A few days is simply not enough to absorb Tokyo’s delights, but there is a handful of key areas that are must-sees:
A key youth-oriented area along with the even hipper Uru- Harajukuand neighbouring luxury shopping boulevard Omotesando.
Opening times for Harajuku
Shibuya, home of the infamous, darkly tanned Shibuya Girls
Shibuya Girl Mecca, 109, is essential and the upright mall’s several floors will keep most shoppers happy for hours on end. The product is cheap, fast fashion in bright colours and body-conscious silhouettes but even the most jaded shopper will find something new.
Train: Situated between Yoyogi and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line, Harajuku station is located in front of Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park.
Subway: You could also get off at Meiji Jingumaeon the Chiyoda Line.
From Shibuya Station: Harajuku is only 15-20 minutes walk from Shibuya. Follow the train tracks along Koen Dori or walk down Meiji Dori, which would take you to Laforet Harajuku and the Gap Building.
Ura-Harajuku is Tokyo’s hippest youth destination and is aimed at people who are into non-commercial brands and labels Stores to visit includeNeighborhood, Milo, Real Mad Hectic, n°44, SOPH, Lover’s Houseand Japan’s best-known select stores, Beamsand United Arrows.
Omotesando Hills shopping complex, Tokyo
The closest station is Omotesando on the Chiyoda, Ginza or Hanzomon subway lines. Omotesando Hills is a two-minute walk from the A2 exit.
It is also within walking distance from Meiji-Jingumae station on the Chiyoda line (three minutes) or Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line (seven minutes).
The beautiful shopping street is lined with zelkova trees and international top-brand boutiques. European style open-air cafes provide a pleasant resting spot from your shopping. The area’s new landmark, “Omotesando Hills”,includes a variety of high-fashion shops, assorted goods stores as well as excellent restaurants.
Also known as “Cat Street” this area consists of small shops and independent stores located inside residential-looking houses. In fact, it is difficult to distinguish customers from shop staff, which makes this a refreshing experience from the main street.
Meiji Streets runs north to south past “LaForet Harajuku”. When heading south, you will walk past shops and restaurants situated in between office buildings, before you arrive in Shibuya after about 15 minutes. Heading north on the other hand will lead you past H&M, Forever 21 and
Takeshita Street to Yoyogi and Shinjuku.
This narrow side street is popular with young Japanese and foreign tourists alike and is lined with loud, colorful boutiques and fast-food stores. While many of the stores change frequently, there are also some long standing businesses which have been here for over 30 years.
The stylish designer labels and select stores in Aoyama Shopping. Once you hit Aoyama, walk down the relatively sedate section of Omotesando and view the breathtaking Prada Epicenterboutique by Herzog & De Meuron. Across the street is Loveless, a hot designer select shop.
The shopping in Aoyama is among the best known in Tokyo with boutiques and stores for young urban professionals looking to buy expensive, well cut clothing. Various stores in this district include Gucci, Prada, Michael Kors, Jil Sander, Costume National,Issey Misake, Rei Kawakubo, and many more European, American, and Japanese designers as well as a large collection of flagship stores. Hanae Mori is another favorite in the Aoyama district with clothing designed to be more traditional and slightly more elegant, even worn by Japan’s royal family.
a pedestrian-only lane that has a number of boutiques worth a visit. This street is always crowded and can resemble an outdoor fashion show (watch out for the skateboarders). Stores include Earl Jean, Stephan Schneider, Anna Suiand select boutique Factory. A definite must-see is lifestyle store hhstyle.comto view a variety of differing furniture styles including mid-century modern pieces. Another stop is United Arrows’ two-floor speciality boutique Districtfeaturing imported and local labels for men and women.
Boutique W – This store is known for its intriguing, modern design of the building itself, with headless mannequins and industrial lighting, but the mix of European and Japanese designs is an equally big draw for many Harajuku shoppers.
Dress Camp – This store is known for its elegant, sleek design and its outlandish, colorful clothing with everything from jackets and pants to dresses and bikinis.
Flair Aoyama – This store is located in the midst of Aoyama and is known for taking huge risks and creating new trends. Rather than carrying what is currently popular in the streets, Flair will showcase whatever their designers and operators feel looks good and thus is not a highly visited location for teenagers.
