A MONOCLE GUIDE
This Tokyo Guide was created in collaboration with the global magazine Monocle.
Time to see a completely different side of these four areas of Tokyo,
stopping at UNIQLO stores along the way.
This Tokyo Guide was created in collaboration with the global magazine Monocle.
Time to see a completely different side of these four areas of Tokyo,
stopping at UNIQLO stores along the way.
1. Yoyogi National Gymnasium Sporting achievement
2-1-1 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3468 1171
Opened in 1964, this Harajuku landmark was designed by Kenzo Tange for the first Tokyo Olympics. The gymnasium implements a suspension roof design, revolutionary for its time, where cables are supported between towers, like a suspension bridge. The result is a cavernous interior free of pillars. Now, half a century later, the building will be given a structural update, without any changes to its commanding exterior, to ensure its resistance to earthquakes ahead of the second Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
2. Ota Memorial Museum of Art Small wonder
1-10-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3403 0880
Hours: 10.30-17.30; closed Mondays
With a collection of 14,000 pieces of ukiyo-e from such masters of the genre as Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, this museum covers the breadth of ukiyo-e history. Exhibits change monthly, displaying between 80 and 100 pieces at a time. Tucked behind Laforet Harajuku, where young crowds tend to gather, this oasis of a museum is like a holdout from a different era. General admission for one adult starts at ¥700 (varies by exhibition).
3. Higuma Doughnuts Sweet treats
4-9-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 6804 1359
Hours: 11.00-18.00; closed Wednesdays
Sourcing ingredients from Hokkaido, HIGUMA Doughnuts has won the hearts of those around Gakugei Daigaku with its fluffy, piping-hot doughnuts, always served up fresh. For its new shop in Omotesando, Higuma has teamed up with popular Kuramae coffee roaster and café Coffee Wrights, offering the sure-fire combo of coffee and doughnuts. Pictured are the Chocolate Dippin’ and Honey Mascarpone doughnuts (¥320 each) and the café latte (¥550). Keep an eye out for special seasonal flavours.
4. Tembea In the bag
1-1-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3405 5278
Hours: 12.00–20.00 (Monday to Friday); 11.00–19.00 (Saturday to Sunday)
These rugged canvas bags, treated by Tembea with a special paraffin wax, are highly water-resistant and made in Japan. Here at the brand’s Tokyo store, you can peruse a large selection of their popular handcrafted bags in a variety of colours, styles and sizes. With items ranging from the daily-use and lightweight to the heavy-duty, you’re bound to find a new favourite.
5. Big Love Records Music to your ears
3F, 2-31-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 5775 1315
Hours: 13.00-22.00 (Tuesday to Sunday); 15.00–20.00 (Mondays)
Focusing on independent and underground releases from Japan, Europe and the US, this record shop has a formidable collection. Hand-picked by owner Masashi Naka and artist, curator and translator Haruka Hirata, the rich assortment of vinyl, CDs, cassettes and zines is full of rarities that will keep music fans coming back for more. Since the shop offers the fine ales of Shiga Kogen on tap as well, you can sip on craft beer while you do your shopping. The store’s original apparel is also worth a look.
6. Papier Labo Unique creations
No. 106, 1-1-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 5411 1696
Hours: 11.00-19.00; closed Mondays and Sundays
To spread the gospel of letterpress printing, Kimiaki Eto stocks his shop with stationery from all over the world, curated around the concept of “paper and paper creations.” The minimalist space offers an assortment of notebooks featuring quality paper and interesting bindings, as well as items from Noritake and surreal original goods created in collaboration with artists. Letterpress business cards are available by special order. In an age where seemingly everything is digital, this space reminds us of the qualities of paper.
7. Think of Things Write on
3-62-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 6447 1113
Hours: 10.00–20.00; closed on second and fourth Wednesdays
This lifestyle shop and café is brought to you by the stationery and office furniture company Kokuyo, a household name in Japan. Curated by industry experts at Kokuyo, the selection of old favourites like their classic notebooks and new original designs is a stationery lover’s dream come true. You’re sure to find all kinds of things that you’ve been hunting down for ages. The café is managed by Obscura Coffee Roasters.
