Tokyo has a well-deserved reputation for containing many iconic buildings with unique contemporary architecture. Some buildings of note are well off the beaten path and require some effort to find, but others are conveniently located relatively close to one another and can be easily enjoyed on a one to two hour walking tour. If you’re looking for something a bit different to do within the city, why not devote a few hours to a walk?
One easy yet lovely route begins on Omotesando Avenue, and then meanders down Aoyama Street and back. Although it can be enjoyed both day and night, I feel it is at its most beautiful after dark.
It starts at the Christian Dior store. At night, the entire building is bathed in a cool white glow. If you want to create a photographic log of your journey, you can get a good shot of this building in its entirety from the opposite side of busy Omotesando Avenue. An alley shot from behind, contrasting it with the Chanel building on the left, makes for an interesting image.
Heading south east on Omotesando Avenue, you will pass the pretty Burberry and Saint Laurent stores as well as the futuristic Tokyo Union Church building before arriving at the particularly stunning Tod’s and Hugo Boss buildings. While they are also lit up at night, their best features have more to do with their shape and the network of lines created on their facades. The pedestrian crossing bridge and the giant tree make finding the perfect angle to photograph them rather difficult, but the challenge is what makes it fun.
Continuing south east, you’ll pass a building that contains the Coach store. As a whole, the building seems made up of disparate blocks that don’t necessarily flow well together, but if you zoom in on one aspect or another, it can be quite visually appealing. The Coach store itself with its geometrical pattern of white vertical rectangles carries on the white light trend we’ve been witnessing all up the street, while the upper floors with their horizontal blue bands introduce something new.
Continue along Omotesando Avenue to where it meets Aoyama Street and turn right. Heading southwest, you’ll soon come to the AO Shopping Center building with its vertical rays of purple, blue, and red lights. The warp effect in the main tower may be easier to spot in daylight, but the night lights contrasting with the dark windows create a nicer view.
At the traffic light, turn left and head south east again down the smaller street beside Max Mara. While this street has no large buildings, it has a bunch of small boutiques and cafes of design interest including the Muji Café and Art Gallery. Muji is also a convenient landmark for knowing when to turn left again, this time heading northeast up another small street.
As this small street brings you once more to Omotesando, you’ll be rewarded by a quartet of striking buildings. First up on your right will be the stacked light and dark cubes that make up the Marc Jacobs store and then the metallic grids intersected with angled glass planes of the La Perla store. Curving around behind and looming over both of them is the Anya Hindmarch shop, with slatted wood segments in warm tones fanning out at odd angles against the sky. On your left is the highly acclaimed Prada building, its diamond-shaped curved facets of glass forming more of a transparent exoskeleton than a façade and allowing full view of the equally beautiful interior.
The tour ends here, but you can enjoy a final coda in the quilted geometric shapes forming the upper floor of the Stella McCartney building. This spot also makes a great vantage point for parting photographs of the La Perla and Prada stores framed by the Anya Hindmarch building behind. Now if you’re feeling a bit peckish, why not wind down with a pastry and coffee at Aoyama Andersen Bakery near the corner of Omotesando Avenue and Aoyama Street? After all that walking, you deserve it!