Meiji Jingu presents an ideal starting point for our tour of Tokyo, both for the time period it represents and as an example of traditional Japanese design. At this Shinto shrine, dedicated to 19th-century ruler Emperor Meiji, we’ll discuss how traditional aesthetics are the foundation for the modern and contemporary design that followed. (For a more detailed look at the Meiji, take a look at our Tokyo National Museum Tour).
Next, we’ll travel to Harajuku and Omotesando, two closely situated areas that represent quite different manifestations of what modernity in Japan means. Our time in Harajuku will allow us to delve into some of the colorful subcultures that Tokyo is known for and to see how one’s exterior reflects principles tied to hobbies, values, and social roles. (We provide a deeper look at Anime and Manga, which will no doubt be on display in Harajuku, on our Akihabara Tour). Afterwards, we’ll move through Omotesando, an architectural feast for the eyes, where the main luxury merchants, from Prada to Dior, have used architecture as an extension of their brands’ aesthetic principles.
Depending on the time and our interests we may finish at Kengo Kuma's Nezu Museum, the 21 21 Design Site, Nogizaka’s National Art Center of Tokyo, or even Roppongi Hills, an integrated urban development. By the end of our architecture walking tour of Tokyo, we’ll understand how a distinct design sensibility, aesthetics, and style are displayed across the city, reflecting Japanese history and a unique understanding of what constitutes good design.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
Generally speaking, the walk begins in the Harajuku neighborhood. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map. The walk might end at 21_21 Design Museum, or if the group covers a fast pace, Roppongi Hills.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 2.5 miles overall at a moderate pace. There are occasional opportunities to sit, use the bathroom, and get something to drink if needed.
Is it okay to tip my guide in Japan?
Context clients generally tip anywhere from 10-25% of the purchase price of a personal service such as this, depending on the quality of the experience and their tipping habits.
Jay received a Master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Tokyo where he focused his research on the conservation of historic spaces and landscapes with a particular focus on food production and the agricultural families and communities in and around the city. Having been a resident of both rural and urban Japan, Jay has a particular appreciation for the visible transformation of the country's settled environments as ideas, resources, and the culture itself has changed over the past couple of centuries. While he has lived in a variety of cities and towns in the US, Syria, Russia, the UK, and Japan for study or work, he finally settled on Tokyo as home. He enjoys sharing information about its hidden history, constant development and endless layers.
Fernando is a Spanish architect and town planner. He received his M. Arch in Architecture from Madrid Technical University and his MSc in human geography from the University of Edinburgh. He is currently a PhD Candidate at Tokyo University, where he is studying urban planning. His PhD focuses on shrinking post-industrial cities and how they are restructuring their physical and economic fabrics to overcome their problems. Besides this, Fernando also investigates Japan’s urban reality from a cinematic point of view and how cinema and the city interconnect. Settled now in Tokyo, Fernando combines his research with his interest in Japanese architecture and culture.
Aquiles has been living and working in Tokyo since 2009, when he arrived on a MEXT scholarship to develop his art practice at Tokyo University of the Arts, where he completed his MFA and PhD degrees in Fine Arts. His artistic work and research focus on the links between free improvisation, experimental music and visual arts. He has performed and shown his work in many countries including the US, Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Aquiles’ relationship to Japan predates his arrival to the country, as he has been studying Japanese Art and culture since the late 90’s. He has focused on the study and practice of Kendo (Japanese fencing) and Zen Buddhism of the Soto school, integrating the philosophical core of both disciplines into his artwork. During his time in Tokyo, Aquiles has lived in the Yanesen neighborhood, an area that has been gaining popularity the past few years for its unique combination of old temples and ancient buildings with many curious shops and cafés in which independent designers have channeled the area’s historical background through ingenious renovations.
Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.