying in Nishi-Azabu and hankering after some crisply fried Tempura (but not willing to trudge all the way to Tenichi in Ginza for some Tempura lovin’), I read about a Tempura place in the ‘hood – Buono – which serves pretty decent Tempura at bargain prices. The chef at Buono is supposed to have amassed 39 years of experience in tempura kitchens, and opened this restaurant to serve top-quality tempura at accessible prices so that everyone can experience what REAL tempura should taste like. Sounds muy bueno to me! :)

It seems pretty weird for a tempura place to have an Italian-sounding name, but they do a pretty decent job here. I opted for the Kakiage lunch set (tempura fritters mixed with seafood and veggies), which comes with rice, miso soup and dessert.

The tempura was crisp without being overly greasy, and it had pretty interesting veggies mixed into the batter such as sweet potatoes and shiso leaf which provided a nice addition to all that batter and seafood. Portions are pretty huge here, and I had to make a Herculean effort *waddles out of the restaurant with Tempura twins in the tummy*

I think I ended up paying less than 1,000 JPY for a hearty tempura set-lunch, which is pretty decent lunch price for a restaurant in the Nishi-Azabu area. This place definitely doesn’t do delicate, exquisite-ly battered tempura which will leave you marveling at how something deep-fried can taste so airy and delectable. But it does provide quick-fix comfort tempura, which is perfect when you are pressed for time in Nishi-Azabu and want to pop in for a quick, hearty bite!


Wherefore art thou?

Buono (map here, ~10mins walk from Hiroo station)
4-10-3 Nishi-Azabu,
Tokyo Minato-ku

Tamawarai: Soba so good


Soba with chilled fresh tofu and shaved bonito flakes yum!

For a lazy Saturday lunch, Kevin found this little gem of a soba place, Tamawarai (玉笑) which earned a spot on revered Tabelog’s (#1 foodie review site for restaurants in Japan and totally trustworthy) Top 50 lunch places. After climbing up a slope-y Harajuku backstreet in the blistering summer heat, we were more than happy to park our behinds on a chair in Tamawarai’s cool interior and bury our hands and faces in the cool towel offered (and also say a BIG THANK YOU LAWDY that there was no queue at this intimate and zen little place which says chotto… to reservations).

They’ve a pretty limited menu, which focuses mainly on soba and small bites. Given that we were in the midst of summer, Kevin and I decided to go for cold soba. His choice of Zaru soba – simple cold soba noodles cooked to chewy perfection and served with wasabi + spring onions + a delicious soy dipping sauce – was a nice reminder that sometimes less is more :) They even provided broth at the end of his meal to dilute the dipping sauce so that he can drink it like a soup. Apparently this is pretty common, but it still got me going wowww none of the good stuff’s wasted!




My chilled soba with freshly-made tofu (1,700 JPY) was honestly one of the best sobas I’ve ever had. The noodles, cooked and chilled perfectly, was a melange of cold and delicious tastes and textures. The freshly-made tofu was so fresh it tasted like a slab of Mascarpone cheese made from spring and sweetness. The mix of flavours – fresh sweet tofu, salty soy sauce, savoury bonito flakes, freshly-chopped spring onions – with each mouthful of chewy soba was a pretty amazing experience… and proof that a simple bowl of fresh noodles can indeed bring lots of happiness :)


The portions here are Japanese-sized portions but I was surprisingly full after (buckwheat does fill you up pretty quickly!). For the higher than average prices charged here  – soba dishes range between 1,000 to 2,500 JPY – it’s certainly justified by the freshness and quality of the noodles and toppings. Also definitely worthy of the 1-Michelin star bestowed upon it in 2013 :)

This place is a little hard to find, as it’s seriously buried in one of the small streets off Harajuku. Google Maps does a pretty decent job of getting you there, just keep a lookout for a restaurant with a wooden exterior and white curtains billowing above it with 玉笑 written on it. I’m already eyeing their tempura soba, and will be back v.v.soon…


Wherefore art thou?

