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.
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.
Architect, PhD. Rafael is currently correspondent for Italian architecture magazine Domus based in Japan and has lived in Tokyo for over 13 years. He received his Master degree and PhD from the University of Tokyo under the guidance of Prof. Kengo Kuma. He is currently a Senior Guest Researcher at The University of Tokyo (Kuma Kengo Laboratory) and guest researcher at Keio University, besides visiting lecturer in other architecture institutions in Japan and abroad. Member of the JIA (Japan Institute of Architects), he co-founded and runs his architecture and urban design practice STUDIO WASABI since 2013. From 2017 he became Director of Casa Nano, an art residency in Tokyo part of Casa Wabi Foundation in Mexico. An avid toy collector, he has a keen interest in the ludic-cultural aspects between people and their cities.
Dmitry grew up in Altai, the mysterious region where philosopher, painter and guru Nicolas Roerich ended his quest for Shambala and where Dmitry earned his will to world discovery and cognition. Since then Dmitry has lived and studied in Grenoble for BA and Paris where he earned a Master’s degree in Architecture. He then pursued the studies at the university of Tokyo with a Master’s in History of Architecture and now is a PhD candidate continuing his research on modernity and international cooperations within Asian built environment. Dmitry's personal interest in Japanese contemporary theatre, documentaries and modern literature made him discover the complex and rich cultural and urban palimpsest of Tokyo through its history, inhabitants and the insight of authors and artists, which he believes helps us to emerge in the vibrant environment of the city.
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