Where dreams unfold
Tokyo is huge, hectic and changing all the time. It’s hard for an individual to stand out. But we found people - a wrestler, an artist, a dancer - who demonstrate an imaginative approach to daily life and above all, a great love for their city.
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City of wrestlers and fashion designers
At first, "Mister Cacao" just made wrestling masks (www.fukum
enn.com). Then, at the venerable age of 35 he climbed into the ring himself and became a professional wrestler. He now regularly dresses for work in wrestling togs inspired by characters from anime, Japanese animation: "For the adults, our show is a nostalgic reminder of their youth. For kids, it’s all about action," says the wrestler.
Every day for the last 35 years, Shino has been tending her bar from 6pm until late into the night. Does she fear competition from the flash entertainment district Kabukicho right next door? No, she has absolutely no intention of changing the traditional look of her bar. "Whoever doesn’t like it is welcome to go someplace else."
Hisako Nakajo wants to be regarded neither as a trend guru nor as an agony aunt, but Koakuma Ageha, the fashion magazine she created originally for bar hostesses, sells over 300 000 copies a month. Secretaries, teachers and bank clerks now avidly consume the elaborate make-up and hairdressing tips it contains. In fact, so do all Japanese women who want to look kawaii (extremely cute and sweet).
People in Tokyo: fantasy and tradition
Master silhouette cutter Imamaru Hayashiya, can cut a portrait in a maximum of 40 seconds. As he works, he tell his audience little stories, too. He trained for five years before his first professional performance, and this appears to have paid off: "When I cut a person’s portrait, I just glance at him and memorize the shape of his body or head. After that, I can work with my eyes closed, making seven cuts per millimeter."
Hodges publishes audio guides to Tokyo. The American thinks big cities in Japan are much cleaner and safer than those back home in the United States. "I hung out in all kinds of dark corners while putting together the audio guide for the entertainment district Kabukicho but I never once felt afraid."
Yoko Higashino is the director of the avant-garde dance company Baby-Q (www.baby-q.org). She has only lived in the Japanese capital for three years but she still can’t get enough of it: "Tokyo is hectic and in constant flux. It’s very Babylonian, hence the Baby in our name. Virtue and evil lie very close together and our performances investigate the nature of what is good and what is evil."
This luxury hotel opened in a superb location in 2007. The rooms are tastefully decorated and offer a wonderful view of the city. But it’s also worth looking around inside, where some 1000 remarkable works of art by more than 50 artists are on display.
The Peninsula Tokyo: 1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda, Tel. +81-3/62 70 28 88, www.peninsula.com
Situated close to the Sensoji Temple, the Shigetsu embraces traditional Japanese and Western hospitality. So you if don’t fancy sleeping on a futon in a tatami room, you can book a room with an ordinary bed. Don’t miss the Japanese bath on the sixth floor.
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu: 1-31-11 Asakusa, Tel. +81-3/38 43 23 45, www.shigetsu.com
This chain operates 14 hotels in greater Tokyo. All of them are conveniently located near subway stations and offer relatively large rooms at attractive low prices, including a frugal breakfast
Hotel Villa Fontaine: www.hvf.jp
Head chef Hiroyuki Kanda does justice to his three Michelin stars with wonderful, light cuisine rounded off by a traditional tea ceremony.
Kanda: 3-6-34 Moto-Azabu, Minato, Tel. +81-3/57 86 01 50
Tsukiji market probably has the best sushi and sashimi in Tokyo. This is no secret: Long lines form outside small restaurants on the edge of the market halls from early in the morning until midday.
Tsukiji Market: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, www.tsukiji-market.or.jp
Visitors will want to sample the array of exquisite whiskeys and enjoy the breathtaking views here just like in the movie Lost in Translation.
New York Bar: Park Hyatt Tokyo, 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Tel. +81-3/53 22 12 34, http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com
pictures: Bilderberg; Banri (6)