Win £20 Worth of Shake Shack Vouchers (UK Only)

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER OF THE SHAKE SHACK VOUCHERS IS LOUISE BROWN (TWITTER HANDLE: @lottielouyellow).

THANK YOU FOR ENTERING AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO CONNECT WITH ME ON TWITTER @RenaeLucasHall
STAY TUNED FOR MORE COMPETITIONS AND GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE.

As a BIG THANK YOU to all the lovely people in the United Kingdom who have shown their support and bought my books, I’m running a competition over the next seven days for one lucky person to win £20 worth of Shake Shack vouchers. Just send out a tweet on Twitter about the competition with a link to this page or retweet my tweets about the competition and follow me @RenaeLucasHall for your chance to win the vouchers. The winner will be chosen on Monday 11 July, 2016. The vouchers will be sent in the post (Royal Mail Signed For® 1st Class) and the winner should receive their prize before Friday 15 July. You must be living in the UK to enter the competition. The Shack Shack vouchers must be used before 31 December, 2016.

Shake Shack

I write Japan-related fiction so I’m interested in anything to do with Japan, especially Tokyo. I first heard about Shake Shack opening in Meiji-Jingu Gaien in Japan on Twitter. I could see there was a lot of hype about just how delicious the burgers are at Shake Shack so I did a Google search and I was pleased to discover there are four locations in the UK (Covent Garden, New Oxford Street, Stratford, and Cardiff). Then a couple of weeks ago, I heard James Corden say in 73 Questions for Vogue on YouTube that he would choose a Shake Shack burger as his last meal on Earth!! So there you have it, everyone is loving Shake Shack burgers. If you want to find out just how good these burgers taste then enter my competition or visit their website to find a location near you. Shake Shack has sixty-six locations worldwide.

When we visited Shake Shake in London, we were amazed by how busy they were in Covent Garden. It looked like organised pandemonium. In fact, they had three seating areas and they were all chock-a-block Buzzerfull of customers. There was even a long line of people waiting to order, so make sure you have some time to waste when you visit at peak times. We were given a buzzer that lets you know when your order is ready (my husband is holding this in the photo on the left) and after about 15 minutes we received our burgers, fries, drinks and concretes (frozen custard ice cream blended at high speeds with mix-ins). Despite the fact Shake Shack was incredibly busy, all the staff at Covent Garden were working extremely hard to make sure every customer was happy and satisfied.

I’d like to thank Kiki, the manager of Shake Shack in Covent Garden, for offering these vouchers for the competition. We also really appreciated Kiki’s excellent customer service.

Shake Shack Covent Garden

By the way, if you’re interested in Japan-related fiction please “Like” my Cherry Blossom Stories page on Facebook.

Good luck in the competition. All you need to do is retweet on Twitter for a chance to win!

♛ Top 20 Kawaii Hotspots in Tokyo ♛

Kawaii is a Japanese word used to describe anyone or anything that looks really cute. Thousands of young Kawaii Japangirls (as well as some boys and quite a few not-so-young women) from all over the world are embracing the kawaii culture and they’re flocking to Tokyo to indulge themselves in every aspect of this adorable craze. The kawaii culture, which originated in Harajuku, has now become so popular the word kawaii is being used in English by teenagers all over the world as well as fashionable companies to target consumers with their latest on-trend products and services.

Top international fashion and cosmetic brands are also using the word kawaii in their advertisements as a buzz word to describe items or features that are exceptionally cute or flattering.

There are lots of other adjectives that spring to mind when I think of anything kawaii in Japan such as sweet, endearing, charming, whimsical, sensational, fantabulous, stimulating, and even mind-boggling.

Kawaii LorealIf you think you’re too old for anything kawaii then think again! It doesn’t matter what age you are because there are lots of variations on the kawaii style in Tokyo’s shops and department stores and some of these items are so stylish you’re sure to find at least a few kawaii accessories you won’t be able to resist. There are also plenty of eye-popping kawaii experiences in Tokyo that will definitely broaden your smile and keep you entertained.

So, I think you can pretty much visualize the meaning of kawaii, but if you want to find out more then check out my top 20 hotspots in Tokyo for kawaii cuteness below.

