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.
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.
7-7-21, Minami-Aoyama, Minato
Sure, you can go to 45rpm’s shops in New York or San Francisco, but you can also go to a day spa in a strip mall—it’s not the same thing. Pay a visit to this legendary label for its simple, beautifully constructed men’s and women’s clothes that mix elements of the Japanese countryside with European silhouettes. The shop is worth visiting on its own: a simulacrum of a Japanese residence, with floors rinsed as per Shinto tradition, and series of quiet rooms to display the label’s brilliance with cotton, denim, and indigo.
3 Chome-10-34 Minami-Aoyama
One of the most famous bars in Japan, Radio has been under the watchful eye of bartender Koji Ozaki for more than four decades, and its tuxedoed staff pour some of the best classic cocktails you’ll find (try the gimlet). Unlike at many other bars in Tokyo, smoking is prohibited at Radio, as Ozaki believes that a cocktail needs to be smelled as well as tasted, and he doesn’t want a pack of Marlboros getting in the way of that. It’s a good idea to get a little gussied up for this place—drinking is taken seriously, and you’ll have a better time if your attire reflects that respect. Image courtesy of tabelog.com.
1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku
Gen Yamamoto is bringing serious mixology to Tokyo. Having started at Bar Totto in NYC’s Little Tokyo and then moved on to the bar at Brushstroke, he’s returned to Tokyo to open up his namesake bar. Expect an innovative cocktail tasting menu, which includes his (amazing) signature sweet tomato cocktail. Not your typical bar, there’s no music and little talking, just the sound of really well-made cocktails being shaken and stirred in the minimally decorated, handsome room, which is dominated by a long wooden bar.
9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato
Nestled into the forty-fifth floor of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, Hinokizaka Sushi is one of four restaurants at the hotel, each specializing in a different Japanese cuisine. While you can also enjoy some of the best teppanyaki, tempura, and kaiseki in the city there, the sushi counter—a twelve-seat slab of Japanese lacquer with breathtaking views of the Tokyo skyline—is where you want to be. Of course, if you feel like adding anything from the other restaurants to your dinner (or lunch, which is arguably an even better deal), just ask—the staff will gladly help create the perfect pan-Japanese meal.
21_21 Design Sight
A collaboration between two titans of Japanese design, architect Tadao Ando and designer Issey Miyake, 21_21 Design Sight is a museum focused on the design of the everyday. Exhibits include an examination of the work of city photographer William Klein, the history of writing implements, and the use of handmade khadi fabric in India. The building itself is also a masterpiece of design, with a sloping roof that reflects both Ando’s and Miyake’s work in architecture and fashion.
5-7-28 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
A Mediterranean oasis in the middle of Tokyo. Cicada has been a treasured destination in the city since it opened fifteen years ago. In 2012, the restaurant moved to larger quarters, which now means outside pools, an on-site bakery, and an all-day café. There may be nothing more transporting than sitting waterside in a deep lounge chair while enjoying the menu with its Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Levantine influences. Haloumi cheese comes from Hokkaido and is joined on the menu with items like Ibérico ham from Spain, chermoula-roasted eggplant, harissa-marinated shrimp, and a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives. Craft beers come from the restaurant’s sister brewery, and the wine list is a rich trove of Mediterranean varietals.
3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku
This might be the hardest table to get in Tokyo. Reservations can be made only online and are made two months in advance. The wood-paneled jewel box of a restaurant seats only ten people and is staffed by chef Yoshiaki Takazawa; his wife, Akiko; and that’s it. Bring your bullion, as the Takazawa Experience menu runs upwards of $650 per person (not including wine). But what an experience: eleven courses of exquisitely prepared dishes that combine Japanese and French influences, from chef Takazawa’s signature ratatouille to “Dinner in the Forest,” a grilled dish of bear meat (!), root vegetables, and mushrooms.