Headline April 05, 2016/ ''' ROMANCING EASTERN TOKYO '''


ONE OF THE MOST DAUNTING cities for foreign visitors, Tokyo is a manic, hyperactive assault on the senses.

But steady your focus and you'll notice that a distinct strand of traditional elements also weaves through the Japanese capital. Even without leaving Eastern Tokyo, here defined as the area east of the Imperial Palace-

A visitor can experience the enormous breadth of what this mesmerizing metropolis has to offer. From boutiques blooming in an abandoned spaces to new ramen shops taking root and amid glittering high-rises.

Eastern Tokyo promises   -now more than ever  -to leave even experienced travelers wide-eyed with wonder.

In this densely built up city, it takes ingenuity to create commercial space where none existed. That's part of the appeal of  Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi, a handsome riverside complex that opened in 2013 under the red-brick viaduct of the historic Manseibashi railroad station, which had been closed since 1943.

After browsing the handful of shops selling everything from bamboo matcha whisks to printed handkerchiefs, ascend the old staircase to watch Chuo line trains rumble mere feet from either side of the rooftop cafe N3331  set between the tracks.
For another example of creative repurposing, explore the collective of shops called  2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan that opened in an arcade beneath elevated railroad tracks. Among the dozen of stores filled handcrafted wares don't miss the elegant wooden toys at Nocra or the spell binding goods in Soshin Kaleidoscopes.

Ginza is a glamorous shopping district dominated by luxury department stores and high-end designer boutiques, which makes the continued survival of the artist-filled Okuno Building so unusual.

The brick tenement, built in the 1930s, is crammed with more than 50 studios, workshops and galleries.
Take the rickety elevator  -said to be the last of its kind in the city  -to the sixth floor and then work your way down through the low-ceilinged rooms displaying everything from hand-thrown ceramics to wrapped-yarn sea creatures.

Keep an eye out for Galerie Sawarabi, a closet-size, second-floor gallery that recently exhibited a hauntingly beautiful collection of silk-screen paintings.

Ramen is dead? Hardly. the government recently announced investments of up to 2 billion yen, around $17 million, in Ippudo's parent company to support the worldwide proliferation of their noodle shops. And in the heart of Ginza, two stylish, newish spots are doing their own form of trailblazing with deliciously distinct bowls.

At Mugi to Olive, slurp a light bowl of the signature clam ramen [980 yen] or forgo broth entirely by ordering the silky umami-rich mazesoba that arrives crowned with a sunset orange yolk [840 yen].
Mere blocks away, devotees line up in the dim alley outside Kagari, an eight-seat shop that opened in 2013.

Joining them to sample the revelatory tory paitansoba [880 yen], a steaming bowl of chicken, seasonal vegetables and noodles in a creamy chicken based broth.

Head south to Shimabashi, an area favoured by hard-partying salarymen who work in the surrounding skyscrapers. Then walk under the train tracks to Dry-Dock, a a tiny nautical themed bar with porthole windows and a rotating selection of domestic drinks and plate of fresh oysters. 

When there's time to visit only one museum, make it the  Tokyo National Museum, a vast complex housing impressive thematic collections [620 yen].  The main building's second floor ''Highlights of  Japanese Art,'' with exhibition dedicated to topics like  Zen and ink painting, provides an instructive primer on both culture and art.

The adjacent modernist structure Toyokan , which reopened in 2013, contains refurbished galleries filled with early Chinese icons and a grisly mummy, among the Asian artifacts. And don't miss the the army of ancient terra-cotta soldiers of China's first emperor, part of a special exhibition in the Heiseiken galleries.

Who needs decor you can admire a perfect plate of food? The unassuming luncheonette Maruyama Kippes, which opened in 2012, serves superlative tunkatsu  -breaded deep fried cutlets  -in a modest space that could be easily mistaken for a spartan sushi bar.

Make your selection from the ticket machine, take a seat at the long white counter and wait for the cheef to deliver bowls of white rice and miso soup, and a plate of crisp-shredded cabbage with the juiciest panko-encrusted cutlets you can imagine [1,500 yen].      

Even as the city pushes the limits of modernization, there remaining charming spots where you can feel the nostalgic pull of the past. That's evident at Cafe de I'Ambre, a classic kissaten  {coffee shop} tucked on a back lane in Ginza 1948.

Take a seat and order a drink you'll never find at Starbucks : the Blanc et Noir ''Queen Amber,'' served in a coupe glass with milk floating atop sweetened coffee. Or try a brew made with aged beans, like an extra-fine Colombian vintage from 1954.

Either is a delicious reminder that there's room for everything  -new and old. traditional and trendy -even in just a portion of this exhilarating city.

But my all time favorite is to swap out the city's steel and glass for trees during a morning stroll through the landscaped Hama-rikyu Gardens {300 yen}. 

This peaceful park framed by Shimbashi's soaring skyscrapers, spans more than 60 acres of green meadows and placid ponds. If your visit coincides with the brief cherry blossoming season, tack on a walk through Sumida Park in Asakusa.

The delicate blossoms fleeting beauty blooms along the park's riverside allee, which offers unobstructed view of the futuristic 2,080-foot-tall Tokyo Skytree, currently the world's tallest tower.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and the Ecosystem 2011:

''' A Travelling World '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!