Urban Explorer

Trends Trends & Culture - May 7th, 2010


Photo courtesy of Kodansha

one: Rebuilt twice in the past century and inspiration for countless futuristic movies from Solaris to Bladerunner, Tokyo has always served as inspiration for creators and a playground for architects. This guidebook is a thorough and detailed authority on the city’s contemporary landmarks. Learn as you explore 83 buildings of note within the city, from skyscrapers to lesser known architectural gems.

Select bookstores across Tokyo and Amazon Japan (www.amazon.co.jp), ¥2,310.

My Tokyo, A La Carte

Photo courtesy of A La Carte Maps

two: In the world of GPS navigation and Google maps, the ancient art of cartography seems quaint in comparison. This beautifully hand drawn map folds up to the perfect size, and is a bright and colorful introduction to the city. A fun gift ideal for visiting friends, it includes essential Japanese phrases and tidbits of information covering everything from recommended cafes and izakaya to choosing flavors of onigiri.

www.alacartemaps.com, ¥1,200.

Tokyo, Wallpaper City GuidePhoto courtesy of Phaidon

three: Created for the design conscious traveller, the city guide series published by Wallpaper magazine and Phaidon are tightly edited, well researched insider guides to the world’s coolest cities. While they may not be as comprehensive as some more exhaustive guides, the selections listed offer the perfect way to explore the hipper side of the city. Even if you have lived in Tokyo for years, the guide offers a savvy travel writer’s view point on parts of the city you may have overlooked.

High-end bookstores and museum gift shops, ¥1,000.

Akihabara, MP3 CD guidesPhoto courtesy of White Rabbit Press

four: This innovative series of audio guided walking tours revealing new sides of Tokyo’s most interesting neighborhoods. Complete with map and booklet of local photography, simply load the MP3 CD onto your iPod, head to the start point and press play. From electric town Akihabara to the notorious Kabukicho in Shinjuku, these guides are a fun way to spend an afternoon exploring as expert voices lead you through the streets.

www.tokyorealtime.com, ¥1,200.

Gorilla TripodPhoto courtesy of MoMA Store

five: So you have a bag full of guides and maps, now the next step is to capture the amazing city scenes on camera. Taking photographs is a national pastime in Japan, yet keeping a still hand is tricky even for professionals. The days of lugging a huge metal tripod have thankfully gone in favor of a more flexible approach. Attach your camera and literally wrap the Gorilla Tripod around a railing, lamp post, or any surface you can find. It’s so ingenious, why wasn’t it invented sooner?

MoMA Store (www.momastore.jp), ¥1,980.

Luxe City GuidesPhoto courtesy of Luxe Guides

six: A witty, slick guide to the best luxurious bits of Tokyo, from the highest quality sushi and tempura to vintage clothing, exquisite old kimonos, and the finest antique furniture. Luxe City Guides are not only updated each year, but come with monthly online updates so readers are always in the know. Photos and other space fillers are cut in favor of irreverent and funny reviews, and the guides are printed just the right size to fit into a jacket pocket and take on the go.

High-end bookstores and www.luxecityguides.com, ¥850