Tokyo: 72 Hours In Japan's Capital
Japan's capital is blooming with innovation in design. From unique lifestyle boutiques and outdoor art installations to creative bars and high-rise restaurant locals, Tokyo is an ancient city fully embracing newness.
Our design editor Meg Busacca recently traveled to Tokyo where she spent three days exploring the city by foot. Discover her recommendations on where to lodge, what to fill your belly with, where to spend a pretty penny and what cultural destinations are actually worth seeing.
Scroll down for our recommendations to experience the best of Tokyo in 72 hours!
We recommend choosing a hotel that is located in the city center, especially when you're in a dense urban landscape like Tokyo. The Ritz-Carlton is located in Midtown and is surrounded by historical landmarks and the most artistic neighborhoods -- each accessible by nearby public transportation or by foot. One of the restaurants at the Ritz, Azure 45, was recently granted a Michelin star. The hotel's exclusive sky-high dining area offers some of the most impeccable views of Tokyo. On a clear day you can even see iconic Mount Fuji.
Kick off your adventure by forcing yourself to get up at 5 a.m. and head to the famous Tsukiji fish market. It is the busiest and largest wholesale fish market in the world, and the live auctions in the wee hours are a sight to be seen. Your visit won't be complete until you try the freshest sushi offerings you'll ever have, literally straight from the boat! To find the best selection, enter the fish market off Shinohashi St.
Directly across from the Ritz Carlton in Midtown is 21_21 Design Sight, a sought-after experimental design museum created by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando. The museum's six-month-long exhibitions highlight the work of legendary innovators. The most recent installation focused on celebrated architect Frank Gehry.
Head west to the Aoyama neighborhood which is full of cafes, local boutiques and floral shops. Wander into SunnyHills to try some delicious hot pineapple tea in one of the city's most unconventional architectural buildings designed by Kengo Kuma. The structure's exterior is comprised of bamboo wood planks built in a traditional Japanese method known as "Jingoku-Gumi."
If you're in the mood for top-quality soba noodles, head to Aoyama Kawakamian, a local favorite just down the street from the Omotesandõ station.
Head even further west to the neighborhood of Shibuya where you will find streets filled with art galleries, creative design studios, local bars and independent retailers. And if you are exploring by foot, we suggest a mid-afternoon pick-me-up at Bar Koba. Enjoy some liquor other than sake and taste from a wide selection of Japanese whiskey.
The music lovers and laid-back Bohemian-types gravitate to the hipster neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. This popular area is commonly known as Shimokita and is just a few blocks outside of Shibuya, near Setagaya.
For world-renowned shopping, you will find every designer store imaginable in Ginza. From luxury department stores to ready-to-wear boutiques, Ginza is a neighborhood where you should be prepared to spend your hard-earned money.
Our favorite stores in Ginza include the Dover Street Market Ginza and the neighborhood's oldest department store, Mitsukoshi, which was originally founded in 1673. Each offers unique selections from our most-coveted designer labels, from Gucci and MSGM to Dries Van Noten and Loewe. You can find them all in Ginza.
If you're looking for a place to eat in Ginza, check out the Michelin-rated three-star restaurant, Ippoh! This high-class tempura restaurant is located in the Kohjun building and has been offering the city's most flavorful tempura dishes since 1850.
For under-the-radar finds, travel to the Daikanyamacho neighborhood, also known as Daikanyama, where you will discover some of the most inspiring and emerging fashions. The area is filled with lifestyle-focused boutiques, which include unique housewares, tech products and exclusive menswear and womenswear designs. The street style in Daikanyama is unlike any other city neighborhood -- proving that Tokyo undoubtedly rivals the streets of New York, London and Paris.
Grab a coffee and an interesting read from one of the world's coolest bookstores, Diakanyama T-site. Also referred to as Tsutaya Books, this "library in the woods" consists of six book departments which span across three adjacent buildings. It is home to some of the most specialized and creative books, videos, CD archives, rare collections of magazines, travel tips and stationery.
For some once-in-a-lifetime people watching, you must witness the commotion within Shibuya station. This location is the busiest station in all of Tokyo, with nearly 3 million individuals passing through every hour. Just outside the station is the city's cultural crossroads, famously known as "The Scramble." This street intersection on a weekend night is filled with gyaru girls, nightlife club-goers, business men and thousands of tourists. It is both overwhelming and fascinating.
To get away from the crazy nighttime crowds of Shibuya, travel into the quaint neighborhood of Ebisu. Ebisu is just a few blocks east from Diakanyama and offers a selection of tasty and inexpensive food venues. Here you will find an extensive sake menu at Buri, tonkatsu ramen from Ippudo and many other traditional dishes offered along a narrow street full of several free-standing destinations.
Not only is Tokyo jam-packed with creative and intellectual individuals, but most impressively, the people are gracious and kind. The vast city is also shockingly clean and safe. There is an interesting juxtaposition in style, innovation and architecture with the melding of historical and religious landmarks among contemporary designs. Altogether, it generates a special energy throughout Tokyo.
Scroll down for a quick list of more favorite restaurants, cafes, shops, markets and temples you don't want to miss. Happy travels!
QUICK LIST: 28 Favorite Hotspots in Tokyo
1. Wa Space
3. EVA Fashion
9. Sense of Place by Urban Research
11. Punk Cake
14. CPCM (Crafts and Permaculture Country Mall)
15. Son of Cheese
18. Port Of Call
20. Nest Robe
21. Sensoji Temple
22. Prada Store in Roppongi designed by Herzog & De Meuron
25. La Jetée