Tokyo is a location that has LONG been on my bucket list and Japan is one of the few places that I’ve never ever heard anyone say a bad word about. People absolutely rave about it and that includes travel writer Jane Lawson…
Jane has just released a book titled Tokyo Style Guide, which offers a unique insight into Japan’s culture and aesthetic with her expert guided walks through 21 of the most intriguing and stylish Tokyo neighbourhoods and the best of what they have to offer.
We chat with Jane to discover more about this amazing city and why we should go there this Christmas!
Jane, why does Tokyo have your heart?
It goes back a very long way to learning Japanese at school and falling in love with it just from learning about the culture and travelling there at the age of 15. 30 odd years later I’m just as addicted as ever. Tokyo is one of those places that as soon as you arrive, it’s like no other city in the world, it just really blows you away.
Why does it blow you away?
It’s quite hard to explain actually, have you been to New York before? You know that kind of energy New York City has? Tokyo’s like that, but it’s like New York on crack!
Tokyo is wild, completely wild – in its strangeness, in its beauty and it’s magic… there’s so much going on in Tokyo itself and there are many small cities in the one city. It’s that kind of energy.
Do you ever get to see the geisha girls or sumo wrestlers wandering the streets? I just have these crazy ideas in my head on what the locals would be like…
Very occasionally, if you go to where the sumo train. Or you may see geisha in Shinbashi, Asakusa, Yoshicho, Kagurazaka, Hachioji or Mukojima. Go to Kagurazaka, there are still a few tea houses there and you also occasionally see some lovely ladies who you may not be able to tell, but they were probably geishas at some stage.
What is Tokyo like in the winter time? I’ve heard people say it is just one of the best times of the year to go?
It’s my favourite time of the year, Tokyo is obviously crazy busy most of the time, but in winter there are less tourists, it’s quieter and it takes the edge off and you just get to experience places a little bit easier, you get around more easily, you’re not queuing all the time, it’s easier to get into restaurants, hotels have good specials, also, the Japanese do travel in the very early part of January. So yep, it’s great.
I’m curious, how does Tokyo celebrate Christmas?
Obviously Christmas is not in the Japanese tradition, but of course the Japanese are very good at taking some of the festivals of many different cultures and making them their own. Everywhere you go looks Christmassy – hotels are set up, shops have beautiful demonstrations in the windows, there are lights, it’s like any other city at Christmas time.
However, the night of the 24th is like Valentine’s Day, so if you don’t have a date that night you’re sort of in trouble, but that’s how they celebrate; usually couples go out on the 24th and the 25th is a normal working day, but all the foreigners I know who live in Tokyo all do Christmas. So it’s set up for anyone who wants to experience Christmas and have a lovely time without all the scary relatives.
Jane, you’ve just released this beautiful book called Tokyo Style Guide and that naturally leaves me to ask: how do you define Tokyo’s style?
That’s a hard one… Tokyo has its very own style and the Japanese are very good at making the most perfect version of whatever, whether it’s architecture, clothing, food or gardens. Anything you experience in Japan is going to just blow you away if you have an eye for style and/or appreciate these kinds of things.
People tend to link Japanese with Scandinavian style, in that kind of simplified, streamlined beautiful way. And every Tokyo ‘district’ has something for everyone.
If we’re planning a Christmas holiday, pick a favourite spot in Tokyo for us to visit…
I don’t have a favourite, but I think you’re going to get the best of both worlds (traditional and modern) in Asakusa. Asakusa has a famous temple called Senso-Ji, that’s Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of its most significant. There is also great shopping where you’ll find old souvenirs, wonderful food, arts and craft.
Connect with Jane below
Book: Buy it here