For the past few months, I’ve been receiving messages from friends asking for travel recommendations. Here’a list of the top spots I’ve discovered in Tokyo this year alone 🙂
*Click on the photos to enlarge 🙂
Last May, I met up with a Japanese ex-student and she showed me around this bohemian neighborhood. If you’re a photographer/ Instagrammer or a fashionista/shopaholic, you’ll go crazy here.
There are cool cafés, restaurants, vintage clothing stores, flea markets, and bars with craft beers. We took a break in one of the quaint wooden huts and had a picture-perfect red velvet waffle but too bad it was bland and not moist enough. The blended coffee made it up for that dessert’s mediocrity, though 🙂
Avid shoppers can probably spend the whole afternoon scouring all the second-hand clothing stores here. I would’ve tried other cafés (and bars, if they were open) but I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to shell out at least 400 yen for every cup, but I’d love to go back again and bring my tourist friends soon!
Shimokitazawa station on the Odakyu line or Inokashira line
Design Festa Gallery
After a visit to Meiji Jingu in Harajuku with Xavier, I thought of finally checking out this artsy place. It’s not just a gallery that holds workshops, but a cozy café & bar as well. It was humid when we got there so instead of ordering a beer, I ordered a mixed berry smoothie. (A sign of aging :p)
As always, I went trigger happy and entered the mini exhibit rooms then photographed almost every graffiti and wall art along the alleys while my companion sat at the al fresco area while playing Pokemon Go hehe.
Access: Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line
I had no idea what to expect when I was assigned to explore this area and take photos for work. All I knew was there’s a shopping street (that’s why it’s called Ginza) but I didn’t know this place had a reputation for having a lot of wandering cats. No wonder there were a lot of feline public art and I walked by a few neko-themed shops. As a huge cat lover, I enjoyed my two-hour visit to this small, traditional town in the middle of bustling Tokyo. The place is known for the huge Yanaka Cemetery and there are a few temples around the area too, such as Kyoo-ji, a Buddhist temple.
Two more spots worth visiting and returning to are: Yanaka Coffee and Menya Hidamali ramen shop that served a satisfying shio yuzu ramen. These two weren’t in my itinerary so I was pleasantly surprised to have chanced upon them that day. It was a humid day and according to my phone, I walked a total of over 14,000 steps, but everyone knows I’d rather explore places I’ve never been than sit in front of my laptop in the office 😀
Access: Nippori station on the JR Yamanote line
I’ve been working in this area since May and though grabbing an affordable lunch is tough, there are some spots here that travelers would love: Commune 246 and Spiral Gallery, to name a few. There are several food trucks and hip (but kinda pricey) cafés in the area, such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Shozo Coffee.
A cool outdoor food court, Commune 246 has a variety of food trucks selling international fare and a selection of local and craft beers. At the back, you’ll find Caravan Tokyo, a mobile accommodation listed on Airbnb. Turn to the right side of the van and you’ll see Shozo Coffee, a little store that serves great drip coffee 🙂
Design and Architecture
Omotesando is known for its architectural gems and I think Sunny Hills has the most eye-catching wooden facade. This Taiwanese store sells pineapple cakes so the entire building is designed like a woven basket. It’s a masterpiece by Kengo Kuma, the renowned architect chosen to design the Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
If you’re into design, drop by Spiral, a multi-purpose center with a café, restaurant/bar, stationery store, exhibits, and art gallery.
Across from this building stands Ao Kita Aoyama, a shopping complex and office building with 16 floors and looks stunning at night.
Access: Omotesando station (Hanzomon or Chiyoda line)
That’s all for now, check out my Instagram for more travel ideas and regular updates. For my next post, I hope to write about my top food spots in Tokyo. Travel happy, peeps 🙂