8. Koffee Mameya Bean there, done that
4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Beyond an entrance reminiscent of a Japanese home, you'll find the sparse interior of this café, which specialises in bagged coffee. Baristas dressed in white coats offer thorough consultations, helping you select the perfect bean from an inventory of coffee from selected roasteries around the world. It is a unique pleasure to sip on a drip brewed coffee (¥350-) hand-poured by the barista as you listen to the resident coffee expert talk about the beans.
9. J-Cook Simple but effective
3-36-26 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3402 0657
Hours: 08.00-22.00 (Tuesday to Saturday);11.00-18.00 (Sundays); closed Mondays
It’s good to have a list of places you can go to when you’re itching to escape the hubbub of the city. J-Cook belongs on any such list. Opened in 1987 by husband and wife Toshihide and Atsuko Nakao after their return from Europe, this longstanding café and restaurant serves up homestyle cooking and sweets. Jazz plays softly in the accommodating dining area, which is divided between brighter seats where sun pours through the skylights and a calmer room lit by lamps. Open morning to night, long hours make it easy to drop in. Lunch sets start at ¥1,000.
10. Eatrip Cosy atmosphere
6-31-10 Jingumae Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3409 4002
Lunch: Sat 11:30-15:00; Sun 11.30-17.00;
Dinner: Tue-Sat 18.00-24.00
Founded by Yuri Nomura, who authored the column below, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is set up in a renovated townhouse down an alley in Harajuku. Using seasonal ingredients directly sourced from growers throughout Japan, eatrip offers a set menu (starting at ¥5,400) of western dishes that taste as good as they look. With a relaxed atmosphere that makes it easy to forget that you’re in Harajuku, this is the sort of place you’ll want to go on special days.
11. Utrecht Bookish behavior
2C, 5-36-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 6427 4041
Hours: 12.00-20.00; closed Mondays
If you want to browse Tokyo’s indie art scene, head over to Utrecht, part of the bookshop and gallery Now IDeA. Favouring books that retain a sense of the “body heat” of their creators,” this shop stocks handmade zines from Japan and overseas with a focus on art, fashion and design, as well as rare limited-run booklets.
The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art Plenty to admire
3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3402 3001
Hours: 11.00-19.00 (Tuesdays, Thursday to Sunday); 11.00-21.00 (Wednesdays); closed Mondays
Situated on Gaien Nishi-dori, popularly known as “Killer Street,” this eye-catching museum was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Focusing on contemporary artists like Barry McGee and Yayoi Kusama, their collection showcases a wide array of architecture, photography, video and design. The museum shop On Sundays carries a wide selection of art books, while the café offers a nice place to take a breather.
Uniqlo Harajuku Fashion forward
This new UNIQLO location is scheduled to open in spring 2020 inside WITH HARAJUKU, the shopping complex just beyond the Takeshita exit of JR Harajuku Station. The UT collection will occupy the ground floor, with men’s and women’s clothing on the lower level. There will also be a space where you can play with StyleHint, the UNIQLO app for discovering new styles.
The kanji characters for “hara,” meaning open field, and “juku,” meaning accommodation, together make “Harajuku”. Harajuku evokes images of Takeshita Street, Laforet and a mecca for young people’s fashion but Meiji Jingu, Japan’s number-one destination for worshippers’ first shrine visits of the New Year, also sits in front of Harajuku Station. Harajuku, where young people gather against the backdrop of the shrine’s forest, has always been a place driven by the times and rooted in the atmosphere of the “sando” path leading up to the shrine.
It was in Harajuku that I met friends to go shopping on our own for the first time, as a junior high school student. Now my fourth-grade niece begs me to take her shopping on Takeshita Street to buy items that I can’t fully understand. But I never expected to have my own restaurant in the middle of Harajuku. The Co-op Olympia condominium was built in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics.
It still stands tall and has a long waiting list of hopeful tenants. Behind it stands my restaurant in an old, traditional home. It is a wondrous place surrounded by trees and natural scenery.
