The formidable capital of the land of the rising sun, in both size and reputation, has intrigued and made otakus of millions through her unique character in so many aspects. She was even recently crowned Monocle's top city in its increasingly-influential Quality of Life Survey, and Monocle was not short of praises about Tokyo from her vibrant art scene, ever-interesting sights and architecture and public amenties that work wonderfully even though she is the largest conurbation in the world. Here at Bespokcracy, we have also never shied away from our love for Japan and for this spotlight coverage on her capital, we wanted to showcase her art and design facet, a side of Tokyo that has not ceased to fascinate us. We also had to throw in a few restaurant favourites because if we ever catch you in a MacDonald's in Tokyo, we will have failed in our task spectacularly.
The National Art Centre, Tokyo (NACT)
An architectural sight to behold, the vision of Kisho Kurokawa, forms the flagship part of the Art Triangle Roppongi which also includes the Suntory Museum of Art, the Mori one and sometimes also including the 21_21 Design Sight (showcased next). It is Japan's largest art museum and hosts some of the most important shows the city has to offer but it has no permanent exhibition of its own. The really unique souvenir shop it houses is like that last fry in the bag when you thought you've finished everything- a nice surprise ending to an already delectable experience.
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku | 03 57 77 86 00 | website
21_21 Design Sight
Definitely a more tasteful and visually-appealing reincarnation of its former use, that of Japan's Defence Agency, with Tadao Ando at the creative helm being inspired by Issey Miyake's clothing designs. This is a visual arts marriage made in heaven. Miyake still serves as the centre's director and offers Tokyo its first design outpost that invites design fanatics all over the world to Japan to display their creations. As if the Roppongi arts quarter needed more star power to begin with...
9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku | 03 34 75 21 21 | website
Stop here for a spot of culture break from your shopping extravaganza in Omotesando with Kengo Kuma's architecturally-harmonious masterpiece housing railroad baron Nezu's lifelong collection of Japanese and oriental antiquities. Its spectacular verdant surroundings with its skillfully crated minimalist space makes it a serious understatement to say that it is an oasis of calm amidst its frenzied surroudings.
6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku | 03 34 00 25 36 | website
Tokyo National Museum
We told you about the biggest museum in Japan, now this is the oldest. Take a stroll through all four exhibition buildings and you will leave with a keener understanding of (primarily) Japanese culture through the ages. The Yoshio Taniguchi- (the MoMA NYC extension dude) designed gallery of Horyuji treasures is our favourite. Being set in Ueno park ain't too shabby a setting too.
13-9 Uenokoen, Taito-ku | 03 54 05 86 86 | website
National Museum of Western Art
Designed by Le Corbusier but executed by his 3 most famous Japanese students Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakukura and Takamasa Yoshizaka and houses Tokyo's only dedicated collection of western art from the Middle Ages to the modern masters (Pollock, Miro and all). Also set in Ueno, try the National Museum too (as featured above) if you have time. The double-height gallery, showcasing 19th century greats, is something Monet would be proud of.
7-7 Uenokoen, Taito-ku | 03 38 28 51 31 | website
A 3-Michelin starred kaiseki experience that can easily be described as divine that starts with a personalized menu set on your custom-made plate and service so adequately attentive you know this is going to be an experience that's one-of-a-kind, if you can find its very inconscpicuous entrance to start with. The menu varies with the seasons with a slight leaning to fruits of the sea and if you don't care for your own tatami chamber, you would still be wow-ed by the counter carved out of 400-year old Japanese cypress trees. Classy all around.
1F, 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku | 03 52 25 01 73 | website
Tenichi Ginza Honten
A well deserved 1-Michelin star tempura specialist which counts Gorbachev, Clinton and Sinatra as its clientele can't really go wrong can it? The seafood it uses are all local and the batter dances ever so lightly on the surface of its meat. Go for the set which will be a decidingly far less challenging venture given that everything tastes ridiculously good.
6-6-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku | 03 35 71 19 49 | website
Toshihiro Wada, the bellwether behind the artisanal yakitori movement, heads this restaurant, the name of which leaves little to the imagination what exactly it specialises in. Chicken, and almost every part of it, is on offer here, prepared and seasoned in ways you could never think of. The alcohol pairing is equally innovative given that other yakitori bars tend to only serve sake and beer. There's another outlet in Marunochi which could offer better chances of getting a last minute table.
Tsukamoto Building B1F, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku | 03 5250 1081 | website
Talk about a wet dream of all the doyens of the respective creative fields coming together to work on this gastronomic venture- food is sorted by Alain Ducasse, interiors decked out by celebrity architect Peter Marino and conceptualised by Karl Lagerfeld, perched, naturally, on top of the Chanel building in Ginza. The sublime fusion of Ducasse's European handling of local produce does not detract one from the classy interiors doused in the restaurant's namesake hue, which is of course Coco's favourite. She would be smiling from her grave.
Chanel Ginza Building 10F, 3-5-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku | 03 51 59 55 00 | website
Tokyo Shiba Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki restaurants are terribly special in their own right but this takes this venerable institution to another special place- by giving tofu its place in the limelight. This soy curd specialist elevates the dining experience to another high with its gorgeous surroundings of carp ponds, traditional wooden architecture finished with unobstructed views of Tokyo Tower. The word kaiseki implies that it probably will cause a slight dent in your wallet but the service, the food, the gardens maketh for a very special evening out at this joint.
4-4-13 Shibakoen, Minato-ku | 03 34 36 10 28 | website
The newest entrant to the increasingly crowded luxury hotel scene here but already pushing the bar higher than its vertiginous physical location. Long-time collaborator Kerry Hill works its magic again and does a superb job with suffusing the local with the ultra modern. First shot at an urban resort and Aman gets it right immediately- lucky Tokyo.
The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku | 03 52 24 33 33 | website | fr USD920 for a Deluxe Room
Park Hyatt Tokyo
The main stay of the luxury hotel scene here even before the tsunami of the other brand-name luxury competitors hit the Tokyo hotel scene, this property has vertiginous views via its various world-class bars and restaurants, and pool and with service that reaches pre-emptive levels, this hotel is deservedly one of the best in not just Japan, but the world.
3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku | 03 53 22 12 34 | website | fr USD530 for a Park King room
The first go-to reference point for the best design hotel in Tokyo is surely the Claska. Recently refurbished to its current splendour, the 18-rooms on site each have their unique personality by having local creatives or artists, like Kayo Sato, inject their individual tastes to each small space. Although a little of a schlep from the neon centre, its design-crazed setting is sure to provide a special experience.
1-3-18 Meguro, Chuo-cho | 03 37 19 81 21 | website | fr USD230 for a twin room
Capitol Hotel Tokyu
Long before Tokyo was bombarded with the luxury hotel tide, she had her own homegrown hospitality heroes that showcased Japanese design and service as well as their recent foreign competition. And one such hero is the Capitol Hotel near the Diet building. The wa element in Japanese architecture is subtly updated ubiquitously and the artwork the adorns its walls are proudly of Japanese contemporary artists. The lobby is also always filled with friendly and approachable service staff, never short of a smile.
2-10-3 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku | 03 35 03 01 09 | website | fr USD350 for a Deluxe King room
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