Tamawarai 玉笑 (map here, ~8-10mins walk from Meiji-Jingumae station)
5-23-3 Jingumae,
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Bar High-Five: Two thumbs up


All hail Bar High Five’s maestro – Hidetsugu Ueno


If you squint real closely to the left, you can see ginger chunks soaked in alcohol…




(excuse the orangey lighting, didn’t want to turn on the camera flash and interrupt the low-lit, discreet ambience…)

After years of being deluged with sloppy, sugary, sham cocktails everywhere, I’ve finally been shaken and stirred from my faux cocktail stupor. AMEN! NOW LETS GET A DRINK LADIES AND GENTLEMENNNN! Tokyo–classy lady that she will always be – has shown me what a REAL cocktail is in the last 2 years here. Low-lit smokey jazz-filled cocktail bars, understatedly spirited away in quiet alleys or top floors of inconspicuous buildings, is where I learnt just how cocktail-making has been elevated to a fine art by bartenders who’ve spent years perfecting their craft. Years spent learning to craft THE perfect ice ball to mastering THE perfect chilled serving temperature. Oh yeahhhhh

One night after dinner at the amazing Oreno Kappo (am officially obsessed with the Oreno-chains in Tokyo and will post review soon!), Jen Sonia and I hopped over to Bar High Five just around the corner for yummy drinks.

As one of the reigning grand dames of the must-go-cocktail-places in Tokyo, Bar High Five is tiny (seats less than 15), with a low-lit discreet ambience. Helmed and owned by head bartender Hidetsugu Ueno (who used to head another legendary Ginza cocktail mecca Star Bar), there is no menu here… YOU tell Ueno-san what your drink preference is, and the maestro will work his mixology magic on your drinks. Our drinks – a Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Pina Colada – were exquisitely mixed and served, and tasted like icy liquid gold which retained their chilled perfection even after many sips… My Old Fashioned was oh so silky smooth – infused with smokey Japanese bourbon whiskey and hints of zest from the perfectly skinned orange rind. Sonia’s pina colada was just as the maestro described: “Milkshake for adults”. Said to be David Chang’s (who owns the Momofuku joints) go-to-drink when he drops by, I can totally see why!


Snacks are placed before you while you imbibe your drinks. They serve a pretty interesting cracker with crumbly cheese topping, which tasted like a sweet cream cheese pate… it’s a little heavy and rich, but if you like your desserts you’ll like this :)


Happy faces at Bar High Five! :)

It was a great chilled out place to end the night with very delicious cocktails, which come at a pretty steep 3,000+ JPY each. But it’s more than just exquisite cocktails you are paying for, as you get to watch Ueno-san mix, shake, stir and bring amazing cocktails to your table. If the place doesn’t get too crowded, you can always chat with him and discover Tokyo’s hidden gems, like how we found  out about his fav Tonkotsu ramen joint (Azabu Ramen) at San-no-hashi near where I used to stay! His last visit was 15 years hopefully it’s still standing and we can pay it a visit post cocktails to round up the night par-fact-lyyy.


Wherefore art thou?

Bar High Five (map here, ~7-10mins walk from Ginza station)
4th Floor, No. 26 Polestar Building
7-2-14 Ginza Tokyo

Tsukemen mission: Menya Musashi Kosho





While starving/ fasting for a gut-wrenching 18 hours for a medical check-up, all I could think of was where I should go stuff my face post check-up at Midtown clinic. Halfway through mentally sorting out the options around Roppongi, I developed an intense craving for Tsukemen. SO BADLY I ALMOST CRIED. And then I remembered Menya Musashi Kosho in one of Roppongi’s side alleys was a recommended joint to hit up and put that Tsukemen craving to rest in a delicious cocoon of silky noodles and piquant dipping sauce.

Once the check-up was done and dusted, I practically ran (as fast as I could in a low-sugar almost-starvation mode) to Menya Musashi Kosho, popped some coins into the order machine and waited for the bowl of life so so hungrily while being serenaded by blues-ey tunes in the background.

AND IT FINALLY ARRIVED AND MADE ITS WAY INTO MAH TUMMEH! The noodles were cooked to silky al dente perfection with a nice chewy bite, and they were thick and chubby like wantan noodles yay! Broth was shoyu (soy sauce) based with a healthy handful of negi (spring onions) tossed-into it and a chunk of fatty pork mmm. It was a tad salty, and definitely tasted better after swirling some of that yuzu (citrus) vinegar – placed on each table – into the broth to mix it up a little with some tangy flavours. The big fatty pieces of roasted pork. OH MY GOD. Meaty and tender on the inside, with a deliciously caramelised burnt edge. It was like having a mini pancake made entirely out of char-siu.

