Tokyo is always a pleasure to visit, and the autumn is especially pleasant. The weather is comfortably cool, the chill of winter has yet to set in and, if you time it right, you can see some of the most beautiful fall colours in the world. With only a few days to enjoy this sprawling city of 23 million, one of the first places to explore should be stylish Omotesando, also called the “Champs-Élysées” of Tokyo.
Running from Aoyama Dori to Meiji Jingu Shrine, this verdant tree-lined shopping boulevard will satisfy every fashionista. From Prada and Issey Miyake to anime paraphernalia and hedgehog cafes—here’s a top-10 list of how to spend a few hours down Tokyo’s prettiest shopping avenue.
1. Breakfast at Bills cafe
Following his first eponymous restaurant in Sydney, Australia, Aussie Bill Granger now has dining establishments in Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and London. Food is simple and fresh at this Omotesando hotspot; breakfasts are legendary, as are the queues.
Bills is located on the 7th-floor of Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (“Omohara”), which was designed by award-winning architect Hiroshi Nakamura. The experience begins at the very entrance of Tokyu Plaza as you ascend the escalator into the mouth of the building, sliding past a dizzying kaleidoscope of mirrors.
Savour ricotta hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter or gravlax with poached eggs and steamed greens, washed down with a white peach Bellini. Enjoy the sunshine on the outdoor terrace overlooking the rooftop public park.
Tokyu Plaza, 7F
T : +(813) 5772-1133
2. Admire the architecture
Nestled next to vine-covered heritage buildings are beautiful glass and steel facades designed by award-winning architects. The Audi Forum, by Creative Designers International, is nicknamed “the iceburg” because it is a soaring cut-glass vision.
Down the street is the concrete lattice-like Tod’s building and the Pritzker Prize winning Prada flagship store with diamond-shaped glass panes that bulge like bubbles. Tadao Ando designed the Omotesando Hills shopping plaza, with its indoor atrium built around a gentle slope of spiralled walkways.
Truly a magnificent sight on every corner and down every backstreet!
3. Visit a museum
The Minato-ku area of Tokyo is home to over 30 museums, and Nezu Museum is one of the finest. Originally opened in 1941, the museum underwent a significant transformation and reopened with a stunning new building in 2009. The six galleries showcase over 7,400 pieces Japanese and Asian art.
I wanted the new museum to be linked naturally with its surroundings by the shade from the gentle slope of the roof. Shadows link buildings to the ground and give comfort to the architecture and warmth to the city.
Designer Kengo Kuma marries glass and stone with soaring ceilings and linear vistas. The final effect is divine: an elegant entrance lined by bamboo, opening up into a secret garden that defies the hectic streets outside of the museum’s walls.
The beauty of the museum is not just the artwork inside but of the gardens surrounding it. The Japanese have an intimate relationship with nature and a deep respect for man’s harmony with the natural surroundings. Man can make beautiful buildings, but Mother Nature is revered as the true artist.
4. Grab a coffee and a book
Crayonhouse is an organic greengrocers that sells books, organic cosmetics, fair-trade jewellery and clothing. There’s also a cozy nursing room on site. Fonder and president Keiko Ochiai has run Crayonhouse for 40 years, and enjoys and active life as an author, blogger, human rights’ activist and TV presenter.
The cafe serves up wholesome Japanese and Western dishes, and goes vegetarian once a week.
Hours: Open every day except New Years, 11am–7pm
5. Shopping, second-hand style
Now, this is what you’re here for, right? There’s no need to forgo your desire for catwalk fashion in Omotesando—there’s plenty of high-end shops lining the boulevard. But Tokyo is known for its edgy concept shops that support local designers, and Omotesando serves as a hub for this counter culture.
Better yet, the Japanese understand that upcycling and recycling of clothing is the cool thing to do. Pass the Baton “new recyle” shop carries accessories, tableware, clothing and sentimental items from around the world. Exhibitors receive 50% of proceeds and can donate all or any to charity.
6. Animal therapy
Cute, in Japan, is not just for kids.
The Hedgehog Cafe Harry near Harajuku Station will satisfy your cuddle cravings in what appears to be just a normal cafe … only with hedgehogs.
If you fall in love with your hedgehog, the Cafe is also a groomers and pet store – they are more than happy to educate you on your pet hedgehog’s care before you re-home it. If hedgehogs aren’t your thing, you can also visit the Hedgehog Cafe’s sister store, the Bunny Cafe, in Roppongi.
Reservations can be made online and are highly recommended.
6-7-2 IWAHORI Building, 2nd Floor
T: (813) 3404-8100
Weekdays: 30min / 1190yen ($11)
Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays: 30 min / 1404 yen ($13)
7. Instagram your day
You will have taken a lot of photos by now, so upload those babies and show the world how much fun you’re having in Omotesando!
Most shops and cafes offer free wifi, but if you’re too excited to stop and post then the main street offers busy shoppers free wifi.
If you need to sit down, stop into any Starbucks, the Tokyu Plaza rooftop garden, Omotesando Hills or even the giant Apple store—Tokyo’s largest retail outlet. Laforet Harajuku offers cutting-edge young fashions and a second-floor dining area with USB-equipped counter spaces.
8. Michelin-star dining
You’ve worked up an appetite and are ready to spend some money?
Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s aims to promote the “harmony of sustainability and gastronomy” at his Michelin two-star Narisawa restaurant in Aoyama.
The restaurant once again made the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017 (it was number two in 2016), and has received the Sustainable Restaurant Award at the 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony in London.
Despite health- and eco-conscious Japanese consumers, organic agriculture has not yet become the mainstream. “Most of the vegetables and fruit in Japan contain pesticides,” says the chef. “It’s the role of the chef to support (organic) producers”.
The exclusively organic set menu changes with the seasons, and is an innovative feast.
Lunch course: 20,000 yen ($180)
Dinner course: 25,000 yen ($230)
9. Refresh your mind and body
Contemplate one of the best meals you’ve had in your life while strolling through Meiji Jingu—Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine—and its adjoining gardens.
Completed in 1920, the Meiji Jingu Shrine is a 100,000-tree forest planted to commemorate the lives of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
In 1945, the original shrine burnt down in the war and was rebuilt to include a treasure museum and training hall for Japanese disciplines such as archery, Judo, Kendo and Aikido.
Depending on the season, the Inner Garden is a-bloom with rhododendron, azaleas, wisteria and camellia. Summer brings the irises and water lilies out in beautiful display.
In the Inner Garden you can also find a teahouse, carp pond and a natural spring water well that irrigates the garden and supplies water to the pond.
1-1 Yoyogi kamizonocho
10. Souvenir shopping
Your day in Omotesando is coming to an end, but you can (literally) carry those memories with you (or have them shipped, if you like).
Kiddy Land toy store is four-floors of anime marketing and stuffed-toy heaven for young and old alike. This national chain of more than 80 stores has been delighting for 60 years.
If you prefer something a bit more “mature” go a few doors down to the reasonably priced Oriental Bazaar. Here you’ll find antique kimonos or beautiful blue-glazed pottery to adorn your cupboards back home.
Oriental Bazaar can ship internationally and even accepts US dollars and euros, in addition to Japanese yen.
T: (813) 3409-3431
9-13 5-chome Jingumae
Business Hours: 10am-7pm
Closed Every Thursday
Tel: +(813) 3400-3933
Getting there, nonstop:
From Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific, ANA and Japan Airlines (JAL)
From New York: United, JAL and ANA
From London: British Airways, JAL and ANA
Written By: Adriane Rysz