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Natsuko Toda’s Favorite Things

1. Where do you live and why did you choose to live there? I was born in Tokyo and lived in Setagaya ward until I was about 20. When Hiroo Garden Hills was developed, it looked like a good place to live. Back then, you could only buy an apartment there if you won a lottery. I was lucky I won the lottery and was able to buy an apartment, probably because it was on the fourth floor. (The number 4 in Japanese is… Read more »

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Atsuko Gatling’s Favorite Things

We asked Atsuko Gatling, a native of Tokyo’s trendy Aoyama neighborhood, about her favorite places, pastimes and more. Where do you live and why did you choose that neighborhood? I live in Minami-Aoyama where I was born and raised in a single-family home, which is now a condominium. Although my husband and I have moved several times, I have always lived in Minato-ku (where Aoyama is located), so it’s really my home. My mother, when she was alive, lived here as… Read more »

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Maison KEI – A Touch of France at the Foot of Mt Fuji

Social distancing restrictions triggered by the coronavirus outbreak have yielded a few modest upsides, including making it much easier to book a table, even at the most popular restaurants in Japan — with the exception of some very special destinations, including Maison KEI. Even though it is located in Gotenba, a city of less than 36,000, a good hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Tokyo, trying to book a table at this French restaurant requires patience, determination and above all, luck. We… Read more »

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Takato Tamagami’s Favorite Things

We asked Takato Tamagami, a Tokyo-based architect, about his favorite places, pastimes and more. Where do you live and why did you choose that neighborhood? I live with my wife and two children in Hatsudai, which is where my office is. What I like about this neighborhood is that it’s easy to get to both Shibuya and Shinjuku, so it’s very convenient and there are lots of places to eat. Hatsudai also retains the atmosphere of shitamachi, densely populated old Tokyo… Read more »

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Staring Out to Sea at Hiramatsu Atami

If you need a quick getaway from the hubbub of Tokyo and appreciate good French cuisine and a stunning sea view, try the Hiramatsu Hotel in Atami, which is just a two-hour drive from the heart of the Japanese capital. The hotel is part of the Hiramatsu group of restaurants and hotels, best known for its main restaurant in Tokyo’s Hiroo neighborhood. As the cuisine is decidedly French, this may not be an ideal gourmet experience for those who prefer… Read more »

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Autumn in Kyoto Offers a Feast of Colors and Seasonal Dishes

Autumn is one of the best times to enjoy Kyoto in all its glory. The weather is generally mild and the city’s historic temple grounds and gardens are transformed into a kaleidoscope of fiery autumnal colors. It is also the season to sample some of Japanese cuisine’s most beloved ingredients, such as matsutake mushrooms, It is impossible to predict when nature will perform its magic on the maples, gingko and beech trees that adorn Kyoto’s famous architectural sites and surrounding… Read more »

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A Stroll Amid Rustic Houses and Temples at Yokohama Sankeien

The Meiji Era (1868-1912) was a time of tumultuous change in Japan that brought rapid industrial development and western ideas to a feudal society. The social and economic upheaval of the time provided unprecedented opportunities for several astute industrialists and businessmen, who not only amassed huge fortunes but also left their mark as patrons of the arts. There is Kaichiro Nezu (1860-1940), who was both a successful businessman and tea ceremony connoisseur and used the wealth he made in railways… Read more »

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Yakushi Onsen – Time Travel Back to a Traditional Way of Life

For many people living in Japan today, the sight of smoke swirling over a thatched roof or fish grilling over a hearth is likely to stir a strong sense of nostalgia for a more peaceful and simpler way of life. Such idyllic scenes have all but disappeared from contemporary life, but Hatago, a hot spring resort in Gunma Prefecture, has brought together several traditional houses to form a mini-village reminiscent of a lost Japan. Located in Yakushi Onsen, the grounds… Read more »

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A Weekend Break In Snow Country

Minami Uonuma in southeastern Niigata is an area known for its flavorful rice and deep snow. It is just a short drive north of Yuzawa, where novelist Yasunari Kawabata, who won the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, set his famous novel, “Snow Country.” So, when we visited the region in late January, the view from the rotenburo, or open air bath, at our lodgings in Minami Uonuma was not quite what I had expected. The hills in the distance were… Read more »

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Of samurai and storehouses – Aizu Wakamatsu and Kitakata.

On the morning of Oct. 23, 1868, 19 young soldiers between the ages of 15 and 17 took their own lives on Mt Iimori in the castle town of Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture. It was the year after Japan’s military government had been overthrown and the Aizu domain, which rebelled against the new government, was under siege. The young soldiers, the sons of Aizu samurai who were members of the Byakkotai (White Tiger Force), had been forced to flee from… Read more »

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Art, both modern and rustic, beckons in Aomori

The massive steed stands on powerful hind legs, its forelegs thrashing high above our heads, while its coat — a mosaic of multicolored flowers – brings to mind a horse in a child’s picture book. It is the iconic, 5.5-meter-high monument standing at the entrance of the Towada Art Center, a contemporary art museum that bears the name of the city located deep inside Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. My friend and I dropped by the museum on our travels through… Read more »

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Karuizawa – A Tale of Two Shoppers

The day felt like somewhere between late winter and early spring as we dashed to Tokyo station and jumped on an early Shinkansen train to the mountain resort town of Karuizawa hoping for some retail therapy and much needed relaxation in hotspring baths at Hoshino Onsen. It was the perfect time to visit without the crowds of spring, summer and autumn. We’d heard about the infamous two-hour taxi ride through unreasonable seasonal traffic from Karuizawa station to the outer reaches… Read more »