Destination Guide to Tokyoby Juliana Rudell Di Simone of tokyobike US
While there’s always a million or more things to do in Tokyo, Director of tokyobike US Juliana Rudell Di Simone absorbs the vast, vibrant metropolis in a different way—what her company calls “Tokyo Slow.” It’s not so much a speed thing as it is a mindset. To cover more ground, get to places quicker and truly understand the city, she recommends hopping on a bike (renting one from tokyobike, naturally). Ride along as she shares her approach to taking in Japan’s capital.
Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo
Comfort is present in everything around you at Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo—the easy check-in, bedding and services. There is luxury in the smallest of details and their team will go above and beyond to guarantee you are having the best possible stay. Make sure you pack a bathing suit and go for a swim on the 29th floor, the pool is long enough for laps (20 meters) and surrounded by large windows for some extra views of the city. The hotel is also conveniently located right outside of the Tokyo Station and a short walk from some amazing finds in Ginza.
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Newly renovated, the rooms at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo are very spacious by Tokyo standards and the views are incredible. The service is also exceptional and the in-room pillow menu is definitely a thoughtful plus. The hotel is located in Ginza, a short bike ride from the Imperial Palace, shops, restaurants and really good coffee. If you have a chance, take a trip to the spa on the 29th floor, even if simply to soak in their infinity pool.
Location, location, location—Conrad Tokyo is just a five-minute walk to Ginza and offers Tokyo Bay as a dreamy backdrop. With the rooms that tower over the city, the hotel still manages to have a residential feel, making it the perfect place to unwind after a long day of exploring. To really chill out, have a soak in the Hinoki bathtub made from Japanese cypress at the onsite Mizuki Spa.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Calling all Lost in Translation fans: Park Hyatt Tokyo is the hotel where Bill Murray’s “Bob” and Scarlett Johansson’s “Charlotte” stay. Enjoy cocktails, just like the unlikely pair did, at their iconic New York Bar. The classic property offers staggering panoramic views of the city and, on a clear day, Mount Fuji. If needed, swing by their gorgeous spa, swimming pool and fitness center, Club on The Park.
EAT & DRINK
At family-owned and staffed Torichataro, the husband is the talented chef and the wife is an accomplished sake sommelier. The recommendation here is to go with the soul of the restaurant: Yakitori Omakase paired with sake. Torichataro takes the experience to a different level. The yakitori is raw and served like a seared sashimi. Chicken is a delicacy in Japan and as such, raised, farmed and prepared very differently than elsewhere. As a result, it’s very safe for consumption. Another must-have dish is Chochin. This is a smoked oocyte, another Japanese delicacy and just as rare—it might be the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.
This punk-rock izakaya restaurant in Daikanyama couldn’t be more fun if it tried. Even famed artist Yoshitomo Nara is a fan of Tatemichiya—head for the tables towards the back of the main floor to check the illustrations that he left.
Black walls, a traditional wood counter and one lone Bonsai tree are the background for Sushi Hayakawa, a six-seat sushi bar. Chef Akira Hayakawa offers a unique perspective on a traditional practice, where aged fish is part of the menu. A char-seared otoro (super fatty tuna) with truffles and minced onions, the Hayakawa Special Roll is also to die for—it’s best enjoyed with truffle soy sauce.
Hidden in a small alley in Jimbocho, this wonderfully retro cafe plays old tango tunes on the sound system and serves up blends, such as Kilimanjaro coffee, as well as a selection of beers from around the world. Milonga Nueva is a good place to unwind, check your photos and share in great conversation and local snacks.
Even if Udon is low on your noodle ranking, a quick Google search will have you hooked. The flavors do not disappoint either. While you wait in line at Shin Udon, make sure to watch the chef making your noodles from scratch, freshly cooking them in boiling water then moving them to ice water to stop the cooking process. A thoughtful detail that makes a huge difference.
Yanaka is home to a lot of traditional restaurants, and coincidentally, two of my go-to Soba restaurants in Tokyo. A 12-seat bar, Matsukaze has a traditional-modern take on my favorite noodle, in addition to a range of unconventional starters. Make sure you have a light breakfast the day you visit so you can taste a little bit of everything.
Afuri Ramen + Dumpling
For those who love ramen but usually find it too rich, Afuri will change it all for you. The dish to order here is the yuzu shio ramen, a delicious chicken broth with citric yuzu notes. There will be a line regardless of which Afuri you visit, whatever time of the day it is, but don’t worry, you will be eating before you know it as this casual spot has a quick pace and turnover. Place your order on the vending machine, hand over your ticket to the friendly staff and take your seat at the bar.
Japanese precision and dedication is what makes Savoy one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. It hit the headlines with David Chang’s Ugly Delicious but Savoy has been making delicious pizzas since 1995.
Owned by Kaz Kamiya, who used to run one of the best Japanese restaurants in New York, Gramercy Table is a French bistro that brings Paris and a little bit of New York to Tokyo. A modern but cozy interior welcomes you to taste unique flavors inspired by classic cuisine. The wine list at Gramercy Table is carefully curated by Kaz and one not to be missed.
