How To Spend It in... Tokyo
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I was born and raised in Taito-ku, near Asakusa old town, close to the centre of Tokyo. It was a lively place to grow up, full of spirit and good energy – I loved going to events at the nearby Shinto shrine, and people always flocked to the flower markets at the Senso-ji temple.
As a teenager, I was heavily influenced by American culture – TV programmes like Bewitched, which was on every week, Peyton Place and The Andy Williams Show. And I was a big fan of musicians Bill Evans and Miles Davis – the way they wore suits was impeccable.
I would describe Tokyo’s fashion sensibility as a bit like fusion cuisine – it’s made by various cooking methods and spices from all around the world. The US influenced the Japanese way of dressing too – that’s the base of the fashion culture here, such as Ivy League style, which remains a big reference for me. Then there’s the influence of France, the UK and Italy, depending on the generation you are from. However, these elements are always interpreted in a Japanese way, like adding soy sauce to international cuisine.
In Tokyo, a lot of the best stores are a mish-mash of different things, both classic and street, creating a scrambled style. Japanese people understand the rules of dressing, but they intentionally break them to suit their own personalities. Ginza is well known as a Japanese shopping district, but I think the best places are dotted all around Tokyo. I’m thinking of United Arrows in Roppongi Hills or Beams House in Marunouchi, which are multi-label, curated stores that offer elegant, classic fashion and streetwear.
For more casualwear, I like Silver and Gold, which is a small boutique in Shibuya; they don’t have super-edgy brands, but the products they select and the way they curate offer a different sensibility to other places. Originally they had a store in Osaka – perhaps that’s what gives them a different point of view. And then there’s Godard Haberdashery, also in Shibuya, which is quite new and was founded by an ex-buyer at Dover Street Market.
Tokyo is obviously renowned for its vintage clothing – the most famous is probably Jantiques, for its items from the US, UK and France after the ’50s, and which are always in good condition. Despite the higher price points, I always end up buying something from here. But the best area to go second-hand shopping in is Koenji – there are hundreds of vintage spots there. Like Anemone, which stocks European clothing from the ’80s and ’90s; they have many items that I sold myself when I was a young sales associate, which always makes me feel sentimental. And there is Kissmet, which is known for its range of Japanese designer brands, such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons from the ’80s and ’90s.
My favourite part of the city is the area around Jinbocho, where I spent time before university, inspiring me to study interior design. It’s a very calm place to walk around. The area has a lot of art supply shops and vintage bookstores, specialising in photography, music, art and fashion. There’s also a store that has a lot of second-hand magazines, such as Vogue, Esquire and GQ. American magazines were always very expensive to buy new, so when I was in school I used to buy vintage ones for style inspiration. I’ve also recently found a music café there, called Jazz Olympus, which focuses on jazz from the 1950s and ’60s, my favourite eras. Tokyo is very busy, and there aren’t many spots where you can relax, but this place is quite chilled. They have a great sound system and they also serve delicious Japanese curry.
I also like to walk around the streets near Shoin Shrine, in Setagaya District, a local residential area. Near the temple, there are many interesting small accessory shops – which we call zakka – where they sell homewares, stationery, fashion accessories and leather goods. The area itself is made up of a lot of small shops that were formerly Japanese-style housing. It’s not upmarket or glossy, it’s really low-key and relaxed.
For inspiration, I go to Daikanyama Hillside Terrace, which was designed by the architect Fumihiko Maki; I like it for its distinct Tokyoite building style. I’ll visit Tsutaya to find the latest books, then walk around the neighbourhood to check out the fashion boutiques.
In terms of food, Tokyo has the best examples of dishes from all over Japan. Soba noodles might originally be from Nagano, but they have excellent authentic versions at Muromachi Sunaba, the first place to offer tempura soba; or, while you might be able to get fresher fish for sushi on Hokkaido, all the top chefs are competing in Tokyo, so they have the best techniques and have access to the best ingredients.
I love restaurants that offer traditional cuisine with ambient interiors. For sushi, I usually eat at Kizushi (+81 33666 1682) in Ningyocho or Sushi Teru (+81 35379 8138) in Shinjuku, which I like because it still has the feeling of Tokyo from the Showa era. For unagi, which is freshwater eel, I like to go to Myojinshita (+81 33251 5031) in Chiyoda. The dish is served as rice with steamed then grilled eel on top, and a sweet and savoury sauce.
To visitors, I usually recommend a stay at Hilltop Hotel in Ochanomizu, which has retro furnishings and a calm feel – also, its tempura restaurant, Yamanoue, is one of the best around. Or there’s The Okura Tokyo, because it’s one of the most iconic hotels in the city, thanks to its midcentury interiors and impeccable hospitality, and Hoshinoya Tokyo in Chiyoda, because of the onsen – hot springs that are naturally heated from below ground.
When I want to get away from the city, I play golf; it forces you to spend the whole day out in nature. I’ve been playing for more than 30 years, usually once a week. I like that it can be a group activity, and that it’s not too tough, so I can play it until the very end.
I also like to visit Nihon Mingei-kan, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, because I love crafts that are practical and stay close to daily life. There is also The National Art Center in Roppongi and the museum at Roppongi Hills, which is on the 53rd floor; the exhibitions are always interesting and the views overwhelmingly beautiful.
The most fascinating thing about Tokyo is that there are so many different areas, each with their own distinct characteristics. For example, in Asakusa, or Kabukicho in Shinjuku, you can find a very authentic, local vibe. Whereas if you go to Omotesando, or Roppongi area, it feels more contemporary – even futuristic. It’s the same city, but depending on the area, it shows a completely different side. And that means you never get bored here.
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