By: Justin Jang
Header photo from: www.cnn.com
Tokyo is, hands down, my favorite city in the world. It has been hailed by many as the best place for shopping, food, even nightlife, and I wholeheartedly agree. In recent years, I’ve made it a goal to visit the city at least once a year, and have documented some of my favorite spots along the way. Keep reading for my personal guide to the city that I love. Enjoy!
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This Tokyo branch of the renowned Kyoto restaurant is located at the top of the Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku. It is, without a doubt, the best tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet) that I have ever had.
Japanese department stores, modelled off the traditional English department stores that carry food, furniture, clothing, household appliances, and living goods all in one place, are havens in which the best of everything can be found. Isetan, and notably its menswear section, offers some of the best clothing curations in Tokyo. If you’re in the mood to shop, look no further.
This quaint, multi-story store from the Japanese clothing brand sells not only it’s own lines, but also an impressive variety of uniquely Japanese art books, goods, and tchotchkes. Protip: Take the elevator to the top floor and slowly work your way down.
Don Quijote Shinjuku
Imagine a Costco-esque display of every type of good imaginable, then pack it into a small 4-5 story building. That is how Japan’s Don Quijote became a favorite of tourists from East Asia. If you can dream of a product, it’s likely sold in this comprehensive store; you can find gallon plastic jugs of Jack Daniels whiskey side-by-side with Japanese electronic goods and stationery products. I personally think that the Shinjuku location captures the hectic nature of Don Quijote the best, though multiple locations can be found throughout the city.
Words do not do justice to this mind-blowing bar. The intimate 18-person setting makes it easy to talk to the bartender himself and ask for exactly the type of drink you want. The bar’s “mixology magician” has even been featured on 88rising’s Japanese Bartender Youtube series. You definitely won’t regret a visit.
New York Bar
If you’re feeling extra touristy, check out this hotel bar made famous from its role in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Located at the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, this bar offers stunning views, great cocktails, and a setting that would excite any cinephile.
This long-standing, world-famous fish market offers not only some of the best sushi in Tokyo, but also a wide variety of other amazing Japanese dishes. The time to go is now, as Tokyo plans to relocate the historic market to make room for the 2020 Olympics.
Dover Street Market
This Comme des Garcons-run superstore is famous for its immaculate, quirky, and expensive goods along with its wide array of exclusive products. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s worth stopping by just to look at the clothing displays that are essentially art installations in their own right.
Bar High Five
This bar is a classic example of how much Japanese bartending has evolved in comparison to the west. When prohibition occurred in the United States, the growth and evolution of bartending in America rolled to a standstill while Japan gained incredible ground. Bar High Five offers this uniquely Japanese style of bartending in its purest form.
As mentioned above with Isetan, Japanese department stores truly stock the best of the best in not only clothing, but also of food, living goods, cosmetics, and everything else you can imagine. Mitsukoshi is one of the oldest department store chains, and their Ginza store is most certainly one of the oldest and most storied locations.
Mori Art Museum
Built into the luxurious Roppongi Hills complex, this museum hosts a variety of rotating art exhibitions, with a focus on Asian artists. The Mori Art Museum store also happens to be one of my favorite museum stores to visit.
Tsutaya’s bookstores tastefully combine a bookstore, café, restaurant, and living goods store into one. Somewhat like an evolved, uniquely Japanese version of Barnes and Noble, Tsutaya is a pleasant place to visit if you just want to relax with a nice book, coffee, and a small bite to eat. This branch in the neighborhood of Roppongi seamlessly coexists with the surrounding neighborhood, and is a beautiful place to stop and relax in the Roppongi area.
Tokyu Hands Shibuya
The Tokyu Hands stores, spread across Japan, are some of my favorite stores in the world. They stock a wide variety of high-quality, and often distinctly Japanese, goods that serve all sorts of uses throughout living. From quality barware, to bathroom scales, to craft goods, Tokyu Hands pretty much has it all. Although they have several locations throughout Tokyo, the unique floor structure of the Shibuya location makes this one my favorite.
Tomorrowland is a Japanese brand that has only entered the US market through its store in SoHo and a handful of stockists like Barneys. The brand’s actual stores, however, not only stock their own in-house brand but also a variety of other curated brands like Saint Laurent, Alden, and Acne Studios. This particular location is my favorite since in addition to these brands they also stock a collection of fragrances and candles, and a nice selection of vintage watches.
Japan experts know and love its incredible vintage market, which has largely been hidden from the rest of the world. Take advantage of a trip to Tokyo by stopping by Ragtag, which offers some of the city’s best vintage finds.
This classic ramen joint, famous for its single booths, is a one-of-a-kind experience. While the lines at this ramen shop are pretty much unavoidable, the food is simply great and the experience is incredibly novel.
Ever wonder where Kobe Bryant gets his name? Surprise! It’s from the ultra high quality Japanese beef found in Kobe, Japan. Very few places in the United States actually stock genuine Kobe beef, which can easily fetch hundreds of dollars per pound. If you want to try this legendary meat, make sure to reserve beforehand as Hakushu is a hotspot for foodies and steak enthusiasts that can only accommodate about 20 people at a time.
One of Tokyo’s finest nightclubs, Womb, offers electronic music acts and quality drinks in a multi-story building. Personal Recommendation: Try one of their interesting Vitamin Water cocktails.
This famous bookstore is not only one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever visited, but it is also housed in a series of interconnected buildings that are famous for their unique approach to design and architecture. I would highly recommend checking out the second floor bar/restaurant that connects with the bookstore, especially during the evening.
Located within T-Site, this restaurant presents western cuisine with a Japanese flair. Their cocktail and beer selection is one-of-a-kind and their brunch is immaculate.
Blue Blue Japan
Blue Blue Japan specializes in Japanese clothing made with indigo dye. The store draws on Japan’s long tradition of indigo and denim craftsmanship, and presents it in clothing that blends Americana and Japanese styles. I love this particular store for not only its unique products, but also for the traditional yet refurbished building that houses them.
United Arrows is a Japanese brand that is gradually gaining attention on the world stage. Although several of their stores, as well as offshoots like Beauty & Youth and Green Label, are located throughout Tokyo, this is definitely their best location. This store not only carries their in-house label, but also stocks an array of other brands like Kolor, Pigalle, and Turnbull & Asser.
The Omotesando Hills is not only a shopping complex, but also a feat of modern architecture in itself. Built into the natural landscape of the area, the sloped, zig-zagging structure of the Hills creates a beautiful, asymmetrical walking area that the shopping complex is famous for.
Gyoza is my favorite rendition of the dumpling. Whenever I visit Harajuku to shop, I always stop by and wait in queue to eat at this famous Gyoza restaurant. Try to avoid rush hours however, as I have waited at least an hour at peak times around lunch (noon) and dinner (~5:00 PM).
Gyre Shopping Center
This shopping center carries not one, but two comprehensive Visvim shops as well as some restaurants, a Comme des Garcons clothing store, and a living goods store also curated by Comme des Garcons.
While we all know Prada for its high-priced luxury products, they aren’t the only reason to stop by this particular store. Decked out in green glass, the store building is visually stunning to look at, even just from the outside.
So if you’ve got some serious wanderlust, I’d definitely recommend checking out Tokyo. Whether you’re looking for amazing food, shopping, bars, or architecture, you’re sure to find it there with the help of this tried-and-true guide.
JUSTIN JANG is a junior in the SFS currently pursuing a Culture and Politics major. During his free time, he likes to box, cook, and watch old movies. When asked what his favorite movie is, he will undoubtedly respond “anything with Austin Powers.”