TRAVEL / Our Tokyo Guide
As you probably know, Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world, an endless source of inspiration and joy! If you're planning a trip, here are some of my favourite places to eat, visit and shop.
(You can also find my special guide to stationery shopping in Tokyo here.)
Eatrip Restaurant, Harajuku
Like many of the best things in Tokyo, Eatrip Restaurant is hidden away down a lush, leafy alley a stone's throw from hectic Harajuku. In need of some greens after a lot of soba and sushi, I dined solo on one of my last evenings in Tokyo and feasted at the bar on locally-sourced veg and organic produce plated beautifully on mismatching earthenware. Head back in the daytime to explore the pretty flower shop in the shed!
Another oasis of calm set back from the busy shopping streets of Omotesando, this is a minimalist interior dream! I visited with friends for dinner and loved the 6-course seasonal menu so beautifully presented. The radishI'd also recommend it for a calm and chic hojicha (roasted tea) and wagashi (japanese sweets) shopping break.
Akomeya (see Shops below) is one of my favourite places to shop, ogle at pretty packaging, and eat lunch. Only one bento-style option, comprising eight seasonal plates, is available, but everything served was so fresh and flavourful. I enjoyed squid with edible wild plants and white miso, spring cabbage with hijiki seaweed and ume plum, fried "yomogifu" (Japanese baked gluten with a herb called yomogi), goma tofu (boiled crushed sesame) and yellowtail sashimi, to name a few of my favourite plates this visit.
If you love coffee and you love design, Koffee Mameya is unmissable. It used to be Omotesando Koffee, which I loved and would always scout out every time I was there, but after a short closure was reincarnated last year much to everyone's delight. I don't want to give too much away, since discovering it is such an experience. Just go!
Japan has a plethora of dreamy confectionery stores (it's a nation that celebrates many festivals and has a tradition of social gifting) and this shop is a contemporary, independent brand specialising in a Japanese take on florentine biscuits. Delicious!
I love Tomigaya, a sweet and trendy neighbourhood on the other side of Yoyogi Park north of Shibuya, with so many lovely local restaurants including Pignon, Ahiru and Path, a hip and casual bistro I highly recommend for brunch. The dutch pancakes are unmissable!
Ginza is home to all the international designer brands, but skip past the Louis Vuittons and head straight to Mitsukoshi, the grand dame of Tokyo department stores, and lose yourself in the basement food hall. Spot giant fruit (purchased for gifting) and shop for gorgeously packaged confectionery to take home as gifts. In Ginza you'll also find Muji's flagship store - and ikea-like sprawl unlike anything you've seen in England. And don't forget to stop in at Akomeya (see Eat above), one of my favourite stores where I could spend hours perusing the beautiful produce packaging, kitchenware and rice counter. Lastly, a trip to Dover Street Market's Ginza outpost is essential, finished by a piece of cake in the stark, minimalist Rose Bakery (below) upstairs.
If you're not yet tired of shopping, head over to Aoyama and Omotesando. The main avenues are packed with elegant designer shops (I can't go past the Celine store (below) without an ogle inside, and Herzog & de Meuron's Prada and Future System's Comme des Garcons stores are architectural stunners too) but wander down the backstreets and you'll find independent boutiques, cafes (see Koffee Mameya and Kanetanaka above) and a whole lots of hair salons besides. Stop for breakfast or a tea at Aoyama Flower Market, not a market but a florist-and-cafe where you can indulge in waffles while surrounded by beautiful blooms. Don't miss Sakurai, an exquisite contemporary tea-drinking experience, and Mina Perhonen's concept lifestyle shop called Call, both on the 5th floor of Spiral building.
Yanaka is one of my favourite local neighbourhoods, and I love wandering around its meandering backstreets and designer-maker stores (below). You can find my special guide to Yanaka here.
Tokyo is so great for simply wandering, people-watching and popping into shops and cafes that, after you've visited the numerous tourist hot spots, it's easy to overlook the gems you'll find off the beaten track. Here are some of my favourite finds:
Tokyo doesn't have many parks and green spaces to break up the urban sprawl lie London does, which is why I always try and get to the Nezu art museum when I visit, and head straight to the Japanese garden. It's so beautiful.
A little-known, unremarkable-looking temple with an extraordinary secret. Remove your shoes at the entrance and head through the main sliding doors into the temple's main area. To your left you'll see a discreet sign and a stairway leading downwards. Leave some coins in the dish, and feel your way through the pitch black tunnel, which will lead you into twisting, candle-lit stone chambers containing over 400 unique buddha sculptures. It's amazing! It's little out the way but you won't be disappointed.
Asakura museum of sculpture
I stumbled across this museum when wandering around Yanaka, and I'd really recommend it, even if you're not into sculpture. It was the residence and studio of a renowned 20th century sculptor and interesting to see inside a house like that, particularly the pretty courtyard Japanese-style garden and rooftop overlooking Yanaka cemetery.
Between Asakusa and Ueno, you'll find Kappabashi-dori, also known as 'kitchentown'. It's where you'll find everything you need if you're in the restaurant business - which you're probably not but you'll love it for super cheap Japanese ceramics and kitchen equipment such as knives, bamboo rolling mats and amazing pans, and where you can pick up the plastic replica food you see in so many restaurant windows!