The Lan­guage of Op­po­sites

Our cover story takes Rissa Mananquil-Trillo to Ja­pan's cos­mopoli­tan cap­i­tal

Philippine Tatler Traveller - - Contents - WORDS Marielle An­to­nio pho­tos sara black Styling and pro­duc­tion Mia Bor­romeo

To travel through Tokyo for the first time is to learn the lan­guage of op­po­sites: old and new, east and west, oth­er­world­li­ness and ba­nal­ity. Ev­ery ac­count of it is hon­est. Tokyo is as truth­fully de­picted in haiku and ukiyo-e as it is in the fic­tion of mod­ern writ­ers such as Haruki Mu­rakami, whose nov­els col­lec­tively re­fer to a city that walks the fine line be­tween dreams and re­al­ity.

Un­der­stand­ing Tokyo is less about trans­la­tion and more about sensation. It will take any­body, even a Toky­oite, a life­time to ex­pe­ri­ence all that it has to of­fer. But, at the very least, first- time trav­ellers can count on the city’s trains to run like clock­work, as if at­tempt­ing to help them nav­i­gate a com­plex nar­ra­tive that con­stantly skips back and forth be­tween cen­turies.

Those look­ing to ease into the blur would do well to be­gin in the heart of Tokyo, in no less than Ja­pan’s Im­pe­rial Palace. Its parks and gar­dens are spec­tac­u­lar in any sea­son but most fre­quently vis­ited in the spring, when lo­cals and tourists flock to the palace moat to pic­nic un­der a gen­tle rain of cherry blos­soms in a tra­di­tion known as hanami. Philip­pine Tatler Trav­eller cover lady Rissa Manan­quilTrillo de­scribes the palace grounds as trans­port­ing, “a beau­ti­ful gar­den in the mid­dle of the city.” An­other lively hanami lo­ca­tion north of the area is Ueno Park, whose cen­tral path­way is flanked by 1,000 cherry trees, and whose grounds are home to both the Tokyo Na­tional Mu­seum and the Tokyo Metropoli­tan Art Mu­seum.

Nearby Asakusa, the city’s pre­war plea­sure dis­trict, begs to be ex­plored. The best time to go is in the late af­ter­noon, when the crowds around the Kam­i­na­ri­mon (Thun­der Gate), the sym­bol of Tokyo and the en­trance to the city’s old­est tem­ple, Sen­soji, are just be­gin­ning to re­lax. Freshly baked tra­di­tional pas­tries and sweet, hot sake await in the stretch of sou­venir shops, cafés and street food stalls that lie be­yond the trade­mark red lantern in Nakamise. “Walk­ing around here feels like a step back in time,” says Rissa. “Ev­ery­thing is quaint and charm­ing, and the treats are al­ways so art­fully wrapped.” When evening falls, Asakusa warms and coaxes with al­co­hol and meats in top-notch iza­kaya set within cen­turies- old struc­tures.

On the other side of Ueno, 15 min­utes on foot from the Tokyo Na­tional Mu­seum, pri­mor­dial Tokyo sur­vives in the old-world neigh­bour­hood of Yanaka. Spared from the de­struc­tion caused by

the Great Kanto Earth­quake and the air raids of the Se­cond World War, Yanaka pre­serves many points of cul­ture from both the Edo pe­riod and Ja­pan’s post- war re­vival. Its nos­tal­gic shi­ta­machi (down­town) at­mos­phere brings in many ar­ti­sans who seem to share the com­mon mis­sion of pro­mot­ing a slowed­down life­style and a more care­ful way of prac­tic­ing their craft. The down­town mar­ket area yields cheap thrills like 10- yen manju ( filled buns), and also show­cases newer cafes and bou­tiques owned and run by young en­trepreneurs sell­ing ev­ery­thing from bi­cy­cles to katsu. While Yanaka is a res­i­den­tial area that re­mains largely un­known to for­eign­ers, its ceme­tery, which houses the re­mains of the last shogun of the Ed o pe­riod, is a land­mark and a steady draw for lo­cal tourists and pho­tog­ra­phers.

