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Vibrant Tokyo

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Neighborhood Picks
Roppongi Hills and Midtown: For a day of exhibits, the so-called art triangle includes the Mori Art Museum, The National Art Center and the Suntory Museum of Art. In Midtown, you’ll also find Tadao Ando’s 21_21 Design Sight—a provocative gallery headed up by Issey Miyake.

Daikanyama: This stylish enclave invites with a creative street flair. Stop by Okura for indigo-dyed apparel and take a juice break at Bombay Bazar organic café.

Aoyama: From the pop culture of Harajuku, walk the Omotesando promenade to Aoyama. Along the way, shop at G.V.G.V., Keita Maruyama, DressCamp and Mister Hollywood.
Where to Dine (and Drink)
Ivan Ramen: New York émigré Ivan Orkin is a local celebrity. Sourcing the best ingredients from fellow shop owners in the ’hood, he crafts noodles, broth and toppings by hand to serve perfect bowls of steaming comfort that have made him a legend in a land of noodle fanatics.

Les Créations de Narisawa: Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s distinctive French contemporary cuisine reflects his training in France, Switzerland and Italy, but above all it’s a celebration of nature on a plate: “My guests should not only be eating a meal, they should absorb life itself.” In Minami Aoyama; one Michelin star.

Meiji Kinenkan Beer Terrace Sekirei
: You’re in luck if you’re in Tokyo between June and mid-September, when this classic venue for weekday evening drinks is open for the summer season. Kimono-clad dancers perform each evening on the lush expanse of lawn, part of the Outer Gardens of Meiji Shrine.

RyuGin: One of the brightest stars of today’s culinary scene, Seiji Yamamoto is a chef’s chef and an international sensation for the “technology-driven, creative Japanese cuisine” at his Roppongi restaurant. Two Michelin stars.
How Sweet It Is
Le Pommier: Find out what this city’s love affair with madeleines and macaroons is all about here.

Neyn: For handmade designer doughnuts, visit Neyn in Akasaka and, temporarily through February 2010, Tokyo Midtown.

Ori Higashiya
: This tiny gem of a Japanese tea-and-sweets shop in Nishi Azabu exudes serenity in an understated, unconventional way—this is pure elegance, Tokyo-style.
Cuisine or Couture?
At Ginza’s glittering fashion flagships, the choice in food and drink is as tempting as the latest collections. On the tenth floor of the Armani/GinZa ToweR, Princess Diana’s former personal chef, Enrico Derflingher, presides over Armani/ Ristorante. Bulgari Ginza Tower invites with Il Ristorante, Il Bar and La Terrazza Lounge—a rooftop terrace available for private parties. At Alfred DunhilL, The Aquarium serves up unique cocktails and fine spirits in a gentlemen’s club atmosphere. At Gucci Ginza, Gucci Café is an airy place for  Milanese coffee and light dishes. The Gucci logo, rendered in bitter chocolate, sells out within minutes each day.

Where to Stay
Park Hyatt Tokyo: What do Bon Jovi and bag designer Anya Hindmarch have in common? A shared love of the view from Club On The Park—a 22,600-square-foot health-and-fitness sanctuary perched 47 floors above the frenetic streets. After a workout in the gym overlooking Mt. Fuji, indulge in a Tokyo Massage, which includes a foot treatment using rare stones from the sacred mountain.

Claska
: If boutique design hotels are your fancy, the hipperatti flock to Claska in fashionable Nakameguro. It offers all the de rigueur elements—right down to voyeuristic see-through bathrooms and a trimming salon for well-coiffed pooches. Three of its 15 rooms have tatami mats; weekly rates are offered as well. Ask the concierge about the neighborhood’s vintage clothing stores for grown-ups and visit Venom, just down the Meguro River, for edgy international and Japanese fashions.

The Peninsula Tokyo: For complimentary use of the Audi R8 sports car (the Peninsula is the only hotel in Japan to offer one), you’ll have to book The Peninsula Suite, but watching the parade of international luminaries in the cozy lobby is free. Better yet, sit back and enjoy it all over the celebrated high tea. You won’t need the car to dash off for shopping—Ginza is steps away.

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo: Synching with its location in Nihonbashi, the historical heart of the city and an area defined by centuries-old specialty shops, the Mandarin Oriental offers an ambitious array of only-in-Japan experiences. But it’s worth staying in, too—the exquisite fabrics and textiles lavishly employed throughout the hotel are by the innovative and well-respected Reiko Sudo.

Hotel New Otani Tokyo: The New Otani opened its doors in 1964, during the capital’s mad rush to gear up for the Tokyo Olympics. It’s put on a new face with Executive House Zen, a fully renovated, nonsmoking club floor with 87 rooms and suites appointed with bonsai, black ink drawings, and bamboo finishes set against stylish tones of charcoal and beige. Book a room overlooking the 10-acre, 400-year-old garden. Formerly part of a samurai lord’s residence, it complements the mood with ancient trees, rare stone lanterns and views of the old castle’s outer moat walls. In June the azaleas will be bursting.
And There's Always . . .
Questina: For the latest in kitschy kitty couture, head to Sanrio’s boutique for adults on the first floor of Nishi Ginza Department Store. Travel accessories and other items you’ll never see at the Hello Kitty emporium on Times Square await, as does a salon that will apply the feline pop icon to your nails in 3-D designs that change with the seasons.

Paper, Et Cetera: In the heart of Ginza, Ito-ya offers Tokyo’s most complete selection of specialty papers, fine writing instruments, leather-bound portfolios and art materials. Stop by to pick up everything you need to appoint your office in black, right down to the paper clips.

Jazz: For top-level, straight-ahead jazz nightly, in cool spaces with just the right balance of laid-back and hip, try Naru in Ochanomizu or Alfie in Roppongi.

Local Art Listings and Reviews: The two best sites are Tokyo Art Beat and Artscape International.
Urban Adventure
British-born Charles Spreckley, co-founder of Bespoke Tokyo (bespoketokyo.jp), has shown royalty, pop stars and actors the real Tokyo—“what goes on behind that unmarked door on the fifth floor of a featureless building on a backstreet with no name.” His customized fashion, retail and consumer insight safaris combine trend analysis with local savvy. Here’s a snapshot of Spreckley’s (current) favorite neighborhoods and restaurants:
  • Ningyocho for a taste of Shitamachi life, then Tamahide for an oyako-
  • don lunch of chicken and egg over rice.
  • Kagurazaka for contemporary things made with vintage materials and ancient wisdom. Followed by green tea and steamed wheat buns filled with sweet-bean jam at Mugimaru2 Café.
  • Daikanyama for shopping, then dinner at Hachiman Shokudou or Taku in Nishi Azabu for first-rate but inventive sushi.
  • Ebisu for drinks at Q standing bar and maybe clubbing at Trump House in Shibuya—“the crowd there is always interesting and diverse in a glam silver-banquette-and-chandeliers way.”
Amoebic, spontaneous, pulsating with urban adventure, with lulls of refined grace. Tokyo throngs with 12.7 million people and inspires with a dynamism born from the tension between the planned and unplanned, the staid and the incongruous, the classy and the kitschy—and the eye-popping speed at which trends come and go. In 1890, Basil Hall Chamberlain, the eminent Japanologist, wrote, “Every year or two there is a new craze, over which the nation, or at least that part of the nation which resides in Tokyo, goes wild for a season.” Some things never change.

Spill It: Tell Us What You Think!

Ananda
This is the best bespoke luxury in room hotel massage my husband and I have ever had. Highly recommended for your readers.
10/5/2011 2:29:15 PM

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