Crowds, karaoke and calm temples, Tokyo is all the Lost In Translation
clichés and more. The only dilemma is, which Tokyo do you want to experience? The designer stores of Ginza, gadgets of futuristic Akihabara, hostess bars and ramen joints of wild-side Kabukicho, or temples and traditional Japanese crafts of Asakusa? Choose your own adventure.
Omotesando avenue (favourite haunt of Harajuku girls) is a must-see. Head to S and O (“Sweets and Objects”) in Omotesando Hills, which specialises in pop-art lollies and gifts. Muji is famous around the world, but its flagship store next to Yurakucho station is something else. With clothing, homewares, foods and an organic cafe, minimalists will be in heaven. Head next door to Loft, a store dedicated to design and quirky finds, from anime-themed bath salts to smartphone accessories. Eco-conscious fashion fans will love Issey Miyake’s Elttob Tep (that’s “PET bottle” spelt backwards, and a reference to the recycled plastics his stunning fabrics are made from) behind the Wako department store in Ginza. You’ll find limited-edition buys, art installations and regular live music.
It’s hard to get a bad meal in Tokyo, but the city can be a challenge for vege-tarians. Vegetable Sushi Potager in Roppongi Hills is dedicated to sushi made only from vegies, and chef Aya Kakisawa crafts unique dishes, which are almost too beautiful to eat. Toraya is a 500-year-old sweet company renowned for traditional treats, but its cafe at Aoyama puts a modern twist on ingredients such as green tea, adzuki beans and soy milk. If you want to meet the locals, crowd into one of the standing bars and yakitori shops under the train tracks around Yurakucho or Ueno. Popular for a quick beer and a bite after work, you can fill up on smoky chicken skewers and save more money for shopping.
Take a samisen lesson: the guitar-like instrument of kabuki and geisha performances sounds unmistakably “Japan-ese”. Teacher Kumiya Fujimoto speaks English and she’ll have you playing folk songs in just one lesson. You can visit her traditional wooden house in Ueno, or she can come to you. Visit www.shamisen-sensei.com
. For a change of pace, take a trip to the quaint Katsushika district to the east of the city. Popular with locals for its nostalgic atmosphere, you can sample homemade pickles, rice crackers and sweets as you meander towards the magnificent Taishakuten temple. Recharge with a cup of matcha tea at Yamamoto-tei, a traditional merchant’s house in a serene garden.
HOW TO GET THERE
Book daily direct flights to Tokyo from Sydney through Qantas (www.qantas.com
) and Japan Airlines (www.jal.com
), and from the Gold Coast and Cairns through Jetstar (www.jetstar.com
The Conrad feels like a private club, perched high above the busy business district. With sweeping views of Tokyo Bay and the glittering city, this sleek, luxurious hotel is filled with unique Japanese touches, such as custom cherry-blossom carpets. Visit www.conradtokyo.com
for details and reservations.