Updated and expanded by Lucas Gray - summer 2008
It is suggested to get hold of the small pocket guidebook to Tokyo architecture, written by Noriyuki Tajima and published (I think) by Elipsis. There is a very useful map that goes with it, however the map is not included in the book although the map publisher is mentioned. The Wallpaper Tokyo Design Guide published by Phaidon is also a worthy investment. It was a nice little book that has good tips on places to see, shop and sleep – especially if you have a large budget. It is also useful to get something like the Rough Guide to Tokyo or Lonely Planet Tokyo for tips on places to eat and stay. A great option for accommodation is using couchsurfing.com – a way to stay for free with locals and get an insiders view of each place.
When you arrive, buy a copy of the English-language magazine 'Tokyo Journal', which lists festivals, events, parties, etc. It is most likely only available in districts where foreigners are. There were also a couple of free English language weekly magazines with events, concerts, gallery openings, etc. These can be found in many bars/cafes and probably at the information centers.
Before I went to Japan a friend, who’d spent years in Japan, advised me to take a compass. I thought that was ridiculous. I was wrong. On cloudy days with no idea where is north, and no English-speaking/reading native close by a compass is extremely useful. In fact, asking a native for directions from an English-language map can be fatal. They want, so much, to help you, but can’t make sense of the map, so they walk with you in the direction they think you need to go…way past the point at which you’ve realized it’s the wrong way.
I found that it took me a long time to realize that Tokyo and most of the larger cities are stacked vertically with cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, etc. often located on random floors in high-rise buildings. As you wander the streets keep your eyes moving up buildings to see signs revealing the plethora of business inside. This is a quite a change from most western cities were the usually only the ground and second floor are reserved for public functions with the higher floors usually being private businesses.
A Note About Arrival
You can travel to the city by bus or train. The bus is called the 'Limousine Bus'. There are two trains - (a) the Narita Express, which is run by JR Japan Railways, and which goes to Tokyo Station, and from then onwards, through Shibuya Station to Shinjuku station, or to Yokohama; and (b) the Skyliner, which goes to Ueno Station. The Skyliner is marginally cheaper than the Narita Express. The Limousine bus is very slightly cheaper again, and goes to a number of hotels. It is very easy as long as you don't have to wait too long for your bus to depart the airport. However, It can get delayed badly by traffic in the daytime. You buy your ticket from the Limousine bus desk, roll your baggage to the particular number bust stop, get on and sleep until town. Overall the best bet is to take one of the trains.
In the arrivals hall, after you leave the baggage hall, you will see desks where you can get tickets to all these services. Usually these desks are side-by-side, so you can compare the departure times and decide which to use. You can buy tickets for both trains either in the arrivals hall, or downstairs in the station. You can take the baggage trolleys on the escalators.
One tip: if possible, avoid getting the Narita Express to Shibuya station, unless you have been advised to do that by someone. The location of the Narita Express Shibuya Station is very distant from the regular Shibuya Station - a real pain when you're hauling a bag. If you need to transfer to a regular JR line, or to the private Metro subway system, or to get a taxi, I suggest changing at a different station, such as Shinjuku.
Remember that the taxi driver opens and closes doors by remote control – don’t open or close them by hand as this can foul up the mechanism.
I highly recommend a place called Andon Ryoken. It is near Minowa, two stops north of Ueno Park, on the Hibya line. It’s in a quiet neighborhood about a five to ten minute walk from the station. Also I found that the Hibya line connects almost all of the sites you want to see. It was definitely the subway line we used the most. Andon Ryoken was featured in a 2005 Japan Architecture Guide. It is a small boutique hotel, very elegantly designed and very affordable - about 80 dollars a night. As with all Ryoken, it had Japanese style rooms with tatami mats and futon mattresses and shared bathrooms. They had very a nice Japanese bath on the top floor. They also had free Internet and a good cheap breakfast. They have an easy to use website and usually fill up quickly so reserve well in advance. www.andon.co.jp
Visit the Museum of Western Art by Le Corbusier, a simple and elegant building. The new basement galleries, however, are not by him and he must be spinning in his grave. Opposite Corbusier’s building is the Metropolitan Theatre, designed by Kunio Miyakawa, who worked for Le Corbusier. The Miyakawa looks like a Chandigargh design. Many people mistakenly think this is the Le Corbusier building. The Corbusier building looks dull on the outside, but is fascinating internally. Usually it is horrifically crowded, so avoid weekends. The new museum by Yoshi Taniguchi (who subsequently re-designed MOMA in New York), on the north side of the park - The Museum of Horiuji Treasures - is a ‘must see’, mainly for the fantastically arranged exhibition. The building, which is a very elegant design, shows the plusses and minuses of current Japanese architecture. It is sometimes very careful, yet sometimes bafflingly careless. Nearby is the National Children’s Library, which is Tadao Ando’s conversion of an old building, and worth a look. The garden design is simple, but surprisingly effective.
