Tokyo will always have a place in our heart for her magical charm. Not just known for her city skyscrapers to national parks and shrines, we go beyond the surface of the city to suggest some of our favourite spots
Best places to eat
2 Chome-7-14 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002
With a pretty obscure entrance, one would think twice about walking down a fleet of stairs that lead to a hidden omakase gem. Constructed more like an izakaya for late-night drinks and eat, the bar area overlooks an open kitchen counter where you can watch the chefs prepare your meal. Our host greeted us with tight running shorts (much to our amusement), and led us to a small eating area, where you remove your shoes and sit on the elevated ground. There is no English menu, except for a Japanese menu written on a scroll, but the host is able to grasp our orders: ‘sashimi bowl’, ‘seabass’, ‘asparagus with tomatoes’, ‘sake’ and ‘vegetable soup’. Everything came fresh and of scrumptious quality. And of course, served with fresh wasabi which was grated by the chef. We were also bold enough to try ‘fish sperm’, which was a sac of wobbly, buttery milt of male cod fish. I’ve decided there and then, that that would be the last adventurous meal I would ever try in my life! The ambience, cosy, with 70s dance music blasting from a stereo, and the crowd was a mixture of both locals and expats on business appointments. I’d strongly recommend you to pop into this izakaya, and reservation is advised for a big group of four or more.
Tsukij Fish Market
4-16-2 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
There’s no better place to experience fresh seafood, than Tsukiji Fish market, brimmed with tourists from around the world, clamouring here to snap, shop and eat. While most of us are eager to savour fresh sushi, a lot of the locals know to come here for donburi bowls, soba and curry rice. Walk along the streets and you’ll notice street stalls and restaurants with colourful offerings: one of the popular ones is Segawa, where you can order a tuna bowl topped with soy sauce, seaweed and served with rice. If you’re looking for a healthy option, order the soba noodles at Choseian with a side of kakiage tempura to entice your tastebuds.
Best places to shop
Udagawa KK Bild 4F 11-6 Udagawacho Shibuyaku
Tipped as the place to go for fashion inspo, Tokyo’s fashion editors and stylists trawl through this used-clothing shop to look for interesting and cool finds. It took awhile for me to locate the entrance because it was located on a small walkway, and a blue signage on an easel was the only indication. Take the lift up to the fourth floor and step right inside the grunge store. Rows and rows of clothes are arranged according to styles – and I ploughed through the women’s jacket section, where I found almost-new Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe and Commes Des Garcon items. I spied a brown Yohji jacket with zippers hanging from the wall, and the polite storekeeper brought it down for me – still pristine! A lot of the consignment items here were flown in from the US, UK and France, and their sizes fit our Asian frames better. To top it off, the items here are tax-free, so be sure to bring your passport to show. Now this best-kept secret is no longer a secret!
6-14-2 jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Would you believe it that the brand first opened its branch in 1985? Now with over 15 branches, Ragtag is known as the go-to outlet for used clothing and accessories. Nothing like your Salvation Army disarray, clothes are tagged meticulously with details like, ‘missing buttons,’ ‘tears’, that you immediately can’t find fault with. Look harder, and you’ll be able to find steals below 10,000yen (about SGD118). I couldn’t resist a See by Chloe dress that was around 9,000yen, so I snagged that bargain in their ‘streetstyle’ Shibuya store.
Each of their Ragtag branches are geared towards the district’s fashion vibes, and if you pop into their Ginza store, you’ll be greeted with luxury items. Nevertheless, I did spy a lot of Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto on racks, all waiting to find new homes and owners. The second level consists of menswear, while the third level are mainly jewellery, bags and shoes. Trust me, you’d want to tag your friends and drag them here.
Now that you’ve wandered along Harujuku area, why not pop into Aoyama district, where modern architecture meets fashion? The streets here are broader, and trees sweep shadows over stylish passersby with their warm coffee in hands. Omotesando Hills play host to a number of European cafes, an Apple store and luxury fashion labels like Marc Jacobs setting up shop here. Marc Jacobs’ flagship store is a 2,800-square foot, three-storey building designed by Stephan Jaklitsch Architects, and had won an Award of Excellence from AIA New York. According to architecture site Archdaily, the building ‘serves a stratified volume, with two dark strips sitting on top of a glass box, acting as a lamp during night.’ If you look at the building at night, it resembles a lantern that’s brightly lit up for all to watch with awe. At the store, the Snapshot camera bag is in high demand - watching some fans lapping the covetable item got us fashion-envy. There’s also the Gyre retail and architecture building that houses New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) on the third floor, its first location in Asia, so be sure to stock up on interesting and arty designs for your creative friends.
The hip and cool residential location, Daikanyama is often tipped as the Brooklyn of central Tokyo. Not quite like the glitzy neon lights of Shibuya, Daikanyama is home to embassies and foreign expats who set base here for its less hectic environment. There is an abundance of bookshops, indie fashion labels and coffee shops to rest your feet here: our favourite was a coffeehouse named Mocha Coffee, which is the only cafe in this neighbourhood that serves Yemeni coffee beans; lifestyle bag store Porter for all your travel and work essential needs; Okura, an indigo sanctuary preserving the traditional methods of indigo dye; and Tsutaya bookshop, which is spread across three interlinked buildings.
This trip was made possible by Marc Jacobs.