We just came back from two and a half weeks in Japan. This is a little bit, of a very random view, that was my experience. I've taken all photos unless noted.

The drawing above is from my husband's sketchbook, showing me waiting in line at Omotesando Koffee.

Above and below: Omotesando Koffee. The proprietor, who spent time in southern Italy and uses a 20 year old La Cimbali machine takes his work seriously but is quite friendly between cups of espresso.

photo by dandalker/chalait

Below: The courtyard at Omotesando Koffee feels worlds away from the modern architectural flagship buildings on Omotesando just a few blocks away. My husband was looking at a book he bought on Shiko Munkata, and the girl next to him wanted to take a look. She wound up giving us very helpful directions to Oz Zingaro, and advised us on what to expect about the Nakano Broadway building where it's located. More later on that.

Below: Flagship architecture on Omotesando...Hugo Boss, Stella McCartney, Prada, Prada, and Coach.

photo courtesy Blum and Poe

Above: Los Angeles based gallery Blum and Poe has opened a Tokyo gallery across from Yoyogi Park, around the corner from the northwest end of Omotesando Ave. A Yoshitomo Nara exhibit was on view this past month. 

We went there to meet with the gallery director, who helped with ideas to start our journey in Tokyo. Her first and very excellent suggestion was having noodles around the corner at Matsubara Keyaki An. When we found it on the 4th floor of what appeared to be an office building, we were happy they found space for us, as it seemed to be full. We sat at a counter overlooking the main street, and enjoyed the contrast of the urban life below, and the very traditional setting. This blog had some good photos which I've included below. The freshly made noodles were fantastic.

Above: On Omotesando, a man walks a stroller full of fluffy cats outside the Apple Store. 

Above and below: On a small street to the northeast of Omotesando, a block northwest of Aoyama Dori, is Doinel, a gallery space, home furnishings store, and grocery. Recently, in addition to an art show by Makoto Kagoshima, they had a good selection of linens and other things designed by him. At Chariots On Fire on Abbot Kinney in Venice, California they have a great selection of his work.

Above: Two tablecloths by Kagoshima I brought home from Doinel.

Above: At the Aoyama end of Omotesando is the Nezu Museum. It's a blissful spot with a small but excellent collection of antiquities on view, and a lovely rambling garden that seems to exist in another place.

photo courtesy Nezu Museum

Above: Piece from the Nezu Museum collection. "Fresh Water Container with Autumn Grasses Design" Japan, Momoyama period, 16th century.

Above and below: Across the street from the Nezu Museum is a mid-century apartment building that has a surprising collection of stores and a small cafe as well. It's called the Palace Aoyama. The area is called Minami Aoyama.

Above: The sign for a housewares store on the 1st floor. They have a fantastic web site here. Some very lovely items from their site shown below:

Above: Great teapot display on the Higashiaoyama web site.

Above and below: Arts & Science & Shop is on the 1st floor.

photo courtesy arts & science

Above: Just below street level is "Down The Stairs", a great cafe started by the owner of Arts & Science, Sonya Park. To the left is an antique store.

Above: Coaster from "Down The Stairs".

Above and below: Upstairs, on the 2nd floor is a great rare book store. The whole place is painted vivid red, and it glows in the hallway.

photo courtesy Bizen Gallery

Above: Next door to the book store is Bizen Gallery Aoyama. This is a Bizen pot from a current exhibition.

Above: On a side street nearby, buddha is wrapped in a towel at a tiny shrine.


Tokyo is overwhelmingly huge. By thinking of it in neighborhoods and subway stops, it begins to make sense. Going in and out of Tokyo a few times during our visit, we were able to try several hotels, in different neighborhoods. 

Claska in Meguro was a favorite. It's a revitalized 60's hotel. The design is fairly minimal, airy, spacious, using appealing light wood surfaces and large windows. An excellent post about it here. The 21 rooms are all different, and every one is shown on their site. A little far from the subway or train, but a pleasure to be here all the same. I looked for hotels that weren't looming glass towers, and this boutique hotel, only 8 floors, is a more personal and grounded place.

photo courtesy Claska Hotel

Above: The "Contemporary" rooms.

