Season’s Secrets


Originally published on on December 2011

Like all big cities, Tokyo is bursting with hidden treasures. You could spend a lifetime here and never uncover all of them. That’s why we have asked some of our contributors and friends to share some of their little-known tidbits with you. Think of it as a Christmas gift—and don’t worry about getting us socks in return.

Organic cosmetics

Aoyama-based Antianti is Japan’s first cosmetics maker to be recognized organic by the US Dept. of Agriculture.

Posh incense

at minimalist store Lisn

Masami Yamane, musicJAPANplus

Hidden wonder guide

Made by craft wonder woman Ebony Bizys, Hello Sandwich is a cheat sheet to Tokyo’s wondrous nooks, divided into suburbs.

Gemma Rassmussen

Organic Living

could be your new regime for the New Year. Try Sai Market in Itabashi. Organic shampoo, etc., pesticide-free veggies, a vegan café and more.

Alena Eckelmann


The best fried chicken in Takadanobaba is at Spicy Flyers, where you can get karaage, snow cones and Corona all under one roof. Triple win.

Jesse Koester, Ice Block Films,

Sweet slice

Rustic and relaxing café Haru and Haru specializes in—mon dieu!—French toast.

Caroline Josephine

Punk discs

Known across Japan as a central hub of the domestic punk scene, Mortar Records is located five minutes from Kumagaya station. Great selection, and super-knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Dan Orlowitz, music photographer


Though Tokyo has one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the world, my secret is just to walk instead of ride within the Yamanote line. I find it shows you a different rhythm to this place. The stations are like wave crests, and you can feel the surges and rolls in between.

Kyle Hedlund


Best hoops o’ bread in town are at Kepo Bagels. The bagelmeister general studied the craft in key NYC bagel kitchens, including the legendary Essa Bagel. Closed for maternity, reopens Jan 5.

John Daschbach

Time travel

is what it feels like to go to Tatemono-en in Musashi-Koganei. Part of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, this open-air architecture museum is apparently a favorite with Hayao Miyazaki.

Tatsuyuki Mori

Disaster maniac

Try a force 7 earthquake on for size in a fake kitchen, a smoke room where you have to find the exit, and see a movie about Tokyo in the event of apocalypse, at Disaster Prevention Museum in Ikebukuro.

Couple capsules

In Kiba there is a rarity—Tokyo Kiba Hotel, which offers capsules for two for about ¥6,000/night.

Guilhem Malfre

Cutlet above

Head out Shimokitazawa south exit and walk down Minami Shotengai for one minute. A tiny restaurant on your left, staffed by an old man who’s been there for eons, will serve you the best tonkatsu in Tokyo.

Zare Ferragi

Catch your own dinner

in a tank with a fishing rod, at Zaou in Shinjuku

Amanda Taylor

Classic café

Experience Lion, a dark converted theater with classical music booming from an excellent sound system. Free entry with a drink—but no talking allowed. On Love Hotel Street in Dogenzaka.

Cherry Cheung


The tar-like love-hate substance has been located at Kitchen Garden in Sangenjaya.


for free, with ArkBark. It’s actually called fostering and you can help out some abandoned pets via their website.

Louise Rouse

Healthy gambling

At the shotengai by Musashi-Koyayama station is four-floor pachinko emporium Angel, whose first floor is smoke-free—a rarity in ball-flicking venues. Check out the view from the bike park on the roof.

Silver Balls

Swing that, cat

Opposite a soapland in Kichijoji is hammock showroom and café-bar-restaurant Mahika Mano. Relax amid a jungle of swinging ropes in a one-person hammock with a massive cappuccino, cocktail, or dish, and check out their calendar for gigs, parties and DJ nights.

Jewish penicillin

Try the tori-yuzu ramen at Manrikiya on TV Asahi Dori in Roppongi, four minutes after the Grand Hyatt on the left. Light and healthy tasting, the broth is reminiscent of my mother’s chicken soup.

David Labi

Cover up

your (reasonably-sized) tattoos for onsen purposes with flexible adhesive sports tape. You can find rolls of in any drug store, in beige or white and widths up to 75mm.


can transform a bad hair day into a confidence-filled adventure, spark up a party outfit, or provide camouflage in a city full of dark heads. My favorites come from Cyperous in Kanda. So affordable you can have a wig wardrobe in a range of styles and colors. They can be washed and styled and are as comfortable as your favorite hat.

Kristen McQuillin

Pavlovian treats

One minute from Kita-Kamakura station, within the Engaku-ji complex, is the Ryu-in-an temple. Any visitor who climbs the hill and rings the bell at the base of the temple’s teahouse will receive free green tea and snacks.

Spotlit liquor

One minute from Komagome station on the Yamanote is the amazing bar Slow Hand. Small and quaint, the real attraction is the illumination, done by converting used liquor bottles into spotlights.

Benjamin Boas

Go east

If you wanted to discover hidden vistas of eastern Tokyo, photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki has already done it for you, and will be displaying his work at in Nadiff, Ebisu (listing)


Pack your trunk

and head to Kagurazaka for the elephant slides in this secret playground

Enter the warrior

Enter the body of Tokyo-wan Kannon in Chiba for an Inner Space moment.

Isamu Sekiguchi, Wonder Japan,

Wear and walk

Men and women can learn the ancient art of wearing kimono (kitsuke)—plus body care, detox and spa treatments—at Inspire Space Hiroo. All in English, reasonably priced, in a small house close to Hiroo station.

Fair game

Get region-specific info on your fave platform or game from Gaijin Gamers, a community for foreign gamers in Japan. Download lists of Japanese releases to check language support and negotiate any game superstore.

Jeff W. Richards

Spanish master

Step into a Gaudí masterpiece at Spain Tei in Kawagoe, Saitama, whose architecture and design evokes the Iberian artist’s work. Enjoy tapas and a wine cellar to enter and choose your bottle.

Mike DeJong

Tunnel vision

A strange, interesting day out can be had at Yoshimi Hyakuana in Saitama. Meaning “hundred holes,” this warren-like network of tunnels in the hillside was a burial site 1,300 years ago, and an underground munitions factory during WWII.

Karl Doyle, photographer

Ice Latte Revolver

is the thing to order in the chill atmosphere of Streamer Coffee. Between Shibuya and Harajuku, the free Wi-Fi café is owned and run by a World Champion latte artist.

Lisa Wallin

Wafu haven

Peaceful Toritsu Daigaku restaurant Higashiyama offers traditional wafu sweets with unique twists—excellent with a killer brew of matcha. Feel your soul sighing the city stress away.

Monday Michiru, musician