If anyone knows what is happening when, where and why in Tokyo, it’s Mio Yamada, the Arts Editor at the Japan Times. She takes some time out to chat to us about the art and culture of her home city – and reveals where we should really beshopping in Tokyo.
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.