Sue Ostler and her boyfriend tackle Tokyo in just five days, from noodles to Harajuku girls.
I always knew the capital of Japan would rock. I just didn’t know how hard. It helped that a metal music festival was happening the weekend my boyfriend and I visited. You can always count on a sprinkling of glam-rock to liven things up!
It seemed the festival heavyweights were every bit as keen to as we were to work Tokyo’s cool bar circuit – and there were plenty to choose from. From funk to pop, rock, hip hop and swanky cocktail/karaoke bars – you name it.
Tiny, intimate hideaways, invisible from the street but warm and welcoming once inside with pumping music and bowls of salty edamame beans, killer cocktails and lots of smiles.
On any given night Harajuku’s famous Harajuku girls, the goth-lolitas legitimised by pop princess Gwen Stefani, swarmed around the hipper than hip alternative bars. Come the weekend they would flock over to Yoyogi Park to assemble around the clusters of slick rockabilly dudes who danced nonstop, pausing only to guzzle down bottles of ice cold Asahi.
Yoyogi really is a park experience like no other. Half of Tokyo’s population seemed to be out partying and picnicking on every available patch of grass, under every single tree. Artists, cyclists, jugglers, bands and performers of every kind dazzled as they did their thing. Not wanting to miss the experience, we grabbed handfuls of Inarizushim – sweet rice in soft, squidgy tofu pockets – found a picnic spot to nibble away and sip warm sake.
Sunday was the perfect day to wander wild eyed through the streets of Harajuku. The heart and soul of Japanese fashion culture flourished before our eyes and dished up a visual feast like no other. A pumping kaleidoscope of fashion and pouting style icons draped nonchalantly outside cafes, bars and over the Jingu Bridge. A maze of nooks and crannies let us to the wonder world that is – the shops.
Ah, the shops! The difficult part is in knowing where to start. It was hard getting beyond Tokyo’s fashion quarter as it sprawled along Omotnesado. Many of the world’s biggest designer names have built bespoke and beautiful stores to honour this incredible stretch of retail gold that feels a bit like London’s equivalent to Bond Street. The result is an incredible tour de force in imagination and architecture, making the simple effect of window shopping an experience like no other.
The four-star accommodation helped make the experience complete. Just a stone’s throw from the all night Rock Bar and Tokyo’s best Udon joint in downtown Shinjuku, we snared a tiny self-contained studio at OakwoodApartments with loads of cleverly hidden storage space that worked brilliantly. The unrivalled views of this mind-blowing city from the 37th floor piano bar and rooftop made it very hard to accept when the time came to leave.
This truly is the land to make dreams come true. Whether that’s retail therapy gone mad, slurping noodles and sake, or – just looking for the time of your life.