Matcha. Cherry Blossoms. Glossy Magazines. Traditional Kimonos. Udon Noodles. Whisky Date Nights and The Secret to J Beauty.Tokyo is where the old and traditional naturally intersect with the future: a city of juxtapositions that illustrate its history and its place in modern-day Japan. It’s a welcoming place that encourages you to explore and grow deeply inspired.
The trendy Daikanyama neighborhood sits along the Meguro River and is like no other spot in the world. In the spring, the river is lined with Japanese cherry blossoms. It is about two-and-a-half miles long and there is an impressive collection of 800 cherry blossom trees for you to admire between late March to early April. In the summer you’ll see beautiful green leaves, as the seasons transition into fall, the natural integration and changing colors of the foliage known as "Momiji-gari," which translates to beautiful autumn color hunting. It is also known for its striking architecture and interior design (the area's famed Daikanyama T-Site bookstore is nothing short of spectacular).
Before the JR (Japan Railways) line was built, Ueno Park, situated conveniently close to various train lines, was the place for locals to gather and meet. Established in the spring of 1876, Ueno Park is a place where you can celebrate both the arts and nature at once. The simplicity and beauty of this park shows us the magnificence of the seasons; the changing colors of the leaves and the cherry blossoms signify the passage of time. As someone who loves to exercise and explore while traveling, Ueno Park is the perfect place for a run or walk. It’s on these windy paths that I lap the park at least four times in the mornings. With the change of seasons comes a renewed sense of miracles and wonder; it’s like magic.
A kimono is a traditional Japanese style of clothing worn by Japanese women and men, dating back to the Heian period (794 -1185 AD). It is not hundreds of years, but rather thousands of years old. My grandmother’s kimonos were handed down to my mother’s sisters and granddaughters after her passing. This legacy of kimonos being passed down from generation to generation is of utmost importance. No dream visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to Ginza Motoji, located in Ginza. The Motoji family has been making kimonos since 1979 and Motoji Kimono aims to highlight the artists and people behind the craft of kimono making. Their mission is to "reinstate it as a modern vogue among Japanese people, giving the kimono a new lease on life as a wardrobe option within today’s fashion culture.”
The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum holds the world’s gems gifted to us by world-renowned artists that we tend to only see in history books. In addition to more traditionally cherished works there are also recent works by beloved contemporary artists on display. The museum is said to stand as “a haven for enrichment of the heart,” according to Mamuro Yoshitake, director of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The museum is conveniently located in Ueno Park, a place where my own grandfather, impressionist painter Jun Kumai, had his work displayed 22 times. Surrounded by an oasis of cherry blossom trees parked right within Tokyo city, the museum is a perfect example of what is cherished here in Japan: the coming together of ancient and modern.
One of my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo is Ginza, the famous shopping district of Dover Street Market. Come here to check out the most modern, forward, and sleek fashion (and get inspired while doing so). From sneakers to jewelry, this trendy-stacked mall is curated with the coolest Tokyo fashion, merch displays, and galleries—it’s like a museum and mall all in one—enough said. Packed into a seven-story building each level features a diverse range of designers and artists. The art displays are a must-see, and you can even try on beautiful items for an impromptu fashion shoot.
My best-kept beauty secret is the onsen experience, a traditional Japanese hot mineral spring bath where you can soak up the benefits of natural, mineral-rich Japanese hot spring water. Hoshinoya Tokyo offers a luxurious take on the traditional Japanese onsen, which is located on the top floor of this modern Japanese-style hotel (ryokan). It pumps hot spring water from 5,000 feet below the ground, offering ultimate relaxation. While there is an indoor bath as well, the outdoor bath is the highlight—and it provides an ever-changing view of the sky.
Tokyo was the first place that sparked my interest in my lineage when I was only five years old; since then my heart has grown deeper in adoration for Tokyo throughout the years. From my grandfather’s art exhibits to the temple my parents first met at, all of it began right here.