Tokyo, undoubtedly a regional leader in what’s cool, has a handful of fresh downtown must-see lifestyle stops for those wanting to keep in time with the pulse of the latest happenings. Here’s a look at the current buzz in the worlds of independent art galleries, fashionable malls, cocktail bars and luxury hotels, as well as an introduction to a trendy and somewhat bohemian new restaurant and bar neighbourhood, that’s mushroomed under an elevated section of railway track.
A new showpiece – Ginza Six – has been unveiled in Chuo-dori, the Ginza shopping street known for its fashionable boutiques and elegant department stores. Within an understated cyber-age façade conceived by architect Yoshio Taniguchi, who also redesigned New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the mall’s wide-open spaces host designer-brand stores, some of which, such as Fendi and Dior, are multi-storey flagships, while others offer unique or very limited-edition items sold exclusively in the Ginza Six showrooms. An entire floor is devoted to Japanese and international beauty products, as well as a cafe offering a gluten-free nutrition-focused menu. A branch of Tsutaya Books is completely integrated with a coffee shop, and encourages browsing with its area of individual reading-table cubicles complete with bar stools, in addition to some more open lounging areas.
Restaurants, bars and cafes span the vibe gamut from smart-casual to high-end on three designated floors. An on-site auditorium presents the opportunity to experience traditional Japanese Noh performances, while a Mori Art Museum-curated display of striking fine-art pieces can be seen throughout the mall. The launch saw the wide atrium hung with oversized white-and-red polka-dot pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama; elsewhere was a digitally rendered waterfall, by teamLab. The culturally befuddled need not fear – an onsite tourist information counter provides solace to the bemused traveller. G Six is crowned by a partially turfed and landscaped rooftop garden that attracts residents and visitors alike.
Moustachioed mixologist Shuzo Nagumo, a darling of Tokyo’s cocktail set, has created a warm eight-seat bar on the 13th floor of Ginza Six. Behind a minimalist concrete frontage are counter seats and two small tables that create a cosy and intimate environment in which to watch and have easy interaction with Nagumo and his two bar staff as they create their sensational drinks.
As with his three other bars, the general concept here, Nagumo says, is to present extraordinary and unexpected flavours through a course of drinks; no food is served. In this newest bar, tea flavours are the theme. “I wanted to remind people of the traditions of Japanese tea,” he explains, “but I also plan to try other types of tea flavours in the future.”
In fact, along with his gyokuro (green tea), sobacha (roasted buckwheat tea) and genmaicha (green tea with popped rice) house-flavoured vodkas, he’s already experimenting with Chinese Oolong. Nagamo has also tried gin as a base – the wasabi-laced one has quite a kick – and is considering experimenting with flavoured tequila.
Aman’s first city hotel occupies the top six floors of a tower in Otemachi, a downtown financial and commercial district close to the glitz of Ginza. Urban vistas are tempered by calm interior spaces, including a sizeable spa and swimming pool, and a landscaped inner garden of ikebana floral arrangements. Room and suite designs (there are just 84 in total) by Kerry Hill Architects combine Japanese decor with contemporary Western elements in a warm palette of pale camphor wood, grey and white.
The formal Restaurant by Aman serves a Japanese and international menu, while a snack and afternoon-tea spot doubles as a cocktail bar at night. At the ground floor of the tower, Café by Aman, which opened after the hotel launch, casual French cuisine is served against the backdrop of a small woodland.
Nestled in the quiet narrow streets immediately behind the towering Roppongi Hills development, Complex 665 opened in late 2016 and houses three edgy fine-art galleries. Koyama Tomio Gallery specialises in the work of domestic and overseas young Japanese artists, occasionally also showing works by artists of other nationalities; it has another space in Shibuya. ShugoArts focuses on Japanese art produced after the mid-1980s. Taka Ishii Gallery, based elsewhere in Tokyo before opening in 665, has been showing cutting-edge works by Japanese and international artists for more than 25 years.
Right next door to Complex 665 is Piramide Building, which opened in 2011. Its handful of small galleries is to be joined by Perrotin Tokyo this month, with a launch date of June 7 slated. The modernist 1.400-square-foot space – designed by André Fu – will have the most international profile in the building; the opening expands Paris-based Perrotin’s operations to five countries.
This new entertainment micro-neighbourhood also opened in late 2016, in a renovated strip of a little over half a kilometre set beneath the elevated Nakameguro railway station, just south of the city centre. Abuzz with restaurants and bars – a few with terraces that overlook the Meguro-gawa river – the arcade is also occupied by characterful shops, including a branch of Tsutaya Books and the florist Aoyama Flower Market, which can provide small bouquets for those off-the-cuff restaurant or bar moments.
Speaking of which, restaurants specialising in udon noodles, ramen, chicken hotpot and sushi as well as other Asian and Western options present plenty of choices. Bar-wise, Pavilion – which also serves food – has become an instant hit with the art and fashion crowd. Its industrial-looking veneer is a shell for eclectic rooms and niches; the main area features a DJ booth and a Vespa dangling from the ceiling. Inventive cocktails and mocktails are served here, as well as a decent variety of sake and wine.