Balance is key when in Tokyo and finding it can make all the difference in your visit. The Happoen Garden is the perfect place to reconnect for a moment and check in on an ancient ritual. Stroll through the garden and take in the incredible, manicured Bonsais, and then spend some time in one of the pagodas overlooking the Koi pond. After you’ve caught your breath, make your way to the teahouse. Served in a room with a tatami-mat floor you’ll observe this beautiful ceremonial preparation of Matcha tea and enjoy a light meal.
Two hours west of Tokyo, in the picturesque Yamanashi prefecture, lies a bird sanctuary that happens to make whisky. The name of the town and distillery — Hakushu — means ‘white sandbar,’ and refers to the white sand that lies at the foot of Mt. Kai-Komagatake, formed by a pure stream of soft water driven by melted snow. Ninety years — a blink of an eye in Japanese history — after Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii apprenticed in Scotland and then built Japan’s first whisky distillery whisky is no longer synonymous with Scotch. By combining production methods of the world’s best whiskies with measured ingenuity and craftsmanship, Suntory has risen out of the shadow of Scotch. They just won “Distiller of the Year” at the 2012 International Spirits Challenge held in London.
The Rugged Museum is Japanese cult-stylemag Free & Easy in the flesh. And, just as you would expect from the exhaustive cataloging of its pages, the Museum touts itself as a vintage Hall of Fame. Inside, designers have reconstructed an airline fuselage throughout the showroom, and endless iterations of menswear crown the spaces between. It’s a place worth visiting periodically as new narratives are curated monthly. As might be expected, the clothing collection is largely focused on heritage brands.
The fish come even fresher across town at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, the Tsukiji. The crack-of-dawn giant tuna auctions are the stuff of legend, but arriving in the afternoon still yields plenty of visual fireworks — and blood. Tuna heads sit in heaps next to giant machinery originally designed to level forests, eels slither in wet vats, turtles cower in their shells seemingly contemplating their futures as soup. Dock workers and fisherman don baggy pants that balloon out of their rain boots and make them look like maritime gauchos. They smoke furiously, scoot around on curious little transporters which are part forklift, part Segway and carve their fish with swords fit for a samurai. It’s a completely old-world, underworld business to support one of the most sophisticated modern cuisines served in restaurants in the sky.