I often stand at the central Harajuku intersection with a coffee in one hand and choose one of the small roads heading toward Aoyama, Shibuya, Sendagaya or Yoyogi Park. I love this area, where the latest trends and immutable constants coexist.
1. Oonoya Drawing the crowds
5-12-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3541 0975
Hours: 10.00–17.00; closed Wednesdays and Sundays
Opened in the first year of the Meiji period, Ginza Oonoya sits diagonally across from the Kabuki-za. Originally specialising in tabi socks, they now sell tenugui as well as traditionally dyed shirts made from the same fabric as yukata. The tenugui, which they started carrying before the war, come in more than 400 patterns, including designs unique to the store. Traditional patterns, as well as those featuring imagery from kabuki, ukiyo-e and the Chinese zodiac, are popular as souvenirs. Tenugui starts at750.
2. Kyoraku Oodles of noodles
2-10-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3541 7686
Hours: 11.00–18.00 (Monday to Friday); 11.00-16.00 (Saturdays); closed Sundays and national holidays
This ramen shop opened for business in 1956. Closing temporarily in 2016 due to building renovations, it reopened last year with an updated interior. Unchanged, however, and to the pleasure of its many fans, is the delicious flavour of the ramen made by Kikuo Nakano, second generation owner, and his son Kazuhiko. The simple yet powerful shoyu broth features pleasantly thick noodles handmade by Kazuhiko. Their wontons, made in-house, are popular as well, and are known for their supple, chewy texture. Ramen is800, and wonton noodles are1,000
3. Ginza Maison Hermès French fancy
5-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3569 3300
Hours: 11.00-20.00 (Monday to Saturday); 11.00–19.00 (Sunday)
Designed by Renzo Piano, Maison Hermès is a 10-storey building with a striking glass block exterior. When the neighbouring Sony Building was torn down for renovations, its hidden facade was exposed, allowing passers-by to fully appreciate its beauty. The Hermès Ginza Store spans from the basement level to the fourth floor, while Le Forum, an art gallery managed by the Hermès Foundation, sits on the eighth floor and Le Studio, a reservation-only movie theatre, holds the 10th. The window displays face the street almost like the stage of a theatre, allowing Hermès to express itself to the whole city.
4. Lemonsha Flash sale
8F, 4-2-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3567 3131
Hours: 11.00-20.00; closed Sundays and national holidays
On the eighth floor of the Ginza Kyokaido Building is Lemonsha Ginza, which bills itself as a “hobby shop for grown-ups,” stocking a range of film cameras, watches and fountain pens. Opened in 1983, it has been garnering the trust of camera collectors for well over 30 years. In addition to new products, they carry a huge supply of used equipment from Hasselblad, Leica, Zenza Bronica and other lesser-known brands. They also offer consignment and repair services.
5. Gekkoso Joy of creation
1F, B1, 8-7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3572 5605
Founded in 1917, this art store is packed from floor to ceiling with paints and stationery. Driven “to create high-quality art supplies domestically, for artists in Japan,” the store’s founder devised a method for making cobalt blue in 1940. This was the birth of the first such paint manufactured entirely in Japan. Since then, Gekkoso has produced an array of paints, striving for richness and clarity in the colour of their pigments. Their house-brand stationery, which includes sketchbooks, pencils and letter sets, has earned a reputation for its ease of use. The store also has a gallery and café area.
6. Take-chan Meat feast
4-8-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3561 6889
Hours: 17.00-20:45; closed Sundays and national holidays
Take-chan is located at the heart of Ginza, serving yakitori in a classic storefront along Mihara-dori. The second it opens, the U-shaped counter fills up with regulars. The restaurant started as a food cart in 1953 and opened the current location in 1957. Beloved by the working people of Ginza, it still serves more than 100 customers a day. The menu offers two courses: eight pieces (¥3,200) or five (¥2,200). Items appear in a fixed order, accompanied by dabs of shallot miso and mustard. Chefs with over 40 years of experience cook skewers of duck and Nagoya Cochin chicken over the binchotan coals, timing their movements down to the second.