Above: Light at dawn

Above and below: At "What's" antiques. Antique ceramics. The gold used in the repair is a traditional method of marking the cracks in the pottery called kintsugi. Rather than disguising the imperfections it tells the history of the piece. It expresses the idea of "mushin", or "no mind", an acceptance of the changes that come with time.

photo courtesy Japan Folk Crafts Museum

Above: In northern Meguro is the Japan Folk Crafts Museum. This was a museum conceived of by Soetsu Yanagi, who, along with potters Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada coined the term Mingei, meaning folk crafts or common crafts. In 1936 the Japan Folk Crafts Museum was built, along with Yanagi's own house across the street. 

photo courtesy Japan Folk Crafts Museum

Above: O-ido Tea Bowl entitled "Yamabushi", Joseon Dynasty, 16th century, Joseon. Another example of kintsugi, gold repair in the cracks of the bowl.

Above: This repair looks so modern, using a second plate to replace the missing part.

Above: Detail of watercolor by Serizawa Keisuke (1895-1984), 1974, on the cover of the Mingei magazine. There was a Keisuke exhibit when we visited. The exhibit was on the occasion of his 120th birthday.

Above and below: In the bookstore there were lots of books on folk crafts both traditional and contemporary. This is from a new book on Samiro Yunoki (b. 1922), a brilliant designer and craftsperson. 


Not far from Meguro is Ebisu.

Antiques Tamiser in Ebisu is a place I've seen photos of for a long time, and was happy to finally see in person. They have mostly european pieces, presented in a minimal Japanese manner.


East of Meguro is an area called Daikanyama. The bookstore chain Tsutaya has a remarkable flagship store there. It's set in three connecting buildings, all surfaced with a pattern made of "T"s. The selection is terrific, and includes books, CDs, and DVDs, but most uniquely has in the upper floor center section a wonderful bar and restaurant surrounded by a collection of old magazines from the 60s, 70s, etc, that you can flip through as you drink or dine. It's easy to spend hours there.

photo courtesy Wall Street Journal

Above and below: Scenes of the Tsutaya bar and lounge from an article in the Wall Street Journal.

photo courtesy Wall Street Journal


In the northeast area, Nakano, there's a 4 story mall called Nakano Broadway, and the last place you'd expect to see a ceramics gallery. However, if you get off the subway (Tozai line) at the Nakano stop, and go through the first mall to the second, which is Nakano Broadway, proceed all the way through to the back, and up to the 3rd floor you'll find Bar Zingaro, a coffe shop and bar opened by artist Takashi Murakami. Around the corner is a gallery he opened called Oz Zingaro, and there's a second space one flight up as well. 

Above and below: The mall where Bar Zingaro and Oz Zingaro are located.

Above: On the 3rd floor, almost at the back is Bar Zingaro, Murakami's coffee shop and bar.

Above: Around the corner is Oz Zingaro, the affiliated gallery space. This is a photo of the Kazunori Hamana installation. Found this photo on Instagram here, which was good, as I hadn't gotten a shot of the whole room. We were fortunate to have met Hamana when we were there, and found out that he had not only made the pieces but created the installation as well, bringing in beach finds from Chiba, outside Tokyo. 

Above and below: Upstairs on the 4th floor they have another gallery space. At this space they're showing Yu Kobayashi, an artist who works in ceramic, wood, paint, wire, and uses lots of beach finds. The spotted wood stool is unexpectedly on casters.

Above: The artist Yu Kobayashi, with Kazunori Hamana in the background, photo found here. Hamana is the curator of this show.


Heading west from Nakano, to the Nippori train stop, you come to the Yanaka neighborhood. This is one of the older spots in Tokyo, and a place I really liked. It's a perfect neighborhood to wander in. It's easy to get lost, but it doesn't matter, as it's not that big. When you get out of the station you walk through beautiful old Yanaka Cemetery, and then on the other side you see older homes, small stores selling handmade things and art supplies and sweet shops. Here are a few places we came across:

Above: This store, Yanaka Matsunoya, sells handmade crafts from all over Japan, including beautiful brooms and baskets and other things made of straw and reed. 

