Japanstagrams: 14 Tokyo Spots That Claire's Still Talking about, 2 Months Later
I’ve found that trying to explain my intense attraction to Tokyo (the first and longest stop on my honeymoon) is surprisingly challenging—it’s such an overwhelming city that distilling it down to something digestible feels like a crazily daunting task. So here’s my best shot at it: the 14 spots I’m still forcing everyone to listen to me talk about over and over again. —claire
RAAGF Bunny Cafe
The cat cafes in Tokyo get a lot of love, but bunny hang-time is much harder to come by. Here you’ll pay to have tea with some rabbits for half an hour, and, if you’re a good friend, you’ll shell out some extra yen to take home a rabbit-sized kimono for your business partner’s pet Patsy.
This place embodies so many of the things I love about Japan into one little shop—beautiful ceramics, exotic pastries presented like fine art, delicious teas prepared with ceremonial flourish, and a prime example of Japan’s unique brand of hospitality.
The Japanese are big into presentation, and the retail stores are no exception. Brands like Commes des Garçons and Issey Miyake tend to dominate the high-end retail areas, and they feel as much like contemporary art museums as shops (a motif that’s echoed in their strict “no photos” rule). Cult indie-brand Sacai’s flagship is a smaller and more concentrated take on a similar theme—both the architecture and the clothes are striking and uniquely Japanese.
In a nutshell: Tokyo’s take on Smorgasburg. It’s an outdoor beer garden and food court with shipping containers for seating areas and ping pong tables as dining surfaces, packed with super-social 20- and 30-somethings. It all feels very Tokyo-does-Brooklyn, and not just because Brooklyn Brewery is the beverage of choice.
Head straight to the basement level of this place, where I spent too many hours and too many dollars on their incredible collection of stationery and pens, which were totally unlike any I’ve seen at home. It brought me straight back to my days of sticker books.
Yep, that 7-11. The convenience store. Not kidding when I tell you it was one of the most intriguing shops we visited. The items I deemed worthy of suitcase space: many varieties of rice balls, Mike popcorn, and green-tea-flavored Kit Kats.
This shopping and residential neighborhood feels most akin to Venice, California. Situated along a gorgeous riverbank, it’s super-hip, laid-back, and full of tiny and well-curated boutiques and vintage shops. The don’t-miss spot here is Taste and Sense—grab lunch at the cafe and browse the attached retail spots while you digest.
I left Japan with a major ceramics obsession, and this place is at the root of it. The company is over 400 years old and specializes in simple porcelain dishes. I fell hard for their patterned, mismatched rice bowls, and since Jamie and Kevin had given us a check as our wedding gift and instructed us to buy something on our honeymoon with it, these seemed like an obvious choice.
A beautifully designed hole-in-the-wall shop serving meticulously made cups of coffee. Treat yourself to the mocha version.
This is a veritable institution that’s been serving the same delicious food for years and years. The thing to get here is tonkatsu, a lightly breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet smothered in a completely addictive curry sauce. (N.B. If you were ever going to make an exception to your meat-free, gluten-free diet, this would be the place to do it.)
A singularly unique bar-hopping experience, Golden Gai is a handful of alleyways filled with teeny-tiny drinking establishments, each with its own theme. The largest ones are big enough for about 10 people, but most fit only four to six. The proprietors and patrons are all super-friendly, and our night spent sipping sake alongside them taught us more about Tokyo culture than most other activities.
The best dumplings in Tokyo, served in a totally unassuming setting at wonderfully low prices. The entire menu fits on a 5-by-7 card, and you should order everything on it twice—especially the little vegetable dishes like miso cucumbers and pickled cabbage.
Come for the views, the Lost in Translation vibes, and the bircher muesli on the breakfast menu. Leave with a pretty comprehensive sense of how the Japanese do luxury and hospitality.
Kappabashi Shopping District
After a few days in Tokyo, you’ll be dying to know where to find the stunning ceramics and lacquerware all your meals are served on. Head to this restaurant-supply neighborhood to get it all at shockingly low prices. This is also where you’ll find Kamata, a world-famous knife shop. (Just don’t try to pack your new blades in your carry-on.)