The city of Tokyo in Japan is unmistakably modern. It’s not hard to feel like you’ve stepped into the future when you’re getting lost in the city’s arrays of skyscrapers filled with endless neon signs, sophisticated railway system and vending machines that offer everything from canned drinks to fresh underwear. What about that high-tech Japanese toilet bowl with features like antibacterial water spray and urine analysis?
But the fast-paced modern way of life can take a toll on the weary soul. It’s hectic and disorienting. You don’t have time to stop and smell that 100 yen coffee from the vending machine. When you’re feeling jaded by the trappings of 21st century, what you need is to be reminded of the good ol’ days. So here are five Tokyo spots to help you get deliriously lost in time. Whether it’s in the retro decor or remnants from the nostalgic Showa era, you’re in for a good time.
Coffee Shop Galant
Step into what feels like the 1970s at this sophisticated-looking cafe in Ueno. Get yourself a quiet booth and sink into the plush leather burgundy sofa. Look up to the chandelier and think about how you should get one to spruce up your tiny apartment. Then remember that you probably can’t afford it. But it’s okay. Coffee Shop Galant will let you forget about your worries with black coffee in a charming floral porcelain cup. Did you know happiness can also be found at the end of a parfait? For a taste of long-forgotten happy memories, get a cream soda. It’s a green fizzy drink in a tall glass and vanilla ice cream with cherry on top. How do you say “no” to that?
Coffee Kayaba proves that sometimes, history can repeat itself in a good way. Coffee Kayaba began operating in 1938 at a traditional Japanese wooden house that was first built in 1916. Then in 2006, it closed after the owner died. The local community got together to preserve the place and subsequently, managed to get the business running again. Coffee Kayaba is where the locals go for a slice of history with coffee to go. I’m not kidding. You can literally bite into piece of the yesteryears at Coffee Kayaba as the menu retains items from the original owner. Go with a cup of hot Russian (coffee mixed with coco) and pair it with a classic egg sandwich. This place also have a tatami mat sitting area at the second floor. You’d feel at home in the minimally-decorated room with Japanese sliding doors and big windows that overlooks a quaint street.
Yanaka Beer Hall
If you want to know what it’s like to eat, drink and be merry in old Tokyo, then make your way towards Yanaka Beer Hall. This drinking spot is set up at a building complex made from old Japanese houses that was built 80 years ago. The traditional and rustic design of the building is so well-maintained with a Japanese zen garden that it will make you feel like being at a movie set for an epic period piece. Soak in the unique atmosphere with a some locally-brewed craft beer with a side of edamame beans and piping hot takoyaki. Say “kanpai” and pay homage to the ones making sure buildings from the past still have a place in the future.
In the bustling entertainment, business and shopping area of Shinjuku, you can get away from it all at Golden Gai. Once a red light district area, it evolved to become a hotspot for the creative types like actors and writers to gather for discussions in the 1960s. Residents at this low-rise block has fought to keep the place from being demolished for land development and it has stood as a proud remainder of the past. Today, Golden Gais is home to about 200 tiny bars, some with unique themes and decor. You can find yourself at a punk bar called Hair Of The Dogs or La Jetee, named after an iconic French film. You can even check out a hospital-themed bar. If you’re really lucky, you may end up sitting next to a star in local favourite Bar Darling. No matter where you end up, you’re bound to have a good time. If you don’t feel like drinking anymore, then step outside and take a stroll along the narrow laneways. Golden Gai comes alive at night with its display of kitschy neon signs. Cheers to a lively drinking spot like no other.
Nakagin Capsule Tower
Talk about being ahead of its time. The retro yet futuristic-looking Nakagin Capsule Tower was built in 1972. Architect Kurokawa Kisho had a vision that people would make use of these pods as a temporary living space. When it’s time to leave, the resident will take the pod with them. Then a new person will come in and replace that missing pod space with a new one.
The pods were meant individually removed or replaced and the building will change with how the residents come and go. However, Kurokawa’s vision never took off as it became apparent that people could not afford to replace their capsules.
Since the building was completed, no pods have been removed or replaced. Today, the Nakagin Capsule Tower stands as a derelict anomaly among the modern glitzy skyscrapers in Ginza, Tokyo. Most pods are no longer occupied. Some are just being used as a storage space. It’s a little bit tricky to get into the building as a visitor. If you’re lucky enough to get a room via AirBnb, then you’ll be able to peek at the city through the building’s distinctive circular window and marvel at minimalist interior design from the 1970s. You can also seek for local guides that take visitors on a walking tour to the building. Recently, it was announced that travellers can look into renting a room on a monthly-basis. One thing is for sure about the Nakagin Capsule Tower, you can look into past for a glimpse of what the future may hold.
IMAGES: C.L / KEFWhat