 

KAWAII SHOPPING

1. Takeshita Street in Harajuku: This is usually the first point of call for kawaii fans. It’s a pedestrian street near Harajuku Station and it’s full of kawaii shops, restaurants, cafés and creperies. As you walk along this hugely popular street you’ll see people holding signs outside some of the shops offering discounts for that day so make sure you check out these stores first. By the way, Takeshita Street and the Harajuku area were the main inspiration for the song Harajuku Girls by Gwen Stefani so if you’re a fan of this music and all it represents then you’ll love this crowded, fun-filled shopping mecca, devoted to everything kawaii.

2. Shibuya 109 in Shibuya and LaForet in Harajuku: Both these department stores are full of boutiques stocking kawaii fashions and accessories but the prices here can be quite a bit higher than Takeshita Street in Harajuku. Keep in mind you’re paying for quality.

3. 6% DOKIDOKI: This shop is the brainchild of the famous Art Director Sebastian Masuda. This store is located in Harajuku and it’s full of kawaii merchandise. They also have a Facebook page and an online store with worldwide shipping!

DOKIDOKI

4. Hello Kitty store in Tokyo Solamachi: We all know the Hello Kitty brand but you’ll be amazed by just how much more there is to the range of Hello Kitty merchandise when you visit their store in Solamachi (a shopping complex adjacent to Tokyo Skytree).

5. Kiddyland (Harajuku): Yes, the name of this shop includes the word “kiddy” but some adults will also love to browse in this store. There are all sorts of fun toys  and a startling array of kawaii tat here but you’re sure to find some cute accessories no matter how old you are.

6. Cute Cube Harajuku: Located just a few minutes from Harajuku Station on Takeshita Street, this mini complex has a variety of kawaii shops and restaurants. Kawaii events also take place here.

7. Disney store at Harajuku ALTA building: The ALTA building opened in 2015 on Takeshita Street in Harajuku. It houses lots of top fashion brands and stores offering character merchandise. Here you’ll find the famous Disney store selling all your favourite Disney characters (please note this shop does not sell tickets to Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea).

8. Harajuku and Shibuya Kawaii shopping tour: An expert guide from Voyagin or Expedia will take you to all the kawaii fashion hotspots in Harajuku and Shibuya. These are the perfect tours for fashionistas and Tokyo first-timers who love to shop!

KAWAII RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS

9. Moshi Moshi Box Harajuku: This should be your first stop if you’re not really familiar with the main shopping areas and attractions in Tokyo. This tourist information box also offers foreign exchange, free Wi-Fi and even a crepe stand. You’ll find it on Meiji Dori, not far from Harajuku and Meiji-jingumae Stations. Just look out for the huge kawaii clock on the front designed by Sebastian Masuda (yes, he really is the kawaii king).

Moshi Moshi Box in Harajuku (photo courtesy of Tomuu at City-Cost)

Moshi Moshi Box in Harajuku (photo courtesy of Tomuu at City-Cost)

10. Sanrio Puroland: I know, you guessed it, of course there’s a kawaii land in Tokyo and it’s called Sanrio Puroland. You and your children will be mesmerized by the kawaii shows and attractions inside this complete world of cuteness. I’m planning to visit this land just for the kawaii gift shops! My tip is to print out the discount vouchers on their website when you’re planning your visit.

11. Alice in Wonderland restaurants:
There are five Alice in Wonderland restaurants in Tokyo, each with a different concept but the same theme, and they’re all run by Diamond Dining. The food is not 5-star quality at these restaurants but who cares when you’re being served by waitresses in Alice costumes, ordering from pop-up picture menus, and eating food in the shape of Alice in Wonderland characters. Choose from Alice in a Labyrinth in Ginza, Alice in a Fantasy Book in Shinjuku, Alice in a Magical Land in Nishi-Shinjuku, Alice in an Old Castle in Minami-Ikebukuro, and Alice in a Dancing Land in Shibuya.