Over in Shibuya, in west­ern Tokyo, the pace of life quick­ens sig­nif­i­cantly. This is best ob­served in the world-renown Shibuya in­ter­sec­tion, which sees crowds of up to 1,000 pedes­tri­ans cross­ing at peak hours. Hara­juku, Ja­pan’s mecca for all things kawaii, is part of this dis­trict. I t’s main shop­ping av­enue, Takeshita- dori, is eter­nally crowded with young peo­ple who are ob­sessed with try­ing out both the day’s trends and Hara­juku’s fa­mous crepes. Rissa calls it “a must- g o for a glimpse of Ja­panese youth cul­ture, where you will find fash­ion­con­scious teens dressed up in var­i­ous forms of cos­play, in­clud­ing gothic lolita out­fits.”

Shibuya’s oa­sis of calm is the M eiji Shrine, where lo­cals from all over the coun­try pre­fer to pu­rify them­selves, of­fer prayers and have their or­a­cles read as they ring in the N ew Year. On any given day, it is pos­sibl e to wit­ness a Shinto wed­ding tak­ing place in the shrine, which is surr ounded by a man- made for­est of over 100,000 trees do­nated by shrine- go­ers.

Close by, the more re­fined art town of Omote­sando also of­fers re­spite. Both a show­case and a haunt of not onl y Tokyo’s but also the world’s most so­phis­ti­cated, its cen­tral av­enue is fre­quented by those with an eye for ar­chi­tec­ture and a nose f or good, strong cof­fee.

The rau­cous Shin­juku, Tokyo’s en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal, is one tr ain ride away. Trav­ellers will find it worth­while to visit the Metropoli­tan Gov­ern­ment Of­fice, where the 45th floor ob­ser­va­tion deck that gives a full view of Tokyo is open to the pub­lic free of charge. The South Ob­ser­va­tion Deck, which glimpses the en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict of Odaiba, is open un­til

the late af­ter­noon; but the North Ob­ser­va­tion Deck is open un­til 10: 30 PM and serv es drinks to go with the evening view.

Even be­fore the sun sets, Shin­juk u trans­forms into a neon lab yrinth. Ev­ery­thing moves in hy­per­speed: the slam­ming of car d oors, non- stop swip­ing of credit cards, and ping­ing sounds of a thou­sand pachinko ma­chines. But be­neath this alien— and some­times alien­at­ing— land­scape, Rissa urges push­ing for­ward to find the dis­trict ’s hid­den culi­nary gems like the sky- high Seryna, a shabushabu restau­rant lo­cated on the 52nd fl oor of the Shin­juku Su­mit­omo build­ing. “Seryna serves the best tep­pa­nyaki I have ever had,” she re­calls. “My mouth still waters ev­ery time I think about it. ”

A mem­o­rable meal at par with that ex­pe­ri­ence took place at Peter, the sig­na­ture grill restau­rant at The Penin­sula Tokyo, where Rissa and the Philip­pine Tatler Trav­eller team stayed. Rissa gushes about the A5* Hida- gyu, “I t’s famed to be the best beef in Ja­pan. The melt- in- your- mouth ex­pe­ri­ence was di­vine.”

Her stay was made even more un­for­get­table by The Penin­sula Tokyo’s lo­ca­tion. “It was fan­tas­tic— I got to wake up with a vie w of the river and the Im­pe­rial Palace ev­ery morn­ing,” Rissa says. A fre­quent vis­i­tor to the city, Rissa shares that the place is spe­cial t o her for a num­ber of r ea­sons, “I love Ja­pan be­cause it’s where Paolo pro­posed. Even The Penin­sula is spe­cial to me be­cause Paolo and I were mar­ried at The P enin­sula Manila.” The skin­car­ing make- up brand she launched called “Happy Skin” is made here in Osaka, too.