7. Old Imperial Bar Stirring history
Imperial Hotel Tokyo, 1-1-1 Uchisaiwai-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Celebrating its 130th anniversary in 2020, the Old Imperial Bar is found inside Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. The interior, which features Oya stone and terracotta walls, contains the last remaining portion of the old main building of the hotel, remembered as the Wright Building for being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Their signature cocktail, the Mt. Fuji (gin, egg white, lemon, pineapple and sugar, topped with a cherry), was first poured in 1924. Try the Mt. Fuji for ¥1,760 (tax included, service fee extra).
8. Shirokiya Denbe Clean sweep
3-9-8 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3563 1771
Hours: 10.00-19.00; closed Sundays
Traditional Edo Brooms can be used on everything from tatami to vinyl flooring, rugs and carpeting. They require no electricity, making them environmentally friendly, and they also make little noise, so you can use them any time of day. Founded in 1830, Shirokiya Denbei is a broom speciality shop endeavouring to introduce their handmade brooms to the modern age. Offering brooms for different purposes in a variety of lengths and prices, their line-up runs the gamut from the handheld table broom (¥950) to the Edo broom superlight deluxe (¥70,000).
9. Kabuki-za Playing to the crowd
4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3545 6800
Since its inception in 1889, the Kabuki-za, a veritable palace of kabuki, has occupied a prime seat in Ginza. The building was reborn in 2013, following an elaborate three-year renewal project. While responding to the tradition and history of the theatre by retaining certain elements like the iconic tiled roof and the cusped karahafu gables, celebrated architect Kengo Kuma strove for a barrier-free design with greater quake resistance. Commentary offered via earphone or subtitles makes it easy for even a total beginner to experience the pleasures of kabuki.
10. Ginza Tsutaya Books Another chapter
Ginza Six, 6F, 6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3575 7755
Spreading over nearly 2, 500 sq m of the sixth floor of GINZA SIX, thisbookstore stocks at least 60,000 titles. Work by artist Kohei Nawa is displayed throughout the store, while the longest aisle, dubbed "ArtStreet," gives you an idea of what forms the core of their selection. The stunning assortment includes over 70 magazines from outside Japan and a collection of considerably rare books as well as catalogues from exhibitions held in paris and New York.
11. Neo Kissa King Tokyo tastes
Hankyu Men’s Tokyo, B1, 2-5-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
+81 3 6252 5285
In a gesture of respect to kissa, the Japanese interpretation of the western café, Neo Kissa King, which opened in 2019, offers the sort of classic menu found at these retro cafés, featuring collaborations with some of Tokyo’s most popular eateries. The menu is full of fascinating items, like the Thick Spaghetti Napolitan (¥950, tax included) created by Italian restaurant Melograno in Hiroo, and King’s Homemade Cream Soda(¥900, tax included) complete with a scoop of limited-edition ice cream from BIG BABY ICE CREAM.
12. Ginza Swiss Tried and tested
3-5-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku
+81 3 3563 3206
Hours: 11.00-21.00 (Monday to Saturday); 10.30-21.00 (Sundays)
Ginza Swiss was founded in 1947 as a place where you could dine a bit more casually on western cuisine, which at the time was quite dear. It’s said that Ginza Swiss is the place where katsu curry, the highlight of their menu, got its start. Shigeru Chiba, who was a player for the Yomiuri Giants and a regular customer, requested “something filling and delicious I can eat before the game.” The chef’s answer was curry rice topped off with a pork cutlet, and the rest is history. Try Chiba-san’s katsu curry ¥1,700.
Uniqlo Tokyo Fresh fashion
Our women’s store on the seventh floor of Marronnier Gate Ginza 2 will soon be closing to make way for UNIQLO TOKYO, a brand-new and expanded store on the first through fourth floors of the building opening in spring 2020. The spacious 6,600 square metre location will stock our full line-up of clothing for men, women, kids and babies.