12. Kawaii Monster Café: Another Sebastian Masuda concept, their website says it all: “Upon entering, you’ll walk through the tongue of Mr Ten thousand chopsticks (choppy) and then come across the cake shaped merry-go-round “SWEETS GO ROUND” and also the 4 unique areas called “MUSHROOM DISCO”, “MILK STAND”, “Bar Experiment” and “Mel-Tea ROOM”!”

I think you get the picture! This place is ultra-kawaii with extra super-duper kawaii on top!

13. Maid cafés in Akihabara:
This one is for the boys but it’s also popular with otaku manga and anime fans! If you like the idea of your food served to you by young Japanese girls in sexy French maid costumes then this is the place for you. These enthusiastic waitresses will even play games like rock-paper-scissors (or jan-ken-pon じゃんけんぽん in Japanese) with you and sing cute kawaii songs. Oh dear!!

14. World Project Kawaii Café: This café hopes to spread kawaii cuteness all over the world. You can enjoy pancakes and other delicious dishes here. They’re located in the ALTA building in Harajuku and they’re happy to host parties and events.

15. Kawaii cake shops:
There are hundreds of extremely good cake shops in Tokyo offering mind-blowing cake creations. I recommend La Terre Saison in Futakotamagawa, Juchheim Die Meister in Ginza, Anniversary in Minami-Aoyama, and Funs in the Hikarie complex in Shibuya.

Kawaii Kuma-san cake from La Terre Saison

Kawaii Kuma-san cake from La Terre Saison

16. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea: Yes, it’s true – the Disney theme park franchise is also in Tokyo. However, before you go to any of the Disney attractions you should know that it might not be everything you’re expecting. Nearly all of the attractions at both theme parks are in the Japanese language. Don’t worry, I promise you rides like Space Mountain are still as exciting as ever but you have to be prepared to queue for hours. Tokyo DisneySea is definitely worth a visit just based on the fact it cost 335 billion yen and it took two years to construct.

17. Kawaii nail manicures: Do you love having a manicure but you’re really tired of the same block esnailcolour or even the popular French manicure? Well, the manicure salons in Tokyo will fulfil all your wildest manicure dreams. They’ll even stick all sorts of famous characters on to the top of your nails. Have you ever wanted Minnie Mouse on the end of your ring finger? Yes, you can get that at a nail salon in Tokyo. What about a doughnut on the end of your pinkie finger? Yes, they can do that too! ESNAIL (esネイル) has five manicure salons in Tokyo in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Roppongi, and Kichijoji.

18. Transform yourself into a Lolita princess: If you absolutely adore the kawaii culture then Maison de Julietta in the LaForet department store in Harajuku will completely transform you into a Lolita for the ultimate cute kawaii photo shoot. They have an extensive range of about thirty kawaii outfits to choose from and you can even borrow a wig to enhance your Lolita look. Their basic menu which includes dressing up like a Lolita with hair and makeup costs 9,980 yen.

19. Kawaii photo booths: Recently, you may have seen photos of lots of Japanese girls on social media with unusually large eyes and perfect features, set in frames with all sorts of kawaii add-ons like bows and stars as well as popular characters like Hello Kitty. These girls are using apps on their phones or going to photo booths (called purikura in Japan) to make themselves look really cute with the help of all sorts of feature options that can completely change the way you look and increase your kawaii appeal (see the before and after shots in the pictures on the left). It’s important to know that a lot of these girls may look young but they could easily be a lot older than
they seem and they could look very different in real life! After they’ve completely transformed their facial features they can turn these photos into stickers. The photo booths have a game type setup that’s very easy to use. You too Purikura changecan find these purikura booths in the ALTA building in Takeshita Street in Harajuku and in Shibuya at the Shibuya Center Gai.

More purikura

 

 

 

 

20. My kawaii book – Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories: Before you head to Tokyo for the trip of a lifetime or if you’re already in Tokyo when you’re reading this and you’re resting in Tokyo-Tales-AMAZONyour hotel room, wondering what to do after a big day out in Harajuku, then why don’t you immerse yourself in the kawaii culture and enjoy lots of Japan-related stories from my book Tokyo Tales? As you’re reading each short story, I’m sure you’ll also appreciate all the gorgeous and super kawaii illustrations on the cover and throughout the book by the renowned Japanese illustrator Yoshimi Ohtani. You can buy Tokyo Tales in paperback and eBook from Amazon and more than 60 other retailers worldwide. The paperback version of Tokyo Tales as well as my novel Tokyo Hearts are also available from Books Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, Japan. Happy reading!

