Kate’s eco-Guide to: Tokyo

By Kate | City Guides
Posted May 10, 2012

Tokyo will blow your mind. Having lived on ‘planet tokyo’ for the past several years I can tell you, the complex contrasts will excite, delight and exhaust you. Painstakingly sorting of your recycling, while not 100 metres away from you (at any time) a vending machine is humming. Trying to be respectfully quiet while on the trains, only to emerge to storefront hawkers incessantly squawking. Complex because, until 50 years ago – all textiles were manufactured on the island, and were handed down through generations, and worn and remade (from kimono to hairpin – not a scrap went to waste) that it is odd for most people to think about ‘eco fashion.’ Because in their consciousness  – fashion has always been eco, and the change (yes, of course they have fast-fashion) has gone unnoticed. After all, change is par for the course in Japan. Here are some of my favourites-

In sharp contrast to this, one of my ‘new’ favourite places (having just opened in November of 2011) is Kirkku Village. A curated village that houses a gallery, book shop, organic cotton clothing shop and an Italian organic restaurant. The brainchild of a famous Japanese musician, this village, steps from Yoyogi station, is an eco-oasis in the heart of the city.

Fair-trade pioneers People Tree was launched by founder Safia Minney whilst she was living in Japan. Visiting Jiyugoaka, home to French-Japanese community a host of bakeries and French restaurants, you can visit their small shop and see collaborations with Japanese designers, that are only available to the Japanese market.

WALL, by H.P. France, located in the lobby of Le Foret (Harajuku), features the latest sustainable brands, mostly foreign, but is a good bet for readers of this blog to see some of our featured designers.

Pass the Baton, also in Harajuku, is the hippest second-hand shop in town. Each piece is not only carefully curated, but comes with it’s ‘story’ of it’s past life attached for the new owner to read. Also home to collaborations and new sustainable pieces (on last visit, the latest collection from Freitag was on offer)

Cosme Kitchen, with 11 locations around the city (one right inside Daikayama Station) offers Tokyoites all the latest and greatest in natural and organic cosmetics and beauty products. Brands hail from Australia, Europe and North America.

Tokyo has tons of gorgeous art galleries, but one of my favourites is the small design space opened by Issei Miyake. Located behind the Roppongi Midtown, 2121 Design Sight (pronounced two-one two-one) often features displays with sustainable/fashion themes.

In the shadow of Mori Tower, in Azabu Juban, is the aptly named Eat More Greens, features local and seasonal vegetarian fare. Known for their inexpensive lunch sets.

You might build up an appetite looking for the Vegan Healing Cafe, in Shibuya behind Tokyo Hands, but when you find it, it will be worth it. Vegan Healing Cafe does vegetarian with a good-ole hippy vibe; the owner is a devoted vegan activist. Serves soy protein focused dishes with sizable portions.

Nana, in Shibuya, offers seasonal Kyoto cuisine, which is perfect for vegetarians as Kyoto prides themselves on their ‘fu (as in tofu). Menus in English, reservations recommended. Shibuya 1-14-16, B1F.

One of my favourite yoga studios is in Tokyo. When you need to zen out, visit Sun and Moon. Billed as ‘a place to retreat,’ classes with American owner Leza or British-transplant Em are out of this world. Mats available. Come as you are. A little tricky to find, but directions are on website. Meguro station.

Nakameguro: Head straight across the street when leaving the station and either zig left or zig right and find the river. Strolling up and down the Meguro River will reveal small, independent designer’s shops intermixed with galleries and second-hand shops. One could easily wile an afternoon here, and in the quiet ambiance, actually feel like you’ve had a respite from Tokyo’s frenetic pace. 5 minutes from Shibuya by train or taxi.

Lastly, if you want to make the most of Tokyo, you might want to consider hiring a translator. Of course, you can navigate the city on pidgin Japanese and charades. But if you want to explore small shops, talk to designers, read labels, etc. -  hire a translator. I recommend Chie Oishi of Sublingual Services. Although she normally translates for international musicians (yes, I mean rock stars), she has a passion for fashion and can help you navigate the fashion/design scene in Tokyo effortlessly.

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