Ok, so you know this by now, it’s not a big secret; Tokyo has it all and does it better than anyone. Whatever you are into, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to have a better version of it in Tokyo. This sprawling metropolis, with countless villages within cities within bigger cities somehow manages to have so much personality, flavour and edge at the same time as being completely manageable, green, safe, clean and friendly.
You can walk back to your hotel from a 30 course omakase dinner at 9pm for half an hour through a leafy residential neighbourhood and not bump into a single person apart from a couple of dog walkers and perhaps someone gliding past quietly on their bicycle. Perhaps buzzing a bit from the sake and exotic cuts of seafood, your senses will be so heightened that in the balmy evening a choir of crickets chirping and wind chimes will be the noisiest company you will encounter and it will leave you wondering – how is this possible in a city this size? Why is it so peaceful and calm?
Yet, Tokyo never sleeps. 365 days a year there’s an unlimited amount of action for you to tap into, whether a gallery, a concert, a restaurant or a flagship opening; the only thing you can count on that it will be world-class and will satisfy the needs of even the most discerning and savvy consumer.
Tokyo is so well connected and easy to move around from one distinct neighbourhood to another using the public transport network or by taxi (or Über if you fancy) and is also surprisingly walkable. Unless you are there in the middle of Summer when it’s unbearably hot and humid, walking a couple of miles there is often a little adventure and a pleasure in itself. The neverending quirky retail, top quality cafés and fairly audacious architecture will keep you amazed for weeks if not years. Because Japan’s contemporary culture is moving at such pace and constantly in flux, it has also given birth to countless new architectural practises steering the development of urban landscapes in an era of continuous experimentation. Often incongruous and cacophonic, you will find every fantasy played out on a single residential street, yet again, somehow it all falls into place and feels like a perfect fit.
As is so often the case, the authentic and also the interesting bits are found on the fringes, just a little outside the guidebook maps and where the typical visitor ventures to in Tokyo. Work your way to the centre from the outside. Venture into the leafy design district of Meguro for great coffee, fashion and small design studios, just a short hop over the river from the plush and not-to-be-missed Daikanyama with it’s galleries, embassies and T-site with Tsutaya bookstore, just another skip away from Omotesando and the endless high-end retail it’s tree-lined avenues offer. Prada turns to Off-white turns to Yoshi Yamamoto, Issey Miyake turns to Acne Studios and Comme de Garcons to James Perse to White Mountaineering. Walk towards Harajuku and it’s suddenly Dominique Ansel’s bakery on the way to Catstreet, filled to the brim with latest street fashion. Ok, time to sit down and have a glass or two..
Or you could do the same in Otsuka and work your way towards Ikebukuro. This time eating your way through countless Izakaya with google translator and Asahi as your friend and ice-breaker. There may not be a single tourist in sight and english will not always be very useful, so buckle up, taste that takoyaki and down that shochu because everyone will be friendly and you’ll soon be laughing together, maybe even dancing. Maintain a strong frame and let Tokyo lead you – it will show you the time of your life.