There is a new building that connects the elevated park to the street below. It is a shopping center with Bamboo in the title. I’m not sure who designed it but it was a nice building. It utilized an interesting juxtaposition of wood and concrete. The wood has aged to become a similar gray as the concrete while the concrete was made with wood board formwork, at points it was difficult to tell them apart.
I found the park itself to be a nice break from the hectic city. The large trees provided much needed cool shade and there were nice benches to sit and relax and a local amateur baseball game going on. I would recommend this as an itinerary for your third or fourth day in Tokyo when you are a bit tired from walking miles upon miles.
After visiting the park, you could walk through the nearby Nezu district, which is old, towards Nezu station. Together, this should take you most of a day, if you walk slowly and relax in the park.
The Shibuya and Harajuku District
Start by visiting the Meiji Shrine (next to JR Harajuku Station). It’s not very old - built in the 1920’s, but its setting and the approach are superb. Then go to Kenzo Tange's nearby Olympic stadium. This can become a full day trip - spending the afternoon in Yoyogi park watching the groups of young people play games, practice dancing, play guitars, paint, do tug-of-war, and all sorts of other interesting things. It’s best experienced on a weekend.
Return to this area another day and down up Omote-Sando street heading away from the park. Head into the Oriental Bazaar building to buy souvenirs, foreigner-sized yukata’s and kimonos, and old – and very beautiful – bits of kimono cloth, especially from the section on floor 2, and wood-block prints from the stall next to the kimono stall. The Oriental Bazaar is not a rip-off as everything is at a reasonable price.
Continue up Omote Sando street and look at the new Dior building by Kazuyo Sejima from Sanaa. Go back down the hill about 20 meters and turn left into a small pedestrian street - informally called ‘Cat Street.’ On the right hand side of the street you will see shop called Kiddyland (originally it was the hhStyle furniture showroom) by Sanna, and a strange folded-steel annex building by Tadao Ando next door - now it sells artistically designed underpants. Yes....underpants. Both the Sejima and the Ando building are temporary structures, which anticipate the continuing massive increase in land value of the Cat Street area, and their eventual demolition for replacement by a bigger structure. When you are standing in the Sejima building, remind yourself that this is a 3-storey building built in the most seismically-active country in the world, and note the glass walls of both long walls and the tiny-diameter steel columns. The engineering is by Sasaki, who was also engineer for Toyo Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque. The Kiddyland building is a very clever structure, depending on a big concrete structure hidden behind a house on its Omote-Sando side. Being very lightweight so that earthquakes don’t have a lot of mass to shake around, consequently the structure doesn’t have to resist much earthquake thrust. Also notable are the ‘fire-escapes’ from the top floor, which are a kind of belt that lowers you to ground level.
Continue exploring this street for a while. There are lots of interesting designs – especially interior design – for the shops lining the alleys off Omote Sando. We took two full days exploring this district of Tokyo. Part of this is because I was working on a retail design project at the time but it is still worthwhile. There is a large green glass “Iceberg Building” a block west of this alley on a busy street. It is an Audi dealership and definitely an interesting design, with crazy angular glass planes, although the interior wasn’t spectacular and the building must be an air conditioning nightmare – the antithesis of sustainable design.
Return to Omote Sando and turn right and go up the hill to the new Louis Vuiton shop by Jun Aoki, and near the top of the hill you’ll find Toyo Ito’s new Tod’s shoe shop, which is a concrete box with the pattern of trees cut into it. He recently completed a new version on this theme, in Ginza, for the Mikimoto pearls company. I find the Ginza version far less interesting, however, and the gloss paint on the surface reveals it to be not as well built as one would expect.
The Tod’s and Dior stores were personal highlights, although the interior of Dior is a bit of a disappointment. They blocked almost all views of the façade and out onto the street with their typical gaudy baroque displays. The Tod’s interior was much more integrated into the architecture of the building.
An Interval to Talk About Food:
There’s a very, very, good ramen noodle shop, about 50 metres down the hill from Kiddyland (on same side as Kiddyland). Turn down the side-street called Onden Shopping Streer, just after the ‘Peltier’ shop, and the ramen shop is about 30 meters down this street on the left hand side. It’s not a very ‘traditional’ place, as it’s a bit styled-up, but the ramen is really very good. Just pick any one.
