Tokyo in Style
Tokyo in style
At TRC, we travel most of the time to meet, work with and spend time with our Clients around the world. It’s often a quick trip, but sometimes we get the opportunity to explore new cities, taste new food, meet new people and engage with brand new cultures that help to inspire what we do next. A recent visit to Japan opened our eyes to an amazingly diverse cultural people who are not shy to promote their own sense of style. Here’s a taster of what we saw after a gruelling 12 hour flight, followed by 6 hours of meetings, several days of client store visits, competitor shops and orientation!
Shopping & Retail
Tokyo is a big sprawling city, but once you get used to the main districts it’s easy to find your way around. The Metro is simple, cheap and efficient, and will get you to most places in the city. The main shopping area around Shinjuku is home to one of the most superb and arguably the trendiest department store in Japan – Isetan – with floor after floor of amazing fashion, homewares, food and just about everything you might want, all blended with perfect service, dozens of coffee lounges, and beautifully charming merchandising. Skip over to Shibuya and walk to Harajuku where you’ll find crowds of teenagers dressed in eye catching extreme ‘cosplay’ (Costume Play) around Takashita Street, then see the landmark department store, Shibuya 109, which is the domain of the ‘joshikousei – the fashion obsessed high school girls who don’t just follow fashion trends, but start them. The Ginza area has some of the world’s biggest brands like Chanel, Gucci and LV alongside Uniqlo and Forever 21, creating a mixed audience of shoppers and visitors and at Tayashimaya there’s a huge range of merchandise colourfully merchandised and presented. At the other extreme is the plethora of markets, local shops, stalls and the barrage of advertising lights, signage and audio across many of the central shopping districts. Let it not be said that Tokyo ignores opportunities to promote merchandise, although often at the expense of creating a deafening and confusing visual noise.
Eating & Drinking
There are 30,000 sushi restaurants in Japan, and 5,000 of them are located in Tokyo. Prices vary across a range of experiences from the Michelin level down to street food, so expect to pay anything from a few £GBP to over £150 per person in some places – Tokyo is not a cheap place where quality is concerned. And the aficionados will tell you that it’s not all about the fish, it’s the rice known as ‘shari’, that plays the most important role. Try Tsugu Sushimasa or Ichibanch Teruya – both high end but not crazy price restaurants that were recommended to us. Tepanyaki is also not to be missed, and we tried the restaurant on the 37th floor at the ANA Intercontinental hotel near Roopongi, which was superb – our own ‘private’ chef creating the most stunning tastes from Wagyu beef, sea bass and simple vegetables on a large hot plate in front of us. Tempura – the lightly floured and fried fish and vegetables that are also cooked in an open ‘kitchen’ right in front of you – create a fresh and deliciously mouth watering taste. There are also some unusual delights to try too: green tea Kit Kat chocolates, lotus fruits and plenty of strange looking items when it’s probably wise either not to eat or not to think too much! All the food you eat can be washed down with local hand crafted beers, Saki or imported wines, and then finish your meal with one of the amazing Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki, Nika, Hakushu or Miyagikyo. And remember to wear good socks – you will inevitably have to remove your shoes before taking a low seat at one of these restaurants!
Culture & Sightseeing
If you like Temples, you’re in the right place, there are hundreds to see. The oldest in Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple at Asakusa. Said to have been built in the year 628, it is famous for its huge Kaminarimon Gate where a massive lantern hangs. Visitors will light a fire stick in a pit along with dozens of others, and ‘bathe’ in smoke for good fortune before entering the Temple. In the Ueno district there are a number of museums and galleries, including the Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo National and the Museum of Nature and Science, alongside the beautiful Ueno Zoological Gardens. Take the Shinkansen (Bullet) train to Kyoto, travelling at 320 km/h seated in one of 16 immaculately clean carriages, and where the pace of life is somewhat slower out of town. There you can visit the opulent gold Kinkakuji Temple and the stunning Ginkakuji Temple with all of its autumn coloured maples and cherry trees. A 40 minute walk alongside the tree-lined, carp-filled canal is the old Geisha area of Gion with all its parks, its shop filled streets and its kimono clad Japanese ladies. Japan is full of cultural things to do and there’s always something spectacular not very far away.
For sure, Tokyo is a mind bending experience. It’s a real mix of historical charm, unbelievably humble service from a respectful and attractive people, and ultra modern buildings, technology and sophistication. It’s busy, with its three tired roads towering above the ground on stilts allowing the plethora of traffic to keep on moving, to the relative calm of the Temples, Shrines and parks where you’ll see people going about their daily business in a way reminiscent of previous centuries. East meets West here, but be sure to have your translators with you, this is most definitely Japan!