Menya Musashi Kosho’s Tsukemen definitely put that Tsukemen craving to rest, albeit at a pretty pricey 1,000 JPY (though it did come with generous chunks of delectable roasted pork). Would I deliberately seek out the streets of Roppongi at night to hit this place up for Tsukemen? Probably not (ok I lie. Ask me again after a night out in Roppongi). But if I happened to be in the R ‘hood and craving a bowl of Tsuekemen, I’m coming your way Menya Musashi Kosho.

PS: They also serve ramen in broth, which comes with wantans! It’s pretty decent but not the best in class. Save your tummy for their Tsukemen instead…


Wherefore art thou?

Menya Musashi Kosho (map here. At Roppongi station, take the exit towards Roppongi crossing)
Roppongi 4-12-6
Tokyo, Minato-ku

Bondi Cafe: Breezy brunch


Deliciously healthy acai bowl

Just a 3 minute walk from Hiroo station, Bondi Cafe is an easy breezy place to pop by for a lazy brunch on the weekend. The vibe is very relaxed and chilled out, with a cozy warm wooden feel about it. It’s very family and kids and doggie friendly too – there were a bunch of strollers with babies AND miniature doggies poppin’ out, taking in the sights and sounds of Hiroo’s side streets.

Bondi 1

Bondi serves bites which are light and come in dainty Japanese portions. I had a go at their healthy acai bowl, which came with a heapful of crunchy granolas, freshly cut banana and strawberry slices and acai berries slush. It was deliciously refreshing, like having a berry gelato with crunchy twist from the granolas.

Bondi 2

Jay had the French Toast, which came with a nicely caramelised crust and a dollop of cream with fresh fruits. It was done Japanese style, dense and moist, like an eggy bread pudding. It was good and not tooth-achingly sahweeet, but not quite my fav as I prefer mine done crisp and fluffylicious!

The fare they dish up at Bondi isn’t anything to go nuts over, but it’s a convenient go-to place for usual brunch pleasers such as pancakes, eggs, sandwiches, and light bites like soups and pastas. Oh, not forgetting a ton of healthy and colourful salad options for those on a health-kick or paying the price of a binge-fest :)


Wherefore art thou? Map here (they have another branch at Yoyogi as well!)

Bondi Cafe
5-15-9 Minamiazabu,
Minato, Tokyo 106-0047, Japan


Abura Soba: Toss it like it’s hot


I discovered ramen in Tokyo doesn’t always translate to firm, chewy noodles simmering in a delicious soup base brimming with robust porky/ fish flavours which never fail to recreate the most epic dreams of your first ramen crush. Rather, it can take the equally delicious form of noodles tossed in a wonderfully spicy sauce which give an addictive zing with each bite. This, is essentially what makes us so dangerously addicted to Abura Soba.

At Abura Soba (translated literally as “oil noodles”), the noodles are served dry with a spicy, oily base at the bottom and chilli flakes thrown in for that extra kick. But wait, it gets better because you can add vinegar, chilli oil, pepper, chilli paste and a mound of chopped spring onions to the mix (it sounds way better than the description here, trust me!). Toss the noodles well in this spicy piquant mix along with the strips of seaweed and bamboo shoots. Coat the fatty marbled pork strips evenly with this mixture. Take a bite of the mixed noodles + melt-in-your-mouth pork strips + slivers of seaweed + a crushed handful of spring onions, and babyyy you’ve just walked into another form of ramen heaven!


Abura soba with all the condiments ready to dive into the hot mess

Insider tip: Get the karai (spicy) miso ramen when ordering, as it elevates your abura soba experience to a whole different devilishly spicy level (WHICH I ONLY DISCOVERED AFTER A YEAR OF RELIGIOUSLY EATING AT ABURA SOBA!). Apparently you can also get an order of mayonaise to go with your spicy miso ramen for that extra layer of smoothness on top of the spiciness coating your ramen.

Signing off with a video of me making a hot mess of my abura soba. Super fun and delicious, and feels as though I made my own meal :)


Wherefore art thou?