Uniqlo Ginza Bigger and better
At our global flagship store, every corner of the 12 floors is packed with LifeWear. Spread over the 11th floor is a world-class UT showroom, while the kid and baby zone on the seventh floor has a baby room with space for feeding and changing nappies. Don’t miss the special LifeWear magazine showcase, found on the 12th floor from 14 February!
Shopping and nightlife district Ginza is the crown jewel of Tokyo. The neighbourhood is central to the overall story of Japan: it was the hangout for westernised "modern girls and boys" in the 1920s, the centre of GHQ occupation after the Second World War and a symbol of economic dominance in the 1980s.
Ginza's main strip can feel overrunwith tourists in the day but its boutiques and department stores still offer the world's most diverse shopping. And its cafs, such as Tricolore and Café Paulista, are great for coffee and mille-feuille. At night, historic restaurants such as Rengatei and Ginza Swiss offer Japanese takes on western dishes. The cocktails at basement bar Lupin are served by bartenders old enough to have firsthand knowledge of literary heroDazai Osamu's drunken exploits. And on the neon-lit backstreets you can spy the nation's top politicians, businessmen and powerbrokers stepping out of Toyota Century limousines and disappearing into members-only VIP clubs. Ginza's glamour runs deep.
1. Horaiya Golden oldie
3-28-5 Ueno, Taito-ku
+81 3 3831 5783
Hours: 11.30-14.00 and 17.00-20.00 (Monday to Friday); 11.30-14.30 and 17.00-20.00 (Saturday to Sunday); closed Wednesdays
Starting as a food cart back in 1912, this storied eatery is known as one of the “big three” tonkatsu shops of Ueno. Its claim to fame is being the originator of hirekatsu, or pork fillet cutlet, which it has offered exclusively since opening, not serving the usual pork loin. The lightly battered meat has a refined, soft texture, perfectly matching the fresh tang of the Worcestershire sauce. Dishes are accompanied with an ample helping of shredded cabbage. Try the fillet katsu ¥3,300 (tax included).
2. Hanayashiki Ride of your life
2-28-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku
+81 3 3842 8780
Hours: 10.00-18.00 *Hours may change depending on season and weather
This is Japan’s oldest amusement park, situated right beside Sensoji Temple. Opened in 1853 as a botanical garden, Asakusa Hanayashiki survived the Second World War and temporary closures to be reborn in 1947 as an amusement park, complete with rides. The centrepiece is the rollercoaster, by now in operation for more than 60 years, making it the oldest surviving ride of its kind in Japan. These retro attractions are a local landmark, visible over the rooftops of Asakusa. Adult admission is ¥1,000, and a free ride pass is ¥2,500 (plus cost of admission).
3. Okano Yayoi Shouten Lust for life
No. 102, 3-27-10 Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku
Hours: check website
This gallery-style souvenir shop is home to the brand Shin Yoshiwara, which draws its imagery from local history. The owner, Yayoi Okano, was born and raised just outside Asakusa in Yoshiwara, known for being one of the few red-light districts sanctioned by the state during the Edo period. Ever since Okano started Shin Yoshiwara, meaning “The New Yoshiwara,” in 2014, its tenugui and hand fans depicting glamorous women have caused a stir. This location is the only place where you can peruse their entire line-up, which includes artisan collaborations such as wooden washbasins.
4. Sukima Kappabashi Material gains
4-2-10 Motoasakusa, Taito-ku
+81 3 6231 7579
Hours: 12.00–19.00; closed Mondays; open on national holidays
Hender Scheme got its start making leather shoes before branching into a wider range of lifestyle goods, which are handmade by their artisans from gorgeous leather. Sukima Kappabashi in Asakusa, home to both brand headquarters and their workshop, is the second store under its direct management. The old stamping machine on premises, which still functions, was inherited from another Asakusa workshop. Products can be monogrammed for an additional ¥2,000.
