Photo Credit: Koji Ishikawa
Tokyo hums with brilliant restaurants, manga haunts and sake bars, but there are peaceful gardens and temples, too.
Kosoan teahose, Tokyo, Japan
In Kosoan teahose ‘busy Tokyo feels a world away as you gaze at their lovely Japanese garden’. Photograph: Koji Ishikawa
Tea is indispensable in Japanese life. One of my favourite cafes is Kosoan, set in a traditional house built over a century ago – the antique furniture adds to the refined decor. Busy Tokyo feels a world away as you gaze at the lovely Japanese garden. It’s a soothing stop for a bowl of matcha. Also try Cha Cha No Ma in Harajuku, where tea “sommelier” Yoshi Watada serves teas from all over Japan, accompanied by homemade sweets (chachanoma.com). If you want to buy sweets, visit Mizuho in the same area; it sells two things: mame daifuku, mochi rice cake stuffed with red bean paste, and monaka, wafers filled with bean paste.
Gardens and Temples
Tokyo is a hectic city, but there are many temples, shrines and gardens to offer refuge from the crowds and neon lights. Hamarikyu Gardens, near Ginza (1-1 Hamarikyu Teien), was owned by a feudal lord during the Edo period and is protected as a historic site. The water that runs through the garden comes directly from the sea, so you may even spot jellyfish. Shinjuku Gyoen national garden in Shinjuku-ku (11 Naitomachi) is a great place year round, with cherry blossoms in spring, crape myrtles in summer, red and gold leaves in autumn, and plum blossom in late winter. Among the most beautiful temples are Manganji Temple Todoroki Fudoson, in Setagaya-ku near Todoroki Keikoku gorge, with more than 150 cherry trees in the grounds.
Gardens and Temples
Tokyo is an amazing place to shop – from cool designer clothing stores to pretty stationery emporiums. You can find good vintage too, though – I like Pass the Baton, which has branches in Marunouchi Brick Square and Omotesando. It sells pre-loved and upcycled clothes and accessories. Much of the stock was previously owned by people in the fashion industry. For pared-down, modern Japanese womenswear try HYKE in Shinjuku, launched by two local designers in 2013: there’s lots of khaki and black but it’s never boring. Men could head to Studious in Harajuku area, which only stocks clothes by Tokyo brands, including Miyahara Yasuhiro and Undercover, as well as emerging designers. The depachika food halls are definitely worth a browse; they sell everything from varieties of bento to beautifully packaged cookies and Japanese sweets such as dorayaki (small pancakes with bean paste). Tokyu Norengai, opened in 1951, was the first one, though the location has slightly changed.