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The Lowdown | Tokyo

Tokyo, a World-Class City Waiting to Be Explored Words by Christina Liao

Where Japan

Quick Quote $1,200 per day including hotels

Best Season Late spring, early fall

Thinking of food, fashion, and culture

Best Portrayed in A drift in Tokyo

There’s a palpable energy that can be felt when you land in Tokyo. From the neon signs to the controlled chaos of more than 13 million people, it’s a bustling city that can seem daunting to navigate. A word of advice: Don’t fixate too much on the dizzying bright lights. Because beyond the fluorescent glow are slivers of green, the calmness of temple grounds, and hidden gems waiting to be unearthed. The trick to maneuvering around Japan’s capital is to navigate one neighborhood at a time until you find the enclave that speaks to you the most. And once you’ve found the enclave that suits you—whether it’s Ginza for high-end shopping, Shibuya for zeitgeist culture, Roppongi for nightlife, or Shimokitazawa for hipster vibes—that’s when you’ll really get a grasp on the sprawling metropolis. Just don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone, try food that you’ve never seen before, and get a little lost. It’s one of the safest countries in the world, so fret not about late-night walks, and just ask a local for directions should you get too turned around. People here are friendly and always willing to help, and even though things get a little lost in translation here and there, that’s when the real adventure begins.

Where to Stay

For the stylish traveler, newcomer Trunk Hotel is the place to stay. Located halfway between Harajuku and Shibuya Station, the 15-room boutique property is the city’s best-designed option and embodies the trendsetting culture of its neighborhood. For those who want to be in the center of Shibuya’s bright lights, Hotel Koé is another recent addition to Tokyo and is a visual stunner with its minimalist aesthetic and gray color palette, proving that less is more. But if it’s true luxury you’re looking for, Aman Tokyo and Hoshinoya Tokyo in the city’s Otemachi district will live up to all expectations. The former has incredibly spacious rooms and a spectacular pool while the latter grants the utmost privacy and provides an urban ryokan experience unlike any other hotel in Tokyo. And for those who plan on spending their time shopping in Ginza, The Peninsula Tokyo is located steps away and will make sure you’re well taken care of.[0].title
Words by Christina Liao Tokyo Editor

Christina Liao is a freelance writer largely focusing on travel, food, and drink. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Architectural Digest, Robb Report, and other publications. She has traveled extensively throughout Japan, spending 14 weeks in the country over the span of two years and continues to visit often. Other favorite destinations include Paris, Hong Kong, and Las Vegas.

Where to Eat

For a truly innovative and remarkable meal, head over to Den. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa translates his own convivial quirkiness onto the plate and the result is one of the most delightful modern takes on kaiseki cuisine you’ll ever have. In contrast, Tonki is about as traditional as you can get when it comes to tonkatsu, but they fry up some of the best pork cutlets in the city.

“Go to Tokyo for the novelty, but stay for the food and people. Despite how hectic and commercialized the city can get, there are plenty of nooks where tranquility and authenticity can be found.”

When you want to try Japanese-French fusion cuisine, book a seat at Takazawa, a restaurant that has proven to be so spectacular that it has even won over Alinea’s Grant Achatz. However, no stop in Japan would be complete without ramen and Fuunji delivers a rich chicken broth that has an added depth to it courtesy of the bonito dashi powder that it’s topped with. Looking for something lighter? Udon may be more up your alley and Oniyamma serves up an unpretentious, but delicious bowl of these thick white noodles in a small, standing-room-only joint. But if there’s one restaurant that comes to mind when Tokyo is mentioned, it’s the legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro. Reservations are tough to get, but it’s an interesting experience that sushi lovers should cross off their list.

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What to Do

While Tokyo may not be known for temples, Senso-ji, the city’s oldest, is certainly worth seeing. Located in Asakusa, visitors will pass through two enormous red gates and a shopping street lined with vendors before reaching the main hall. Grab a snack and do as the locals do and waft the incense smoke toward you—it’s believed to bring good health. Another popular attraction in the city is Tsukiji Fish Market. As of October 2018, things have changed with the market’s relocation, but you can still visit the original outer market and check out the local shops and restaurants. But if it’s the tuna auction you’re hoping to see, then you’ll have to go to Toyosu and watch from an observation deck in the new state-of-the-art building (you unfortunately won’t be able to walk around the floor anymore). For those interested in contemporary art, the Mori Art Museum and the Mori Building Digital Art Museum: Teamlab Borderless, a pioneer for showcasing digital art, are two musts. Both are highly Instagrammable and exceptionally entertaining. And if you happen to come during cherry blossom season, make sure to head over to Meguro River Park for an incredible sighting of the delicate pink flowers.

Where to Shop

Tokyo is one of the leading fashion cities in the world and zeitgeisty streetwear is all the rage. Style collective Fake Tokyo is at the forefront of this movement and presents an expertly curated mix at its shop in Shibuya. For incredible designer vintage finds, run, don’t walk, to Laila Vintage. And for simple, but stylish clothing made from recycled cotton that’ll help you achieve the effortlessly cool look that comes so natural to many Tokyoites, head over to Trunk Hotel’s store, which also sells locally made food products and additional items that benefit varying organizations. Looking for something a bit craftier? Those who still prefer to put pen to paper will fall in love with Kakimori, where a number of writing instruments can be found, notebooks can be customized, and even ink can be blended to your liking. Meanwhile, appreciators of origami will enjoy Origami Kaikan, a retail store, gallery, and workshop dedicated to the traditional art.

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