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Each IJC columnist loves Japanese culture and knows different facets in detail.
You’ll find original articles written with unique style and vision.

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  • The best bookstore in the world: Daikanyama T-site

    Aug 25, 2015

    I have been around the block and seen a book or two, and nowhere am I more inclined to haul off with a metric ton of them than after visiting what  deem to be the best bookstore in the world: Tsutaya at Daikanyama T-site.   This is not the oldest bookstore ever, and it won't win any historical awards (although the architecture of the building has nabbed it some hefty accolades). In fact it just opened in 2011 and is still fresh in terms of new retail. But what it lacks in history is made up in how it serves as a gallery of books and curated goods that relate to them. This form of "curation" has been a concept in Japanese retail for many many years, and they call them "select shops". So while this is a very well-stocked bookstore, it is also a lifestyle store with so many hidden treasures inside.   Everything you need to make "kaki-gori", Japanese shaved ice. When I visited, there were recipe books for traditional Japanese shaved ice with local artisinal glasses and mixes being sold along side them. And, since shaved ice is a summery treat, there were traditional wind chimes next to them from a local workshop. And before you think this is only about pushing new books or selling out for big publishers, there were coves like these hidden along the shelves all throughout the three buildings that make up the whole bookstore.   Try your luck, with the gacha-gacha toy machine! If you're a fan of obscure authors or artists, you'll have a grand time. Take illustrator Keiichi Tanami and his psychedelic art book and matching tea cup set, or shirts by the ironic Tacoma Fuji Records, a record label that doesn't actually sell music. There's a toy machine for ¥500 to try and get odd art-inspired figurines, and a Frida Kahlo book exhibit replete with real indigenous costumes on display. Of course, there is a big selection of western books as well as highly obscure Japanese books and magazines, like the bilingual Reality Show magazine. There's a Starbucks coffee shop inside, and all throughout the buildings you can peruse the books with your coffee, or lounge at the many leather benches that line the glass facades. Upstairs is a special restaurant/lounge called Anjin and it houses over 30,000 vintage magazines for you to flick through. Of course, you can also look through books from the shop as well.   But even if you leave empty handed, the setting around the T-site is something not to be missed. It's like an oasis in the concrete jungle, and place where mostly locals come to relax with their pets (there are dog knobs on the decorative rocks outside, for locals to tie up their dogs) and bring their families for a stroll among the leafy garden. You'll notice there are lots of specialty stores here too, such as Kitamura camera shop and Bornelund toy store. And if you have a dog at home, maybe you can shop for a stylish outfit for her at the dog goods store.   The Ivy Place restaurant and cafe is one of the most popular joints in town, and it brings a very international flavor to the site. The neighborhood of Daikanyama is known for being where design aficionados converge. So if you're a fan of the understated perfection, or "Muji" side of Japanese design, then the T-site and surrounding Daikanyama area cannot be missed!   To get to T-site, take the train to Daikanyama Station, and find your way to the big road, walking away from the sloping hill until you see it on your right. The business hours are also impressive, with the 1st floor (books and Starbucks) open from 7am to 2am, with the upstairs open from 9am.

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • Fujimaru – Fall in love with a well-crafted wine

    Aug 3, 2015

    The city’s many specialty stores, each with a mesmerisingly deep dedication to their chosen craft or cultural pursuit, not only contribute to Tokyo’s rich diversity but also provide countless opportunities to discover (and possibly fall in love with) something new or unexpected. Built around the sense of communion that comes with sharing a glass of wine, Wineshop and Diner Fujimaru combines a convivial atmosphere with a passion for well-crafted wine and gourmet dishes in a way that’s bound to make you wish you lived just around the corner. As the first store in Tokyo for the Osaka-based wine purveyor and distributor, Fujimaru Asakusabashi opened early last year in an unobtrusive building along the river. In a downtown area known for its history of craftsmanship, the store boasts a range of around 1200 wines chosen for the feelings they evoke and an appreciation for their maker’s intent. Inside the concrete-clad second floor space, the wine room and diner sit literally back-to-back, allowing diners to hand pick a bottle to accompany their meal or enjoy a quick snack at the kitchen counter before purchasing some wine-to-go. The store's craft-based approach extends to the food menu, which brings together the best of Japan's farmers, producers and provedores. With a more than ample selection to choose from, popular dishes such as the Osaka-style octopus croquette with garlic oil and creamy chicken liver mousse are complemented by an array of appetisers and fresh bread from the wine-loving Parlour Ekoda. And so whether it’s one of Fujimaru’s original creations or a bottle from Yamagata, Normandy or Georgia, there’s more than one perfect combination for you to try as the afternoon, or evening, ambles along. Each visit seems to result in delightful discoveries from both the menu and wine room, yet I'm ultimately always drawn back for the poetic undertones and warm conversation that permeate through this spot both day and night. From watching the staff work away at the ruby tiled counter to gazing out towards the river where flat topped yakatabune sway at their docks, you’re ever-likely to find the ideal setting in which to enjoy good company and the sensory delights of each glass poured, and each dish served. Without doubt, Fujimaru is the kind of place you’ll want to make part of your everyday routine. <Information> -Wineshop and Diner Fujimaru -Where: 2F, 2-27-19 Higashi-Nihombashi, Chuo -When: Wed–Mon 1pm-10pm (Also closed second Wednesday of the month) -Website: http://www.papilles.net/

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    by Ben Davis
    Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer. He currently works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, an online magazine that shares the things locals love.
  • Cafe Kitsune: Coffee in a traditional Japanese house in the heart of Aoyama.

