It hardly seems like a full year since we were last in Tokyo. As soon as we booked our tickets, I was anxious to return. It has quickly become one of my favorite cities in the world.
I grew up around Japanese culture in Hawaii, and experiencing it first-hand is very profound. People take immense pride in their surroundings, and there is friendliness and gratitude in every interaction you have. The streets are spotless, the trains (though very confusing!!) run efficiently, the bicycles on the street are rarely padlocked. And of course everyone bows.
We ran out of time on our last trip, so this time we booked a full week, which is still not nearly enough time. We had a trunk show scheduled at Ron Herman Japan during our last two days, and had staff trainings at our two new accounts, Barneys Japan and Dover Street Market Ginza. Which gave us some extra days to explore the city.
In the last year I’ve compiled an incredible list of shops, sites and restaurants recommended by friends who travel to Tokyo, including recommendations by a chic friend who lived there for many years (email us if you’re interested!!). Most fun is randomly exploring different neighborhoods and taking chances on things that look interesting. You sometimes feel like you’re watching Lost In Translation (I hate to use that analogy, but it’s true) and oftentimes you have no idea what you’re getting (I learned that “nama” means draft beer which was very important) but everyone is helpful and patient. And you can always just point at food on other tables.
Here are some trip highlights:
OUR APARTMENT IN HARAJUKU
I decided that we should rent a traditional Tatami-style apartment on Air BnB with an outdoor rock garden where I started each morning. We were sandwiched between the Harajuku train station and Meiji temple, surrounded by vintage shops and restaurants – a perfectly central area. Our hosts were amazing – they waited up for our midnight check-in and supplied us with little gifts throughout our stay. I would definitely do this again.
As a kid in Hawaii I said that I could eat sushi every day. Japanese cuisine is my favorite, and of course there’s so much more than sushi. We managed to check off most food categories. We went to coin-operated ramen restaurants, a beautiful restaurant on Omotessando, we had izakaya in a basement bar in Shibuya where everyone smoked, and went to a restaurant in Ginza that only served unagi.
Of course we had sushi for breakfast at the soon-to-close Tsukiji Market, and had an amazing experience at Umi in Aoyama with our friends Yuta and Reiko from Shihara http://www.shihara.com/
We even had some convincing NY style pizza at newly-opened Pizza Slice 2 restaurant designed by our friend Reiko Loukes.
There’s an amazing little strip of bars near the Shibuya train station located in tight alleys called Nonbei Yokocho. They are from old Tokyo, and can seat about five people.
Last year we stumbled upon Bar Four Seasons while walking in Ginza. There was an appealing sandwich board on the street with a 40s cartoon-style line drawing of a man drinking a martini. We walked up to the 4th floor and discovered an amazing dark, smokey bar with hand-cut ice cubes and an award-winning bartender who had just won the national fruit-cutting championship! Of course we made a point to return this trip.
HARRY THE HEDGEHOG
There are tons of animal-themed “cafes” in Tokyo that don’t actually serve coffee, and we most wanted to visit the hedgehogs at Harry. The main café had an hour wait, but we were told that there were a couple of hogs in the bunny café upstairs that we could meet immediately. We sat down for a half-hour and come to find that Harry himself is hiding out up there away from the crowds! In case you haven’t met a hedgehog before, they are a little prickly and a little impatient, but they have a sweet demeanor and like to snuggle.
Kamakura is about an hour train ride outside of Tokyo located in the South. We wanted to see the rock gardens and shrine, but we got a little confused on the train and arrived a bit late. We walked through the beautiful village (which also has some amazingly hip cafes and shops) and visited the Giant Buddha which has weathered storms and devastation since it was built in 1243. The setting is serene and beautiful. Next time we are definitely blocking more time to explore outside of Tokyo.
We had a morning training right before the store opened. The staff was wonderful and gracious, which is the norm at every store you visit in Tokyo. As we were finishing, chimes played over the sound system, and everyone hurried to different corners of the store. We were ushered to the side where we watched as the front doors opened and everyone bowed several times in unison. Our host told us that this was a traditional Japanese opening ceremony to greet the day, and welcome customers to the store. It was very simple, and very moving.
DOVER STREET MARKET GINZA
This is literally down the street from Barneys, but a world away. Being in one of the Comme Des Garcons stores in Tokyo is everything I’ve imagined. There are 7 floors with exclusive pieces, installations and artwork, and everyone looks amazing.
The whole team was wonderful, and we were lucky to have breakfast with Ayumi at the first Rose Bakery, and find some beautiful clothing with Watanabe. Of course I took advantage of the fact that buying Comme Des Garcons in Japan is about half-price.
RON HERMAN JAPAN TRUNK SHOW
Roppongi Hills mall isn’t far from Ginza, but Ron Herman Japan is two worlds away from Dover Street Market. Southern California Life Style is the theme here.
We’ve worked with Ron Herman Japan for more than a year, and have built a client fan-base who came to order rings and meet us. It’s always humbling to meet fans of our work who want to take pictures with me, and I couldn’t resist getting a picture with my Japanese doppelganger. He wears black and navy every day, too.
The Ron Herman team is so warm and welcoming, and we were lucky to spend time with Yoko and Akane outside of the store.
We are already working on our Tokyo trunk show schedule for May 2017, and anxious to return.