 

8 Tips to Help You Choose a Hotel in Tokyo


1. LOCATION:
Tokyo is vibrant and energetic but it can also be tiring and quite frustrating for first-time visitors who are trying to navigate their way around this incredible city. Therefore, it’s important to choose a hotel that is convenient and readily accessible to the major tourist attractions. One of the best and easiest ways to choose a hotel in Tokyo is to stay somewhere that has good access to the Yamanote Line. This is a circular railway loop that stops at nearly all of the major train stations. If you choose a hotel next to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ueno, Harajuku, and even Ikebukuro train station on the Yamanote Line you will have easy access to many popular tourist attractions and shopping areas.

YamanoteOther areas such as Roppongi or Nishi-Azabu, Ginza, Hibiya, Nihonbashi, and Asakusa are also terrific locations because they are very central, although they are not on the Yamanote Line.

Shinagawa is a good location if you’re planning to travel on the Shinkansen bullet train at some point to other areas in Japan but it’s not the best place to access the most popular attractions.

Odaiba is a fun new area surrounded by restaurants and amusement parks but this area is also a bit too detached from the rest of Tokyo and I’ve heard quite a few people complain about this.

Try to avoid hotels next to Haneda or Narita Airports and hotels in Chiba, Kamakura, and even Yokohama. These areas are really quite far from the major attractions in central Tokyo so your travelling times and your travel costs will also be more if you stay in these areas. You will also need to change train lines multiple times if you stay in these outer areas and this can be very confusing, especially for tourists who don’t speak Japanese.

There is also another really great way  for you to literally see how convenient your hotel is before you book: Simply, copy and paste the hotel’s address into Google Earth and zoom in to the street where your hotel is located. Make sure your hotel is (a) centrally located compared to the other main areas in Tokyo, (b) close to a train station, (c) near a convenience store and a couple of restaurants and coffee shops.

2. TYPE OF HOTEL: Tokyo offers a plethora of hotel options. You can stay in a Godzilla themed hotel (The Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku) or a Hello Kitty themed room (Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku), a traditional ryokan, a cheap capsule hotel where you sleep in a pod (I recommend Book and Bed Tokyo – it has over 1,700 English and Japanese language books!), serviced apartments, and basic one-star hotels or luxurious five-star hotels such as the Imperial Hotel. You can also privately rent a room or an apartment with Airbnb Tokyo, or take part in a homestay with a Japanese family.

Imperial Hotel

3. GOOD AND BAD AREAS IN TOKYO: Depending on what sort of tourist you are you should stay in an area that suits your needs. If you’re travelling with young children you should probably avoid the Kabuki-cho area in Shinjuku because this is basically the red light district in Tokyo. You’ll also probably want to avoid Roppongi because this is an area filled with bars, clubs and adult entertainment.

Akasaka Mitsuke, Hibiya, Ebisu, Asakusa and Ginza are all very nice places to stay and they are considered to be five of the most reputable areas in Tokyo.

4. BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM AND YOUR PLANE TICKET TOGETHER: If you live in the UK I highly recommend the online travel company Expedia. On this website you can book your hotel room and flight together as part of a package deal. You should also subscribe to Expedia’s mailing list because they offer some great reductions on flight and hotel prices and you’ll get notifications for these sent straight to your inbox. I’m sure every country offers similar holiday package deals through an online travel company so do your homework before you book and you’ll definitely save a lot of money.

