A Traveller’s Guide to Making the Best of Modern Tokyo

How best to appreciate and savour the dramatic juxtaposition that is Tokyo.
Wednesday 8 May 2019
The morning to night guide you never knew you needed. Photo: iStock

Start the day at…

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Photo: iStock

Harajuku, the gateway to crazy experiences. Follow the exit marked Takeshita Dori, the bustling teenage heartbeat of Tokyo. Wander down pedestrianised Takeshita Street and its side streets, mingling with giggling schoolgirls eating rainbow cotton candy, selfie-snapping tourists and the odd person dressed as a gothic Lolita or cutesy fairy. The shops along these streets are almost as eye-catching as the crowds, a mix of kitschy fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, trendy outlets, owl (or hedgehog, cat and dog) cafes and crepe stalls.

At the end of the Takeshita Dori you will hit Omotesando, a broad, tree-lined avenue filled with designer shops. Stop by the many emporiums in the area, including Tokyu Plaza, La Foret Harajuku, Daiso Harajuku – 100 Yen Shop and Oriental Bazaar.

Work up an appetite at…

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the extremely fun Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka where you order your food from an iPad in front of you and within a minute your sushi or ramen will whizz in front of you like a bullet train on a conveyor belt.

Press a button on the pad after you’ve removed your sushi and the delivery tray zooms back into the kitchen. Food is good for a cheap, super fast food joint.

Get some retail therapy at…

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Photo: iStock

Harajuku’s sneaker shops. Here specialist sneaker boutiques deal in limited-edition releases, with important ‘drops’ seeing hard-core sneakerheads queuing outside overnight to secure the latest collaborations. The best include Atomos, Billy’s Ent, Architecture + Sneakers and Kicks Lab.

This district is also home to flagship stores of global sneaker brands, usually carrying their full collection and special limited editions. Top of the list are Nike’s store at the top of Omotesando and Adidas Brand Core Store, a three-minute walk from Shibuya station.

Another must-buy in Tokyo are electronics and gadgets. Shop at any of the 30 Bic Camera shops for high-quality products such as cameras, audio, phones and other gizmos.

Get some culture at…

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the inexplicably named MORI Building Digital Art Museum: Teamlab Borderless in Odaiba, billed as the world’s first digital art museum. It goes without saying that this cutting-edge museum, which blends cutting-edge technology with art, is unlike anything you have ever been to.

Take the Cave Universe where you find yourself inside a cave where hundreds of crows suddenly take flight. The floor dissolves and the trail of crows circle around and around you to create the sensation of flight.

As you move from room to room, you enter a completely unique world where you watch spring flowers bloom and wither, walk through a room filled with lamps where the closest ones start shining brighter and contemplate life on a rock under a cascading waterfall.

Explore a new neighbourhood at…

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Daikanyama, Tokyo’s hipster district. A popular weekend destination for locals, this area’s relaxed vibe, tree-lined pedestrian-only streets and trendy eateries make it a suburban oasis located just a 15-minute walk from the world’s busiest intersection at Shibuya.

A must-stop is the calm and cool bookstore Tsutaya at Daikanyama T-site, a three-building complex, which is a world unto itself. Explore its six book departments, unrivalled video department, rare book lounge, music room with its own concierge service, travel desk, camera store, Family Mart, cafes and an array of covetable merchandise.

Have your last meal at…

the three-Michelin starred Ryugin in Roppongi where experimental chef Seiji Yamamoto has put modern Japanese cuisine on the map. Yamamoto applies cutting-edge technology to the tradition of kaiseki ryori, which involves a theatrical series of small courses such as black fig wrapped in mochi blanket and grilled ayu fish with bamboo smoke.

Lie your head at…

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contemporary and stylish TRUNK Hotel, which is like the local version of Ace Hotel but with a modern Japanese design edge. It’s located in the heart of Tokyo’s lively Shibuya district and is just seconds from hipster-magnet Cat Street, the epicentre of Harajuku’s famed street fashion culture.

This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s May 2019 issue from the article TOKYO WHERE TRADITION MEETS CUTTING EDGE.

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