2-5-8 Iwai Buildong Jingumae, Shibuya
Tokyo has a lot of denim. Some of it’s great. Much of it is caught up in an orthodoxy that is stifling, however. Mine Denim, the brainchild of noted Tokyo stylist Tsuyoshi Noguchi (whose work has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle, among other places), is a departure from that tyranny. The store, located in Shibuya, juxtaposes intricately inlaid wood floors with crisp white walls and a stark, black staircase. His men’s and women’s collections use the Japan’s beloved denim, but in new and creative ways (his collection of dramatic, flowing skirts will take your breath away).
１-22-23 Ebisu, Shibuya
Listening bars are a thing in Japan. You go, you drink, you listen to a DJ spin vinyl, and you stay really quiet while all this happens. One of the best of the bunch is Bar Martha, which has not only amazing drinks but an amazing sound system—one the bar spent $300,000 on. Order a mojito here (make sure it’s with Havana Club rum) and sit back while the music plays. While you’re listening, enjoy the addictive nuts served in Mason jars and do some serious Tokyo people-watching.
1 Chome-13-10 Jinnan, Shibuya
Traditionally, great bars in Tokyo have been very liquor focused. Craftheads is every bit as amazing as the old guard bars, but its focus is beer. Here you’ll find a list of beers that may be the most comprehensive in the world, including specialty beers from the US that you can find only in Japan, not to mention rare brews like the always-sought-after Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. The friendly staff is happy to guide you through tastings of different Japanese and American microbrews, and non-beer drinkers can enjoy a concise, yet expertly curated, bourbon list.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without indulging in a little kitsch and karaoke. Rainbow is as much a spot for veteran would-be superstars as it is for shy-to-sing novices. Many of the rooms have full band kits—drums, guitars, speakers—while others are cozy and private enough for guests coming to sing solo. It’s a stone’s throw from Shibuya station, so it’s easy to get to. The courage issues that alcohol can’t help, sugar might—hence the free ice cream at reception.
2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya
Yoyogi is Tokyo’s Central Park. Go here on a sunny Sunday and you will see the city on full display: musicians, actors, dancers, parties, weddings, etc. In the spring, the park explodes with cherry blossoms; in fall, it radiates the warm yellow glow of its gingko trees. Ethnic festivals run throughout the year, and a flea market is held in the summer. The park is adjacent to Meiji Shrine, itself a grand public space that contains a forest in the middle of the city and a shrine to Emperor Meiji, the great-grandfather of the country’s current emperor.Images courtesy of tokyo-park.or.jp.
You’ve seen this. It’s that crazy four-way intersection that people all cross at one time. Shibuya is a little like Times Square—not a place to spend a ton of time in, but everyone should see it at least once. Said to be the busiest intersection in the world, as many as 1,000 people will cross at the same time. For an aerial view, go to the second floor of the Shibuya train station, find the Myth of Tomorrow mural, and look out at the intersection from there. Best time to go: evening, when Shibuya’s neon is at full blast.
Kyu Asakura House
29-20 Sarugakucho, Shibuya
Nearly one hundred years old, the Asakura house is like a time machine in the otherwise modern and luxurious Daikanyama neighborhood where it resides. Built for a local politician, the home survived earthquakes and Allied bombing to remain a singular example of Taisho-era architecture. Equal to the eleven rooms spread out over two floors are the gardens behind the residence, with stone paths, bonsai trees, and the best of Japanese garden design.
1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya
A quick cab ride brings you to the top of the winding avenue leading up to the Meiji Shrine gate, or torii (passing through the gate marks the transition from the ordinary to the sacred). Dedicated to the spirit of the first emperor of modern Japan, Meiji, and his empress consort, Shoken, the shrine is set in a forest of 10,000 evergreens. Take part in the Shinto ritual of writing your wishes and prayers on one of the ema plaques hanging on the walls, where it is believed the gods of the shrine will receive them. (Though we can’t promise that they’ll listen.)
Little Nap Coffee Stand
2 Chome-43-15, Shibuya
So much more than a coffee stand, Little Nap is a chic hole-in-the-wall that probably fits no more than four drinkers at any given time. The building is a New England–style clapboard, and the floor-to-ceiling glass wall means you can sit with a steaming cup of caffeine in hand and watch the world go by. Little Nap deal in both coffee and ice cream, and we recommend combining the two. Order a scoop of vanilla and a shot of espresso for a do-it-yourself affogato—the perfect combination of sweet and bitter that happens to have the effect of rocket fuel. All the beans are roasted in their own roaster nearby.
Steamer Coffee Company
Steamer’s first owner was a latte art champion. For real. It’s worth knowing that to achieve those pretty brown-and-white hot-milk swirls, the espresso needs to be well extracted and the milk perfectly steamed. Steamer’s lattes are an excellent way to wake up—creamy, hot, and a little bit sharp, served in a mug the size of a soup bowl, much as the French serve café au lait. The military latte, an East-meets-West mix of espresso, milk, and matcha, is a brew for the more adventurous. Like many spots in Tokyo, this place is perpetually slammed, but the intricate illustrations in every cup elevate the ordinary experience of drinking coffee into a novelty.
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