5. CHOOSE A HOTEL WITH BREAKFAST INCLUDED: If you’re staying in Tokyo for at least a week then you should definitely consider a hotel with breakfast included and it’s best to choose one with lots of variety. Quite a few three-star hotels offer a free Japanese breakfast and a Western breakfast with omelettes, sausages, meat patties, salad, bread rolls and croissants, orange juice and tea or coffee. This is the perfect way to start the day and a free breakfast could save you a lot of money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. PROS AND CONS OF HIGH MULTI-STOREY HOTELS: Some of the major hotels have at least 25 floors and although you can enjoy great views of Tokyo and even Mount Fuji on a clear day you are also more likely to feel frightened if an earthquake occurs and you’re staying on one of the upper floors. I was staying in a room on a very high floor when I experienced an earthquake that measured above 6 on the Richter scale and I can assure you I was very scared. If this happens when you’re in Tokyo the room will move up and down and side to side, the elevator will not be in service, and you’ll be advised to stay in your hotel room. Call the hotel receptionist for advice, don’t panic, and sleep in your clothes that night with your suitcase packed and ready to go if you’re anxious. Hopefully, there will be no more earthquakes. One thing is for sure: If you experience an earthquake in Tokyo you’ll definitely have a memorable trip.

7. SIZE OF YOUR ROOM: If you can speak at least basic Japanese then it would be a good idea to choose a hotel room in an area that is located on the outskirts of Tokyo because you’re more likely to get a bigger room. This would be an important factor if you’re staying for at least two weeks. I would only recommend you to do this if you’ve been to Japan before so you don’t get confused changing trains or finding your way around Tokyo. If you’re travelling alone I would advise you to book a room with a semi-double bed rather than a single bed and you’ll definitely be a lot more comfortable, especially if you’re tall or an above average sized person. Take a look at the tourist photos for the hotel that you want to book on TripAdvisor and then you can get a good idea of how big your room is going to be. Also check to see if the room has a wardrobe to hang your clothes or enough space to store and open your suitcase. Some hotel rooms in central Tokyo are described as shoeboxes because there is hardly any room to move and you have to open your suitcase on the bed which can be annoying.

8. SMOKING AND NON-SMOKING ROOMS: I see a lot of people on TripAdvisor complaining that their hotel room smelt of cigarette smoke when they checked in to their hotel in Japan. These people all seemed to be quite upset about this because they specifically booked a non-smoking room. Many people don’t realise that Japan is not as strict with their smoking laws so you may find it difficult to make a complaint about cigarette smoke to the concierge at your hotel. If cigarette smoke really bothers you, make sure you book a room at a hotel that is completely smoke-free. If this is not possible you also have another option. Many hotels in Tokyo are refurbishing some of their rooms in time for the Olympics in 2020 and they don’t want guests who are smokers in these rooms, so look for hotels that offer newly refurbished non-smoking rooms when you book and you’re more likely to get what you want. A lot of hotels are also offering air purifiers as standard in all their rooms and this can help a lot. Air purifiers are usually listed as part of the room amenities in the hotel descriptions.

Snippets from「Tokyo Totem – A Guide to Tokyo」(BTW, It’s Not Your Typical Guide Book)

Tokyo TotemTokyo Totem is one of the most stimulating, creative, and thought-provoking books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. This is not your typical guidebook. It’s a juxtaposition of fascinating contributions from talented writers, artists, mangaka, designers and various other makers from Japan and all over the world. These talented creatives have skilfully provided their own unique and captivating interpretation of Tokyo and what it means to live in this mind-blowing capital city.

As you turn each page, you not only feel like you’re walking with these writers and artists on the very streets of Tokyo, you also feel like you’re looking at this city from a completely new angle. Each essay, photo, story, comic, sign, and scribble will transcend your understanding of this marvellous city. One minute you’re in a bathhouse wondering whether a yakuza member will empathize with a gaijin (foreigner), the next minute you’re learning something new about Tokyo’s unique topography or you’re looking at Tokyo’s signs and symbols from a completely different perspective. When you turn another page, you suddenly realise the idea of Metabolism (a post-war architectural movement) is very much an integral and exciting part of Japan’s architectural formation, and towards the end the section on urban commons and shared communities provides a very optimistic ending on how Japan will cope with its ageing population problems in the future.

Every section of Tokyo Totem was wonderfully inviting and stimulating so I know I’ll be returning to reread different excerpts in the future even though I’ve already finished and thoroughly enjoyed the entire book. The reason for this is because Tokyo Totem will leave you feeling intellectually and emotionally inspired by its contents. So much so, I think every designer and Japanologist should have a copy of Tokyo Totem on their coffee table, if not only for the fact that this book is beautifully presented with lovely thick paper, the colour coding for each section on the fore-edge as well as the hinge of the book delights the eye, and the cover is very cleverly designed with the word Tokyo in the shape of a totem face, set above the Japanese Hinomaru circle of the sun.

