Most people living in Tokyo don’t own or drive cars. There are many reasons why, ranging from expensive parking to an efficient public transportation system. One simply doesn’t need a car in Tokyo. But needs and wants are different and Tokyoites still enjoy driving. Japan’s capital has a big concentration of expensive cars. These are easily spotted on weekends when most of Tokyo’s luxury cars owners are taking them out for a ride.
Meanwhile, the car-curious among us can also admire the automotive industry within the carmakers’ different showrooms in central Tokyo. Unlike a car salon in the middle of nowhere, brands like Lexus, Nissan, Mercedes, Porsche and Honda have carved out spots in the city where cars, coffee and cuisine intersect.
What makes Intersect by Lexus special is the fact that it’s not a car showroom but purely a three-story restaurant. The distinctive building with a bamboo grillage facade behind glass is settled among one of the most architecturally iconic buildings in Minami Aoyama. It also boasts extraordinary interior design, artistically incorporating many characteristics of Lexus. The staircase to the second floor has a so-called “wonderwall” — a white glass wall filled with engines and other parts of Lexus all colored white. In the club members’ space in the basement, even the toilet walls are covered in mini Lexus cars.
Café and Gallery
The first floor of Intersect by Lexus is a café with a gallery exhibiting contemporary art installations. It serves breakfast with excellent Norwegian Fuglen coffee. The New York Times considers this brew as a legitimate reason to travel to Norway, so be sure that you get your cup of coffee here. The second floor is the dining Bistro. The warmth of the wood grillage together with carefully selected designer pieces like sofas, tables, chairs and bookshelves will just make you feel like you are at someone’s home. In addition to all that, the cuisine created by food director Daichi Tajima is a feast for all senses.
The Bistro offers four options from the daily menu, which also includes vegetarian. Carefully selected seasonal ingredients from local farmers with different tastes from around the world create a distinct culinary experience. For dessert, you can spoil yourself with the Japanese dessert nerigashi exclusively made by Ginza Kazuya for Intersect by Lexus.
The hospitality of the friendly bilingual staff is a cherry on top. With great food and coffee at affordable prices, free art and a great location, Intersect by Lexus is a must-visit. The designer of the building Masamichi Katayama said that at first, he wanted to design the space to gather Lexus owners. But the main goal became gathering creative minds and all people who appreciate the good things in life, resulting in a welcoming place for all.
Where: 4-21-46 Minamiayoama, Minato-ku
It was in 1970 when Janis Joplin entered the studio saying “I’d like to do a song of great social and political impact, it goes like this: Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends…” Although the song separately can be analyzed in a larger social context, we can say for sure that Mercedes is one of the world’s most famous car brands. In Tokyo, they’ve cemented their social status with Mercedes Me, a spacious concept store in Roppongi.
In Mercedes Me the focus is on the car experience which you can get with an arranged test ride or buying a range of Mercedes branded items including even a trolley for your pet. The whole space is animated by contemporary art installations while new car models are all around you.
The Mercedes Me offers three different food and drink areas. The first dining space, Next Door, is on the ground floor, behind the sleek white EQ House. This is one of the best places to get soba in the city. It’s directed under the founder of the famed Minatoya which is said to have changed the history of the Japanese soba world. The soba served in Next Door was exclusively created for this restaurant only.
Downstairs vs. Upstairs
Also on ground level, there’s the Mercedes Downstairs café offering coffee-flavored soft cream and light snacks. Their coffee is selected carefully by barista Hiroshi Sawada, the first Asian champion of the Latte Art World prize in 2008. The Downstairs café also offers a relaxed working environment. This is also where the merchandise shops and exhibition spaces are located too in one open floor plan.
The aptly named Upstairs Bistro is on the second floor. With an open kitchen and large terrace, you can enjoy one of the best burgers in the city. Even the bun is branded with the iconic Mercedes Benz symbol. They offer a vegan burger too, as well as pizzas and salads.
Bonus for Mercedes fans: special Krispy Kreme and Mercedes donuts are available exclusively at Haneda Airport.
Where: 7-3-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Janis Joplin never got a Mercedes Benz, but she did have a Porsche 356 C that was custom painted for her and became a rolling piece of hippie art. In 2015 it was sold at Sotheby’s auction in New York for 1,75 million USD breaking all previous records for the sale of any Porsche 356 sold at a public auction. Also, around the same time, Porsche opened their first Tokyo restaurant.
Befitting the internationally famous brand, The Momentum by Porsche has a great selection of worldwide spirits and foods made with seasonal ingredients. Another theme is luxury. Their designer cutlery on the blue tablecloth alone will make you feel like you’re traveling business class. Then there’s the haute cuisine. The special dessert plate will certainly make you feel you’re on cloud nine. While you’re there, don’t forget to look up. There are 156 Porsche mini cars embedded on the hanging lights from the ceiling.
You can enter the next-door showroom and take a seat in one of the models to experience the extraordinary seats of the bespoke carmaker. Many can’t afford a real Porsche, but in the showroom, you can still buy one. Well, a mini version at least. It will cost you about the same as a Shizuoka Musk Melon — around ¥20,000.
Where: 1-5-2 Higashishinbashi, Minato-ku (inside Shiodome City Center)
For good coffee and an Instagrammable experience, head to Nissan Crossing café. Located on the 2nd floor of the emblematic Nissan Crossing Ginza building, the café’s designed around the theme of spirals. But the photo ops don’t stop there. You can order a special Machi Art option for your milk foam on the top of your coffee or matcha. Using the latest technology, you can choose to have a portrait of yourself, or a Nissan car model printed on the foam. It’s fun to see your own face disappearing in the depth of the mug.
For an even deeper digital and sensory experience you can customize not only the coffee but your own vehicle on the interactive touchscreen table and monitor. You can also ride a formula E simulator here.
Where: 5-8-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
In Aoyama there’s a whole street filled with showrooms of automakers from all over the world. But Honda is the only carmaker there that has a friendly café and a space based on the concept of “a place you want to visit again.” The large green Waigaya tree inserted inside this cozy space is acting as a natural park. There are plants from all over the world growing there too, to signify Honda’s international outreach.
The space is comfortable for remote work and well equipped including the retro Honda charging outlet spots on each table. Welcoming parents with young children, there are baby chairs as well as a dedicated nursing room. If you still need another reason to visit, there’s also Asimo, the first humanoid robot made by Honda. Make sure you are there at 12.30 or 15.00 to have some time with him.
Where: 2-1-1, Minamiayoama, Minato-ku
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