Eating in Japan is never a problem! Picnics are the bests
After so many years in Japan, I still wonder how they can be so skinny!
When travelling, you have no choice but to eat either in restaurants (nice but it gets on your appetite, and stomach and say good bye to your weight control), or get some room service (a bit sad), or grab some junk food from fast food restaurant and conbini (the 7/11 and other Lawson that have colonized Japan and any bento-ya that will make you eat tons of rice with fried food and the one leave of salad).
But there is an alternative to this. You can be here for business, for leasure, you want some time for you to write about your day, to meditate, to enjoy the scenery, to rest a little bit and get your mind cooled down, whatever, it is yours to do it: picnic.
You need two things:
1. some supermarket or department store food floor (conbini are out)
2. a nice spot under a tree, in a park, inside a temple, along the river, ...
First, you go to the department store or to the supermarket, depending where you are. There will be food for a regiment of barbarian, and for all tastes: breads, vegetables and fruits, occidental (vegetables, salads, French catering, ...) , oriental (Japanese, Chinese, Korean...) , sweets (cakes and Japanese style...), wines (in small bottles too) and soft drinks.
Because in every shop, you can buy fruits and vegetables by piece, and because they will be able to give you chopsticks and wet napkins to clean your hands, you can really eat what you want. It is not unusual for me to buy one tomato and eat it like an apple.
Then, you go to your place of choice and enjoy. There is a bench? Good! You are in a park and there is no bench? You can sit in the lawn or on the stone edge of some tree. The ultimate Japanese manner? Make sure that you also purchased a kawai handkerchief to sit on it. Then you are sure that you will not stain your clothes. If you have two of them, you can use one as a napkin.
Where are the good picnic places?
I love all the department stores basement food floor. You can go to any of them, they are source of wonder to the eyes. You will find anything there. Really.
If you go for a prepared meal, one of my best picnic bento is the shop called "EN". It is also a chain of restaurants but it specializes in local and bio food. There is one in the basement of Shin Maru Bld. Tokyo.
I am quite fond of the Burdigala bakeries too. They are located in JR stations. They have very nice sandwiches, viennoiseries and good coffee.
Usually in station too, the small shops of onigiri (rice balls) such as Komeya: much better than their conbini sisters. You also get some salad and there you go.
Places to go:
There are peaceful oasis everywhere in the city.
Don't go around the Imperial palace, it is so crowned that you will not get away from frenzy.
But, some remote places in Hibiya park and especially the little park with the fountain close to it are quieter.
Every little park along Sumida river is nice. I like Kachidoki and Akashi very much.
In Yotsuya, you have a little park along the railway between the station and the New Otani. The little back streets in Aoyama. These are the places I am familiar to but you will find your "island" everywhere in the city if you pay attention to them.
In Kyoto, along Kamo river, you will find peaceful places to enjoy your picnic too. And there are all those temples (choose a little one that you have discovered by chance and that is not so much touristic) ...
These moments when you enjoy your meal, a discussion with your family or friends or colleagues, with yourself are important to me. And enjoying them in another space, away from a busy/noisy/smoky/posh restaurant makes them even more special.