Below are snippets I’ve taken from Tokyo Totem for you to enjoy before you buy the book.

The Noble Art of Subjective Exploration – Christiaan Fruneaux

“On one particularly warm night I was riding the bicycle I had borrowed from a friend. During the day Tokyo can be hot and humid but the nights are pleasant. A nice breeze brushed against my body. I was on my way to have dinner with friends. Above my head an artificial firmament of slow flashing red lights stretched out. Warnings for airplanes and helicopters, so they wouldn’t fly into skyscrapers, those dark concrete mountains that occasionally rise up above you. Tokyo felt like a dream. Interspersed within the metropolitan expanse were intimate residential areas. I was constantly cycling through barriers, from shadowy almost suburban neighborhoods to light metropolitan high-rises. I felt myself falling in love with the city for the first time. It wasn’t love at first sight, but that doesn’t matter. Perhaps it makes the relationship even more precious.”

The City of Children – Chris Berthelsen

“I envy my children, their everyday environment: Its flowers and vegetable plots, insects and pets, informal structures, fruits, berries and edible greens. The human(e) scale and pungent personality of Tokyo’s neighborhoods distill the exquisite refinement of sight, taste, smell and touch in a shifting stream of experience that comprises sensation, memory and anticipation.”

City Beyond Time – Joris Berkhout

“The structure of Tokyo is not to be found in its physical form. Instead some suggest that another layer, imperceptible but powerful, defines the city, a layer of symbolic meaning, a mythic field that provides coherence in a fractured and ever-changing urban landscape. This field is defined by symbolic elements such as traditions and rituals, local foods, the signs of convenience stores and shops, and the ubiquitous vending machines.”

The Naked Neighborhood: Exploring the Metropolitan Bathscape – Greg Dvorak

“Tokyo baths usually invite passersby to enter via a large, sometimes neon, sign that says “yu” (hot water), written in red . . . Yakuza gangsters, whose tattoos are like permanent body suits, also come to soak away their stress . . . public baths that serve taxpayers, local sento businesses in Tokyo (many of whom are built on yakuza-controlled land) place no restrictions on these thuggish men. I actually consider it a thrill to bathe with them. Where else (except maybe in prison) does one have a chance to quietly marvel at the amazing artwork of dragons and giant carp and Japanese gods and goddesses dancing and cavorting across the backs and buttocks of gang members? And my local yakuza are actually quite friendly. Sometimes they even say hello.”

 "yu" (hot water)

“yu” (hot water)

Documentarians of Change – A Short History of Street Fashion in Tokyo – Daphne Mohajer-Va-Pesaran

“Harajuku would earn a reputation as a place of counter-culture and rebellion, facilitating youth-led subcultures, art and fashion design (notably the work of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto). The area would become one that would allow young people to experiment with various dress styles and transform themselves during their formative years.”

In the Arena of Alternative Modernities – Julian Worrall

“Tokyo – in the coruscating kaleidoscope of its fashions; in the endless churn of its building sites; in the urban metronome of its train timetable; in its diurnal round of morning sobriety and nocturnal exuberance; in the annual exultation of spring sakura and the summer matsuri; in its April inductions and December big cleans; and in the slow toll of the New Year’s bell – the rhythms of an alternative modernity, one whose procession is nothing other than an eternal perambulation around the arena of history.”

 Super Legal Buildings – Boots Street 長靴通り  – Yasutaka Yoshimura 

“If the widening of a road is anticipated, the architecture that can be built along this road is subjected to certain restrictions regarding the size and the structure. The manner in which these buildings align to the road, being lower in the front and higher in the back, almost seems like a row of boots neatly placed along the road. The lower front section gives rise to a moderate sense of scale that is optimal for stores. Typically one will find such buildings on relatively busy streets.”

