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A Design Lover’s Guide to Tokyo

Lift the kimono on all the archi, crafty and culinary complexities of the Nippon capital on this one-day design deep dive.

Is there any city with a more diverse design scene than Tokyo? Where else but the Nippon capital could you see sleek skyscrapers jostling for space with trad temples, kooky kitsch-fash stores alongside specialty artisan ateliers, and epicurean innovation spanning sublimely simple sushi and the most confusing and cutesy cakes? This metropolis is one big bento box of assorted aesthetic adventure, all imbued with an inherently Japanese sense of balance and attention to detail. Follow our lead and discover the best design bits. Hai, dozo…

For a perfectly picturesque start to your day, zip to slightly out-of-the-way Yakumo Saryo, the avant Edo dream of local star-chitect Shinichiro Ogata. Up a stone staircase and through a verdant manicured garden you’ll find a serene setting of white walls, muted woods, concrete floors, and vast plate glass overlooking the surrounding plum trees. Inside a minimalist tea room, your impeccably plated Japanese breakfast set (a combo of rice porridge, miso soup and seasonal teas) will be served up on earthy Simplicity tableware with a side of wagashi from the in-house confectionary corner. Sweet!

Fuelled up, romp over to Yoyogi for a quick flit through the divine Meiji Shrine. Here you’ll find none of the gaudy colours or oversized statues often seen at other Asian temples, just a timeless, understated structure of carved natural wood and a pair of imposing torii gates surrounded by a bustle-banishing man-made forest. Admire the simple elegance of the Temizuya (purifying water basin) and Ema plaques before you swap classic for kawaii at Takeshita Dori. This narrow street of candy-hued craziness is every local Lolitas go-to for high socks, hair clips and… err, Pikachu puppy costumes?

Do a once around, or if it’s absolutely manic on a Sunday just take a peek down, then shimmy on to the decidedly more purse-friendly Omotesando Dori. Usually we sidestep big label shopportunity in favour of artisan ateliers, however Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées is well worth an extended eyeball – don’t expect to see the usual boxy chain shopfront; a key part of the Japanese retail aesthetic is reflected in the flagships of Burberry, Carven, Dior and Louis Vuitton, where the digs are as stylish as the designer wears hanging within. Pause at the brain-baffling mirror entrance of Tokyu Plaza and go glassy-eyed at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Prada, and only then venture to the surrounding back streets for specialty stores from bespoke incense blender Lisn to textile temptress Morita.

Starting to wane? Saunter to timber-clad basement counter Maru for a lunch of seasonal, Kyoto-style kaiseki as coiffed as a hangyoku’s hairstyle. Then it’s on to your afternoon options. If you fancy a museum moment followed by a secret garden stroll head to Aoyama escape the Nezu Museum, taking a turn around the darkly dapper Kengo Kuma-designed building packed full of beautiful Asian artifacts and antiques, before losing yourself in the surrounding serene-ery of maple-shaded, moss-covered paths and tranquil waterways.

Or, for more contemporary creative exploits Japan’s first large-scale culture complex Bunkamura in buzzy Shibuya has an ever-changing roster of exhibitions and events spread across its museum, new talent multimedia gallery, theatre and local craft store.

Phew! Now it’s surely time of the stiff sip, so away to Gen Yamamoto. Bare but for an austere eight-seat bar, it’s one for the purists with 4- and 6-course ‘tail tasting menus prepared with the precision you’d expect of a sushi sensei.

Speaking of which, your dinner awaits at smart, sake-slinging omakase counter Takazawabar. Sample bite-sized versions of Chef Takazawa-san’s crafty culinary morsels at his eponymous, impossible-to-get-into fine diner around the corner. Well done!

One day of design just not enough? LUXE has partnered with department diva Lane Crawford to create five ultra-exclusive, small-group themed trips spanning some of our most stylish destis – from Tokyo for design buffs, to Bangkok for foodies and New York for fashionistas.

Yakumo Saryo, 3-4-7-Yakumo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5731 1620,

Meiji Shrine, 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3379 5511,

Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku,  4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3497 0418,

Lisn, 2/F, 5-47-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5469 5006,

Morita, 5-12-2 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3407 4466

Maru, B1/F,  5-50-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6418 5572,

Nezu Museum, 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3400 2536,

Bunkamura, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3477 9111,

Gen Yamamoto, 1/F, 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6434 0652,

Takazawabar, 3-6-10 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5797 7340,

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