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Tokyo is Like, No Worries!

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19th Sep 2008


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Vending machine to get rid of all your change. Buy a ride!
Remember Tokyo? That flashy Asian capital, featuring stratospheric hotel prices, blowfish on the menu and Harajuku girls? Well that rap is all over, and in its place is a more demure, sophisticated gem. After the economic bubble burst in 1989, everyone watched as Japan settled into a prolonged period of slumber, punctuated by youth angst, Japanese School-Girl-Watch and Blade Runner clich s. While Rip van Yen paused, the world caught up, making Tokyo today a bargain.


One thing is still expensive: getting into Tokyo from Narita. Like the Charles de Gaulle, its sister hub of mid-century over-design, Narita Airport is a lesson in frustration. It s so big, so far away and so convoluted, one is tempted to take a taxi direct from the arrivals exit and forget it. Not bad, except for the US$200 price tag.

The Tokyo-Narita Express is the other option, but only until the evening, as it knocks off early and anything still running will take you all night. You could ask for a private car service upon arrival, for which we recommend BeSpoke Tokyo, which also functions almost like a private concierge and has VIP access to just about anything you need. They will deliver you swiftly and cleanly into the lap of no worries. Glistening streets and ever-wonderful vending options await you in Tokyo.

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Uber-cool lobby scene at the Claska Hotel, Meguro

The Tokyo Park Hyatt, home to many scenes from Lost in Translation, remains the gold standard, but we recommend just hitting the bar and bedding down elsewhere. Claska is one of the city s few boutique options, and with just nine rooms, guarantees individual attention during your stay. Claska is also well located to some cool unnoticed areas such as Meguro Dori and Naka Meguro.

If you re looking for easy, two options rock. The Four Seasons Marunouchi is a 10-minute walk from Ginza and located right next to Tokyo Station. For the more budget-minded, the ginormous Shibuya Mark City, located above Shibuya Station, is new and offers very efficient service at a most reasonable rate.


With its myriad of restaurants one can eat happily and well for anywhere from $5 to $5,000. On the high end, check out the Roppongi Hills Club, situated in the lofty environs of the Roppongi Hills development. (It s also home to the adjacent Grand Hyatt, which has the best indoor pool EVER). The Club offers several restaurants with varying cuisines, and is the perfect place to gape at the views.

Charles Speckley, who runs BeSpoke Tokyo, weighs in with some good advice. The Ebisu area is recommended for foodies, he says. You could eat in a different restaurant every night for a year in Ebisu and never have a bad meal. My recent favourites include Tooth Tooth, remarkably large for a Tokyo restaurant and with an eclectic menu of Japanese-influenced Western dishes and the longest bar I have seen in the city. Wasabiya specializes in dishes from Shizuoka Prefecture and you won t find fresher ingredients. It also has a very interesting sake selection. Dal Matto is a tiny restaurant whose young Japanese chef cooks world-class Italian food. There is no menu; it just depends on what he picks up at the market in the morning.


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Electrifying show with host DJs spinning at Womb
Due to tight parameters, the nightlife scene in Tokyo used to mean private (read Japanese) membership or very small, almost dank locations in Roppongi and Shibuya. That s largely still the case, but new bars with bigger floor plans are popping up everywhere. Since Nishi Azabu 's oldest club Spacelab Yellow spun its turntables for the last time in summer '08, all eyes are on Womb in Shibuya. It is outlandishly ridiculous and well worth checking out.

Charles adds a few thoughts on the night scene in Ebisu: After dinner, the area s standing bars are fun for drinks. My favorite is Buri, Q has an interesting design, and if you want somewhere to sit, Heaven s in Shibuya-ku makes a killer cup of coffee and has an eclectic music policy.

Of course there is more to Tokyo than the nightlife, and the Honeyee online magazine does a great job of tracking the city's changing tastes, from the underground through to pop culture. A number of Tokyo's new generation of leading lights write for the site, so its a great place to visit on the way to checking out the city itself.

For a night you'll never forget, check out Tokyo's noise art scene by dropping in on Miami, the hot Shibuya band made up of two women who feel like Hello Kitty personified. Their mix of DJ beats, violin and quirky lyrics always get the crowd pumping - and their act is a sight unto itself. Be sure to friend them on MySpace first, then get an autographed CD after their show.


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Jun Takahashi's Under Cover hamburger sneakers
The big deal in Tokyo right now is the shopping. If you are looking for amazing stuff, buy Japanese and forget about the imports. The fashion scene in Shibuya has shifted more toward men with the opening of Shibuya 109 for men. It is all about rock and roll, black, metal and hardcore fun.

For more serious fashion, check out Undercover by Jun Takahashi. Everyone wears Marc Jacobs. But what does Marc Jacobs wear? Jun Takahashi! He s the hottest there is. Also check out Number (N)ine, Sosu and Green.

There is so much great design in Tokyo you ll be tempted to ship furniture back, from stunning shiny lacquered furniture to well-thought-out contraptions galore, but remember just because it s beautiful and cheap doesn t mean you need it. Besides make sure you save for your taxi ride back to the plane.

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