ISSUE 62  |  Japonesque

The Outsider’s Guide to Tokyo: 10 Cutting-Edge Cafes, Shops, and Restaurants

March 08, 2013 10:30 AM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

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Sometimes the best insights into a city can come from an outsider, so when we heard that our SF-based friend Jay Carroll of One Trip Pass was headed to Tokyo, we asked him to take his camera and report back on his finds. Carroll has one of the plummiest jobs around as concept designer for Levi's, which means he travels the globe in search of inspiration. Here's what he discovered for us:

Photography by Jay Carroll for Remodelista.

Above: Bombay Bazaar in Daikanyama.

Remodelista: Favorite cafe?
Jay Carroll: Bombay Bazaar in Daikanyama is an underground bohemian café constructed mainly from driftwood, mosaic tiles, and mud walls. It's a great place to relax and enjoy a shaved ice with red beans after you've shopped the streets of Diakanyama.

Above: Antiques Tamiser in Ebisu (also see Tamiser).

RM: Favorite antiques shop?
JC: Tamiser smells like Italian potpourri and is filled with great antique wooden tables, pottery, light fixtures, and stacks of rare books.

Above: Katsuyuki Tanaka, owner and sole barista of Bear Pond in Kitazawa.

RM: Favorite coffee shop?
JC: Bear Pond in Kitazawa. Owner Katsuyuki Tanaka is a man of extreme passion, make that obsession. When we met, he flipped through piles of notebooks he has compiled documenting everything about coffee. In a fever, his right eye twitching, he hit on everything from the temperature and perfect Ph of an espresso shot to the type of music that was being played on the radio during the time Chemex was invented. The shot he gave me filled about an eighth of the cup, was thick as roofing tar and had me buzzing through the busy streets of Tokyo all day, no crash. A pilgrimage to be made for the coffee obsessed.

Above: Window seating at Bear Pond.

Above: Cult clothing store Kapital in Ebisu.

RM: Favorite clothing shop?
JC: When I first went to Tokyo in 2008 I was urged to visit Kapital by a friend in New York. I did, and my entire Tokyo trip became about seeing all of their five Tokyo stores. It’s not a shopping experience, it’s a five senses experience; Kapital transports you into their world, a wild and beautiful one.

Above: The interior of clothing store Okura in Daikanyama.

RM: Other clothing shops worth visiting?
JC: Okura sells clothes and accessories, which are all indigo dyed. Even the stairs have an indigo runner, and I love to see how it’s changed each time I visit.

Above: Tas Yard in Harajuku. (See our previous post on Tas Yard.)

RM: Favorite shopping street?
JC: Owner Shin Nakahara operates a furniture shop, coffee shop, and a restaurant all within a two-block radius in Harajuku. All sell their own product lines and evoke a very familiar laid-back, modern California spirit. Tas Yard is my favorite place to go for lunch; it makes me feel at home when I'm so far away.

Above: Pacific Furniture Service in Ebisu.

RM: Go-to furniture shop?
JC: Pacific Furniture Service makes chairs, desks, coffee tables, and beds; my guess is that the inspiration is what a typical high school teacher’s lounge looked like in 1959, but in the best possible way. Midcentury modern mixed with midcentury practical. It’s a focused and nostalgic step back in time.

Above: Hardware store Pacific Parts Center.

RM: Favorite hardware store?
JC: Down the street from Pacific Furniture Center is their curated (and my dream) hardware store, Pacific Parts Center, with clean and simple, sometimes vintage inspired, functional hardware. Buyer beware: purchases can make for an interesting TSA exchange at the airport.

RM: Other favorite destinations?
JC: Definitely worth a visit are Eatrip restaurant in Harajuku and Tsutaya Book Store in Daikanyama. It's interesting to note that many of the places I've listed here look like they could be Japanese interpretations of California culture—or, better yet, interpretations of California’s interpretation of Japanese culture.

Need somewhere to stay in Tokyo? Claska is a favorite of ours. And for more lodging, shopping, and dining ideas, check out our Tokyo City Guide.

What's missing from our roundup? If you have any great recommendations for us to check out in Tokyo, we would love to add them to the list. Please let us know in the box below.