Tokyo is many things to many people, but to me, it will be a place that taught me a thing or two about humanity.
How can a region with a population over 33Mil get to keep their people orderly, diligent and meticulous?
And still manage to be the coolest kids on the planet. Baffled.
Built in 1969, CLASKA is a Meguro Street land mark. In 2004, CLASKA became a renovation project housing multi-function and cultural spaces, including a hotel, restaurant & bar, gallery and shop. Today CLASKA is a strong supporter of independent culture and design in Japan.
The rooftop looking out to the pretty night skyline often has events like Art openings, outdoor cinema and such.
KioKuh is the ground floor restaurant and bar where you can catch glimpses of local indie-artists sipping a cocktail or two and chatting the night away.
We stayed in their original Tatami Room - a basic Japanese room with Tatami mats and floor cushions. You are advised to remove your footwear at the entrance.
Not pictured here is their bathroom, first of the many surprises that were waiting for me — where as soon as I open the restroom door, the toilet lid opens for me and presents me with a warm seat that too!! There is no blaming the man anymore! And there are multitude of buttons that you can press until you are satisfyingly clean.
Claska’s another big draw for me was their inhouse ArtGallery and Do, the shop with curated products from local designers.
Oh, and there is Dogman - a pet salon. I can watch hours and hours of trimmings and stylings of cute little things.
Also, I highly recommend buying their homespun guide book Tokyo by Tokyo - a guide to unique things in the city recommended by local artists and notable tastemakers.
We made good use of the Claska bicycles that they lend you for a 3hr max. use (but they didn’t take the 3 hour limit so seriously though). It was great to stroll around Meguro and Ebisu and Tokyo is very easily a bike-able city.
The most important advise you will need to know to remember is that its not the easiest to find exact stores with no English names, so be open and walk into the ones that catches your attention.
Meguro - Ebisu
The entire Meguro-dori(street) is lined with Vintage, Modern Furniture stores.
Baden baden - A small house turned shop with the coolest products.
Buri - A standing bar in Ebisu, with plentiful of Shochu options and Izakaya pub fare.
Keep Buri as a starting point to other gems of restaurants in the same road that I couldn’t find the names for in English.
Deep fried Tuna Cheeks - Must Try!
Bar Track - A Jazz and Whiskey bar combined. A very cozy vibe to this bar, with a corner of the bar dedicated to a record player and the other walls for aged whiskey. The owner switches out records as per your wish.
The bar snacks in jars were a superb compliment to the drinks he prepared.
Shibuya - Omotesando - Harajuku - Daikanyama
These four neighborhoods can be done in a day or two, everything is relatively closer so I am combining it together.
Amadana - Highly innovative everyday objects.
Ichiran Ramen - An institution for Ramen where they have an unique system in place — you order through a vending machine, collect the coupons and sit in your designated single booth with wooden separators between you and the person next to you.
..a form to customize your Ramen, and a water tap in your booth
Once the order is delivered through the window, they bow down and close the curtains. I never knew I needed so much privacy while eating ramen, but hey, it was the best ramen I have ever had so it helped me from not having to share.
Parco - A shopping complex with floors dedicated to Galleries, Shops and food. This megashop gives you an idea of the Tokyo shopping landscape.
Grocery stores with Vegetables neatly packaged and lined next to other high end boutiques..
franc franc - This became my favorite store to buy nifty little things. Talk about soap that’s a popsicle or a cupcake candle.
Pink cow - an art bar and a gallery. Go there in the evening to meet interesting locals.
Omotesando Hills, where the glitziest showrooms line both sides of the streets.
Rocket Gallery - A gallery for Food & Art.
On the walls and racks usually assigned to present artworks in any regular art gallery, here, it is used to show fresh groceries, snacks baked by artists and books related to food. A new concept promoted by Rocket, “Art in Everyday Life” …
The area is filled with stores overflowing with creativity just by walking past them you get a thrill of excitement.
At the corner of the street, there is a cheap Gyoza place which is a must try for a quick craving of hot and steamy pork gyozas and special meat paste.
Montauk - A Jazz bar with yummy cocktails overlooking Omotesando Hills. Sit by the terrace for great people watching.
Daikanyama - is a cute neighborhood with lots and lots of boutique stores and yummy pastries.