Rissa’s list of must- sees in­clud es the ro­man­tic Tokyo Tower, Ja­pan’s an­swer to the Eif­fel Tower and the her­ald of its post- war rebirth. From here, vis­i­tors can look across the Su­mida­gawa to the taller Tokyo Skytree, and see, on a cl ear day, the legendary Mount Fuji. Rissa’s must- go lux­ury des­ti­na­tions are Rop­pongi in south­ern Tokyo, which, on this trip, sur­prised with the spe­cial tr eat of an 80- piece Yayoi Kusama re­stro­spec­tive at the Na­tional Art Cen­tre; and the swanky 10- mil­lionyen-per- square- me­tre Ginza. “When shop­ping, I al­ways aim to find a piece of cl oth­ing or an ac­ces­sory unique to the place,” says Rissa. “When I open my closet I would like for it to tell a story about my in­ter­ests and trav­els.”

Though she makes it a point t o ex­pose her­self to things of qual­ity when tr avel­ling, Rissa stresses that there are other things t o take no­tice of in up­scale lo­ca­tions like Rop­pongi and Ginza. “Even if you don’t buy any­thing, you’ll be amused by the lux­ury build­ings, bou­tiques, and larg e de­part­ment stores— all boast­ing In­sta­gram-worthy ar­chi­tec­ture and in­spir­ing win­dow dis­plays.” She also tries t o get a sense of l ocal liv­ing by ob­serv­ing the trans­port sys­tem, road­ways, parks, green­ery and how every­body is dressed. “What I re­ally love dis­cov­er­ing is the soul of a coun­try ,” says Rissa. “There is no sub­sti­tut e to what trav­el­ling can do for the mind.”

Fi­nally, a com­plete first visit to Tokyo re­quires step­ping into the iconic Tsuk­iji Mar­ket. Early birds will want to catch the fish auc­tions at dawn in the in­ner mar ket be­fore sit­ting down to one of its famed sashimi br eak­fasts in the out er mar­ket shops. But b y all ac­counts, Tsuk­iji is an ac­ci­den­tal land­mark. More than any­thing, it is still the ter­ri­tory of farm­ers, fish­er­men and busi­ness own­ers, all hur­ry­ing past on scoot ers, mini­trucks, or their own two legs in a spec­tacl e that is sym­bolic of the in­dus­tri­ous­ness that has en­abl ed Tokyo to re­build it­self time and time ag ain.

There are cer­tainly many ways to ex­plore the city, whether by fol­low­ing tra­di­tional walk­ing tours, scenic train ex­cur­sions, lit­er­ary- themed routes, cof­fee crawls, or your own im­pul­sive, hel­ter- skel­ter mix of wher­ever your feet might lead you. While there are im­prac­ti­cal ways of nav­i­gat­ing Tokyo, there is no rig ht or wrong way to pass through. Each time, y ou be­come a littl e more flu­ent in its se­man­tics: chaos and or der, tra­di­tion and moder­nity, sur­vival and rein­ven­tion. And un­der fall­ing cherry bl os­soms in the spring or golden ginko leaves in the fall, y ou learn that Tokyo is not just a con­stantl y mov­ing city; it is a city that moves.

Un­der­stand­ing Tokyo is less about trans­la­tion and more about sensation

THIS PAGE: The Im­pe­rial Palace East Gar­dens against the mod­ern Tokyo cityscape; Rissa at the Ginza Cross­ing, wear­ing a look from Michael Kors Spring 2017

UR­BAN LAND­SCAPE Tokyo's sky­scrapers as seen from the Im­pe­rial Palace East Gar­dens; the great lanterns at the Kam­i­na­ri­mon in Sen­soji Tem­ple

OP­PO­SITE: At the Na­tional Art Cen­tre, Tokyo, where Yayoi Kusama:

My Eter­nal Soul was on show. Rissa wears a red Sierra asym­met­ri­cal flounce top by Va­nia Ro­moff, tas­sel ear­rings, stylist's own

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