January 10, 2013
What do you love about Tokyo life?
Its creativity: there are so many people doing interesting things. I also love the independent fashion labels, numerous select boutiques, flea markets and vintage shops. For shopping, I like the label Yab Yum (3-6-24 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 03 3479 1143). Kinji (YM Square Harajuku B1F, 4-31-10 Jingumae, Shinuya-ku, 03 6406 0505) sells very cheap vintage clothing and Ragtag (1-17-7 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, 03 3476 6848) is good for second hand designer clothing. For cool t-shirts, I head to Graniph Harajuku (6-12-17 Jingumae, Diamond Bldg 1F, Shibuya-ku, 03 6419 3053). The Spiral Building (5-6-23 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, 03 3498 1171) near Omotesando, which also has interesting Japanese design products and pop-up stores.
What’s the art scene like?
There are many smaller independent and commercial galleries in the city and young artists from all over are drawn to Tokyo, so there’s a lot going on. Good independent galleries include the Watarium (3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 03-3402-3001), and also Taka Iishi Gallery (1-3-2 5F Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, 03 5646 6050) which represents lots of young and interesting Japanese artists. I also like Scai the Bathhouse (Kashiwayu-Ato, 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku, 03 3821 1144) in the old Yanaka district. Prominent up-and-coming artists in Japan include Odani Motohiko, Kohei Nawa and the collective Chim Pom.
Favourite arty neighbourhood?
Yanaka for the old school atmosphere and artisan shops – there are lots of traditional-style Japanese buildings here and many still house older artisans making products such as Japanese geta sandals, handmade children’s toys, sweets and rice crackers. There is a strong community spirit and a growing number of young creatives who are moving there to live and work. Another interesting area is Nakameguro, which has lots of cafés, vintage stores and independent boutiques near a cherry tree-lined river. Siige (Highness Nakameguro, 1-2-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, 03 6303 1618) is a vintage shop sourcing surreal treasures from Finland; & Stripe (Ono Building 1F, 1-25-3 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, 03 3714 3733) sells buttons of all shapes and sizes; contemporary clothes designs can be found at Note et Silence (1-23-4 Aobadai, Meguro-ku) and there’s DrÃ´le, a nice café for tea and cakes, just next door (1-23-4 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, 03 5722 6083).
Best tips for a culture fix?
Favourite place to end the night?
Any of the tiny ramshackle bars that line Nonbei Yokocho in Shibuya (it’s a mini version of Golden Gai) another great area of old bars near Shinjuku – and only a short taxi home. It’s best just to wander along the narrow lantern-lit lane and enter any bar that takes your fancy. These places are so small you could probably fit a maximum of around eight people in some of them, so it’s a great way to meet and chat with fellow customers and owners. Golden Gai in Shinjuku is a more famous set of streets with equally small bars that’s popular with tourists, but Nonbei Yokocho, with fewer bars, can be a little less intimidating.