(Tokyo, Japan)(Travel)(Travel)2023-10-31

Guide to Tokyo

From Metabolism Architecture Movement relics to Frank Lloyd Wright Elementary Schools, Religious Cult Headquarters, Edo-Period teachings, hidden masterpieces of an Aquascape Sensei and contemporary dwellings by Architecture Legends – the first part of this guide covers everything we have to share for the modern Architecture Hunter in Tokyo.

Two wax figures from Kyoichi Tsuzuki's 'Museum of Roadside Art', from a former Sex Museum's collection | Photo Kristen de La Valliere
Two wax figures from Kyoichi Tsuzuki's 'Museum of Roadside Art', from a former Sex Museum's collection | Photo Kristen de La Valliere

Welcome to Tokyo; you are not invited. 

By day, the salary(/wo)men grind in grey suits from dawn until far past dusk, and by night, the city and its subcultures come to life in hidden enclaves underground or on the 30th floor of an unmarked skyscraper.

Without a local introduction or guide, it will be difficult to even scratch the surface of the city's neon-drenched urban façade. Rigid perfectionism, protocol, and expectations are counterbalanced with unfettered and fully loaded hedonism and boundary-pushing innovation. Nothing you have read, seen in a film or heard can prepare you for the experience and mark the city is about to make on you. The energy in the air is palpable, and you don't know where to follow it.

I did two months of research before I arrived, hired a Japanese assistant and spent several months avoiding other Americans and Europeans to really fucking do Tokyo. Even so, I barely got my toes wet. That may be why we can never get enough of the fabled metropolis. The shroud of mystery, the multitudes of layers to the culture, to the city, and to the fact that everyone is smiling and saying yes, but their eyes are telling you that no, you are not allowed in. Not yet. Like a mysterious lover you can never quite catch, it only makes you want it more.

It took one year, including many months back in Europe, to find (some of) the places I was looking for: Remnants of the Metabolism Architecture Movement, secrets behind dying artisan crafts, a gander into media-shy mega creatives's studios, collections of closed-down sex museums, Frank Lloyd Wright elementary schools, Religious Cult Headquarters and hidden masterpieces by an Aquascape Sensei. You can not just waltz in and have Tokyo at your fingertips; you have to earn Tokyo. Here are some of my favourite spots I earned, in time, so that you don't have to. You're welcome.

Scenes from the Sailor Moon Museum which was up in Tokyo in 2022 | Photo Kristen de La Valliere
Scenes from the Sailor Moon Museum which was up in Tokyo in 2022 | Photo Kristen de La Valliere
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Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

A 1930s Art Deco Palace, conceived by Japanese Princess Nobuko, was built in Minato-ku, Tokyo with the help of French designers Henri Rapin and René Lalique now houses Teien Art Musuem

Edo-Tokyo Museum

Designed by Kiyonori Kikutake, the Edo-Tokyo Museum building is 62.2, and the concrete exterior is designed based on a traditional rice storehouse (Takayuki-Shiki style) and is the same height as the Edo Castle.

Reiyukai Shakaden Temple by the Takenaka Corporation

A Spaceship-like temple from the 1970's in the Azabudai neighbourhood of Tokyo, designed by Takenaka Corporation

Spiral Building by Fumihiko Maki

Spiral is a multi-use building by architect Fumihiko Maki, part of the Metabolism Architecture Movement, built in Aoyama, Tokyo in 1985.

The Musuem of Roadside Art

Cult Editor and Photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki travelled the countryside of Japan collecting relics of closing Sex Museums, art made by everyday moms, and roadside travelling shows to create this eclectic museum, which also houses a bar and karaoke room.

Aoyama Technical College Building by Makato Sei Watanabe

"The Power of Architecture Restored" is the philosophy imbued in Japanese architect Makato Sei Watanabe's 1990 Aoyama Technical College Building

Earthtecture Sub-1 by Shin Takamatsu

An office building by Shin Takamatsu built in 1991, having four stories underground, was the solution to the highly constrictive legal regulations of the site. The design of the above-ground structures resembles the composition of Japanese rock gardens while taking the natural light into the underground well.

Maison Hermès by Renzo Piano

The Ginza Tokyo flagship store and corporate headquarters of Hermès was built by Renzo Piano in collaboration with Takenaka Corporation between 1998 and 2001.

Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary by Togo Murano

In the late ’60s, Togo Murano was asked to re-design the earlier wooden facilities of the Japan Lutheran Theological seminary.

Tokyo Apartment designed by Sou Fujimoto

Collective housing built in the residential section of the center of Tokyo designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto

Asakura Museum of Sculpture

Before it was a museum, the Asakura Museum of Sculpture in Taito City, Tokyo was the home and studio of sculptor Fumio Asakura.

House Na by Sou Fujimoto

House NA by Sou Fujimoto in the Tokyo area of Nakano could be distinguished as a three-story single-family home that is similar in form to a stacked pile of glass boxes of different sizes.

Jiyū Gakuen Myōnichikan Elem

Originally built as an all-girls school in Tokyo in 1921, Jiyū Gakuen Myōnichikan was one of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's last buildings remaining in Japan.