TRAVELOG 09: TOKYO
Why is Tokyo one of the world’s greatest cities? With more than 38 million people living in greater Tokyo, the city is the largest metropolitan area in the world and people can’t get enough of it. For us, it has all our favorite things--the best fashion, the world’s most sophisticated railways, food porn for days (from street food to the most Michelin stars of any country), electronic stores like theme parks, mountains and breathtaking nature just a train ride away, culture of the obscure--from anime, pet cafes, robot bars, Harajuku girls and sex shops, customer experience as a way of life, alcohol is like a religion and bartenders are spiritual guides and Japanese toilets which seem to anticipate your every need, and then some.
Aware that one could spend a lifetime exploring the depth of the city’s culture, attractions, and nightlife, we set less lofty goals in our 48 hours on the ground and chose to focus the majority of our time finding the most authentic and anomalous experiences in the well-known Wards of Chibuya, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.
We stayed at the Prince Gallery Hotel in Chibuya, the property affords incredible views of the Tokyo skyline along with being a marvel of modern design and technology. After a celebratory glass of champagne at the Sky Gallery Lounge Levita we set out for the Mori Modern Art Museum and it’s then current exhibition focusing on the power of art in the recovery from Disaster and Tragedy. A compelling and often chilling reminder of modern tragedies, we were particularly overwhelmed by works from Ikeda Manubu and an interactive installation by Yoko Ono focused on the Global Refugee Crisis. Afterward, we headed to the Museum’s famed Tokyo Sky Deck for panoramic views of the city and Mt Fuji in the distance. From here we navigated Tokyo’s incredibly efficient (albeit mildly confusing) Metro system to the Imperial Palace. The current residence of the Japanese Emperor, the meticulously manicured grounds and iconic Seimon Ironbridge are well worth a visit.
As we are big fans of Morimoto, we headed to Atelier Morimoto XEX. Always order the chef’s omakase or sushi special course menu, it delivered beyond belief with the day’s freshest sashimi. After an exquisite meal, we couldn’t resist having some Suntory time at the New York Bar, the jazz bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt from Lost in Translation.
The following morning we set our sights on exploring the kinetic shopping wards of Shibuya and Shinjuku. Shibuya, home to the famed Shibuya Crosswalk (considered to be the busiest intersection in the World) and more shopping and nightlife than one could probably consume in a lifetime. We grabbed some coffee at The Roastery on the famed Cat Street. Their motto is “It is the coffee beans and the person in the counter that guides the world.” We agree. We found a great enclave of all the hippest stores in Shibuya which included Freak’s Store, Pilgrim Surf + Supply and our favorite, Beams, for perfectly curated collections of both Men’s and Women’s Japanese inspired style and outdoor adventure gear. Needing a respite from all the intensity, we dropped into one of the many animal cafes. These provide an opportunity for some playtime with everything from dogs, cats, owls, goats and in our case rabbits. At Ra.a.g.f Cafe (which stands for Rabbit and grow fat), you can have a coffee or tea and play with rabbits. They also have a rabbit menu, so you can take one home with you. We enjoyed feeding them dehydrated vegetables and watching them jump around the joint.
We decided to go for a lighter casual dinner after spending all our Yen at Beams and went to the Baird Taproom in Harajuku for some great local beers and contemporary Japanese izakaya small-plate dishes and yakitori-style grilled meats. Our favorite was the Rising Sun Pale Ale. Our last night would not have been complete without a great after dinner cocktail. Fortuitously, we found an Absinthe Bar called Ben Fiddich. We sampled several local absinthes from Tatsumi Distillery poured by one of the classiest old school bartenders we’ve ever encountered.
Although we were product testing some new prototypes, I lived in the one Glenbrook Merino workshirt Ipacked for most of the trip (including the subsequent days in Malaysia and the Philippines), layered over and under pieces, and it looked great in every environment.