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). After that 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 Harijuku neighborhood. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and 24 hour phone number for any last minute issues. 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 Farris 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.
Kara has suffered from wanderlust for most of her life. Leaving her native New York to bicycle across America as a teen, she then backpacked through Europe for a year before landing in Japan, where she has made her home since 1985. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Art History at Tokyo’s Sophia University, along with certification in Fine Art Appraisals at New York University, she founded her own art gallery supporting emerging young Japanese artists. She has curated numerous exhibitions, organized symposiums, and lectured frequently at colleges including the prestigious Keio University. Kara is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers on Japan’s art scene, and is the author of “Contemporary Art Walks” in a Tokyo guidebook published by Stone Bridge Press. Media appearances include interviews in 'Newsweek', 'New York Magazine' and prime-time TV shows. She speaks and reads Japanese fluently, and spends her free time pursuing first-hand experience of Japan’s culture and subculture. With a particular interest in indigenous Buddhist practices, she has endured rigorous Yamabushi training with ascetic mountain-dwelling monks, and traveled 30 countries including remote areas such as Lombok and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. More of an urban explorer these days, Kara’s current passion is unraveling hidden aspects to Tokyo, always with a unique insight into visual anthropology.
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.
Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.