Above: A bag of soft fiber, from Yanaka Matsunoya, and made in the Iwate area of Japan.

Above and below: Scai The Bathhouse is a gallery set in a 200 year old bathhouse. The current exhibit is Lee Ufan.

Above and below: Pure pigments at Kinkaido Co. 

Above: Photo of Kabaya Coffee, found here. This coffee shop has been here almost continuously since 1938. It closed down in 2006 when the owner's wife passed away, and a preservationist organization helped save it to re-open in 2009. It was remodeled by architect Yuko Nagayama. 

 Above and below: Classico sells simple clothing in a heavy weight cotton, as well as a variety of antiques, household items, stationary, and other things.


There's a neighborhood in Tokyo that specializes in 2nd hand books...it's called Jimbocho. 

Above: There are so many used bookstores, they have a map that shows where they all are.

Above: Photo found here.

Below: We looked for books with beautiful illustrations on the cover...it turns out most of these are from the 40s and 50s.

Above: From my husband's sketchbook...a store in Jimbocho.


Chiyoda is a central area where Tokyo Station is located.

Above and below: The Tokyo Station Hotel seen in an old postcard of the station and a more recent view I found online. This view won't be possible much longer as across the street large buildings are about to go up. It's a wonderful place to stay...not only incredibly convenient, but one of the few places with historical character left, as most great hotels get torn down and re-built and turned into soaring towers. This happened to Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel in 1968, and just happened this fall to the classic mid-century part of the famous Okura Hotel

Above: Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel, torn down in 1968.

photo courtesy Architectural Digest

Above: The older part of the Okura Hotel from 1961 that was just torn down.

Above and below: Under the hotel, in a shopping arcade at Tokyo Station, is a delicious vegan ramen place called T's Tan Tan. If you ask for Keiyo Street you'll find your way there. 


In Chuo, not far from Tokyo Station, in a location best found with a GPS, there's a terrific gallery called Pragmata. They have art, modern ceramics, and interesting objects. When we found our way there, to the 3rd floor of the building, a ceramic show had just opened by Watanabe Takayuki. Pragmata has an inspiring tumblr page as well. All the pieces below are by Takayuki. 

Above: The building has rich green enamel on the stairs. 

Above and below: Downstairs on the 2nd floor is a bookstore/vintage gallery called Gyakko.


Across the Sumida River from Chuo is an area called Kiyosumi. A quick subway ride away, it's a pleasant neighborhood. We went there to see a store called Babaghuri, a line created by the late Jurgen Lehl. This is a larger store that has housewares and books as well as clothing. First two photos below from their tumblr.

Above and below: Jurgen Lehl was an amazing photographer as well as a designer. We bought his book "Zomo" there, photos he'd taken in the Himalayas in 2002...shockingly beautiful pictures.


In Shinjuku there are narrow alleys that have housed tiny colorful bars since the 1950s. They serve "Izakaya" bar food, and have a mysterious but jovial ambience.

photo by Jon Arnold for Corbis

Above and below: One of the classic places, Donzoko, here since 1951, is easiest to find if you look for this sign. It's about 3 or 4 levels high, with cozy bars and seating on each level. Photo below found here.


In search of ceramics we spent a day in Mashiko, known for it's pottery traditions. We were there for a ceramics fair, which proved not to be as good as we'd hoped, but there were some interesting sights all the same.

Above and below: The train was very sweet. And the seats inside were velvet covered.

Above: One of the ceramicists had taken over an old gas station as a shop, and hung a rusted metal chandelier from the overhang.

Above: This was a well selected vintage store called Uchimachi Kojo.

Above: We found these books in Mashiko.

Above: An old building with it's wares displayed.

Above: A vintage bakery cabinet seen in one of the antique stores.

Above and below: Tea and cake at Starnet were very welcome at the end of a rainy day.

Below: Great car wash. Reminded me of a Nick Cave Sound Suit...a cheerful sight.

photo courtesy PBS

Above: Nick Cave Sound Suits, for reference. 

Below: From my husband's sketchbook, some of the books we brought back from Japan.

Thanks to Kiki Miyake, Leslie Gill, and Ritsuko Yagi, for all your wonderful ideas.