The next recommendation is one of my favorite places in the world. It will surely be demolished some day soon – maybe even before you read this! The route is a bit complicated, so bear with me. Walk about 50 meters down the hill from Kiddyland. Stand with your back to the ‘Peltier’ shop. If you look across Omote Sando main-street you will see a small side-street directly opposite you. That is the street you want to go to. Cross Omote Sando by the footbridge, or some other safe way, and walk into that street. Keep going until the street ends at a small cross street. You then walk a few steps left and turn right, almost immediately, into another small street. Walk along that street until you get to a weird, multi-colored building covered in scaffolding. That is a collection of ‘rental galleries’ where kids of questionable artistic talent display their works. There’s no need, and no pressure, to buy anything. Just nod appreciatively. The place to eat is behind the gallery building. You can get to it by walking around the ends of the gallery building, or through some of the bottom-floor galleries. It’s a small, traditional-ish building where you can only buy ‘Okono-miyake’. It’s a kind of Japanese-pizza, that you cook on a hot plate built into your table. You can get meat style or squid style, etc. It’s good – not great but definitely interesting – in taste, but the place and other clientele are great. You can also get to this place by walking along the street that runs parallel to the one that took you to the galleries building. But, it’s more fun to enter through the galleries route. You can return to civilization by walking from the restaurant to the parallel street.
Now…Back to Architecture:
On the left (north) side of Omote-Sando, while you have been walking up, you will have noticed a shopping building of extraordinary length. It replaced historic government-owned low-income housing that stood on this site until about 2002. The design of the old housing is said to have been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright…and the rumor was elaborated by reference to FLW’s many visits to Japan. The claim is doubtful, I think. Anyway, the old housing was much admired for its romantic squalor. It did not meet any earthquake regulations, or modern functional requirements, but its replacement was a ‘hot potato’ project, which not all would have had the guts to take on. Tadao Ando had the guts.
The vast building is elegant, but not a show-stopper on the outside, and my hunch is that that is the way Ando wished it to be. Omote-Sando is already a zoo of architectural exhibitionism, and something restrained is necessary as a ‘visual anchor’, or to enable your eyes to draw breath. This is a very important street – one of the most important in Tokyo - and Ando’s project gives it some of the ‘gravitas’ such a street needs. The ‘spiral street’ inside Ando’s building is incredibly successful. It’s a bit like a long, thin New York Guggenheim building, but with the ramp lined by commercial businesses (and – anyway – isn’t the NY Guggenheim a commercial business?). The Ando spiral street really works. It’s worth a look, just to see how it re-invents the commercial building-type. It also is a good example of the exquisite use of concrete that Ando’s reputation is built on.
At the top of Omote-Sando, on the left hand side, is a building by Kengo Kuma which is also restrained, and which interestingly exploits the fact that on its eastern side is the territory of a small shrine and a police-box, and consequently the Kuma building will never be enclosed on that side - or not for very many years. Kuma exploits this by some gymnastics facing towards Route 246. From here, go to the top of Omote Sando, cross the road, turn right, and visit Fumihiko Maki's Spiral on Aoyama street (Aoyama-dori). Go up the spiral at the back of the building to see the good selection of ‘designer-toys’ in the market on floor 2. Exit the market at the front of the building, opposite end from the ramp, and find one of the finest internal public spaces in Tokyo – a series of bench seats on stepped landings, overlooking the street outside, usually occupied by sleeping shoppers.
Turn right as you exit the Spiral building and go back to Omote-sando crossing, and turn right - walk up this street, which has all the major designer fashion shops. Check out Comme de Garcons - exterior by Future Systems, interior by Rei Kawakubo, which is very brilliant, I think. However, she changes the interior every few years, so it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll see. But, it’s certain to be brilliant. She has repeatedly destroyed brilliant interiors, only to replace them with brilliant interiors). Go into the various Issey Miyake shops, and the Yohji Yamamoto shop, which he apparently designed himself..
As you walk along you’ll find Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada store. I feel it is the most successful integration of interior and exterior design of all the shops in this area. Go into the change rooms and check out the button on the floor that runs an electric current through the glass and turns the transparent wall into an opaque surface to create privacy. I even found the landscape design around the store to be great. Also, the entrance/exit from the basement of the building through an underground stair to the “secret cave” entrance is playful and fun.