Loveless – This three story shopping complex is home to more than 100 different brands from around Tokyo including up and coming new stars, classic Japanese favorites and new styles that are sweeping the Harajuku and Aoyama scenes.
Daikanyama, for it’s good streetwear and select stores
Independent boutiques flourish in this leafy, residential pocket of the city.
Many of the tchotchkes at this cozy shop have some sort of twist that makes them extra special: A pair of cute sunglasses turns out to be a vintage collectible; a simple coin purse unzips to reveal a wild lining. 2-16-11 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, 03-3462-5377 Products: Jewelry, Gifts/DesignType of Store: Boutique
The way the feminine clothing—floral tunics, crochet dresses, chiffon tops—is informally draped over armoires and strung along stairway banisters mirrors the casual mood at this homey, bungalow-like spot. 3-18 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-5456-5005 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: Boutique
Within a futuristic, fluorescent-lit space, beautifully tailored pieces from Indie Japanese lines hang from racks made of heart-shaped chain links. The decor details are purposely incongruous: White marble floors mix with tricked-out ’80s boom boxes, but somehow it all works. 20-23 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-3770-1991 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: Boutique
Part gallery, part retail enterprise, this casual, showroom like store is filled with inventive pieces, including angular fabric purses and soft wrap jackets. 2-7-8 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku, 03-5728-7181 Products: Women’s Clothing, Bags, BeautyType of Store: Boutique
Delicate underpinnings with a retro innocence, like Empire-waist gingham nightgowns, rose-print cotton robes, and sheer undies with lacing up the back, are Ikuko’s specialty. 11-13 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-3463-1098 Products: DenimType of Store: Boutique
Socks are a big deal in Japan, from the ultra traditional tabio (split- toe) version, right down to modern styles with imaginative details like heel cutouts and ankle bands. This shop is part of a huge socks-only chain, and its selection is quite extensive. 24-2 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, kutsushitaya.jp Products: Lingerie/Loungewear Type of Store: Boutique
Rising star Limi Yamamoto—the daughter of designer Yohji Yamamoto—is fast building a reputation for her superb twists on everyday classics. Her biggest space is in Daikanyama and has a gorgeously rustic vibe. 7-4 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-3463-6324 Products: Women’s Clothing, Shoes, BagsType of Store: Boutique
Girliness is the key at Nojess, where it always feels like springtime: lacy dresses, velvety bed jackets, and bow-accented bags are evergreens. 20-11 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-5728-2751 Products: Lingerie/Loungewear, Women’s Clothing, BagsType of Store: Boutique
Here, organic takes on classic Japanese garments are rendered in indigo-dyed fabrics, and the results are stunning in their simplicity. Even cooler: The shop itself is decorated with planks of driftwood salvaged from Tokyo Bay. 20-11 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-3461-8511 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: Boutique
Soaring, open, and filled with a glorious blend of lines from Europe (London’s Hoxton Boutique, Madrid’s Dorotea) and Asia (Hong Kong’s Johanna Ho, Tokyo’s Shinichiro Arakawa), this boutique is as aesthetically pleasing as it is fun to browse. 1-30-10 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku, 03-5456-9117 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: Boutique
Chisato’s playful designs, which often incorporate scalloped hems, color-blocking, and jumbled-up stripes, are nearly impossible to find in the U.S.—as a result, her retail stores have become popular destinations for European and American shoppers alike. In La Fuente, 11-1 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-5728-3225 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: Boutique
An upscale multi-designer emporium that takes risks but never alienates, Via Bus Stop stocks garments that have an unassuming elegance. 28-14 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 03-5459-1567 Products: Women’s ClothingType of Store: BoutiqueNakameguro, Tokyo’s newest developing retail area
‘A mix of cutting-edge contemporary and stylish retro’. Illustrator: Adam Hayes
The ladies lunching in Nakameguro shun Gucci and Louis Vuitton in favour of hand-sewn, reworked vintage fashion. In this sprawling neighbourhood of South-Central Tokyo, the atmosphere is a mix of cutting-edge contemporary and stylish retro.
Young designer boutiques and new restaurants line the Meguro river, but it’s worth wandering into the winding back streets, too, to discover cute cafes, vintage clothing stores, and shops selling bric-a-brac from the 50s. Further south, you’ll find a spray of funky bars – soul and jazz bar Shu, which specialises in authentic Louisiana gumbo, and a bar called Ef with no sign and room for only six – it’s recognised only by the orange banquette visible through the door.