So, Abura Soba has branches all over Tokyo (yup, Japan proves that chain restaurants can actually be delicious!). Best to do a quick Google search for the Abura Soba branch nearest you. I usually go to the branch at Hiroo which is smack in the middle of the Hiroo main shopping street, and walk off the deliciously addictive noodle carnage after…

Chomoranma: Kickass dan dan mein


Spicy dan dan mein party going on

First time I stepped foot into Chomoranma – then known among us as chubby gyoza spicy dan dan mein place – there was no turning back. I thought I knew my dan dan mein, but dayummm these guys at Chomoranma own it. The broth is a kickass concoction chock full of Sichuan peppercorns and fiery red chillies, with a hint of sweet miso to temper all that heat *foooh*. Throw in thick juicy beansprouts, spring onions, and minced meat into the mix, coupled with a spoonful of chewy fat yellow noodles, and you’ll be singing the dan dan mein anthem.

Their party trick is *wait for it*…the different levels of spiciness. The beginners level a.k.a ddm for wussies comes in a mild white/ black pepper broth, and is a perfect palate opener for your tastebuds to climb to the next level of spiciness.

Black white pepper ddm

They up the ante next, with actual spicy dan dan mien (opening pic of post) which leaves a tingly spicy after taste from all that extra peppercorns tossed in.

The ultimate test, hold on tight to your tummies, is their super spicy dan dan mien which comes in a bowl filled to the brim with glistening whole red chillies which bury all the noodles. The broth is an angry deep red, and it’ll leave angry deep red marks on your tummy if you dare bravely consume it – vouched for from a friend’s first-hand account! It’s so spicy that it immediately leaves a numbing sensation on the first bite/ slurp. Not really an enjoyable experience, but do give it a try if you dare :)


Here’s Brando the brave eating THAT ultimate spicy ddm, and emerging unscathed…

Besides dan dan mein, this place serves the chubbiest gyozas I’ve ever come across, and normal-sized gyozas with delicious fillings/ toppings such as ma-po and yuzu. The crisp, juicy dumplings go perfectly well with the spicy noodles, and I’m a total fan of double dippin’ it into the deliciously flavourful broth :)


Oh! They also serve the crunchiest and juiciest karaage which comes with a generous handful of spring onions, deep fried garlic, and a drizzle of soy sauce for that extra kick.


In short, Chomoranma (which reads as Mt Everest in Japanese) is the perfect place to drop by post work for great spicy dan dan mein, juicy karaage and chubby gyozas in a fun and cozy izakaya setting. They are very reasonably priced too – a full meal inclusive of drinks never seems to cross the 2,000 JPY mark! Come eat, drink and be merry here, and go for round 2 at the numerous awesome bars scattered throughout Ebisu, like bar Tram or Trench :)


Wherefore art thou?

Map: here

Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo

Oreno Italian: officially obsessed


Cold spaghetti carbonara – house specialty at Oreno Italian

Oreno. 2 syllables, infinite amounts of eating pleasure guaranteed. What started out as a “Hey, let’s go check out this Oreno Italian joint where you stand, eat and listen to jazz” has turned into a full-blown love affair with the Oreno chains. Along with some of the munch bunch, I ended up paying not one but TWO visits to the Oreno chains in one week. And uhmmm maybe a visit the week before….

I guess we’re pretty obsessed with Oreno joints! But where else can you find a place where the chefs hail from Michelin-starred restaurants and vow to continue serving delectable delicacies at a fraction of the price at fancy pants places? The fact that it’s a standing joint (although there are very few tiny sitting booths available) is a totes small price to pay, as the solid wine list they have ensures that you are well sloshed enough so that you don’t feel the ache in your legs while standing :)

The first time we hit Oreno Italian in Ginze 8-chome, it turned out to be an unplanned epic night out. We were greeted with complimentary parmesan cheese to start the night.


Some jazz to entertain us throughout the meal (not too sure if this is the only joint which has a jazz band performing), with lots of unsolicited sing-and-jig-along from us…

Oreno jazz

Let the feast began! We pretty much ordered half the menu, but everything disappeared miraculously as soon as they were placed in front of us because EVERYTHING WAS SO DAMN DELICIOUS WHAT IS THIS SORCERY


WHOLE lobster with saffron sauce. Gone in 60 secs

Beef Truffle Foie Gras Mille-feuille mmmmmm

Beef Truffle Foie Gras Mille-feuille mmmmmm

Truffle pizza with wobbly yolk

Truffle pizza with wobbly yolk (if you’re a raw egg fan, this will drive you crazy)


Foie gras risotto. Rich and melt in your mouth, but not quite all that


Shrimps in garlic oil. So good that we wished it came with baguettes to mop up the garlic oil!