It is also worth exploring the alleys around this part of Omote Sando. Go behind the Prada store and you get to a nice little complex of well-designed shops. The “A Bathing Ape” shop in particular is worth visiting for the sushi-style conveyor belt of shoes and a glimpse of Tokyo youth fashion style – the whole store is an example of great retail design. The Kate Spade NY store across the street fro “A Bathing Ape” was still under renovation when I was there but the metal mesh wrap over a more traditional house was interesting – and it should only get better as more vines creep up the mesh. Continue up Omote Sando from the Prada shop and stop in at Tadao Ando's 'Collezione' (not his best work).
The way to end the Omotesando tour, after seeing Ando's Collezione, is to go to the nearby Nezu Museum. This is a massive re-working, by Kengo Kuma, of an old building. The re-worked buildings are excellent, and the old, traditioal garden is superb, but....the small cafe, standing in the garden, is brilliant. One of the most lovely buildings I've seen. One of Kuma's finest works. After the blizzard of form-making excess that is Omote-sando, this simple building gets its effect from its materials, it's simple form and its superb detailing (although I say that nervously, knowing that contemporary Japanese architecture is rarely detailed to endure. My fingers are crossed, though, that this work will retain its pristine beauty). And, the food and coffee is nice, and not too expensive.
Return to the Omote-sando crossing, and turn right, along Aoyama street, and turn left at the Bell-Commons corner – perhaps a 5 minute walk up Aoyama. Bell-Commons was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, but is not worth more than a glance. The street that you turn into at Bell-Commons - like most streets in Tokyo - has no name. But, it has a nickname, which is ‘Killer Street’ - referring to the prices in the shops that lined the street when it was first built as a route to the stadiums used for the Tokyo Olympics in 1963. It’s gone a bit downhill since then. Go along Killer Street and look at Mario Botta's Watarium museum and the FANTASTIC tiny rough-concrete Asusa House opposite. There is also an interestingly designed colored concrete school across from the Watarium Museum and if you can talk your way inside – or visit on a Sunday – there is a fantastic concrete church hidden behind.
Cut North through the backstreets - walk away from the face of the Watarium building - and try to find your way to Fumihiko Maki's Tepia museum, which has amazing detailing, and sometimes an interesting computer exhibition. If you stand with your back to Tepia, cross the road and walk left until the last (small) street on the right before the big Route 246. Turn down that small street and keep looking down the small streets that lead off it on the right-hand side. Soon you will see Sejima’s ‘Small House’ down one side street. If you go further along the small street (not the side street) you will find a Temple-approach gateway on the right. Go in and walk to the right side of the Temple. From there you will get a good view of the private side of Sejima’s ‘Small House’. There are some problems, I think - such as a fully glazed exterior facing the afternoon sun, and little insulation for hot or cold, and the problems of hanging curtains, which tend to fall vertically when the glass walls lean in and out, and the curtains are the only apparent means of privacy and insulation. Return to Tepia, and head west, downhill to Maki's Sendagaya gymnasium, which is close to Sendagaya station. This takes most of a day, and gives sore feet. It is probably worth breaking up into at least two trips.
Go to Ginza Station (on Ginza Line, Maronouchi Line or Hibiya Line), come out of the station at the Ginza-crossing, and look for the second Dior Building, by Kumiko Inoue - she did the perforated metal exterior wall, not the interior. If you walk past Dior, about 75 meters down, you’ll find the Hermes building by Renzo Piano with an amazing Glass Block Facade. Cross the main road and walk down any street at right-angles to it. Go down 2 blocks, and look left or right and you should see Toyo Ito’s Mikimoto pearls Building.
At this point you’ll start to wonder about the legacy of ‘Modern Architecture’. Le Corbusier built for the Salvation Army and did low-income housing; the Smithsons did schools and housing, Mies and Kahn did universities. Tange did the Hiroshima memorial, etc, but today’s ‘keynote’ architecture is for Dior, Louis Vuiton, Hermes, up-market furniture shops and Mikimoto Pearls. On Sundays, the main street in Ginza is pedestrianised (or was at last time of hearing), which is quite charming.
East Part of the City
The Tsukiji fish market is an amazing sight. Hang around for a while and eat ridiculously fresh sushi for breakfast. I got there around 6 and felt it was already a little too late. The earlier you can make it the better. I recall hearing there is a fish auction at 5:30 when all the top restaurants in town bid for the best cuts of meat. Aim to make it by 5 if you can bear to wake up that early or you are still up from a long night of clubbing.
