Tokyo was just named 2019’s best big city by Condé Nast Traveler’s poll of 600,000 readers. Here are six places to visit that all offer something unique, intriguing and won’t necessarily be in your city guide or favourite travel blog.
Tokyo is a place where tradition and technology seem to live together in harmony. Though when you tend to visit some of the traditional temples, you’re mostly there with dozens of other tourists and to be frank, it kind of kills the vibe. Sengaku-Ji is located in the Minato City district of Tokyo and is a Buddhist temple that is steeped in history, in a quiet neighbourhood and usually doesn’t get too busy. The temple grounds contain the graves of the 47 Samurai (commonly referred to as the 47 Ronin in the west) and hence is an important historical site. There is also a museum on-site that houses artefacts relating to the 47 Samurai.
The Ako Incident remains one of the most famous examples of vengeance and bushido in Japanese history, so much so that it received a Hollywood adaptation starring Keanu Reeves. Outside of its historical significance, the temple is a serene and welcoming place and is probably my favourite place in Tokyo. On December 14th a festival is held there to commemorate the anniversary of the 47 Ronin’s revenge and would also be a great time to visit.
Tokyo is the place to go if you love ramen and no article or guide is complete without a good recommendation. Usagi is fantastic. It’s a 10-15 minutes walk away from Shibuya station and offers probably the best ramen in the area. It usually doesn’t get too busy either. The shop is a low-key establishment with tasty ramen and great music. Owned by the late hip-hop producer Nujabes’ brother, Usagi plays Nujabes’ mellow and melodic discography you enjoy a steaming bowl of ramen. It makes for one of my favourite dining experiences in Tokyo and should be on your list if you love Nujabes or Ramen. No rabbit, no life.
Nakano Broadway is a collector’s paradise. When you walk through its iconic archway entrance, Broadway appears to be a reasonably regular mall. The main street on the ground floor is packed with discount clothing stores, electronics shops and groceries. However, as soon as you head up a level, things get way more interesting. From vintage toys to lighters, military surplus to Yu-Gi-Oh cards, retro games to sports memorabilia; Nakano Broadway is home to all kinds of treasure.
It’s easy to spend hours here; you’ll find such a unique slice of pop culture delights that it’s worth a visit even if you don’t want to spend money. Highlights include the multiple Mandrake stores, Tonari no Zingaro and Robot Robot. After exploring this complex of wonder, you can head to the basement floor and get a snack from one of the eateries located there or game to your heart’s content in the Namco arcade on the ground floor.
Ginza Six is a high-end mall with six floors of luxury stores and aims to offer a six-star shopping experience (hence the name). It opened in 2017 and is one of the best shopping experiences Ginza offers. The mall boasts flagships of Fendi and Vivienne Westwood amongst others, a concierge service, simple tax-free shopping for tourists and an entire floor of cosmetics boutiques.
The complex has a clean futuristic interior while retaining a warm traditional feel. Thanks to this architecture, Ginza Six always feels welcoming despite the numerous expensive brands it houses. If you’re not in the mood for shopping, Ginza Six still has much to offer. It has a peaceful rooftop garden and a massive Tsutaya bookstore / Starbucks hybrid where you can read and sip on your coffee in peace. There are also some great restaurants within the complex if you’re hungry.
Diesel Art Gallery
If you find yourself in Shibuya with nothing to do (unlikely), then visit Diesel Art Gallery in Shibuya, housed in fashion brand’s Diesel store. Yes, that’s right, the clothing store has it’s own Art Gallery. They have different exhibitions, changing every few months. Currently, they’re displaying works from Toronto artist and futurist, Mad Dog Jones, until November 14th 2019. His first exhibition, AFTER-LIFE WORLD, includes digitally animated works, large prints and tangible items such as a motorcycle helmet. It’s easy to see the influence of Japan on his art - Hiragana is often present in his work, and there’s a hint of landmark Anime movies Akira & Ghost in the Shell in his landscapes. Overall, the Diesel Art Gallery makes art a lot more accessible as it bypasses a lot of the pretentiousness often associated with the art world just on the virtue of where the gallery is located. Be sure to pass by if you’re in the area. Entry is free!
Kakimori is stationery heaven. This shop exemplifies Japan’s attention to detail. Inside Kakimori you’ll find pens galore ranging from a few hundred yen to tens of thousands, racks of fancy writing paper and envelopes, and best of all a wall where you can personalise a notebook down to the binding. The notebook customisation is the shop’s main draw; you pick up a tray and can select the front and back covers, the types of paper, binding, edging, closure.
They have limited edition collaborations - recently you could choose traditional kimono fabric as your notebook cover. The store will then make your book within a few hours for you to collect - just enough time to explore the locale of Taito City. Born to celebrate the love of writing, Kakimori demonstrates how the analogue still retains its value in today’s increasingly digital world. Alternatively, check out 9-floor Itoya in Ginza for your stationery fix.
Can’t make the trip? Check out Spotify’s Japan Top 50 Playlist for an auditory adventure in the land of the rising sun.