Hera Shibori (Metal Spinning) – Fritzi Ponse

“Okada told me about metal-spinning craftsmen who produce not only pots and pans for local households, but also the noses for Japanese bullet trains and the casings for NASA’s rocket engines; they do it all by hand too, assisted by homemade machinery. I got curious. I wanted to meet these “high-tech craftsmen”. I wanted to see how they worked, how they combined manual skills and home-made-machinery to produce not just cutlery but vital parts for smartphones, satellites and high-speed trains as well.”

Tracing the Past in the City of the Future – Jephta Duillaart

“When I think about the geographical condition of Japan and its history of devastating earthquakes, tsunamis and fires, I’m beginning to understand the ease with which Tokyoites replace the old with the new. It is no surprise that the idea of Metabolism, a post-war architectural movement, sprung from this seismologic unstable soil. The Metabolist architects, of whom Kenzo Tange is the most well-known representative, believed in the continuous renewal of the city, identical to the organic growth of natural organisms.”

Feeling at Home in Tokyo  – Anna Berkhof

“A concept that may help us to understand how Tokyoites feel at home is the duality of “uchi” and “soto”. Uchi means inside, soto means outside, and the dual concept is often associated with the creation of a sense of self in Japan. It is a cultural notion that distinguishes between us–uchi–versus others–soto, and it’s therefore a bit different from the Western duality of the individual versus the rest of the world. Uchi connotes not the individual but the closest group around the individual: the community. The key inside group is, of course, the family, but the word is also transferred to broader groups, like neighbours, schoolmates, colleagues, and even nationality.”

Omoiyari (Altruistic Sensitivity) – Maiko Arrieta Aoki

“The most important thing at the izakaya [tavern], even more important than the food, is that clients feel as comfortable as they would in their own homes. It is a place to relax. Good izakaya owners work hard to meet their clients’ needs. In Japanese this type of kindness is called omoiyari, which roughly translates into English as “altruistic sensitivity”. The omoiyari expressed in each dish shows the owner’s inner feelings for his clients: He makes each dish a powerful vehicle of communication. Omoiyari doesn’t only work one way (owner-client), though. It also works the other way (client-owner), with clients showing their gratitude through the way they eat their food or place their chopsticks.”

Single Ladies – Tomoko Kubo

“Condominium purchases by single women became an emerging phenomenon in Tokyo . . . Ebisu especially is well known as a “liveable town for single women”. There are many good restaurants that stay open late, and the suburb is filled with fashionable streets with high-fashion boutiques. It is a place where (wealthy) single women can enjoy their lives. But Eastern Tokyo, which includes Ginza and Ochanomizu, is also in high demand, since it is considered the center of high culture. There are many museums, large halls for classical music, and ballet, theaters for kabuki and other dramas, and many good bars and restaurants that people can visit before or after a show or exhibition. The condominiums in central Tokyo were built especially for single women who wish to enjoy this kind of mature urban lifestyle.”

New Urban Commons – Christian Dimmer

“While the gloomy narrative of Japan’s inevitable decline is still prominent, an alternative, far more positive reading is possible: it is the encouraging story of a dawning post-growth society whose seeds we may be seeing in Japan’s quickly multiplying new urban commons. It is a story of empowerment, of the careful treatment of natural resources, of a newly awakening do-it-yourself spirit, of creative problem solving, and of sharing precious time, space, and goods . . . Kankan Mori and its diverse residents form such a self-defined community. The residents not only share ample common resources – such as a shared office, a communal kitchen, a living room, two garden terraces, a laundry room, and a wood workshop – but they also engage in diverse communing activities in order to collectively manage their resources.”

"In Tokyo, the businessmen, the geisha girls and the fashion commandos all wear big shoes. A big shoe is usually worn three sizes too big. A leather shoe is mandatory for men, while women have more choices." Read more at www.tokyototem.jp/bigshoe

ŌKINA KUTSU, BIG SHOE: “In Tokyo, the businessmen, the geisha girls and the fashion commandos all wear big shoes. A big shoe is usually worn three sizes too big. A leather shoe is mandatory for men . . . With the three inches between his heel and the backside of his shoe, he anticipates personal growth.” Read more at www.tokyototem.jp/bigshoe