Have a look at Kurokawa's famous Capsule Tower, nearby. Right across the street from it is a new high-rise office building designed by Jean Nouvel - a very elegant curvy building overlooking the park.
At 10am go into nearby Hama Rikyu park – there is a fee to enter but worth it in my opinion. I went into the Tea House in the park and had a lovely relaxing time sitting on the balcony overlooking a tranquil lake sipping green tea and tasting a jasmine cake. Definitely worth a stop if it is hot or you need a rest after the early morning market. From inside the park you can catch the riverboat, to Asakusa. Visit the amazing Asakusa Kannon shrine, then go back to river and cross a bridge to visit Phillipe Starck's 'Flame d'Or' bar/restaurant with the gold ’flame’ coming out of the roof. This will take you till early afternoon.
Roppongi Metro Station
Come out of the metro and walk north and check out Tokyo Midtown complex and includes the Suntory Museum by Kengo Kuma. Also check out the 2121 design site right behind it, designed by Tadao Ando and fashion designer Issey Miyaki. Keep walking up the main street and look for a gas station on the left hand side. Turn down the side street and after a 5 minute walk you will find a beautiful museum which is the last major work by Kisho Kurokawa. It's notable feature is a curvy glass façade with thousands of glass louvers – it was closed when we were there so we didn’t get to go in. On the way you will also see an interesting vertical garden façade on one of the shops.
Go back to the main road and walk north until you get to the Toto building. On the third floor is the Gallery Ma architecture gallery with ever changing exhibits. There was a Glenn Murcutt exhibit when I visited. On the second floor is the Toto architecture bookstore with a great selection.
East of Centre
Have a look at Tokyo International Forum, which is next to Yurakucho station, and then visit the O-Daiba 'new city' - you get there by ‘Yurikamome’ monorail from Shinbashi station. We went to the islands at dusk to get dinner and watch the summer fireworks festival. We also let the first train load up and leave so we could be first in line for the next train and get the seats in the very front of the first car. This gives you a spectacular view out the front window as you fly along the tracks.
O-daiba ‘island’ is an artificial island formed of piled up garbage. It’s the first of the artificial islands that were planned for Tokyo Bay by the late Kenzo Tange, but since the population of Tokyo is no longer increasing at the rate it was, the islands may no longer be needed. O-daiba is a very enjoyable ‘trashy, commercial kitsch’ place to go – every visitor enjoys it, even extremely distinguished architectural academics. Go to the end of the Yurikamome line, have a brief look at ‘Tokyo Big Site’, which is a huge exhibition centre that incinerated – and continues to incinerate – huge amounts of Tokyo tax-payer’s money (interestingly, it’s located close to one of Tokyo’s main garbage incineration plants – a not-badly designed building with a huge concrete object, which is its chimney.
Walk back under the Yurikamome to see the Toyota car museum (actually extremely interesting) and ‘Venus Fort’ – a huge shopping centre designed for women (and therefore attracting lots of male predators), which looks like nothing from the outside, but is Milan inside, complete with interior lighting programmed to simulate changes in exterior daylight - totally ludicrous, but beautifully done, and very enjoyable. Then back to ‘Decks’ shopping centre – which is just a shopping centre, but immense fun. From its decks you can watch the beautiful people on the artificial beach, below, all sensibly staying out of the polluted water. Next to ‘Decks’ is a large-scale model of the Statue of Liberty, given to Japan by the French government during ‘The Year of France in Japan’, some years ago. It faces inland, so photographs of groups can be taken next to it, rather than out to sea, as does the original.
A day in Kamakura is very good - get there by ordinary train from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station (you can use a JR rail-pass for this journey, and all journeys above ground in Tokyo). See the very, very, very, brilliant Kamakura Modern Art Museum (one of my favorite buildings in the world) designed by Junzo Sakakura, who worked for Le Corbusier in Paris, and the big temple (Kamakura is full of temples). Get the bus from the main street in front of the temple to Kita-Kamakura station and visit the temple there, which is an immersion in Japan at its most idiosyncratic. Then catch the train from there back to Yokohama, and have a look round - maybe spend evening in Yokohama's Chinatown, which is close to the International Ferry Terminal by Foreign Office Architects, which does not serve up quite the spatial experience that I hoped for.
West of the City center
Go to the Shindaita station on the Keio commuter train line and walk a few blocks north and then a few blocks west to visit Hanegi Forrest. This building, designed by Shigeru Ban, is an apartment complex where the building “makes way for the trees.” The building is lifted up on stilts and large holes are cut through it in order to let the existing trees continue to dominate the site. The annex building is rather odd and space-like and hasn’t aged very well. Rumor has it Shigeru Ban actually lives here.