5. Daikokuya Tempura Batter up
1-38-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku
+81 3 3844 1111
Hours: 11.00-20.30 (Sunday to Friday); 11.30-21.00 (Saturdays)
Gleaming a crisp golden brown, the tempura overfills the bowl. The rich and salty-sweet sauce penetrates the sumptuous breading. Served in a covered dish, it has a fluffy texture covered, creating a warmer texture. Frying exclusively in sesame oil makes for a pristine flavour, delicious to the last bite. Daikokuya has been serving up its tendon since they opened shop outside the gates of Sensoji Temple in 1887. Their name is associated with tendon nationwide. Ebi tendon is ¥1,950.
6. Kyu-Iwasaki-Tei Gardens Place of distinction
1-3-45 Ike-no-hata, Taito-ku
+81 3 3823 8340
Originally constructed as the principal residence of Hisaya Iwasaki, third president of Mitsubishi Corporation this western-style mansion is now open to the public. The impressive architecture employs the Jacobean style of 17th-century England and incorporates Islamic motifs. The main residence and the billiards house were both designed by British architect Josiah Conder, famous for his work on the Rokumeikan, and have been recognised by the government as Important Cultural Properties. General admission is ¥400.
7. Kakimori Man of letters
2F, 1-6-2 Misuji, Taito-ku
+81 50 1744 8546
Hours: 11.00-19.00; closed Mondays
Kakimori (Kuramae) was opened in 2010 by Takuma Hirose, whose family has been selling stationery for three generations. Centring on the concept of “celebrating the act of writing,” they offer their own line of stationery, with a focus on usability. All of their items are brimming with a love for stationery, from the handsome smear-resistant inks to the refillable ballpoints and the writing paper and cards just waiting to be written on. Popular items include their custom inks and notebooks, both made to order.
8. Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Hall of fame
5-45, Uenokoen, Taito-ku
+81 3 3828 2111
This concrete concert hall just beyond the entrance to Ueno Park was designed by Kunio Maekawa, a key figure of Japanese modernist architecture. It was built in 1961, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Tokyo as a city. Together with Le Corbusier’s National Museum of Western Art, which it faces, the two form a pair of art facilities that have come to symbolise Ueno Park. The hall serves as a venue for classical music, ballet and opera. The iconic cloud-shaped panels flanking the interior were created by sculptor Ryokichi Mukai. The panels are said to improve the acoustics of the space.
Image: Courtesy of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
9. Tsubame-yu Dive in
3-14-5 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
+81 3 3831 7305
Hours: 06.00-20.00; closed Mondays
This treasure of a bathhouse is open long hours, from six in the morning until eight at night, without a break. Located on an Ueno backstreet, the building has an impressive arched facade and has been designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property by Japan. Just like the old days, the attendant sits at a booth between the men’s and women’s changing areas. Step inside the baths, and you see a mural of the mountains that blends into the rock-lined tub. This grand landscape was painted by celebrated Japanese scene painter Morio Nakajima. As with most bathhouses in the Shitamachi area, the water is quite hot, but that doesn’t stop scores of locals and travellers from enjoying a soak.
10. Proto Bringing it to the table
2F, 4-20-12 Kuramae, Taito-ku
Hours: 12.00-19.00 (Tuesday to Friday); 11.00-19.00 (Saturday to Sunday); closed Mondays
Gazing down on Kokusai-dori, this second-storey select shop focuses on vessels. Owner Rei Higuchi gained an appreciation for Japanese culture while backpacking around the world. After returning home, he worked at zakka shops before opening his own store, proto. In selecting his products, which range from everyday cups and bowls to handmade glass or wood pieces, he values a sense of connection with the artist. He’s eager to tell customers the story behind each piece. You almost feel the artist with you while you’re shopping.
11. Pelican Daily bread
4-7-4 Kotobuki, Taito-ku
+81 3 3841 4686
Hours: 08.00–17.00; closed Sundays and national holidays
Since opening shop in 1942, Pelican has been making simple, honest bread in Tawaramachi, Asakusa. They currently bake just two kinds―white bread and dinner rolls―placing a premium on maintaining the quality of their product, which is so delicious you could eat it every day. The shop opens at eight in the morning, but with so many avid fans, they sometimes sell out for the day before noon. A loaf of white bread is ¥430, small dinner rolls (10 pack) are ¥680, and medium dinner rolls (5 pack) are ¥520.
