Answers from Our Experts (2)
The Asakusa district is on every sensible itinerary. It’s home to one of the city’s best shrines, Sensoji, and streets full of restaurants and shops that don’t seem to have noticed the last 50 years pass by. The nearby Kappabashi street is where you go to buy kitchenware and plastic food samples.
Ginza is the land of luxury. There’s no address more prestigious, and that’s why you’ll find many of the greatest (read: priciest and/or best) shops, restaurants and bars in Ginza. It’s where you can spend ¥120,000 on a pair of chopsticks, or ten times as much on something sparkly in the shape of Hello Kitty. It’s where restaurants charge ¥30,000 for sushi, and at least one bar has a flag from the Crusades as its decor. The unusually wide sidewalks mean you’ll never trip over people, and on weekends authorities close off the main thoroughfare and lend the area a European vibe.
Only Aoyama rivals Ginza for fine dining and luxury shopping. The Omotesando boulevard has been colonized by the European luxury labels (and remains mercifully free of most fast food behemoths). But spin off either side of the street and you’ll find far more interesting shops, cafes and restaurants in Harajuku’s backstreets. This is one of the hubs of youth culture, and a great place for people watching.
You’ll love or hate Shibuya. It’s gaudy, brash and ugly... or fun, unpretentious and colourful, depending on your taste. You’ll find one the capital’s top photo ops - the scramble crossing, and well as most of the city’s top nightclubs and budget restaurants galore. The area also has upmarket aspirations. The new 34-floor Hikarie commercial complex has the kind of fashion stores that deserve to be called boutiques, as well as a theater and, more unusually, members-only powder rooms.
Roppongi long ago shed its image as a grubby home of strip clubs and pick-up joints. It’s now ten years since the opening of Roppongi Hills. The megacomplex is a mini city, with superb shopping, drinking, dining, a cinema, an art museum, a TV studio, and for those that don’t want to leave, a Hyatt hotel and towers of luxury apartments. Nearby, the expat party playground still exists, but it no longer defines the area.
There’s plenty out there about Shibuya and Roppongi — let’s take a look at a couple of the slightly smaller neighborhoods. Kichijoji is on the Chuo line, west from Shinjuku, and has a funky, fun vibe. Walk down a laid-back street full of second-hand shops in Kichijoji to get to the beautiful Inokashira Park, with lots of space to relax and a lake with pedal boats. Fans of Japanese anime will love the Ghibli Museum. The yakitori (skewered chicken) at the two Kichijoji outposts of Iseya has been loved for decades.
Head to Daikanyama on a sunny Sunday for brunch or coffee, and enjoy the slightly arty, Euro-inflected ambiance. There are record stores and galleries among the high-end clothing stores. T-site is a luxury book and record store perfect for whiling away an afternoon, with a gorgeous cafe/bar to retreat to as evening falls. And surprise, New Yorkers: This is where Italian food import emporium Eataly got its international start.