Across the street is another Apartment complex that has a very nice elegant design. Not sure who the architect is but there is a nice use of concrete with vines growing up the sides and wood log walls. If you continue walking south and west from here to the next subway station on the same line (Higashimatsubara) you can visit Shigeru Ban’s office. Be careful because the whole area had lots of mosquitoes when we visited in early August.
In Tokyo there are two main architecture galleries, both with nice bookshops: The GA Gallery in the Harajuku district, and Gallery Ma in the Nogizaka district. Both do not always have exhibitions so check before going.
Ga Gallery website
(03) 3404 1461
Gallery Ma website
Click 'english' and then 'information', to see the map.
(03) 3402 1010
We went to Tokyo Giants Baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. It was a great evening activity that let us get off our feet for a few hours. Also the Japanese fans have a unique and rather charming way of participating in the sporting event with non stop singing, drumming and dancing. The beer girls are reason unto themselves to visit. Hundreds of little Japanese girls run up and down the bleachers for three hours with kegs strapped to their back pedaling Suntory, Asahi, and other cold Japanese beers. The building itself is nothing very exciting – basically a huge concrete structure with an aging dirty roof. But the area right around the stadium is an amusement park complete with rollercoaster twisting, turning, and flying right through the mall across the street.
There isn't as much good architecture in Tokyo as you'd expect. The 'big guys' have built very little here - Isozaki has built only one or two, Ando only a couple of big ones. Maki, however, has many good buildings in Tokyo. The best works in Japan are usually outside Tokyo. The Tokyo International Forum (by Raphael Vignoli) is very impressive until you try to walk to a theatre door - then you find pinched, cramped, mean and frankly dangerous circulation spaces. But, the Forum is fun - so is Le Corbusier's museum at Ueno, and so is Kamakura. For enjoyable trash, see Odaiba - especially 'Venus Fort' - a huge department store for women masquerading as a bit of Milan. And (don't sneer) - Tokyo Disneyland - just at the edge of Tokyo - is really fantastic. It's a big surprise, especially to arrogant European architects (such as myself) who despise kitsch, but end up having a great time no matter how hard they try to despise it. Tokyo Disney Sea (next to Tokyo Disneyland) is a brilliant piece of design. I mean, brilliant! Zillions of people would go, whatever it was like. Disney didn’t have to make it this well designed or this well built. They must have done it like this because of pride, which – these days – is a virtue, not a deadly sin.
Place To Drink
No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the legendary ‘La Jetee’ bar in Shinjuku. It is run by a wonderful lady named Tomoyo, who speaks several languages – all with a French accent. Architect’s patronize it a lot - I was taken there by Itsuko Hasegawa, and she and Toyo Ito and all the others occasionally drop in. It’s tiny. When you go there you’ll wonder why I have sent you there. Then, you’ll have a drink (ideally sitting at the ‘banquette’ seating around the tiny table), and slowly you’ll see why it’s the most perfect bar in the world. It fits like a glove. Tomoyo (or her stand-in) will serve you some bits of food. It opens at 9.00pm. If you enjoy yourself too much and stay until the early hours it can be a bit expensive. But, if you leave before you get too ecstatic it’s not too bad. And, it’s worth it for the experience. Tomoyo knows that many of her customers are artists/architects/odds-and-ends who don’t have much money, so don’t be afraid to tell her that you can only spend 5000 yen, or so, and what can you have? (but make it clear that that’s for all of you, not each). I suspect that you can have a nice time there for 2000 – 3000 yen each. It’s almost impossible to find – see the web-articles below.
Basically, walk along Yasukunni Dori (Street), away from Shinjuku, and turn left down a little alley through a small park at Mr Donut, …or maybe it’s Dunkin’ Donut. Anyway, it’s a big donut shop, then phone her and she’ll send someone. Or after the donut shop turn left and walk down the lane running diagonal to the main street. You run into a square district of small lanes. First go left. I seem to remember it being on the third row down on the right but you can ask people and they will get you there if you don’t have a phone. She doesn’t open on Sundays or on days of typhoon downpour.
Tokyo is an amazing city. You will never be at a loss for things to do and see. Just wandering the streets and lanes can occupy days while sampling the local cuisine deserves a whole article unto itself. This is just a guide to get you started exploring some of the amazing buildings in the area. Leave comments below if you have other suggestions or found any mistakes.