Find both zen and merriment in one of the world’s largest metropolises.
Start your morning in Harajuku along Omotesando Dori with the creators of the cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery. The bakery’s bright and white interior emphasizes the colorful, elegant sweets on display. Here sweet and savory treats abound. Choose from frozen s’mores, cookie shots, pastel macarons, molten omelet souffles and more. After your decadent breakfast, meander the grounds of the nearby Meiji Jingu, one of Tokyo’s three great shrines. Near the shrine, purchase a small wooden plaque known as an ema. These traditional Shinto plaques represent prayers or wishes for anything from good health and marital bliss to school success. After a halcyon stroll around Meiji Jingu, head to Takeshita Street for the exact opposite. This pedestrian path is packed with funky, eclectic boutiques and young Japanese dressed in ostentatious styles like Little Bo Peep and Lolita Goth.
Make your way to one of Shibuya’s more relaxed neighborhoods, Daikanyama. Wind through Daikanyama’s backstreets, lined with chic boutiques and mini cafes. Wandering through Daikanyama is like being stuck in a maze designed by Dior. You could easily pass hours at Daikanyama T-Site, Tsutaya bookstore’s concept shop. Design firm Klein Dytham Architecture created a flowing indoor outdoor space of three buildings connected by tree-lined pathways. Enjoy lunch surrounded by rare books and magazines at T-Site’s Anjin. Lounge in Anjin’s spacious leather chairs beneath chartreuse geometric chandeliers. Sip cappuccinos and order lunch from iPad menus. Across from T-Site, is the New York City export, Saturdays NYC. At this surfer-centric shop you’ll find Japanese surf culture coffee table books, elegant surfboards, and beachy chic menswear. After shopping, share espresso and a Mast Brother’s chocolate bar on the store’s outdoor back patio overlooking Daikanyama residences.
Make your way to Hamarikyu Garden’s Nakajima teahouse. For 500 yen ($4.19) enjoy matcha and bite size wagashi, Japanese sweets. Forget you’re in one of the most populated cities in the world and soak in the scent of azaleas and the warm grassy taste of powdered green tea. A much needed daily slice of Japanese zen.
Sip pre-dinner cocktails at the Roppongi Hills observation deck. Arrive just before sunset and gaze over the city before and after dark. Purchase tickets with access to the Roppongi Tower Helipad for unobstructed views and the chance to be on top of one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings. It’s likely to be windy, but the clear, beautiful views will make it unforgettable. The observation deck tickets come with admission to the Mori Art Museum, with exhibits from international modern artists and a focus on contemporary Japanese and Asian art. For dinner, step into Roppongi’s Pintokona, an elegant kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi restaurant) serving the freshest daily catch. Cozy up to the sushi bar and observe as the chefs massage nigiri into place or slide into a private booth near the back. Try the amaebi, sweet raw shrimp, and uni, sea urchin. Expect to pay about 6000 yen for two.
Guzzle post-dinner drinks in Golden Gai. Golden Gai is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. This area, located in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho red light district, is a glimpse into the city’s past. Narrow alleys stuffed with small venues give a window into the layout of pre-war Tokyo. Once home to brothels, now tiny bars fill these small, mostly rectangular spaces. Not all Golden Gai bars are foreigner friendly, look for the establishments with English on their signs. Kabukicho’s Robot Restaurant is exactly the sort of outré show you’d expect to find in Tokyo. Tickets include one mediocre bento dinner and a psychedelic performance. Imagine a phantasmagoria of giant battling robots, babes in bikinis riding in big bikini robots, and a neon light show that would give Disney a run for their money.
Shimmy over to Shibuya Crossing for all night Karaoke. Pay by the hour or, for a full night of belting it out, purchase the nomihodai (all you can drink) package. Around Shibuya crossing, Tokyo’s Times Square equivalent, are several karaoke joints like Pasela Karaoke and Karaoke Kan.
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