TOKYO always in translation lifestyle
This capital city best defines the duality between the dizzyingly high-tech and age-old customs. Tokyo may have more than 9 million inhabitants, but it’s considered the safest city in the world. Here’s our attempt to cover, understand and enjoy the city from a perspective of reasoning, curiosity and emotions. Tokyo is everything, and it has everything.
1 – KAWAII CULTURE. Embodied by its high priestess Hello Kitty and the Neko cafes where you can see displays of (and buy) the famous lucky cats in biscuit and sweet form. To really get to the bottom of kawaii culture we recommend going to Monster Café, located in the Y M Square building. And if you’ve got time, head to the jaw-dropping shrine to the famous white kitten (Hello Kitty) at Sanrio Puroland theme park, a paradise of sweets, attractions, boat trips, specialist shops, and everything the famous kitty covers. It’s located in Tara, a suburb of Tokyo.
2 – TOKYO SKY TREE. Since 2011 this 634 metre high building has been Tokyo’s tallest. From the cafe, located 350 metres up, you can take in a view of the whole of Tokyo and see 70 kilometres beyond the capital. It has two viewpoints. The first one has a glass floor. A restaurant at 345 metres will give you a mind-blowing experience that goes far beyond gastronomy. An absolute must.
3 – GINZA DISTRICT. Ginza is one of Tokyo’s most exclusive districts, with high-end shops and buildings. It’s also the place where you can indulge every whim – from buying anything from a Hermes bag to a hundred-year-old kimono, or a work of art by a renowned Japanese artist. The best shopping centres are Ginza Six, Matsuya and Mitsukoshi.
4 – TOKYO STATION. The equivalent of New York’s Grand Central Station, Japanese style. In other words, it’s chock-full of ‘shinkansen’, the bullet trains that speed out of the station and around the country at record speeds.
5 – KOKESHI DOLLS AND OTHER JAPANESE CHARMS. Queens of Japanese folklore, with their fringes and kimonos, ‘kokeshi’ are a symbol of luck, just like the famous cats and ‘taiyaki’ fish (fish-shaped pastries made from water, flour and sweet azuki beans). The way you eat your ‘taiyaki’ reveals your personality: if you start with the head, you’re brainy; if you start with the tail, you’re emotional.
6 – HARAJUKU AND SHINOKITA DISTRICTS. This is where you’ll see the various urban tribes who inhabit this mega city living alongside each other. From ultra-fashionable men walking through the parks dressed manga style, to new geishas. And it’s where you’ll find an abundance of street-side bars and restaurants. Some of them are incredibly good, and very much in-demand.
7 – GOTOKUJI TEMPLE. Just beautiful, and the hundreds of lucky cats adorning it make it particularly special. Located in Setagaya, this Buddhist temple recalls the era in which Tokyo was called Edo (around 1600). There, you can buy a lucky cat (called maneki-neko in Japanese) and leave it in the temple after asking it for a wish. Or you can take it home.
8 – NAGAKIN CAPSULE TOWER. An iconic building with a facade reminiscent of a tower of washing machines. It was designed and built by visionary architect Kisho Kurokawa, and is symbolic of the Metabolism architectural movement. Some scenes from Blade Runner were filmed here.
9 – SHIBUYA STREET. Undoubtedly the most photographed and well-trodden street. Its famous pedestrian crossing is a must for any film, series or documentary about Tokyo. And once you’ve crossed the street, you’ll find yourself in one of the trendiest districts in the capital, with streets brimming with ultra-modern shops.
10 – VENDING MACHINES. There’s practically one on every corner. They sell everything – there’s one for every craving. From sweets to chips, toiletries, toys… They’re so hypnotic it’s almost impossible not to buy something from one at least once.
11 – YOYOGI PARK. Tokyo’s largest, just a stone’s throw from Meiji Shrine. A beautiful location for a walk or picnic (they’re allowed here) or to marvel at the cherry trees in spring, or the deciduous trees that change colour in autumn. It also has fountains, thousand-year-old trees and Zen walks. This is the ideal place to feel good and understand Japan’s culture of meditation and calm.
12 – SOME MUSEUMS IN TOKYO. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but we’ve made a list of some interesting ones.
- If you’re going with children: GHIBLI MUSEUM (it’s so wonderfully fun you could go without children too)
- To understand beauty: TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (with a dreamy garden and rooms exhibiting kimonos, samurai swords, Buddha statues and incredibly valuable ancient ceramics, etc.)
