If NYC’s Brooklyn and LA’s Melrose Avenue had a baby, I’m pretty confident their offspring would be the trendy neighborhood of Daikanyama. This Tokyo neighborhood is not like Shinjuku or Roppongi, where skyscrapers, tall buildings and hordes of tourists reign. Daikanyama is where you’ll find the stylish locals partaking in retail therapy at small boutiques, drinking cappuccino at small cafes and meeting friends for dinner and drinks.
Daikanyama’s epicenter is Log Road, home of LA-based Fred Segal. The clothing house consists of three buildings developed over deserted railroad tracks, including a café and a vintage food truck. Once you’re done ogling over Fred Segal, more shopping, eating, drinking and fun await.
GRAB A BITE
You’ll say you didn’t fly all the way to Tokyo to eat pancakes for breakfast, until you’ve eaten at T-Site Bookstore’s most popular restaurant. Open from 7am to 10pm, Ivy Place’s two outdoor terraces are a prime spot to check out the outfits of the local trendsetters. Surrounded by a garden and trees, Ivy’s makes you feel like you’ve entered a sanctuary outside the hustle and bustle of the city.
It may sound bizarre to seek out Mexican in the sushi capital of the world, but this taqueria has been serving top-notch Mexican food since 1976. The smell of freshly made corn tortillas welcome you as you walk in. Start with a big ol’ margarita and then move onto the camarones al mojo de ajo and chicken enchiladas rojas.
This cafe would fit in perfectly in Portland, Oregon. The name is a good indicator of what to expect in this cozy welcoming café, a garage full of fun - canoes, bicycles, surf boards, a DJ booth, and interesting art with a great vibe. If the sun’s out, grab one of the tables outside. Check their website for movie screenings and live music.
There seem to be more varieties of ramen than Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors of ice cream. At Art Masahsiya, the specialty is a broth prepared from dried sardine stock. Choose from three degrees of saltiness. Bonus points for rolling like a local by slurping your noodles and not lingering beyond 20 minutes.
Isshin is where to go when you want to experience a traditional bento lunch set without breaking the bank (after all, there’s much shopping to be had). Located at the end of a street and tucked away at the bottom of a spiraling staircase, Isshin offers a lunch set including a main of meat or fish, a few small dishes of pickled vegetables, a bowl of miso soup, rice and green tea.
A trip to Tokyo is not complete without visiting an izakaya, a casual Japanese-style tapas bar. There are as many izakayas as smartphones on a subway, but Tatemichiya is unique in part because its owner, Yoshiyuki Okada, is a huge punk rock fan. Here, posters of Bad Religion accompany a Sex Pistols soundtrack as you feast on chicken yakitori and toast “kanpai!” with a Sapporo.
GET A DRINK
A mecca for international travelers, design aficionados and locals, this intimate cocktail lounge is a welcoming spot for both locals and visitors. The signature drink is a Ginger Mint Mojito. Great for nightowls, Kinfolk is open until 4AM and watch out for poker night on Mondays.
Where else can you get Japanese potato salad served alongside a plate of charcuterie and a great selection of wine by the glass? Located right off the Meguro River, this stylish two-story wine bar is a great stop when you’ve had your fill of cherry blossoms and need some bubbly paired sustenance.
It’s ironic that a coffee shop serving some of the most unique coffee in Tokyo has such a non-descript name. Owner Hussein Ahmed, who runs the light-filled modern café with his Japanese wife, imports rare beans from his homeland of Yemen. The Mt. Somarah varietal originates from an elevation of 2,800 meters, and pairs well with their housemade date cookies.
This industrial modern café is designed by a famous architect, and maintains a cozy and welcoming vibe. This is the type of café where you order your latte, bring a book and settle in for a while.
Stylish Bonjour Records is more than just a record shop. It’s like walking into your hip artist buddy’s loft/work space. CDs and gadgets casually strewn around scream for you to touch them. With an in-house coffee shop, mixes created by Parisian fashion labels like Kitsuné and acoustic cover compilations (including one featuring Nirvana’s ‘‘Smells Like Teen Spirit), you won’t linger long before finding an obscure, independently published arts zine to challenge your boundaries.
This architectural gem is spread across three interlinked buildings adorned with lattices of interlocking T’s. Book lovers make regular pilgrimages to T-Site, a tricked-out bookstore flush with English-language books, art books and vintage periodicals. Beyond books, T-Site houses a huge music section, a popular café, bike shop and pet store.
Renowned for its timeless, minimalist aesthetic, you can find this French clothing line’s boutiques in all of the chic cities in the world. I’m guessing if its founder, Jean Touitou, were forced to divulge his favorite, he’d choose the Daikanyama outpost for the same reason lovers of Japanese design aesthetic love Japan: modern use of negative space, with greenery incorporating nature and light. Those $300 jeans sure look fine set against the sunlight.
If it weren’t for the sign, you’d mistake UES’s storefront, with its flowerpots, cute blue door and curtains, for your grandma’s house. Just follow the cult followers of Japanese raw denim through the doors. Their denim is known to mold to your body, with a higher quality to last longer than your next boyfriend. As if UES couldn’t get any cooler, they even have a vintage Brother machine and sewing repairing work station where they make repairs on the spot for you.
Sometimes when you’re craving some greenery in a metropolitan city, all you have to do is look up. Constructed on a sloping roof 15-35 meters above street level stretching above the intersection of two major expressways, the work put into this rooftop garden is on par with multi-million-dollar football stadiums.
You don’t have to travel all the way to Kyoto to get in on the cherry blossom action. An urban hike along Meguro River will give you some time with nature interspersed with boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.
The 'bean-to-bar' movement has made its way to Tokyo via this chic chocolate shop. Bring an extra bag to store all of the beautifully wrapped bars you’ll want to squirrel away for yourself, I mean, your friends. Sign up for one of their workshops to learn how they make chocolate or grab a spot at one of their comfy leather chairs with a hot chocolate and watch the chocolatiers in action.
What other building can brag that its walls contain independent boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, a museum, and even an ancient burial ground? In addition to pushing the term “mixed use” to the extreme, the building’s striking white geometric design makes it one of the most prominent structures in Daikanyama.
Map illustration by Charmagne Kringstein