Wagyu beef cheeks with cous cous and green beans. So tender it literally fell apart when poked with a fork…

Wine makes the world go round :)

Wine makes the world go round and round and round

Everything was polished off with Mango Esupuma and creamy layers of tiramisu in a glass. And maybe another bottle of wine :)

Total damage from wallowing in mouthfuls of succulent lobsters, tender wagyu beef cheeks, melt-in-your-mouth foie gras and truffles, crusty pizza, al dente pasta, creamy heavenly desserts and almost a bottle of wine per person: a very, very reasonable 4,800 JPY per person!

It does get a little tight, crammed and noisy in Oreno Italian (it’s a standing joint after all), but hey we still had tons of fun wining and dining hehe

So what I found out on my second visit to Oreno: Ore-no in Japanese means “My” – in a super macho way (i.e. only guys say it). That revelation pretty much started the “Let’s speak like Gori-macho dudes” shindig, with everyone round the table going”MAJI YABE” (it’s the shiz yo) in praise of the deliciousness that is Oreno!

BTW en route back to Ginza station, we excitedly counted 4 Oreno chains within the Ginza vicinity – Oreno Italian (*2), Oreno French, Oreno kappo (high end traditional Japanese)! Apparently there’s also Oreno Yakiniku (top-of-the-range grilled A5-grade wagyū beef) and Oreno Yakitori somewhere in Tokyo – I MUST HUNT YOU DOWN VERY SOON MY LOVELIES.

Heads up though that the Oreno queue is horrendous (ranges from 45 mins to 2 hours, seriously) and reservations are close to impossible. But all is not lost and I would definitely queue to eat at Oreno again. Just remember to grab a few cans from a nearby konbeni, have lots of swigs and laughs with your dinner friends, and before you know it, a friendly server will appear in a jiffy and usher you inside with the magic words “Taihen omatase shimashita, dozo….”


Wherefore art thou?

Locations: Do a quick Google Search for the Oreno chains throughout Tokyo. Safe bet is to start the search in Ginza, where you can easily shift to another Oreno joint with a relatively shorter queue :)

Delicious Daikanyama: The Ivy Place


Situated right next to the amazing and maze-like Tsutaya bookstore at T-site in Daikanyama area, The Ivy Place is a picture-perfect place for brunch, lunch or tea amidst a lush green setting. On a nice day, sitting outdoors is perfect because nothing beats noshing while taking in the world with a cool breeze by your side. It’s a totally different story though come freezing winter or humid summer – retreat indoors even if you have to beg!

The real urban jungle

The real urban jungle

So, I was inevitably first drawn to The Ivy Place when fellow piglet Sonia excitedly informed me they serve grilled cheese kalbi kimchee sandwiches! I’m a big grilled cheese sandwich fan, and if you throw in kalbi and kimchee into the mix, I’ll be yours forever. Verdict for this grilled sandwich: satisfying in a healthy delicious way, but the kalbi wasn’t flavourful enough to pack a solid, tasty punch…


The cheese-kalbi-kimchee sandwich, special effects courtesy of LINE camera app :)

So second time round, I settled for their Fresh Basil Pesto Risotto with Green Beans and Grana Padano. No idea what Grana Padano was, but I heart pesto and risotto, so this was a relatively easy green choice hurhur. The risotto was surprisingly light and fresh, and not heavy creamy like usual risottos. The fresh green beans provided the perfect nice green crunch to balance the richness of the cheese and pesto. I’d happily return and order this dish again ooo yeahhhh.


Luscious cherry tomatoes and firm green beans…

In short, The Ivy Place is an easy breezy light brunch/ lunch option if you are thinking of checking out Daikanyama on the weekend. Be warned though, that the queue gets pretty ridiculous and you might easily have to wait for at least 1 hour during peak hours, and a relatively ok 15-30mins wait during non-peak hours (yup, even at weird times like late afternoon/ early evening). Give them a shout and book beforehand, it’s never too early to reserve and you might be lucky enough to get a sweet spot.

Oh! price-wise it veers towards the higher-scale for Japanese-sized portions (expect to fork out ~2,000 JPY ++ for brunch/ lunch meal + drink), but hey it’s a delicious and light option and worth checking it out when in the ‘hood. They also have a ton of other brunch offerings too, like buttermilk pancakes, smoked salmon, croque Madam…so why not? :)


Website here
Wherefore art thou? Map here

16-15 Sarugakucho,
Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0033