As the long-awaited sakura season approaches in Tokyo, art historian and broadcaster Flora Vesterberg shares her unique cultural highlights in the Japanese capital.
Arriving in Tokyo after a long journey, you should begin your experience by immersing yourself in nature; take a walk through Yoyogi park in Shibuya City. Here, you can also visit the infamous Meiji shrine and observe the cherry blossoms in full bloom – enjoying a moment of calm to yourself amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. A perfect option for lunch to follow is Sahsya Kanetanaka, a beautifully-designed restaurant, known for exhibiting artwork by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, who also designed the tranquil garden it overlooks. To enjoy more photography, the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is spectacular. For those who loved Sofia Coppola’s iconic Lost in Translation, the nearby Shibuya crossing is a memorable experience; it’s also known to be the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing earning it the ‘Shibuya Scramble Crossing’ name. The scramble feels almost choreographed when you observe the balletic level of synchronicity.
Aside from the plethora of iconic museums, Tokyo has a diverse array of contemporary and modern art galleries such as Blum and Poe – known for making an impact in Los Angeles. Another highly-recommended place to visit is SCAI The Bathhouse in Yanaka, a bathhouse expertly-converted into a respected art gallery. Kaikai Kiki Gallery occupies an unassuming urban office building in Motoazabu, known for cutting-edge exhibitions while working with internationally-renowned artists including Takashi Murakami. Close to Shibuya crossing is Nanzuka, a contemporary art gallery showcasing art inspired by brutalism; a style with an emphasis on materials, textures and construction and producing highly expressive forms.
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Nanzuka recently opened 3110NZ by LDH kitchen, a collaborative restaurant-gallery project within the former three Michelin star restaurant, Sushi Saito. Be aware that galleries are generally closed on Mondays.
For architecture lovers, 21 21 Design Sight in Hinokicho Park is unmissable. This incredible building was designed by Tadao Ando, a Japanese autodidact architect who also completed the Pinault Collection in Paris.
The park is also a perfect location to walk around the cherry blossoms, a subject which features in the traditional ukiyo-e prints found across the city at The Sumida Hokusai Museum.
Other museum highlights include The National Art Center Tokyo (NACT), designed by the leading and forward-thinking Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa– who also designed the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills. The NACT observation deck, Tokyo City View, is soon to open the exhibition Heatherwick Studio: Building Soulfulness.
For more panoramic views, stop for an aperitif at the New York Bar on the 52nd Floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel overlooking Tokyo; it also made frequent appearances in the aforementioned Lost in Translation.
Where to Stay
The serene Shangri-La Tokyo in Ginza is the perfect central location between the galleries and omakase restaurants, as well as parks such as Chidori-ga-fuchi, where you can bathe in the lustrous cherry blossom on the northwest side of The Imperial Palace. Alongside stunning architecture and interior design, the hotel is known for their spa and iconic swimming pool – with views of the Tokyo skyline – as well as their emphasis on wellness, which is perfect after days of surpassing your usual step count on the streets of Tokyo.