Uniqlo Okachimachi Lighting the way
The bustling shops of Ameyoko, the classic Shitamachi shopping street, are only a minute's walk from Okachimachi Station. UNIQLO OKACHIMACHI is inside the Okachimachi Yoshiike Main Store Building, facing Ameyoko. Spanning floors one through four, the roomy store offers the full line-up of our men’s, women’s and kid’s collections.
Tokyo’s historic downtown areas are close-knit, but in recent years it seems that relationships among people have been progressively weakening. It’s quite common not to know any of your neighbours. But this is not the case in Asakusa, where communities are thriving. A variety of age groups can be found, all respectful of the elder generations, with warm communities scattered throughout.
My family was transferred a lot as a kid but, after junior high school, we settled in a suburban town. In this town, where houses that looked indecipherably similar were all jumbled together, almost all of the residents had come from somewhere else and there were almost no personal relationships among neighbours. When I started making shoes and moved to Asakusa, I was bewildered by everyone’s close proximity. Now, more than 10 years later, I realise that somewhere along the line this level of closeness has become comfortable for me. No matter what happens throughout the year, the enthusiasm that comes with donning happi coats and carrying the mikoshi shrine brings everyone a fresh start. The festival binds us together with a strong sense of unity. Not being raised here, the true essence eludes me, but I think it’s something very human and beautiful.
1. Brillant Master of the mix
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, 2-2-1 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 3344 0111
Hours: 17.00-02.00 (Monday to Saturday); 17:00-midnight (Sundays and holidays)
As the main bar of the Keio Plaza Hotel, Brilliant boasts a stately interior made entirely from red bricks shipped over from Scotland. The bartenders, who have garnered awards both in Japan and overseas, serve up signature cocktails like the Craft Gin Smash (¥2,200) and the Injection (¥2,600) with deft precision. Weeknights feature live piano music in a soothing atmosphere that will wash your cares away.
2. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Green lung
11 Naito-machi, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 3350 0151
Hours: seasonal – check website
The perfect size for a meandering stroll, these gardens spread over 58.3 hectares, with a circumference of 3.5 kilometres. On weekends, the grassy areas are full of families and friends having picnics. Though located in the city centre, straddling Shinjuku and Shibuya, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is teeming with lush vegetation. Its Japanese traditional, English landscape and French formal gardens, along with the Mother and Child Forest, whose trails are made especially for smaller visitors, include more than 10,000 species of trees. There’s even a palatial greenhouse, where a variety of biomes, from tropical to arid, coexist under one roof. Known for its cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen has been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots. General admission is ¥500.
3. Shinjuku Suehirotei In on the joke
3-6-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 3351 2974
Hours: 12.00-16.30 and 17.00-21.00; closed 30–31 December
Shinjuku Suehirotei appears quite suddenly along the busy streets of Shinjuku-sanchome. This wooden theatre, the only one of its kind left in the city, was built in 1946 and was the first site listed as a “Shinjuku Cultural Asset.” The theatre is always spilling over with laughter, hosting two programmes of rakugo and comedy daily, the first midday (12:00-16:30) and the second at night (17:00-21:00). All seats are first-come first-served, including the gallery seating on the second floor. The roster of performers changes every 10 days. Same-day general admission is ¥3,000.
4. All Seasons Coffee Special brew
2-7-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 5341 4273
Hours: 08.00-19.00 (Monday to Friday); 10.00-19.00 (Saturday to Sunday)
Though set along a row of bars, All Seasons Coffee offers a quiet space rich with the smell of roasting coffee. Their speciality roasts, made using beans from growers in South America and Africa, are all made in-house. They are also known for sweets like the jumbo classic pudding (¥600), which is on the firmer side, and a homemade cheesecake (¥650) chock full of Oreo cookies. Try the open-face egg sandwich for ¥650, and the daily roast for ¥400 (add to food for ¥100).
