Midtown to browse its upscale branch of chic homewares and fashion emporium Muji (p.197), other contemporary Japanfocused interior design stores such as Nippon Form (p.197) and industry promotion board Design Hub (W www .designhub.jp). Ginza is also a prime district to see both cutting-edge architecture (Toyo Ito's Mikimoto Ginza 2 building, and the LED-covered Chanel building for example) and the best of the capital's graphic design, curated in a collection of small galleries (see p.200). However, to really get an idea of how far boundaries are being pushed you need to – literally – go back to school. Two of Tokyo's most recent projects to nurture and showcase young and up-and-coming designers and artists – 3331 Arts Chiyoda (p.59) and Taito Designers Village (2-9-10 Kojima, Taito-ku; Shin-Okachimachi
g Clothes at Muji h Design Hub
Designing the future To discover the absolute bleeding edge of Japanese design, time your trip to coincide with Tokyo Design Week (p.30) which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010. Aoyama, Roppongi and the outer grounds of Meji Jingu are the focus for the annual whirlwind of events, exhibitions and installations that take place in giant tents and container crates as well as galleries and shops. Sampling the future is part of what TDW is all about, which makes for a lot of shows that lean less on the commercial and more on the experimental. Far more anarchic and colourful are the twice yearly Design Festa events (p.29); if you don’t happen to be in town for one of them you’ll get a very good idea of the kinds of bizarre and beautiful things they can throw up by visiting the permanent Design Festa Gallery tucked away in Harajuku’s backstreets.
h Ginza Graphic Gallery
ne of the best times to visit is in the spring, from April to early May. At the start of this period (known as hanami) flurries of falling cherry blossom give the city a soft pink hue and by the end the temperatures are pleasant. October and November are also good months to come; this is when you’ll catch the fireburst of autumn leaves in Tokyo’s parks and gardens. Avoid the steamy height of summer (late July to early Sept), when the city’s humidity sees its citizens scurrying from one air-conditioned haven to another. From January through to March temperatures can dip to freezing, but the crisp blue winter skies are rarely disturbed by rain or snow showers. Carrying an umbrella in any season is a good idea but particularly so during tsuyu, the rainy season in June and July, and in September, when typhoons occasionally strike the coast. When planning your visit also check the city’s calendar of festivals and special events (see p.28) for any that may interest you. Note also that many attractions shut for several days around New Year when Tokyo becomes a ghost town, as many people return to their family homes elsewhere in the country.
| IN TRODUCTION | WHAT TO S E E | W HE N TO V I S I T
g Cans of bread, anime style
When to visit
Average temperatures and rainfall
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Average daily temperature (ºF) Max (˚F)
Average daily temperature (ºC) Max (˚C)
Average monthly rainfall Inches
4.3 6.1 9 10 9.6 12 10 8 11 9 6.4 110 155 228 254 244 305 254 203 279 228 162
okyo is a key destination on the international clubbing scene with big name overseas DJs regularly jetting in to play gigs alongside talented local mix masters. If you prefer live music, then you’ll be happy to hear the city has an incredibly varied appetite for music from all corners of the globe. It’s not surprising, therefore, that major artists and orchestras are keen to include the capital on their schedules, and on many nights of the week you can take your pick from performances of anything from Beethoven to the latest J- or K-pop idol.
A handful of clubs seem to weather the vagaries of fashion, but generally the evereclectic Tokyo scene seems to be moving away from major events in big spaces to more intimate nights in smaller bars where a DJ may have a particular following. Check listings magazines and online resources before heading out to see what’s on; most major clubs post their schedules online. Get an overview and discount offers at iFlyer (W www.iflyer.jp) on the cover charge, which is typically ¥2500–3000 usually including your first drink. The clubs listed below are open daily unless stated otherwise in the reviews. Most clubs don’t really get going until after 11pm, especially at weekends, and most stay open until around 4am. The main clubbing regions are Roppongi and Shibuya. Local DJs to look out for are Ken Ishii, well known for his techno sets, the hard-house-loving Ko Kimura, expat Brit Mike McKenna, an award-winner who spins house and breakbeats, and the hip-hop maestro Krash. Ebisu and Daikan’yama
The places below appear on the map on pp.106–107. Air B1 Hikawa Building, 2-11 Sarugaku-chō, Shibuya-ku T 03/5784-3386, Wwww.air-tokyo .com. South of Shibuya Station on the way to Ebisu, this eclectic club has a great sound system, gets big name DJs and is one of the few places to consistently offer midweek events. Shibuya Station. Unit Za-House Bldg, 1-34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku T 03/5459-8630, Wwww.unit -tokyo.com. DJ events are mixed up with
C L UBS AN D L I V E M US I C
Clubs and live music
gigs by an interesting selection of artists and bands at this cool three-floor club, café and lounge bar. Ebisu or Daikan’yama stations.
Ikebukuro Bed B1F Fukuri Building, 3-29-9 Nishi-Ikebukuro T03/3981-5300, W www.ikebukurobed.com; see map, p.83. Ikebukuro isn’t known for its hip nightlife. Still there’s this place, popular with local students, where the DJs play a mix of hip-hop, reggae, jungle, R&B and occasional drum ’n’ bass, keeping things jumping until 5am. Also stages live music performances. Ikebukuro Station.