Word of Mouth: Tokyo

Design stops that highlight the wonders of the Japanese capital

Presented in partnership with MoMA Design Store

No other city captivates with the same balance of intensity and reverence that’s found in Tokyo. It was developed to meet the unique needs of its inhabitants and in doing so created such a distinct culture that among the chaotic intersections and old-world back alleys surprising discoveries lurk around every corner. Design thoroughly roots itself in the Japanese way of life and Tokyo is a door into this design-living—whether that’s in a small bar in Shinjuku Golden Gai or a park in Roppongi. From art museums to stores, few frequent travelers have a pulse on the city as do the team from the MoMA Design Store, and their selections below highlight their go-to destinations—whether scouting for incredible items for their store, or spots to spend some time. Centered around a quest for beauty the selections below make for a guide that any design enthusiast will appreciate.

Courtesy of Tsutaya Daikanyama

Tsutaya Daikanyama

Based on the glorious theme “A Library in the Woods,” Tsutaya Daikanyama is part-store, part-library and entirely dedicated to words, music and film. Just a five-minute walk from Daikan-Yama Station, the concept store is laid out over three wings and visitors will find everything from vintage titles to records, classic novels and more. Upstairs is a sophisticated cafe/bar where you can flip through your purchases while sipping a coffee or a cocktail.

Courtesy of Trunk Hotel

Trunk Hotel

Located in Shibuya, Trunk Hotel is more than a well-designed place to rest your head. The 15-room hotel’s “made in Japan” ethos permeates every aspect—whether through tradition or contemporary touches. With concrete, wood and lush greens throughout, the design soothes. It’s the social aspects, however, that make the hotel stand out. Their goal is to cater to locals as well as travelers, thus there’s a concept shop which sells only locally made goods, the KUSHI restaurant (serving “Shibuya soul food”), a fusion restaurant called KITCHEN, and the sophisticated but minimal LOUNGE. There’s even a wood and glass chapel on the rooftop, made for photogenic weddings. The hotel’s coffee bar also serves up a delicious mint cold brew coffee that’s worth tasting. Just moments from Cat Street, guests are truly in the thick of it, but the hotel provides sanctuary at the end of a big night.

Courtesy of MoMA Design Store team

MoMA Design Store

Given the number of Japanese artists and designers presented at MoMA Design Store, it makes sense that there’s a brick-and-mortar shop in Tokyo. The bright and airy space is jam-packed with unique items that visitors will covet—from travel accessories to kids’ toys, accessories, books, prints and more. There’s plenty to choose from, but we suggest grabbing this lovely pleated tote bag, made from biodegradable corn-based PLA. Not only is it kinder to the environment, but it’s also water-resistant and stylish—plus you can stow your other MoMA purchases inside.

Courtesy of Mori Art Museum

Mori Art Museum

Located on the 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Mori Art Museum curates some of the most exciting global contemporary art and architecture while boasting soaring views of the city. Truly impressive installations give way to equally compelling exhibitions, like the forthcoming showcase of Berlin-based Shiota Chiharu. The artist explores concepts including anxiety, memories and dreams—and the cross-section of all three. No matter what’s on here, the experience of climbing the escalator into the museum, walking through the M-shaped passageway, and seeing the bustling city of Tokyo far below is worth the visit.

Courtesy of Bees Bar

Bees Bar by Narisawa

After taking in all the sights at the Mori Art Museum, we suggest taking a 25-minute walk through the lush Aoyama Park. (Depending on the time of year, you might want to bring one of these delightfully colorful Rikki Sato-designed Japanese fans from the MoMA Design Store with you.) At the other end of the park is Bees Bar by Narisawa—a small and subdued spot to wind down after a day exploring Tokyo. With photographs of Japanese forests, mountains and water by Brazilian photographer Sergio Coimbra, the bar offers seemingly countless Japanese whiskies—a dream for spirits enthusiasts. But there’s plenty more here for everyone else. We recommend posting up at the bar and trying a cocktail made from the bar’s extensive infused alcohols or a craft beer, as well as the small dishes—the oysters are essential, but the fried chicken is hard to pass up too. Only open a year, the bar is still a little known discovery.

Courtesy of h concept

h concept

Fundamental to all items found at h concept, a shop of diverse design objects, is the idea of warmth. Its founders consider the sound of the letter “h”—and words that it leads, like hello, harvest and hope—and impart all of these attributes into their products. (That said, the “h” in h concept is pronounced “ash,” close to the French sound behind the letter.) This design shop’s items demonstrate the best of Japanese manufacturing—and the team there even designed the quirky and playful Face of the Moon Stress Ball, which can be found at MoMA Design Store.

Courtesy of Nohara

Good Design Store by Nohara

A hub of products that have won or been nominated for the Good Design Awards—the Good Design Store features items at all price points that demonstrate intention and aim to better living. Created by a team of designers—including a graphic and sound designer—the concept shop is one of the most organized destinations for finding uncommon gifts. There are also traditional craft demonstrations on site, a worthwhile experience for those who like to be immersed in the craft behind their wares.

Courtesy of MoMA Design Store team

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Relatively new, the five-story, Kume Sekkei-designed Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in 2017 in Shinjuku and is—unsurprisingly—in high demand. With tickets timed and limited, it’s best to purchase well before your visit. Inside though, visitors will find a treasure trove of works by the beloved artist, with the Yayoi Kusama Foundation hosting two major exhibitions per year. From her exploration of surrealism, pop art, and abstract expressionism to concepts surrounding time and space, the Japanese artist continues to provoke and inspire. The museum is dedicated to upholding Kusama’s message of love and world peace, and you can represent by carrying your very own Kusama pumpkin keychain or hanging one of her skateboards on your wall long after your visit.