Tokyo: Places I love

Tokyo: Places I love

Below are a few of the places I've enjoyed in Tokyo (as of 3/13) - I tried to limit the list to just a dozen or so places you should make the effort to see out if you're there. Just like the other city pages I've pulled together, please keep in mind, this is by no means trying to be a comprehensive list or guide. It's sort of trying to be the opposite of that, these are the handful of places I've been that I'd tell my friends to visit. Tokyo is massive, and it's a lot to take on in a short period. I'll update this page after future visits, I'll also include links to other Tokyo guides or resources I found helpful toward the bottom.

A couple notes before we get to the map: I've been to Japan/Tokyo during February & March - it is cold, sometimes stormy, austere, and wonderful. If you're planning a trip, take the seasons into account - I'm sure Tokyo takes on an entirely different personality in the heat of summer. For those of you planning trips beyond Tokyo, here's a link to a somewhat detailed post from four years ago (definitely dated), but it might help your planning. This time we went from Tokyo, back to Kyoto, Nara, to Naoshima Island, from there to Okayama, and home via Osaka.

View map: Heidi Swanson: Tokyo

To Eat and Drink
To Shop and See
  • Antiques Tamiser
  • Farmer's Table: Just down the block from Antiques Tamiser.
  • CLASKA Gallery & Shop DO: Great outpost shop related to CLASKA hotel + other shops nearby.
  • TSUTAYA books: Daikanyama: One of the world's best book stores.
  • Cow Books: An exquisite tiny book shop w/ a focus on literature, art, etc. Stroll the nearby Nakameguro canals as well - lots of shops, cafes.
  • Promenade: If you go out to lovely Promenade (small shop on a side street with a mix of housewares, clothing, and antiques), also stop off at 364 Sanrokuyon on the way back. Makes for a nice afternoon in neighborhoods with a different feel from central Tokyo.
  • 364 Sanrokuyon: One of my favorite tiny shops, and worth the train ride out of the center. Culinary focused, unique honeys, local preserves, and Japanese copper.
  • Found MUJI: MUJI concept shop - sort of like MUJI meets Labour & Wait meets Anthropologie
  • Dover Street Market Ginza: Rose Bakery on the top floor, COMME des GARÇONS and other boutiques.
  • Antique Mall Ginza: Like an American antiques mall, but Japanese. 
Where to Stay
  • CLASKA Hotel: I still haven't stayed in a hotel I've absolutely loved in Tokyo - it's a tricky balance between location, cost, and overall vibe. I will definitely book a couple nights at CLASKA the next time around, my concern has always been that it isn't directly near a subway line (key if you want to efficiently get around the city). Then move to a more subway-friendly hotel. I've stayed very near both Hanzoman and Shibuya stations, and learned that I prefer staying near one of the smaller stations (like Hanzoman), it's just easier all the way around. A station complex like Shibuya is massive, and it takes a while just to get to the train you're after - and if you have to brave it every time you go out, it's not ideal.
Other helpful Tokyo Links & Tips

  • Here's Wayne's much more comprehensive Tokyo map - it's focused on shops/establishments related to photography/art/design books, cameras, a few art galleries, coffee.

  • Guide to Tokyo Remodelista

  • Monocle | Tokyo (also here)

  • If you buy one Tokyo City Guide, buy this one. It's full of fantastic, unexpected suggestions - not all super posh either. Just good.

  • You'll likely walk miles every day, bring shoes that are broken in.

  • Google map every place you want to go, save it to a map. Having an address is not enough - often the address you copy/paste from a site will not work in Google maps because of the spelling differences. It definitely takes some patience to find smaller places.

  • Places open later than you think (for ex: it's tough to find a coffee shop open first thing in the morning. Some shops are closed in the middle of the week (such as Wed or Thurs), so check the website before you go.

  • Many smaller boutiques (and some restaurants) are cash-only, so carry cash.

  • Related: it can be hard to find a bank that takes international ATMs, that said, the ATMs at the post office seemed to work every time, and there are many post offices. Some of the big department stores also have post offices internally, ask their info desks.

  • Shipping boxes home from the post office wasn't that much effort. Find a small quiet one, they will sell you a box and give you the tape. You want the EMS service, which is insured.