With a killer tasting menu, Japanese-Indian fusion restaurant Spice Café is a must and currently rated #1 curry house in Japan. Here, traditional Indian dishes are cooked with Japanese ingredients providing a new understanding of well-known flavors. Wine or tea pairings are also available and highly recommended.
Glitch Coffee Roasters
Located in Jimbocho, just a few blocks away from the Komiyama Bookstore—my favorite book shop—Glitch is a great stop for caffeine and a strong supporter of the community. Considering itself a shared roaster, Glitch allows fellow independent coffee shops to roast at this location.
Literally translated as “beans shop”, Koffee Mameya‘s approach is not of a coffee shop, but of coffee curators—they do not roast but source the best single-origin beans in the world. From your time in line, until you get to taste your coffee, it might be anywhere from 45 min to 1.5 hours, but do not be discouraged. You will be asked a few key questions to begin your coffee journey, learn about the range and difference between the various roasts, be entertained by the history of each bean, and ultimately find the perfect match for you.
Counterpart Coffee Gallery
A recommendation from trusted photographer Daisuke Hashihara, this coffee spot in Shinjuku did not disappoint. CCG is owned by the same owners as Glitch Coffee Roasters so you can find some of the same delicious single origins here. That said, there are a couple of drinks you can only find here, including their Brown Fizz (espresso tonic) and Split (ice coffee with a hint of chocolate and orange flavor).
Little Nap Coffee Stand
Located near Yoyogi Park, this super laid-back spot mostly serves the creative community in the area but it’s also a great place for a quick cup on-the-go.
You probably won’t have many reasons to go to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, but if riding a bicycle across the Sumida river isn’t a good enough one, this store should do it. Ten is one of those places that envelops you in peace the moment you walk in. There’s beauty in every corner—from the carefully sourced objects and clothing by Japanese makers to the craftsmanship behind the design of the store. A family love affair, the store is owned by Sae Yamamoto and the detailed, original steelwork was done by her partner Kodai Kawaii. Ten is a reminder that stores like this can only exist in habitats like Japan, where shopping locally both exists and is highly appreciated.
Yaeca Apartment Store
Another example of thoughtful retail, Yaeca Apartment Store is located on the second floor of an unexpected Naka-Meguro building. The small, cozy setting offers a minimal collection of products and carefully constructed line of everyday wear. There are two additional locations in Tokyo and each is unique. Make sure to visit Yaeca Home Store in Shirokane, a blend between retail and residence, where they also host a selection of artwork and modern furniture by famous designers and artists.
SyuRo‘s atelier and shop is located at Torigoe, an area filled with classic typesetters, canning factories, cloth wholesalers and hardware stores. Artisans and their art, cultivated over many years, remain alive in this neighborhood.
“Dean & DeLuca on steroids” is how Akomeya has been described, and it sure is. This gorgeous food market offers around 20 varieties of carefully selected rices from around Japan, as well as condiments and ingredients to go with it (dashi and more), all of which make great gifts. Dining here is also encouraged.
Inspired by Japanese convenience stores, The Conveni is stocked with unconventional items you won’t find at your usual konbini. The brainchild of streetwear designer, musician and artist Hiroshi Fujiwara, this concept store plays into his vision of pushing the boundaries of fashion and retail.
Initially a maker of document holders and notebooks but now so much more, Postalco is a personal favorite. Founded by friends Yuri and Mike Abelson in New York, the brand has been based in Tokyo for 15 years and recently opened a gorgeous space in Ginza.
A haven of vintage books, photography and contemporary art, the four-storey Komiyama Bookstore in the incredible Jimbocho neighborhood is a must. If you’re in the market for an over the top birthday gift, the ¥216,000 original copy of Daido Moriyama’s Farewell Photography will do nicely.
Scai The Bathhouse
With the completion of the renovation of Kashiwayu, a venerable public bath with a 200-year history, Scai The Bathhouse opened in 1993. The outside of the bathhouse possesses an elegant atmosphere, with its tiled roof and towering chimney. Step inside and there’s a unique exhibition area. Located in Yanaka, a stone’s throw from tokyobike, this gallery sits conveniently close to Ueno where many museums and art universities can be found.
21 21 Design Sight
Designed by Tadao Ando, a favorite Japanese architect, and directed by fashion designer Issey Miyake, graphic designer Taku Satoh and product designer Naoto Fukazawa, 21 21 Design Sight is a new art space located in Tokyo’s Midtown Garden. Its exhibitions and workshops are rotating, so check the schedule before your visit to find the shows that best interest you.
Shiota Chiharu at Mori Art Museum
Berlin-based international artist Shiota Chiharu is known for performances and installations that express the intangible: memories, anxiety, dreams, silence and more. The exhibition “Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles” now showing at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi through Oct 27, 2019 is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever, illuminating the artist’s entire oeuvre.
Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless
Billed as the world’s first digital art museum, teamLab Borderless was unveiled in Odaiba in June of 2018. It’s unlike any other museum. The 10,000-square-meter space has 520 computers and 470 projectors to create an experience designed to stimulate the five senses. There’s no set course for enjoying this digital art museum, you can simply wander and let curiosity and imagination take the lead.
Juliana Rudell Di Simone – @julianarudell
Daisuke Hashihara – @helloelmer