Tokyo Now

Tokyo Now

We spent last week in Tokyo.  Here are six things we learnt. 

1. A shop can go anywhere

The Pool is a concept store built into a former swimming pool in an apartment block constructed in the 1970’s - which makes it quite tricky to find.  Incorporating a lush florist selling poppies by the stem, a mix of high-end streetwear labels, and in-house accessories, it’s the work of former DJ, Eric Clapton collaborator and ‘godfather of Harujuku street fashion’ Hiroshi Fujiwara himself. It’s closing in two weeks to allow Hiroshi to pursue his next project.

The Pool
5-12-24 Chateau Toyo Minami Aoyama 1F
Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

 

2. A bar doesn’t have to have anyone in it

Behind a roller door on the second floor of an ugly building in Shibuya, JBS is kind of like hanging out in your uncle’s living room… that is, if your uncle is a cool Japanese jazz diehard, and the type to pour you bottomless tumblers of Iwai.  Kobayashi-san’s bar is a tribute to his collection of more than 10,000 jazz, blues and soul records. He plays vinyl whether anyone is there or not.

JBS
1-17-10 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo

3. There’s a way to eat everything

Chopstick mastery takes time, and there’s a definite etiquette to shabu-shabu consumption, but the correct way to eat traditional Japanese junk food is another world altogether. Intimate, boozey Japanese banter aside, the ramshackle six seater bars crammed into Shinjuku’s narrow Golden Gai alleyways are a masterclass.  Ika, the chewy, vinegar soaked squid on sticks is best enjoyed charred (with your own lighter, no less), but the umaibo (tubular, cheezel-like concoctions) should be eaten straight from the packet. The list goes on.

Golden Gai
Shinjuku

4. Flooring matters

Detail is everything in Japan, and flooring is no exception.  Nowhere is this more evident than the immaculate Gyre complex in Omotesando. Marble, parquetry, distressed boards or immaculately polished concrete, the boutiques in this three storey building are perfectly appointed, each one a gallery in its own right. Our favourite: VisVim.

Gyre
5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

5. Privacy counts

In the middle of blaring Shibuya, Shiru-bei couldn’t be further away. At the end of a maze of back buildings, tunnels and fire escape stairs, it’s the real deal. Beer, a chef torching fresh fish, soft Japanese hip hop and Friday night sessions in full swing on the floor around a tiny open kitchen, a handful of people come here to be close together, away from the noise.

Shiru-bei
1 Chome-11-11-5 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041

 

 

 

6. Everything should be mastered

Whether it’s in the cavernous basement of high-end department store Isetan, the stone walls of the imperial palace, or in the greenroom of the Kabuki theatre in Ginza, the importance of mastery in Japanese culture is rife.  It’s in the  not-quite-chewy dough of a green tea mochi that can only be bought individually, the entire café in Omotesando dedicated to serving only one breakfast, the book store that only stocks one book, the sweet egg omelette stall at Tsuiji Market with queues for days... Sure, a single strawberry in Tokyo might cost  but you can bet your life it will be perfect.

Isetan
3-14-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo

World Breakfast All Day
3-1-23 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo

Tsukiji Markets
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045

The Imperial Palace
Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8111

Morioka Shoten
1F Suzuki Building, 1-28-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 

 

 

 

 

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We’re fresh off the plane and will be sharing more of our finds over the next few weeks.