Last month I dusted off my passport after a 16-month hiatus to travel to Japan, a destination that had been on my travel bucket list forever. A part from the odd stop-over, this was my first taste of traveling in Asia and it did not disappoint! Japan was truly unlike any place I had ever been before.
The delicate mix of traditional Japanese life and a modern city combined to reveal an extremely eccentric vibe that I loved! From the unbelievably complicated toilet technology to matcha flavoured everything, every day was a new adventure or discovery. I could fill a book about all the design inspiration and ideas filling my head, but here is an edit of my absolute favourite places, spaces and experiences. Enjoy!
I was like a kid in a candy store in Harajuku! The crowds filled Takeshita Street which was a haven for all the gimmicky Japanese gifts you could ever dream of. For an extreme sugar high, I couldn't go past the crème brulee crepes and towers of rainbow fairy floss! The streets were constantly buzzing with people, the entrance to the Tokyu Plaza adorned with angled mirrors reflecting the hive of activity on the street. I discovered a little piece of Sydney (and sugar-reprieve) on the top floor of Tokyo Plaza – a Bill Granger restaurant. There was so much to do and see in Harajuku, I would have been happily entertained for weeks simply people watching.
FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE
One of the most recognizable monuments in Japan – The Fushimi Inari Shrine – is incredible in real life with its unmistakable orange arches. The arches (Torii Gates) begin small at the entrance and increase in scale as you ascend a long, winding hill taking two hours to reach the top! Although simple in design, the execution of the arches is mesmerizing, with their bright colour and scale filling the landscape.
Nijo Castle is a World Heritage Site that absolutely blew me away! Behind a moat and huge stone walls in suburban Kyoto stands the three Nijo Castle buildings and hidden private gardens. The main building included private living quarters decorated with beautiful hand-painted murals with scenes of cherry blossom trees and streaks of tigers. With no photography allowed, I can only hope that the striking image I captured in my mind of traditional Japan nestled within the modern city of Kyoto never fades from my memory.
I lined up with hundreds of people to get through the gates at the Shinjuku Garden and was delighted to find the most perfect picnic spot in all of Tokyo. Shinjuku Garden is home to 1,500 cherry blossom trees and expansive parkland where you can stretch out and run all that sugar off (!) – a rarity in dense Tokyo. Even though the cherry blossom trees had just past their fleeting full bloom, the scene was spectacular nonetheless. It was truly a breath of welcome fresh air to find such a generously lush space in the city.
I felt extremely lucky to be in Tokyo during the Yayoi Kusama exhibition My Eternal Soul at the National Arts Centre, Tokyo. The building was impressive enough with its large concrete curves and extravagant glass curtain wall . . . but it was the exhibition beyond those walls was extra special. The walkway to the entry of the Arts Centre was lined with trees wrapped in bold red and white polka dots! Hundreds of Kusama’s works were on display including her iconic giant pumpkin, as well as an interactive installation where visitors could contribute to her work by adding coloured dots to as much of the surfaces as possible!
And even though now I have been to Japan, I can't bear to cross it off my bucket list. I simply must go back and do it all (and more) again!
Images 1 - 4 via ©Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 5 via Nagoyago / Image 6 - 11 via ©Alexandra Kidd Design