Why Every Fashion Girl Is Flocking To This City
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Forget Paris. Tokyo is so unbelievably chic it might make you do just this, which can seem unthinkable for a fashion fan. Gwen Stefani and Lost in Translation may have whetted our appetite for the Japanese capital a decade ago, but it’s the Tokyo of today that has us dying to transfer cities. With round-trip tickets currently priced at an astoundingly low $400 to $500 (we’re not kidding!), now is the time to book. Here are some of our favorite spots to hit up while you’re there—a list that’s by no means comprehensive, since you can easily drop your weight in gold on every block.
Where To Eat
AFURI Ramen: To be honest, you can't really go wrong with ramen in Tokyo. Duck into any shop, and you're bound to be served a steaming bowl of soul-renewing goodness, as long as you can master the vending machine ticketing system first. AFURI, however, is something special, offering yuzu (a small yellow citrus fruit native to Asia) ramen so good it's apparently spreading to the states.
Butagami: If you don't eat pork, we'd skip this one, but if you do, this is arguably the best in town. Expect to do a lot of confused menu-pointing and shrugging here if you don't speak Japanese.
Kumura Sushi: The best sushi in Tokyo is pretty expensive, but you can eat an omakase lunch at this two-Michelin-starred sushi counter for just around $50 which is, believe it or not, relatively cheap.
Fukamachi: You can't leave Tokyo without gorging on tempura, and this small space is one of the top spots in town for doing so. The tempura is made with a light batter, so it's not as heavy as you might expect. You'll want to make a reservation in advance, as it's often fully booked.
Muto: This restaurant is run by a sobaya-san, or soba noodle expert. Expect an omakase experience here, which will culminate in the aforementioned soba deliciousness.
Where To Drink
These Library Lounge: Could Tokyo be any dreamier? This cozy spot is filled with books, and as you post up at its bar, the mixologist will point to a basket filled with fresh fruit and ask you which pieces you'd like included in your one-of-a-kind cocktail creation.
Lion Cafe: This is a classical music cafe, and if you're not sure what that is, it's because you have probably never been to one. The original building that housed this cafe was built in the 1920s, but it burned down during World War II and was re-created in its original location in 1950. You're not supposed to speak when you're here, and the giant antique sound system blasts classical music. The only other noise heard in the space comes from the MC, who steps up to the mic between songs to announce the artist. Tea and other light (non-alcoholic) refreshments are served. Like many places in Tokyo, you're not supposed to take photos here, so exercise caution when snagging your requisite Instagram evidence.
Gen Yamamoto: This is an eight-seat cocktail bar, from which you will likely be turned away if you do not have a reservation. Gen Yamamoto serves omakase cocktails for a prix fixe price.
Sakurai: If you're dry, or just need to dry out, try this tea ceremony instead. Shinya Sakurai spent 12 years becoming a tea master, and the five tea tasting course will blow your Starbucks passionfruit experience out of the water.
Where To Upgrade Your Wardrobe
Dover Street Market Ginza: You'll want to check the limit on your credit cards before heading to the Ginza area, as its upmarket offerings are excellent. DSMG was designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and features seven floors of shopping as well as must-see art installations.
Harajuku and Aoyama: Gwen Stefani made this part of Tokyo famous back in 2004 with her Harajuku girls, but it's not the people-watching for which we suggest you seek out this district. Rather, it's for the many vintage stores—this area's biggest allure, lined as they are with an amazing selection of vintage tees and one-of-a-kind finds. The Shimokita neighborhood (a 15-minute train ride away) also has some of the best vintage stores in the city. (For upscale vintage elsewhere in town, don't miss Eva or Laila Tokio.)
Sister: This Shinjuku shop houses contemporary Japanese designers, international designer brands and one-of-a-kind vintage jewelry and hats. If you can't make it to Tokyo, you can browse a curated selection from the store on Farfetch.
New Territory Antiques: This under-the-radar store has just a small selection of well-priced vintage clothing and designer handbags, but they've made everything count. You'll also want to take home at least five pieces of decor that will definitely not fit into your suitcase, so be warned. There are a lot of hidden gems like this peppering the city, so be sure to leave a lot of time in your schedule to wander.
Niko and ... This brand is kind of like Zara, if the owners of Zara also inexplicably (to us, anyway) had an affinity for Gizmo of The Gremlins (he features prominently in the store). Here, you can pick up trendy pieces with a distinctly Japanese vibe at affordable price points.
Where To Stock Your Bookshelves
Daikanyama Tsutaya Books, aka T-Site: This bookstore makes Barnes & Noble look like, well, Barnes & Noble. It's one of the most incredible bookstores in the world, composed of three buildings designed by Klein Dytham Architecture, which won an award at the World Architecture Festival for the project. You can get lost for hours within its walls, perusing a brilliantly curated selection of books and magazines (in Japanese and English) as well as music and DVsz. On the top floor sits Anjin, a café featuring shelves stocked with vintage magazines ('70s-era Vogue, anyone?). You can sit and peruse the archived print publications for as long as you like, so long as you order something off of the extensive menu (tea will do).
Jinbōchō aka The Book District: You know you're not in the States anymore when there's an entire district made up of bookstores. Just kidding. Maybe. This area is known for its used bookstores and for its publishing houses—it boasts over 170.
Where To Get Cultured
Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine: Though this is a pretty tourist-heavy attraction, it's still worth a visit, in our opinion. For a small donation, you can pull a paper fortune. Also, the streets surrounding the temple are vibrant and great for finding trinkets. Don't miss the ice-cream burger stall because, well, it's an ice-cream burger.
Meiji Shrine: This shrine is less crowded than Senso-ji. Don't leave without tying a written wish onto the prayer wall.
Sumo: If you go to Tokyo in January, May or September, you can catch one of the city's grand tournaments. If you're not there during tournament season, you should still stop by a training session at one of the city's "beyas."
Mori Art Museum: This contemporary art museum has one of the best views in the city (the Tokyo City View observation deck). It primarily exhibits works by Asian artists, which is sort of ideal if you're going to travel all the way around the world to visit a museum.
Yoyogi Park: Incidentally, this park is located in Shibuya, the part of town in which we recommend you stay. Sundays are big here if you want to be entertained by some of Tokyo's most eccentric independent acts. The Shibuya Crossing, which you may recognize from Lost In Translation, is also in this part of town.
Kabukiza Theater: If you're interested in watching a traditional Kabuki performance, this Ginza theater is the place to do it.
Tsukiji Market: This famed fish market is the largest in the world. You'll want to go early, like at 4:30 AM, so plan to do this in the early days of your trip when jetlag will have you up at that time regardless. Only 120 people are admitted per day.