Japan is like that person you know, you know the one, the person who is so intense that you have no choice but to respond in kind and either intensely love or intensely hate their dumb head. No middle ground. Japan has a personality that is so distinct, so uniquely Japanese, that if you have ever thought Japan miiggghht be a place you would like, you Mos Def need to go there IMMEDIATELY! But in an orderly fashion. Arigato.

For this Smirnoff Start Pure City Guide, we have enlisted the help of Japanophile Eloise Rapp and included the Tokyo inspired ‘Tokyo Sidecar’ cocktail for your enjoyment. But remember, not everything needs to be big in Japan, so enjoy responsibly.

Tokyo is a hypnotic and exciting place to live; it is very easy to let all of your spare time get sucked into a vortex of incredible art, design, music, food and cultural events that occur constantly and year-round. Hence the title of this top ten list.

During my stint in Tokyo I lived in Shimokitazawa, one of the city’s liveliest and loveliest neighbourhoods full of tiny bars and cafes, thrift stores, nan and pop bike shops on every corner and a warm village atmosphere. I worked on a bunch of freelance projects including writing trend reports for WGSN, styling for fashion and underground club events, textile prints and odd graphic design jobs. I tried to go to Japanese lessons and just ended up learning from my friends instead (recommended).

The creative community is vibrant and welcoming, full of talent and great craftsmanship; which is why my label RAPP was conceived over there. I love my low-brow, rowdy izakayas, local design and thrifting, and as you will find, Tokyo caters to these needs in abundance.

A-Z Café

Address: 5F 5-8-3 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku

Phone: +81 3 5464 0281

Website: atozcafe.exblog.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 12noon–11pm 

Although most high-rise bars will forever play second fiddle to the Bill Murray endorsed New York Bar, the A-Z café is my pick for best drink with a view. The joint creator of the space is the ubiquitous artist Yoshitomo Nara, whose devil children lurk on the walls and tables.

Karaoke 747

Address: 6F Sanwa Bldg, 3-6-7 Shinjuku San-Chome, Shinjuku-ku

Phone: +81 3 3352 3410

Website: www.karaoke747.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 6pm–5am, Sunday and Saturday (and public holidays) 3pm–5am
Until a friend politely provided me with the name of this karaoke establishment I knew it only as “the one with the glowing space decals and staff who dress up as pilots”. Karaoke 747 is the only K bar you need to know about in Tokyo, and hot selling points include a costume rack, tambourines, high school dance lighting and an encyclopaedic catalogue.

Picture by Eloise.

Address: 3-20-13 Jingumae, Shibuya

Phone: +81 3 3352 3410

Website: vacant.n0idea.com
Opening Hours: Shop & café Monday to Sunday 12noon–8pm
A serene pit stop just a step from the mayhem that is Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori (that’s tacky shit street to you). An ambient, inviting space encouraging creative interaction, Vacant is part zine shop, part cafe and part exhibition/performance space. A great place to discover Tokyo’s emerging artists. Also, David Byrne loves it.


Address: B1F Nakamura Bldg, 2-15-3 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku

Phone: +81 3 5430 5156

Website: tabelog.com/tokyo
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 5p –5am

The logo of this busy smokehouse/izakaya is a chicken riding a pig. Any questions? Toritonkun, in my old locale of Shimokitazawa, provides the most fun you’ll have eating in a while. A Japanese-only menu with a bit of food photography means you’ll be doing some experimental ordering, but it’s all pretty amazing. Get the karaage and sweet potato dessert chips.

Picture by Eloise.
Harajuku Chicago

Address: B1F Olympia Annex Bldg. 6-31-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Phone: +81 3 3409 5017

Website: www.chicago.co.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11am–8pm

The thrift store to end all thrift stores. This place is a cavernous, stuffed-rack wonderland with walls of suspenders, yukata, hippie skirts, old tees and fur jackets. Everything is sourced from Japan and the US, and the prices are superb.

Picture by Eloise.


Address: 3-8-4 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

Phone: +81 3 3353 8636

Website: claudia-italy.jp

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 6pm–2am

Shinjuku is full of glaring tourist landmarks, but not a whole lot of relaxed places to stop at for an unfussy dinner or afternoon wine. Claudia is ideal, tucked away in a great little pocket of bars and restaurants just out of the chaos. Delicious Italian fare with a great wine list and great vibe.

Boro-ichi Markets

Address: 3-8-4 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

Phone: +81 3 3353 8636

Website: www.city.setagaya.lg.jp
Opening Hours: Second weekend of December and January 9am–8pm

If you travel to Tokyo in December or January, lucky you – the Boroichi markets are on. A world-class antique & flea market in one of Tokyo’s prettiest neighbourhoods boasting a huge spread of second-hand dealers in everything from pickled plums and moss cultivations to kimono silks and hand weapons. Delicious winter street food is the cherry on the cake.

Picture by Eloise.
Gallery & Shop “DO” by Claska

Address: 1-3-18 Chuo-cho, Meguro-ku

Phone: +81 3 3719 8124

Website: www.claska.com
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11am–7pm every day

Domestic chic unleashed, DO in the covetable Claska hotel is where I head for my Japanese interior and object fix. There are so many beautiful things to buy here it’s almost ridiculous; food, clothing, kitchenware, stationery, accessories, you name it. Superb for presents.

SCAI the Bathhouse

Address: Kawashiwayu-Ato 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku

Phone: +81 3 3821 1144

Website: www.scaithebathhouse.com
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12noon–7pm

Doubling as an excuse to spend time in the beautiful, historical neighbourhood of Yanaka, a visit to SCAI ensures you’ll catch some of the most exciting and sophisticated contemporary art coming out of Japan. It actually is a converted 200-year-old bathhouse.


Address: B1F Kusumoto Bldg, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku

Phone: +81 3 3464 0775

Website: www.hanbey.com

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday and Saturday 5pm–3am

A cheery, battered-and-fried friendly izakaya plastered with Showa era film and propaganda posters. Great yakitori, fried noodles, and the complementary fresh cabbage with miso dipping sauce is a game-changer. Ancient television sets play original Astro Boy episodes, naturally. J-menu only.

BONUS. Seasonal must-do’s:

SUMMER Koenji Awa Odori and Enoshima

SPRING Yoyogi Park and Nakameguro Canal

AUTUMN Mt Takao and Shinjuku Gyoen

WINTER Kusatsu Onsen and Sanriku Kotatsu Train

Words by Eloise Rapp.