- To learn about Tokyo’s history: EDO MUSEUM (the entire history of Tokyo since it was founded, set in a unique building)
- For culture lovers: NATIONAL ART CENTER (from architect Kisho Kurokawa, with rooms exhibiting the best of Japanese art, architecture and major works)
- For the cutting-edge: MORI ART MUSEUM (located on floor 53 of Mori Tower, in Rappongi Hills, with exhibitions of visual art, performances and digital art. The views – excellent)
13 – ALLEYS, THE PLACE TO EAT IN TOKYO. These are super busy areas, used and appreciated by office workers and young people, where you can find lots of bars and restaurants between the passages and alleys, known as ‘gado shita’ (under the viaduct) in Japanese. We recommend you take a look around and get to understand the city’s unrelenting hustle and bustle.
14 – THE TOKYO METRO. Safe and very well-connected. All the stations have visual codes so that no matter what language you speak, you won’t get lost.
15 – A SUMO FIGHT. The most famous ones are held in Ryogoku district. In the surrounding area you’ll find bars and restaurants that tend to offer the kind of food usually eaten by sumo wrestlers (who in many cases are the owners of the premises).
16 – SENSO JI TEMPLE. This is located in Asakusa district where you’ll find excellent art galleries. Senso Ji is a Buddhist temple and is the oldest in Japan. Next to it is Asakusa Shrine, which is Shinto.
17 – M. SHOP from designer Michiko Nakayama, located in Kanda Shrine. With stunning clothes from the designer and a unique space where you can have a drink and, above all, meditate inside a Shinto temple.
18 – OCEDO. The old market, near Tokyo Station, is a Japanese style Rastro flea market, full of antiques, furniture and artistic curiosities.
19 – FUKAGAWA. Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhood, with an Edo ambience. Start your walk at Monzen Nacacho station. Breathe in traditional Japan in its alleyways, streets and shops. It’s particularly interesting because of the number of historical shrines you can visit.
20 – NAKA MEGURO. A residential neighbourhood brimming with beautiful cafes and unique boutiques from independent designers. Walking through the cherry blossoms along the banks of the River Meguro is a pleasure for all five senses. We recommend having a drink or bite at the Onibus Café.
TOKYO FOR FOODIES
This is the city with the most outstanding flavours in the world. And you’ll find restaurants for all tastes and budgets. Our pick of this wonderful gastronomic paradise is:
- KABUKISHO, in Shinjuku district. A futuristic venue where food plays second fiddle to the robots, neon and futuristic decor.
- SUSHISHO MASA, possibly the best sushi in the world. The experience, at 300 euros per guest, will not disappoint, leaving a long-lasting imprint in your memory.
- EATING IN THE ALLEYS: GYOZA CHAC (gyoza specialist), HIMITSUDO (artisan ice cream made with spring water), ASADACHI, (an eatery in the Omoide street that prepares dishes to enhance virility or get rid of illnesses, all with ingredients including frog, salamander, and snake liquor), NIKUSUKI (sushi made with horse meat). You’ll eat well on this street. Many highly sought-after restaurants serve food on the street-side tables in line with the Japanese concept of ‘omakase’ which means eating food served straight from the chef.
- HOSHINOYA RESTAURANT TOKYO. A gastronomic secret lies inside this riokan or inn (probably the best in the world). Chef Noriyuki Hamada will take you to gastronomic heaven.
- NEW YORK BAR. Located on floor 52 of the Park Hyatt Hotel, serving indisputably the best cocktails in Tokyo.
TOKYO FOR LUXURY LOVERS
- MANDARIN ORIENTAL. Luxury and more luxury in Nihonbashi. Where everything breathes ‘omotensashi’ (Japanese hospitality). The views are just incredible.
- PALACE HOTEL. One of the city’s musts. We absolutely loved its cherry tree garden, communal areas, and silence.
- HOSHINOYA TOKYO. The best riokan. And we’ve already talked about the food. As a whole, it’s sublime.
- PARK HYATT. Simply because Lost in Translation was filmed here, it’s a favourite. And it will always be.
YOSHIMOTO TRADING CO.LTD.
PORCELANOSA TOKYO Associate – Showroom
1F KOYO BUILDING, 1 CHOME 10-17 HAMAMATSUCHO, MINATO KU
Photography: Alex del Río