5. Beams Japan Fashionable floor-filler
3-32-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 5368 7300
Hours: BEAMS JAPAN: 11:00-20:00/ CRAFT GRILL: 11:30-15:00 and 17:00-23:00 (Monday to Friday); 11:30-23:00 (Weekend and national holidays)
Beams Japan was founded as a “curated store showcasing the treasures of Japan.” The six themed floors of the building offer an assortment of fashion, food, art and crafts from all over the country. On the basement level you’ll find Craft Grill a restaurant offering interesting dishes like the Shinjuku Hyakunen rice curry, created in partnership with the Nikko Kanaya Hotel, among the oldest western-style hotels in Japan.
6. The Open Book Novel establishment
1-1-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
Golden Gai, packed with little bars run by a cast of characters, is one of the few old-time bar districts of its kind left in Japan. The Open Book, at the entrance of Goban Street, is run by Kai Tanaka, grandson of Naoki Prize-winning writer Komimasa Tanaka, who adored this neighbourhood. The Lemon Sour (¥1,000), the house speciality, superbly balances the fresh tartness of lemon, the flavours of shochu and the sweetness of Kai’s homemade syrup. Komimasa's book collection fill the floor-to-ceiling shelves along the back wall, while the counter is perpetually full of drinks and spirited conversation.
7. Takano Fruit Parlour Sweet spot
5F, 3-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 5368 5147
This fruit-centric dessert parlour is operated by premium fruit retailer Takano. Historically called Shinjuku Takano, the shop started off as a fruit retailer in 1885, the same year as Shinjuku Station. The fruit parlour was opened in 1926, beginning a craze for similar establishments. Selected with uncompromising standards, the fresh fruits and the generous parfaits chock full of them still draw long lines. The Shizuoka muskmelon parfait is ¥2,300.
8. Shinjuku Batting Centre Smash hits
2-21-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
+81 3 3200 2478
This batting centre is located on Kuyakusho-dori in Kabukicho. Since they’re open from 10 in the morning until four in the morning the next day, the cracks of bats hitting balls can be heard all night throughout the red-light district. The centre opened for business in 1978. Despite the changing times, prices are still quite low: for just ¥300 you get 26 balls (22 in LED display area). Customers range from students to folks on their way home from bars and people working in the area. Sneaker rental is available for guests wearing high heels or sandals.
Bicqlo Shinjuku East Exit Store Doubling up
In a matter of years, “BICQLO UNIQLO Shinjuku East Exit Store” has become one of the hottest spots in Shinjuku. As the name suggests, this singular store, is a collaboration between UNIQLO and BIC CAMERA, the home appliance retailer, where guests can browse electronics and LifeWear at the same time.。
For the better part of two decades I’ve been asked by friends and colleagues, “Would you ever live in Tokyo?” When this question came my way 10 years ago, I’d pause for a brief moment, make a thoughtful face and explain why I could easily consider a cosy little set-up in a quiet corner of the city. More recently I’ve come to terms with the fact that I almost do live in Tokyo but without the hassle that comes with owning a residence: I have the good fortune of getting the same room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku every time I visit. 。
Having checked in more than 150 times, I can also call this stretch of Shinjuku my part-time neighbourhood. I have Yoyogi Park for morning or evening runs, Isetan for food shopping before flights back to Zürich (bottles of crisp Japanese koshu white from Grace Winery), very late nights at a couple of select bars in the Ni-Chome district (they shall remain a secret) and plenty of cosy dining options. Having pounded the pavements here for almost 25 years, I can safely say it’s the one neighbourhood I’ve had the longest and most enjoyable relationship with.
Editor: Junichi Toyofuku.
Writers: Fiona Wilson, Ben Davis, Kenji Hall.
Creative Director: Richard Spencer Powell.
Associate Art Director: Sam Brogan.
Deputy Photo Editor: Shin Miura.
Sub Editor: Rosie Prata.
Photographer: Kohei Take, Sayuki Inoue.
Illustrator: Seiji Matsumoto.