Capital of creativity
Japan’s top style gurus give their verdicts on Tokyo’s must-see landmarks
The luxurious Mandarin Hotel Tokyo, located in the soaring Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, has a new Helicopter Flycation package for its guests that includes suite accommodation and an exclusive 80-minute chopper tour to Mount Fuji. Passengers are zipped aboard a Eurocopter Hermes Edition from the capital, above the shoreline of Sagami Bay and across Lake Ashinoko to view the fabled peak. More: mandarinoriental.com/tokyo. TOKYO SKYTREE: At 634m, the white, earthquake-proof structure is the capital’s newest centrepiece and boasts being the tallest freestanding tower in the world. A digital 19th-century mural at the entrance references the capital’s history, while two viewing decks, at 350m and 450m, allow 360-degree views of today’s modern city; tokyo-skytree.jp.
Kosuke Oho, creative director, WOW design studio:
This is a straightforward and definite spot to go. Get a splendid view of Tokyo.
MEIJI JINGU: Emperor Meiji, the great-grandfather of the present emperor, modernised Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This Shinto shrine was built in 1920 and dedicated to the divine spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort. Exit at Harajuku station. The gateway here leads to the naien (inner precinct), a serene area with a forest and shrine buildings that locals flock to on New Year’s Day to make their first prayer of the year. About 2km away, the gaien (outer precinct) in Aoyama promotes sports and culture; meijijingu.or.jp.
DYSK, commercial photographer:
It’s unbelievably peaceful here, particularly in the early morning when there are fewer people around. Feel the seasons here, smack in the middle of Tokyo.
KOKYO GAIEN: This striking setting inhabits the former site of Edo Castle, which was reconstructed as the Imperial Palace in 1888, only to be destroyed in World War II. The palace was rebuilt to the exact measurements of the initial structure and continues to house Japan’s imperial family. A short walk from Tokyo station, Kokyo Gaien, the Imperial Palace Plaza, is surrounded by moats and colossal stonewalls and occupies 3.41sq km. The compound’s inner grounds are rarely open to the public but visit on January 2 (New Year’s Greetings), December 23 (Emperor’s Birthday) or during cherry blossom season. Otherwise, reserve a guided tour; jnto.org.au.
Shun Kawakami, art director and artist, artless inc.:
Experience Japanese sense of beauty here. The quiet evenings at Imperial Palace are my favourite moments in Tokyo. THE NATIONAL ART CENTRE, TOKYO: NACT, the Suntory Museum of Art in Midtown and the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills collectively form a cultural hub known as Art Triangle Roppongi. When celebrity architect Kisho Kurokawa (1935-2007) planned the centre, he envisioned an oasis of comfort amid the intense urban district. Contorted glass curtains and huge inverted cones are among ornaments designed to create confusion, inviting visitors to ponder architecture as they might art; nact.jp.
Kashiwa Sato, art director:
At its shop, Souvenir From Tokyo, you will find, as its name suggests, a perfect souvenir. Goods include original stationery, tableware and clothing.
GINZA KABUKIZA: Embracing the architectural style of its predecessors, Kabukiza Theatre’s fifth manifestation by Kengo Kuma has remained a hallmark for kabuki dance-drama since opening in 1889. Elegant features of the last Momoyama- style design built in 1951 by Yoshida Isoya (1894-1974) are skilfully preserved, with improved accessibility. Also designed by Kuma on the site is a distinctive 29-storey office building at odds with the overall design. A full kabuki program, comprising three to four-act dance-dramas from different plays, spans hours, while last-minute tickets for single acts sell at the ground-floor ticket counter; kabuki-za.co.jp.
NIGO, fashion designer, producer and DJ:
The new theatre was unveiled in spring 2013. Enjoy a kabuki performance with English earphone guide, as well as its architecture.
MYOJIN NO YU: The healing properties of this traditional Japanese-style sento (public bath) are known to avail muscle aches, pains and sore joints while providing relaxation. With its 16th-century architecture, the majestic structure resembles a temple, and the site has been used frequently in movies and commercials. Vibrant hand-painted walls surrounding the herbal baths depict Japanese landscapes. (In northern Tokyo.)
Lucas Badtke-Berkow, founder, Knee High Media:
Bring a towel, soap and shampoo. Go there in the daytime as beautiful light comes through the windows. The artwork on the walls is amazing.
NEZU MUSEUM: Founded in 1914 and renovated by architect Kengo Kuma in 2009, the new Nezu Museum is a graceful integration of tradition and urban design. Dark pitched roofs and glass walls set off railroad baron Kaichiro Nezu’s 7400 Japanese antiquities against a splendid garden. Stroll around it, especially in mid-May when the abundance of blooming irises appears to dye the pond purple, then unwind at peaceful modern tearoom NEZUCAFE; nezu-muse.or.jp.
Keizo Kuroda, hair and makeup artist:
This is the place to feel the spirit of Japan from both the collections and appearance.
SAIKO SAIBANSHO: Being the first western-style Supreme Court in the country, the impressive landmark was envisioned by Shinichi Okada in 1974, winner of an open competition. Running parallel to its neighbouring National Theatre and National Diet Library, the Brutalist concrete structure is said to be partially inspired by the US Supreme Court; courts.go.jp.
Takeshi Hamada, graphic designer:
This building has no curves and makes a great graphic impact. You won’t want to go there for official business, just to admire its look.
This is an extract from the guide book CITIx60 Tokyo: 60 local creatives bring you the best of the city (Viction:ary, $16.95; distributed by Books at Manic; manic.com.au).
Tokyo Skytree, left; autumn leaves at Meiji Jingu, above; National Art Centre, below left; and Kabukiza Theatre, below right