City Spotlights


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.

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Restaurants Tucked in the small village of Harajuku, Santoko not only warms your soul, but satisfies a healthy appetite. Ramen is a central part of Japanese food culture and this no-frills family owned and operated space confirms that excellence is in the mastery of the broth. Order the ramen bowl with thin slices of slow roasted pork belly and you won’t have any regrets.
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Special An afternoon at The Barber can feel like regaining a few years of life. From the choice of treatments, to the excellence of service, the prop-styling as you enter the shop, to the sound of jazz, The Barber epitomizes the ideal of retreat. Before you doze off, take note of the surgical precision with which your barber approaches your mane. Go for the full package, which includes a twenty-minute, facial massage and you will leave with a new understanding of bliss. For a more exclusive setting, a private lounge downstairs is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system, a vinyl collection and a movie screen just in case you needed extra entertainment.
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Nightlife On a relatively quiet street in Ginza – just down the road from a few, elegant, bespoke suit and kimono shops — sits Brick, a seemingly rare ground-floor watering hole featuring an even rarer exterior detail – an actual storefront sign (this one composed of large, yellow, illuminated, sans serif Roman letters). The dark, wood-paneled whiskey den with equestrian touches dates back to 1952 (old enough for a town that was nearly decimated in the 1940s). There, the cheap (but smooth) Suntory Tory’s blended whisky and the pricey Yamazaki 18 Year are poured, separately of course, over phenomenally large ice blocks into high-ball glasses that bare the bar’s name in red biblical font. The vinyl on the wooden bar stools shows wear and cracks, helping fuel visions of expats and natives comingling there as drinking allies after the war.
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Shops This seven-floor emporium is a carnival of artistic expression resulting in what could rightfully be called ‘beautiful chaos.’ Fashion brands include Yves Saint Laurent, Thom Browne, Junya Watanabe, Alexander Wang and Rick Owens. But what takes it to the next level of fun is the collection of art and installations that range from the life-sized, elephant sculpture on the 1st floor gallery space to the Cindy Sherman photographs that greet you at each landing. It’s a rare successful example of “fashion meets art.”
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