Tokyo: Out & About

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A bustling street in Tokyo's Shibuya.

A bustling street in Tokyo’s Shibuya. Image: Simon Devitt

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Fishing in the city.

Fishing in the city. Image: Simon Devitt

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Rush hour in Shibuya.

Rush hour in Shibuya. Image: Simon Devitt

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Gambling parlour.

Gambling parlour. Image: Simon Devitt

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Tod's flagship store.

Tod’s flagship store. Image: Simon Devitt

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High fashion in Roppongi.

High fashion in Roppongi. Image: Simon Devitt

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Chefs at work.

Chefs at work. Image: Simon Devitt

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Cartier in Ginza.

Cartier in Ginza. Image: Simon Devitt

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A Harajuku girl.

A Harajuku girl. Image: Simon Devitt

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Design objects in the Claska hotel.

Design objects in the Claska hotel. Image: Simon Devitt

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Forget London or Paris, Tokyo’s the place to fly to for fashion. On its streets, particularly in the suburbs of Shibuya, Harajuku and Omotesando, you’ll find throngs of Tokyoites dressed top-to-toe in cutting-edge designs, vintage ensembles and wacky clothes that are incredibly well thought out and impeccably coordinated. In the shops, there are thousands of au courant outfits on which to overspend.

That focus on aesthetics can be seen in other parts of the city as well: in the architecture, which can be patchy in some neighbourhoods but jaw-droppingly modern in others; in the design stores filled with pared-back, delicate homewares; in the beautiful food served in restaurants both high end and low; in the 13 impeccably clean subway lines that transport hoards of locals to almost every corner of the city; and even in the way the smallest purchases are painstakingly giftwrapped in stores. Almost any idiosyncrasy can be indulged too. There are entire department stores devoted to DIY tools or stationery and a whole neighbourhood filled with electronics to buy.

You can dine in restaurants staffed by robots or women in bikinis or fill up at a Harajuku hole-in-the-wall that has more than 100 different sweet crêpes on its menu. Which brings us back to the food. Whether you are spending hundreds of dollars on an omakase (which translates to ‘I’ll leave it to you’) menu of fabulous sushi prepared by a Michelin-starred chef or eating ramen in a chain restaurant, you won’t be disappointed. It’s impossible to find a bad meal in Tokyo; as one resident told us, there’s too much pride taken in appearances in general and food preparation specifically for that.

It’s not all good news though: the 2011 earthquake and tsunami − and the resulting Fukushima nuclear power plant explosions – have affected the way Tokyoites think about their safety, their environment and their government. It’s also expensive and space is at a premium (your hotel room will be small but your toilet seat will play music and heat up!) but, for a metropolis of 13 million people, it’s surprisingly serene. Just off the main drags, quiet winding streets lined with tiny bars and shops and apartment buildings offer an accessible respite. So do the parks, which are dotted around the city and counter the surrounding skyscrapers with their greenery. 

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