Few of today’s hipsters can remember the area’s dark past. Rumour has it that, during the Tokyo air raids of the second world war, many people drowned themselves in the river, giving rise to stories of ghostly screams in the night. What is certain is that the waterway was contaminated with factory waste and swarming with mosquitoes until the late 80s. After government efforts to clean up and revive the area, young entrepreneurs and designers from nearby fashion district Daikanyama decided to take advantage of the convenient location and low rents. Nakameguro has been picking up commercially since the mid-90s, and has recently gained attention from Tokyo’s coolest artists, musicians, and designers.
Too much attention for some. The last year has seen the arrival of two new retail and living complexes, with more on the way. Construction is rife, so visit soon, while the area retains its bohemian feel.
Melinda Joe of bento.com, a bi-lingual guide to restaurants, bars and events in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.
Tokyo streets don’t have names. Addresses indicate ward, district within it, plus 3 numbers for sub-district, sub-section of that, and building number. Buy a city map and ask for directions.
This gallery exhibits some of the exquisitely crafted products that are on sale around the corner, at the high-end home accessory shop of the same name. The shop itself is laid out like a museum, with products beautifully displayed around a white wooden sculpture depicting a placidly smiling face. One shelf is lined with elegant, hand-carved chopsticks and chopstick rests; on another sits a set of spoons cut from pieces of a gilded porcelain plate.
A paper lantern in front of a pebble-lined walkway marks the entrance to the hidden lunch spot which serves healthy Japanese home cooking – tofu and vegetables simmered in spicy miso, or chicken meatballs stewed with Napa cabbage – and speciality teas. The daily lunch special comes with a main, three side dishes, soup, and your choice of gokoku-mai (a blend of white rice plus five grains) or brown rice. Drinks and desserts like green tea flavoured cake are served until 6pm, after that, it’s open to members only.
Follow the enticing spicy aroma to Red Book, a tiny cafe serving tasty curries and dirt-cheap beer all day long. Choose from buttery chicken curry, keema curry with ground beef, or one of their daily specials. The sea-green walls scream Bangkok, while the single chandelier and squat maroon velour bar seats seem lifted from the French Quarter in New Orleans. But the tattooed, fedora-wearing clientele is pure Tokyo.
Kamimeguro 1-3-2 (+3 3710 3438).
Follow the road beneath the train tracks heading south from Nakameguro station, and, after seven minutes, you’ll see the sign. No words, just a picture of a glass of red wine, half full. Inside, this quiet little bar is relaxed and comfortable. Soul and R&B play in the background, and the friendly staff will gladly recommend a wine for you.
Kamimeguro 2 – 43 – 13, +3 3714 3937.
Art Bird Books
This fashion/photography book specialist is hard to find – look for the sign in English advertising “books, photo, fashion, art books” etc, which points to the shop’s narrow staircase – although the grate will never be up before 1pm. The tiny space is lined from floor to ceiling with art books and fashion magazines. You could spend hours browsing through 80s issues of I-D and The Face, or Vogue and Elle from the 70s.
Kamimeguro 1-20-8 Nagata Bldg 2F (+3 3719 1103).
This quirky shop, dedicated to vintage airline paraphernalia, lies on the second floor of a former apartment building. The space is crammed with colorful kitsch that recalls a time when promotional items were designed with flair and flying was fun – bags, tags, and even boarding passes from the 50s and 60s from the likes of Pan Am and Braniff International. The staff are cool and helpful and the Hatago mascots – a black Labrador called Syrup and a pit bull, unfortunately named Poop – are always happy to play.
With its dramatic cast iron facade and grey concrete interior, this pizzeria feels like the set of a cold war spy flick. The Japanese menu is written in a style that resembles the square Cyrilic characters of Soviet propaganda posters, and army-themed memorabilia is scattered throughout the restaurant. Although they serve only two kinds of pizza here – marinara and margherita – taciturn owner Susumu Kakinuma bakes both to perfection in the wood-fired oven. The menu features other tantalising items like caprese salad, sautéed baby octopus and garlicky giant prawns.
