Yuta Oka's Guide To Exploring Tokyo As A Local
Is it still worth visiting Shibuya? Where should we go after crossing the Scramble?
The most interesting thing about Shibuya is the fact that it’s constantly changing and updating itself. The front part of Shibuya station and the former railroad tracks of the Tokyu line are going through a major reinvention. A few years after Hikarie opened, more mega complexes such as Scramble Square, Fukuras and Shibuya Stream—Google moved their Japan HQ to the latter—have made their mark here. However, my favourite joints in Shibuya are hidden within smaller-scale buildings and tucked into the back streets. Umebachee is a great place for chicken sashimi and Japanese sake. After a meal, I go for a deeper stroll over to Kairyo-yu, a renovated public bathhouse, to take a dip and enjoy a few sauna sessions.
Where should we go to discover the old Tokyo?
The eastern parts of the city, specifically Asakusa, Kuramae and Kiyosumi, are considered the traditional shitamachi [downtown] areas. They are full of hole-in-the-wall type izakayas and kakuuchis, hybrids of a bar and a liquor store where people can try different sakes. Recently, establishments such as Nui Hostel & Bar Lounge, Blue Bottle and Dandelion Chocolate have taken residence in renovated old industrial buildings, and these social nodes have made the area much more interesting. Creators, artists and designers are now flocking over to the east side from the west, forming communities, opening up speciality cafes, restaurants and charming boutiques showcasing Japanese craftsmanship.
Why did you choose Nihonbashi as the location of your first hotel, K5?
Nihonbashi is the connecting point between the new (west) and the old (east) side of Tokyo. It’s largely known as a financial and commercial hub—if you type in ‘Tokyo’ on Google Maps, you will land at Nihonbashi—but originally it was also home to craftsmen and there has been a recent movement to revitalise the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood around K5 is expected to welcome a new bistro, a patisserie, a coworking space, several bars and bonsai shops, and I believe it is the city’s newest hot spot.
How do you escape the urban jungle that is Tokyo?
One could always go forest bathing in the city, and for me that means being in nature while enjoying a good cup of coffee. The Kiyosumi Garden is a great place to hang out, especially ideal for a walk—or run if so inclined—alongside Sumida River. My all-time favourite green space, however, is Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park in Hiroo. The density of greenery and the international vibe of the area work in perfect harmony; plus, my top book-reading cafe, Nem Coffee & Espresso, is right by the park.
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