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A City To Fall In Love: TOKYO

In these times of limited travel, there’s only one place I wish to visit again; one city’s photographs I keep returning to - Tokyo. I cannot forget the emotions awakened in me during my strolls around this idiosyncratic city. At first, respect and admiration and later on, as I experienced and became more familiar with it, love.



Tokyo is a city that requires preliminary study before visiting. To be able to understand the busy complexity of this city, which makes metropolitans such as New York look like “villages” in comparison, and to get accustomed to the Japanese culture, it is a good idea to start from the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Although it’s not the loveliest of the structures in town, the museum offers a good context for what you will see later during your visit. The most impressive museums and galleries I visited in Tokyo are the Nanzuka art gallery, the Nezu Museum with its breath-taking garden, and the modern art museum of 21_21 Design Sight designed by prominent architect Tadao Ando.


If you’re visiting Japan during the Sakura season, when cherry trees bloom, the city’s well-manicured parks can be the perfect spots to stop by. The flourishing of these magnificent trees is celebrated with various festivals all across the country between March and May. In particular, Yoyogi and Chidorigafuchi Parks, the Imperial Gardens, and Shinjuku Gyoen are truly magical… Each detail in the city’s natural structure is planned and has been preserved with elegance and mastery, as it is in almost everything.



AN UNRIVALLED SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

In a city like Tokyo, it would truly be a waste of time to visit the stores of renowned luxury brands. You should take in the thrilling architecture of giant stores along Omotesando Street and go into the back alleys to find Tokyo-exclusive collections of streetwear brands such as Supreme, Palace Skateboards, and C.E. Other stops you should definitely make are Japanese brand shops in the area such as Visvim, Comme des Gar ons, Ambush, and Wacko Maria... Among my favourite shops in the most energetic and dynamic neighbourhoods in Tokyo – Harajuku district of Shibuya- are Kinji, Amore and Ragtag with their rich selection of unique vintage pieces not be found anywhere else in the world. Tokyo is one of the world’s rarest places for those looking for unique souvenirs. For that reason, whether you’re looking for an anime figure, a 21-year old Hibiki (a Japanese whiskey brand), a Chanel basketball, or a rare Gundam robot; it is a good idea to do research beforehand, in order not to get lost. The more exclusive a store is, the harder it is to find it - or you might just miss it because you’re not familiar with the signs. I recommend reading through travel websites and forums before planning your trip. Bookworms should definitely visit the bookstore Daikanyama T-Site. This wonderful place, filled with special edition books and magazines you can find only in Japan, also stands out with its architecture. You can spend hours browsing through the shelves and then walk to the district of Nakameguro for a stroll along Meguro River followed by a cup of genuine “slow-drip” coffee.



JAPANESE CUISINE AND IZAKAYA CULTURE

Tokyo is one of the culinary centres of the word. Since they only use ingredients in their actual season, it would be very difficult to eat something tasteless in Japan. From breakfast to dessert, Japanese cuisine has extraordinary standards in terms of ingredients, presentation, and craftsmanship. And that is the exact reason why it’s not snobbery when those who experience it find themselves distanced from Western cuisine; it’s just the food. If you’re planning to visit a Japanese restaurant with a Michelin star, you should make a reservation well in advance. Some of the best restaurants only host a limited number of people, while others don’t accept foreign guests.



After visiting the popular landmark of the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple and the adjacent open market, you can stop for a drink at an izakaya, a type of tavern in Japan. After seeing the famous Shibuya Crossing and the nearby arcades (if you’re as into that aesthetic as I am) you can visit the izakaya districts in Nonbei Yokocho and Golden Gai further down. Venues such as Piano Bar and Bar Nightingale, two of the places people frequently share on Instagram when they go to Tokyo, are also around here. Speaking of subcultures, if you’re interested in anime, manga, and scifi art, you can plan your trip around numerous events and festivals.



ACCOMMODATION AND MORE

Japan is a magnificent oasis when it comes to self-care. From spas built in the most valuable skyscraper penthouses to traditional onsen hot springs, Japan has thought of every tiny detail and made it an indispensable part of its culture. Their bath rituals are an ocean on their own. If your hotel fails to satisfy on this aspect, you can make a reservation at a spa and enjoy getting pampered on the 40th floor accompanied by a view of the city. A self-heating lavender-scented eye mask? Iris whitener? Anything you can think of (and not) is sold at the beauty stores around Japan. You can turn on Google Translate’s camera and spend literally hours in Matsumoto Kiyoshi, the biggest cosmetics store in the country. It’s crucial to do some pre-visit research in order not to drown in the ocean of options, which also include Korean beauty products. Japan is dominated by big hotel chains hidden inside skyscrapers instead of boutique establishments, and ryokans (guest houses that bear great importance in the Japanese culture). Aman Tokyo, among countless five-star hotels in Japan, has a special place with its extraordinary architectural elegance and modern expression of traditional details. Even if you don’t stay at Aman Tokyo, make sure to visit the bar on i ts 33rd floor in the evening to enjoy a glass of Japanese whiskey with the panorama of Tokyo under your feet. The Hoshinoya branch of the wonderful Ryokan I stayed in Kyoto is the most luxurious guest house in Japan. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a traditional experience in Tokyo. Don’t be tricked by the name “guest house” - Obama also prefers the Tokyo Ryokan when he’s in Japan.




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