Follow Hollie's Tokyo tips
“Why Japan?” One simple question with no ready answer. A whim? Mr Miyagi? A penchant for partially perished fish? Somehow the words “I can’t explain it” extend beyond my own reason for relocating 6,000 miles eastward to encompass an entire country, a culture, and the ultimate conundrum: why it is they eat KFC for Christmas dinner and dress Colonel Sanders as St Nick.
In London we gain a sense of satisfaction from witnessing our country’s esteemed emblems materialize in real life. The guards at Buckingham Palace stoic like toy figurines, the equally trinket-like red buses, the ‘warm beers’ in cosy pubs, and the way people wearing jeans have an eternal damp patch up to their knees. These are the idiosyncratic icons which cultivate that treasured sense of “Londonness” and allow us to feel a familiarity with the place before stepping foot from the bus, plane or train.
It is the precise opposite quality which defines the charm of Tokyo.
In a city that bursts with vibes rather than landmarks, the spectator hotspots are not so much the old temples as the old men who dress like Grease characters, leather jackets open to the navel, dancing in public to rock and roll. Or the man who walks across the world’s busiest crossing in a Hello Kitty onesie, carrying a cat on a clipboard like a platter of hors-devours. Or the women who carry open umbrellas in the midst of a heatwave. These are the things that mark the essence of this city; the unexpected spectacles and constant jerks of surprise.
Despite this bafflingly incomprehensible character, there is something about Tokyo which just...works. Trains run on time, shop keepers don’t look as though you’ve murdered their loved ones when you pay for a bottle of water with a big note, and if you fall asleep on the train you wont wake up with “twat” scrawled across your forehead. You can’t help but wonder how it is a city of thirteen million people succeeds in running so smoothly. Perhaps that’s simply one more about which to marvel rather than attempt to understand. Here are three tips to get you started:
1) The 3D art at Roppongi Hills
There’s something about the word “Roppongi” which makes most expats in Tokyo shudder. It’s notoriety as a roaring, rowdy night spot is a reputation you approve of when you’ve had a beer or two and deplore when you’re sprawled on the pavement the next morning hoping you wont add any unwanted decoration to the pavement.
The Roppongi Hills Public Art and Design Project has seen to it that no more decoration is required here. Dotted around outside the glamourous Hills building (famous for the Mori art museum and high class boutiques) lie giant, endearingly haphazard sculptures which are spectacles worthy of tourist attention in themselves.
I’d recommend going at night when the backdrop of the office-light stars help create a perfectly melodramatic mood for viewing the giant spider, who rests his spindly, monstrous legs over one of the entrances of the Hills. Behind this, an enormous rose emerges from the ground, reminiscent of something from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The fantasy world of art and sculpture follows this theme of random bursts of creativity through to the street outside. Rather than sit on a traditional wooden, plastic, or often as the case may be, no bench at all, the public seating areas surrounding the hills have also been transformed with a pinch of imagination. Choose from a giant ice cube, an ice chair, modern white and black seating pebbles or a marble sofa.
Morning or night, pavement or majestic marble couch, Roppongi is designed with going out in style in mind. Google map
2) The top of the Cerulean Tower: Bellovisto
On the top floor of the cerulean tower lies a cafe-by-day, bar-by-night space ideal for a first date, an indulgent coffee, or a moment alone with a cocktail and your thoughts. Here you are at once secluded from the city and it’s enchanted voyeur as it sprawls below you like a miniature model village.
The live evening jazz at the weekend is so soothing as to seduce you into a sweet sleep, with the soft lights of the city the only thing discernible against an impenetrably back sky.
The drinks from this dazzling vantage point overlooking Shibuya and Shinjuku don’t come cheap, so save this place as an inspired pre or post dinner drinks location for a date you want to impress. ceruleantower-hotel.com
26-1 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8512
+81 33476 3398Google map: bit.ly/S6FoTO
3) Tsutaya bookshop
All over the globe the world is seeing a rise in the ingenious idea of a book and coffee shop fusion. In a land where boundaries are pushed to the limits of imagination this idea goes one step further.
The three two-tiered Tsutaya bookshops in fashionable and serene Daikanyama are designed with a theme of ‘home away from home’ in mind. Read, relax, have a coffee, listen to music; this is a space in which you can be at home without being alone. Choose from “Ajin”; the lounge-bar where you can recline on a leather sofa and place a drinks order via ipad for a taste of life in the future, or Starbucks where you can sit inside at one of the breakfast bars and charge your laptop or phone, or alternatively outside with the patio heaters and cosy Starbucks blankets. If you enjoy a spot of people watching then you’ll enjoy this vantage point as the local well-to-do walk past with their dogs and offspring.
With the winter chill setting in and the outdoors becoming more and more a mission impossible, this is a place you can keep warm and toasty whilst relaxing in the cool breeze and early setting sun. store.tsutaya.co.jp
+81 03 6738 3838Google map: bit.ly/TUfgKiBEEN THERE LOCALS HOMEPAGE