Your Locals-Only Guide To Tokyo
Here’s something that’s bound to make you jealous: The jewelry designer behind the brand Nishi, Joanna Bengoa, was born in Tokyo and grew up jetting between there and Spain. She still makes it back to visit the Japanese supercity every year, and it’s safe to say she knows a few must-see spots that might not be on your radar. Bring on the yakitori!
“Shimokitazawa is a neighborhood that I grew up spending so much time in. It was biking distance from my house and less crowded than the popular and busy Shibuya and Harajuku areas. In recent years, it has become a popular destination in guidebooks for its vintage shops, but back in high school, I wouldn't see a single tourist here. It is still a place that feels very local, with bars, music venues, and the best vintage shops, like Flamingo. I find that Japan has the best vintage—whether its designer clothing or a well-preserved pair of Levi's. You can easily spend a day browsing this awesome neighborhood.”
“There are endless shopping options in Tokyo, from high-end department stores to little speciality shops that sell anything and everything. Tokyu Hands has everything you could possibly imagine and stuff you would never think of. It has amazing crafting supplies and a great selection of Japanese knives!”
“This is one of my favorite spots. It is so relaxing and has an amazing selection of books and also endless magazines. Anyone that thinks print is dead would be in awe of all the magazine publications that exist in Japan—everything is so well-curated and -photographed. There are other beautiful small boutiques in the area, like a great toy shop for kids called Bornelund—my kids (ages 2 and 5) love this store—so there is something for everyone.”
“I've been a big fan of Tadao Ando's work for years. I love his use of concrete, light, and space. This year, I visited 21_21 Design Site, located in Tokyo Midtown. It’s a design museum created by Ando and Issey Miyake—an inspiring space that showcases different exhibitions and also has a ping-pong table overlooking an interior garden.”
“Food is a hot topic in Tokyo. It's almost impossible to have a bad meal, regardless of the budget. I immediately go to Kushiwakamaru in Naka-Meguro the minute I'm home. It’s a yakitori restaurant. I highly recommend sitting at the counter so that the chef can put the skewers on your plate as soon as they are ready. I've seen the same guy for years fanning the charcoal grill—it’s an art.”
“A second spot I highly recommend is Midori Sushi, which provides high-quality sushi at a shockingly low price. The maguro (tuna) plate from this restaurant is hands down my husband's favorite meal of our yearly trip. There are usually long waits for both of these restaurants—it’s very common in Japan for people to wait for food, but it’s well worth it. And, they are both in areas that you can walk around and explore after you put your name down.”