Located between the Imperial Palaceand Tokyo Station, Marunouchi is one of Japan’s most prestigious business districts. During the Edo Period, Marunouchi (literally “within the enclosure”) was located within the outer moats of Edo Castleand contained the residences of some of Japan’s most powerful feudal lords. Together with neighboring Otemachi, Marunouchi is now home to the headquarters of many of Japan’s most powerful companies, particularly from the financial sector.
Over the last decade, Marunouchi has been receiving a major facelift, led by the Mitsubishi Estate company, which owns a lot of the land in the district. Many older office buildings were replaced by new skyscrapers with offices on their upper floors and a variety of shops and restaurants on their lower floors. These newly opened shopping and dining complexeshave revitalized the formerly unexciting business district and are drawing an increasing number of non business visitors in recent years.
Marunouchi is bordered on the east by Tokyo Station, one of Japan’s busiest railwaystations and the terminal of multiple shinkansenlines. The station building on the Marunouchi side is a prominent brick building, which dates from the Meiji Periodand is often said to be modeled after Amsterdam Central Station. The building is currently being renovated (to be completed by 2012).
More construction work has been going on the opposite side of the station, the Yaesu Side, where three skyscrapers were added to the station complex in recent years, and a pedestrian deck is currently being built (to be completed by 2014). Shopping and travel facilities within the station have also received a facelift in recent years. The product of all these works is the “Tokyo Station City” complex.
It’s hard to find a concept that better epitomises Japanese retailing than Comme Ça. Head to the Shinjuku flagship (exit Shinjuku station through the east exit and you can’t miss it), which is a “Life Style Assortment Mega Store”. The fifth floor Comme Ça Çafé, hidden behind a long, concrete wall decorated with a brightly coloured wall mural of the Buddha Dainich.
Located on the second floor, Beady recreates a 1950s American vibe. Concentrating on retro antiques and dead stock textile fabrics, the store is regularly visited by serious vintage collectors in Japan.
Chambre de Nimes 5-2-16 Simo Meguro Meguro-ku Tel: +81 (3) 5725 1456
Chambre de Nimes is a favourite with Japanese interior magazines for its selection of timeless interiors and furniture. The two-storey building is owned by the Japanese company Deux deux deux Nimes Co, which also runs its original clothing label called Nimes.
Located in the backstreets of Koenji, High Light offers a selection of old industrial pieces and antiques. Alongside American vintage clothing, there are old medicine cabinets, vintage tricycles, vintage keys and leather bags.
With piles of old Japanese antiques near the entrance, Otsu creates a nostalgic atmosphere, which harks back to the Meiji and Mid-Showa periods. The store is a pitstop for young couples and design students.
Harajuku Yoyogi Parkon a Sunday, and visit the flea marketsheld once or twice a month.
Escalator Records 3F Houei Building 2-31-3 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan Tel: +81 (0)3 5775 1315
Mercibeaucoup B1F b6 6-28-6 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan Tel: +81 (0)3 6904 0377
Ne-net 2F Laforet Harajuku 1-11-6 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan Tel: +81 (0)3 3408 5035
sunaokuwahara B1F b6 6-28-6 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan Tel: +81 (0)3 6904 0377
Isetan department store 3-14-1 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022 Tel: +81 (3) 3352 1111
Roppongi Hills is one of the best examples of a city within the city. Opened in 2003 in the heart of Tokyo‘s Roppongi district, the building complex features offices, apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, art museum, observation deck and more. The office floors are home to leading companies from the IT and financial sectors, and Roppongi Hills has become a symbol of the Japanese IT industry.
As far as some Tokyo residents are concerned, the only good thing to do in Roppongi to is get the first train out of the place. The capital’s most famous entertainment district is also perhaps its most notorious: popular with American GIs during the post-war occupation, it went from sleazy to classy to sleazy again over the ensuing decades. Even the opening of ambitious, upmarket developments like Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills – and the neighbourhood’s bizarre re-christening as ‘High Touch Town’ in 1989 – haven’t entirely removed its negative image. But don’t let that put you off: you’d be missing out on a ‘hood that’s diverse, fun and also surprisingly classy. Read on for Time Out‘s selection of the best that Roppongi (and nearby Azabu-Juban) has to offer. It’ll have you seeing the place in a whole new light – and it won’t be a red one this time…