..the adorable cow milk dispenser in a local cafe
Cath Kidston store
Aranzi Aronzo - Lovable little things for kids or, erm, yourself.
Many interesting stores like this one..
and crafty pastries like this..
Tsutaya Books is a well-designed book, movies and music store created by Tokyo-based British architects Klein Dytham Architects who won a design commission to construct a space that seamlessly embodied the unique character of Daikanyama.
the low-slung elegant pavilions is connected via a ‘magazine street’ providing a smooth integration of the interior and landscaped outdoors within a relaxed village-like setting
Shinjuku - we went there only for food and drinks.
Yokochos are little drinking districts that is seeing quite a bit of revitalization and new openings mean young men and more importantly women showing up in an area that is dominated by middle-aged men.
Yakitori Alley in Shinjuku called Omoido Yokocho is a small alley consisting of many pubs that serve yakitori and drinks.
Golden Gai - is similar to Yokochos but these are mainly bars packed in 4 alleys. About 200 of them.
Each may have a sitting fee of 500 -1000Y that does not include drinks. So choose places wisely.
Bars can accomodate only 4-5 people max and some save seats for their regular customers.
The bartenders are your friends for the night, they play host, talk about life, pass munchies that you share with others — leaving you with the best memories of this unique city.
Bar Albatross - chandeliers and whiskeys! This was one of the attractive bars in GoldenGai.
Asyl - run by music writer Abe, gave us good company until wee hours of the morning talking about music, and K-pop .
Tachibana Shinsatsushitsu - is in the second creaky floor with all things fetish, a nurse is your bartender, drinks are served in beakers and medicinal equipment. And you are sitting around a Dutchess maid doll.
And then things got shit weird. Like literally.
Drink with a turd lookalike that you crush to mix. (well, it was dates and apricots made to look like a turd, but still…)
And then the whole bar shook for a minute or so, while others just held their drinks and stayed cool, we were experiencing our first earthquake in a bar at 3am!!!
Shimokitazawa is an area for Live music, vintage stores and artsy hipsters. (Read Brooklyn)
“Shimokitazawa has no aspirations to become a manicured luxury-brand hub like Tokyo’s premier high street. But it has something that the Ginza, once known for its frenetic nightlife, lost long ago: counter-culture buzz.”
Club Que - a great bar that’s been famous for local music talent. Labels stop by here to discover new artists.
Many many vintage stores, like this one, a flea warehouse of various designers selling everything under the sun.
“selling everything from exotic foods to kitsch curios and recycled chic. A window display might feature a 1990s Chanel jacket accessorized with tennis shoes, for example.”
Mocolab - a bakery for green tea crisps, eclair cake, and some more baked goodness.
Little shops that double as gallery space.
Tokyo has a vibrant film scene releasing over 600 films a year, so pick an interesting theatre and watch one that fits your fancy. There are inetrnation art films, animated films, erotic pink films, short DV films intended only for video, or forgotten silent classics.
Cinema Artone is a try-out spot for the local independent talent making their first cinematic excursions, as well as a first-run stop-off point for films primarily intended for video.
Roppongi is the expat neighborhood where things start to feel familiar.
The area is packed with a good number of clubs for house music. Eleven come to mind for housing popular DJs.
SuperDeluxe is where PechaKucha started, which is now world-renowned to host creative events that consists of 20 slides 20 stories. Luckily we were able to go for one in the very place that originated. Although we didn’t have translations for a few, lets just say pictures said a thousand words.
Action packed 5 days of Tokyo ends here, but wait for my next post to read about the two great food experiences at: Aronia de Takazawa and Kondo.
- no tipping, anywhere!
- hot coffee can from a vending machine
- bars that are only 10 x 10sq.ft
- button to play flushing music(?) in toilets
- forming lines everywhere (even in ramen shops)
- smoking designated areas in neighborhoods
- automatic doors in taxis
- underwear from a vending machine
- unlocked bicycles and the sense of safety
- salarymen (men in suits are called salarymen) in pachinko (videogame) parlors
Be it the most creative products, advanced technologies, wackiest street fashion or the kindest people, Japanese are definitely the forerunners. They take their craft, service, respect and work-ethic to a whole another level; remaining as a living example - that begs the others to think deeply about one’s way of life.