When an opportunity to visit Tokyo arose earlier this year, to be hosted by my father’s Japanese counterparts in business for over 25 years, I knew the experience would be a sizeable threat to my present London existence. Though my photos bombarded my newsfeed periodically, I still managed to extinguish storage on my phone, only to frantically delete everything else so I could make space for my fleeting Tokyo moments.
Arriving in Haneda airport, we were ushered into a classic 98 Toyota Crown that took us to our hotel Chinzanso in Bunkyo-ku (kus or wards are different zones in Tokyo). Coming close to 5pm, we were given an hour to rest, and dress for our dinner in the hotel gardens in a traditional Yashiki or Japanese house for our 12-course kaiseki. These gardens attached to the Hotel are open to the public, and date back to the Edo period – filled with Camellia blossoms and fireflies. Yes, fireflies. I felt a bit foolish wearing heels because our far more elegant kimono-clad hostesses in the Yashiki, who welcomed and seated us, removed them.
We ate at Kamiya Bar in Asakusa post a visit to the Senso-ji temple, where we did some touristy sampling of Denki bran (electric brandy). Dinner was in a private room at Zakuro, across from the Takashimaya in Ginza, where we were all made to wear dinner bibs for our Shabu Shabu extravaganza, ‘ITADAKIMASU!’ It was here that I tasted the most divine tomato and red onion salad, served on crushed ice.
The next day Satosan, one of our hosts, confessed that he was afraid of heights. We all laughed nervously in the lift….we were on our way up to the viewing deck of Skytree, which at 634m, is the tallest tower in the world beating both the Canton tower at 600m and the as yet unopened 632m Shanghai tower. Oh, and the lift only takes 55 seconds to the top deck from the 5th floor.
An hour later we were walking through Akihabara – Okatu territory; Satosan turned a bright pink when I asked about visiting a maid-café for lunch. We instead had Okonomiake and got into a taxi to Asakusa in time for our Sumo tournament, for which I hear a ticket can go up to $400. For me, this was the highlight of my trip. At the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, shoes off, we sat crossed-legged in a small cushioned square that squeezed in four people. Bento boxes, fruit, and hot sake were brought to us. ITTADAKIMASU!
We left for Hakone the next day, and stopped for lunch at Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Izu photo museum in Gotemba City. More Soba followed at the little town of Oshinohakai where we had Fujisan in full view and glory. A naked hot spring bath was to follow at our Onsen hotel and I ate dinner in my Yukata.
Back in Tokyo, we wandered Daikanyama where we stopped at a great little shop called Okuro that had Shibori, but better was my meeting with Koichiro Kimura who appeared out of a mysterious portal in the wall – hardly surprising considering the entire shop was a somewhat Matthew Barney inspired spacecraft. Coming from a Senai family who have been in the lacquerware business for over 400 years, Koichiro has taken it to the next level through projects like Sketch in London and Lobmeyr. Next on the list was Meguro Dori, or ‘Furniture street’, that was devoted to Eames and American design from the 60’s. Making it towards Omatesando, we pit stopped at Winged Wheel – a divine fine papers and printers shop. Our finale keiseki was at a Sukiyaki Imhahan restaurant in Asakusa. This chain of restaurants in Tokyo has a history of first ever serving beef in Tokyo (originally served in gold pots during the Meji period).
Over the next 3 days, I started to focus on my design trail. The Wallpaper guide is a good place to start, but you need to dig deeper; here is a list for #japanesecraft #japanesestore #retail #internationaldesign #tokyo that I visited. It took me four hours to pack my suitcase because I bought so much. My brief encounter with Nippon has left me lovestruck. And I hope I find a reason to go back, if not on holiday. Again.
Edo Tokyo Museum http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/newtest/english/index.html #allaboutedo
Aoyama Craft Square http://kougeihin.jp/english/index.html #japanesecraft
Sprial http://www.spiral.co.jp/ #internationaldesign #retail
Sempre http://www.sempre.jp/contents/shop/shop.html #internationaldesign #retail
Tokyo Hands http://shibuya.tokyu-hands.co.jp/en/index.html #japanesecraft #japanesestore
Assemblage http://www.assemblage-daikanyama.com/Daimonji #internationaldesign #retail
Muji http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/venue/550/Mujirushi-RyohinKinokuniya #japanesestore #retail
Moma Design Shop http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/venue/2088/MoMA-Design-Store #internationaldesign #retail
Totodo http://totodo.jp/ #graphicdesign #artbooks #printstobuyintokyo
CDG homestore (2floor) http://gyre-omotesando.com/pdf/english.pdf #japanesestore #retail #internationaldesign
PRADA Aoyama , Tods Omotesando, Omotesando Hills http://www.tokyotimes.com/omotesando-aoyama-architecture/ #famousfor
Okura http://www.hrm.co.jp/okura/ #handdyed #shibbori #japanesestore
Koichiro Kimura http://www.love-international.jp/maison_koichiro_kimura_top.html #japanesecraft #lacquerware #getstonedandgohere
Quico http://www.quico.jp #internationaldesign #retail
Bals Tokyo http://www.balstokyo.com/en/shopinfo/Detail #internationaldesign #retail
Meister http://www.meister-mag.co.jp/ #eamesintokyo
Winged Wheel https://www.winged-wheel.co.jp/en/store.html #japanesecraft #paperheaven