    Jul 28, 2015

    I could wax poetic on the charm and genius that is Cafe Kitsune in Aoyama, but I`m just gonna lay it bare and honestly; this place is awesome. Kitsune is a Paris-based fashion brand and music label, founded by Gildas Loaec from France and Masaya Kuroki from Japan. Gildas got his break as an early manager for electronic legends Daft Punk, and Masaya came from an architectural and design background. Together, they formed Kitsune (which is a mystical fox creature of Japanese lore).   The cafe sits inside a traditional "washiki" Japanese house, and it wasn't broken so they didn't "fix" it, leaving the house in it's old school glory. They did bring in artisans to spruce it up a little, including some bamboo tatami mats made by a 70-year old studio in Shimbashi.   There are Japanese monograms strewn throughout the walls, a traditional "low" ceiling, and other finishings made from bamboo and rice. There is even a true-blue Bonsai tree on the counter, with a famous master of pruning coming in once a week to care for it. When Kitsune opened this cafe, they were adamant about having a home for this little guy.   The walls feature many paintings done by Masaya's mother, an artist.   Ok, so you're here for the coffee, not the building it's in, fair enough. Good thing the coffee is definitely something to write home about. Here is one of the baristas managing to pull off a perfect slow pour, despite my paparazzi onslaught.   Along with the usual suspects, they have slowly been adding to their menu a special selection of Cafe Kitsune exclusives. The photo above shows the green tea affogato drink. There is also an orange Kitsune Orenge for the summer, a bottled cider drink, and a cool Shakerato (shaken by hand).   There's no full-blown kitchen here, so it's not a recommendable place to stuff the face. If you do get hungry you can nibble on some sable cookies (cut in the shape of a kitsune, natch)  or get a simple French-style sandwich with baguette and ham.   There are just a few souvenirs available in the Cafe Kitsune, like some of their famous "Parisien" tote bags, or a small selection of their music albums. Actually, if you're interested in the fashion side of Kitsune and the coffee has you hopped up, then take a walk for a block away from the Omotesando Crosswalk which is where their fashion boutique "Maison Kitsune" is. It's a bit of a fancier side of Kitsune, especially since the cafe is so "at-home". Still, here they sells a very wide range of Maison Kitsune goods, from women to men to tee-shirts to accessories.   But let's get back to the cafe. It's just off the main Omotesando promenade, and hang a left at Issey Miyake. The cafe is at the end of this block on the right hand side. The zen-style entrance is both standout noticeable but also easy to miss. Look for the stone rock path! So whether you're just visiting Tokyo or not, you'll find that a huge number of local creatives keep this cafe as their home-base so you can't go wrong! Cafe Kitsune and Maison Kitsune Hours: 11:00-20:00 3-17-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku kitsune.fr

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • Koishikawa Korakuen – Slow down, relax and recharge

    Jul 28, 2015

    In a city that regularly overwhelms the senses, it’s comforting to know that there are numerous green oases that allow you to regather your thoughts, rest your eyes, or simply just relax. And of those beautifully maintained pockets of nature that lie hidden within the city limits, Koishikawa Korakuen, is one of my favourite places in which to recharge amidst a sea of green. Nestled quietly alongside the pop mecca that is Tokyo Dome, Koishikawa Korakuen was constructed as a private residence in the early Edo period before being reshaped into a garden by Tokugawa Mitsukuni. Designed in consultation with the renowned 17th confucian scholar Zhu Zhiyu, Korakuen incorporates a circuit-style layout, with a large pond surrounded by varied terrain that draws on numerous Chinese influences. Although the city has urbanised and gathered speed around it, Korakuen retains a sense of serenity that makes it feel like an urban oasis. Along the meandering network of stone paths you’ll find rolling rises, softly shaded ponds and gentle streams that weave underneath tiny bridges – a beautiful series of mini-landscapes that feel like a watercolour painting unfolding before your eyes. Whether it’s gazing out over the iris fields from beneath the pine trees or finding yourself deep within the ume grove, each unique vista acts as a backdrop for your relaxation and respite. While other green spaces awaken a sense of adventure or border on the semi-surreal, an undeniable sense of calm makes Korakuen well suited to slowness and contemplation. A peace of mind awaits beneath the green-hued canopies, where you can enjoy the simple and natural pleasures that are so often lost on the city’s busy streets and boulevards. <Information> -Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens -Where: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo -When: 9am–5pm (last entry 4.30pm) -Website: http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/koishikawa/ -Entry Fee: 300 yen

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    by Ben Davis
    Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer. He currently works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, an online magazine that shares the things locals love.

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