Establishment neighborhood
Park Hyatt Kyoto
360 Kodaiji Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku
The Park Hyatt Kyoto is designed in a way that thoughtfully nods to traditional Japanese ryokans, with sloped ceilings and expansive views of Kyoto’s tiled rooftops and pagodas. And the hotel sits right on Ninenzaka, one of two connecting pedestrian alleys lined with traditional wooden houses, souvenir stores, and shops selling specialty snacks. But perhaps the most notable thing about the Park Hyatt, other than its design and excellent service: the main restaurant on site, which predates the hotel by over 140 years. Kyoyamoto is a traditional kaiseki spot and a destination in its own right, with a garden worth spending an afternoon in.
Niseko, Japan
A private, guided “slack-country” ski itinerary that’s tailored to you? That’s the Parom Camps calling card. One or two weeks, off-piste or touring—the choose-your-own-adventure vibe is exactly what Finnish transplant Inka Haapala’s epic ski-guiding company offers. The incredibly knowledgeable guides are powder chasers at heart; they go where the best snow goes—or, in Japan, where the Japow (that’s local for powder) dumps day in and day out. That means skipping out on the crowded resorts in search of that impossibly perfect, untouched terrain. Take over the lodge with your crew or tuck into one of the cozy cottages in the woods near some of the best backcountry in Niseko—Parom Camps will hook you up with lodging, transportation, and suggestions for where and how to après like a local. Which, if you’re doing it right, means soaking for hours in a traditional onsen (hot spring), slurping up the richest miso ramen Hokkaido has to offer, and washing it all down with a glass of Yamazaki whisky.
Comme des Garçons
5 Chome-2-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato
Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo has always done things in her own, inimitable way. She favors black, doesn’t believe in mixing two seasons on the shop floor, and limits the availability of her clothing online, believing that the value of trying on a piece and feeling the weight and texture of the fabric far outweighs that of click-and-collect. And the Comme des Garçons flagship in the upmarket Aoyama district defies expectation. Designed by Future Systems under Kawakubo’s direction, the space looks more like an undulating glass display case than a store. Diligent shoppers make the pilgrimage here not only to gawk at the sculptural beauty but to nab those impossible-to-find runway looks.
Mori Bar
6 Chome-5-12 Ginza, Chuo City
Looking for Tokyo’s most elegant gin martini? That’s a Mori. Ten floors up from the busy sidewalks of Ginza, seventy-one-year-old martini master Takao Mori swizzles away in his namesake cocktail bar. Inside, the lighting is dim and the décor refined, but like the legend himself, Mori Bar has a playful side that smiles in the corners: baseball paraphernalia hangs on the walls, and clues to the bar’s history are tucked throughout. The obvious order is the Mori Martini. It’s the drink he can’t resist making himself, the drink that brings him out to the bar in his cream blazer. Watching Mori make a martini is somewhere between observing a master chef and a magician. He begins by building flavor at the most basic level, coating the ice with a precise drop of bitters, then follows with a masterful free pour (to say he’s discerning would be an understatement—the weight of the liquor is critical). The magical part is the sleight of hand that is Mori’s stir—graceful, efficient, and indicative of why he is legendary not only for his martini but also for educating many of Japan’s finest bartenders.
Little Smith
6 Chome−4−12, Chuo City, Ginza
Tuxedo-jacketed bartenders have been mixing cocktails at this Ginza bar for close to three decades. While Little Smith is hardly the new kid on the block, the modernist space with its sloping ceilings and curved bar—designed by Takahiko Yanagisawa—feels thoroughly contemporary. There’s no menu. Instead, bartenders have a sixth sense about what you might like, and somehow, their concoctions always taste just right. A seat at the small bar hugging one of those custom drinks feels low-key and cozy, an oasis away from the jostling crowds outside. If you’re partial to the classics, they make a mean martini.
Robot Restaurant
1 Chome-7-7 Kabukicho, Shinjuku
Much of the dining scene in Tokyo is a measured, civilized, indoor-voices only affair. Robot is the opposite. Located down a flight of steps in the heart of busy, Technicolor Shinjuku, this dinner-meets-dance-performance rivals the best of Las Vegas. Inside, the music pounds, the neon lights flicker, and the dancers—in their outlandish, elaborate costumes—move around the stage, acting out a futuristic cabaret. Eating at Robot is more an experience in snacking than a full meal. Yes, there are sushi bento boxes and some meat dishes, but honestly, a bowl of popcorn and a Japanese beer is the way to go as you watch the robots battle it out to the grand finale.
1 Chome-14-1Sugamo, Toshima City
Get to Tsuta early. And by early, we mean before noon if you want to secure the precious ticket that guarantees your seat. (You then come back later in the day, around thirty minutes before your allotted seat time.) There are only nine seats, so plan your day around this event. Not only is this silky, rich, Michelin-starred ramen inexpensive; the noodles are made in-house, the salt comes from Okinawa, and even the soy sauce is cedar-cask-aged. All the ingredients down to the herbs are world-class. The chef’s winning formula is to infuse his broths with truffle oil or dust. While this may sound weird, the truffle brightens the flavor of the ramen and adds an extra layer of umami punch.
Trunk Hotel
5 Chome-31 Jingumae, Shibuya
The serene vibe of the new Trunk Hotel starts on the exterior, which is covered in tumbling greenery. One of the only cutting-edge design hotels in Tokyo, the hotel has only fifteen rooms, each one dominated by an old-meets-new aesthetic. Traditional craftsmanship, upcycled wood, and custom furniture by Truck of Osaka sit alongside modern art. Overall the space oozes a modern, minimalist-artsy Zen. The people-watching in the lobby is the best in Shibuya, and the food in the main Trunk restaurant is the kind of contemporary Japanese fusion that means lunch is a plate of grilled fish and veggies with a cup of toasted hojicha green tea or a green juice—a novelty in Japan.
2 Chome-24-9 Nishiazabu, Minato City
The pork at Butagumi is out of this world. Tonkatsu—breaded, deep-fried cutlets—are the specialty here, and the experience is an exercise in thoughtfulness. The pork comes from heritage breeds from the world’s best purveyors (Spanish Iberico, Hungarian Mangalica, and domestic breeds from Hokkaido, Chibo, Okinawa). Sides of cabbage, smooth miso, rice, and sharp pickles complement the heavy fried cutlets perfectly. The setting—inside a traditional Japanese home in the quiet Nishi Azabu district—doesn’t hurt either.