Get a first-hand look at the philosophies that underpin Japanese modern architecture on this personalized, small-group tour of the Tokyo neighborhoods of Harajuku, Omotesando and Roppongi with a local scholar. Along the way you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the vast influence of Japanese design philosophy on contemporary visual culture, spannning the worlds of architecture, fashion and art.
Start you small-group tour by meeting your guide in front of the flagship GAP store in Harajuku. Depending on the tour time you’ve selected, your experience will start in either the morning or afternoon. Start your exploration of Japanese design and architecture at the Meiji Shrine, which helps to place the philosophy’s historical origins in context.
This ancient religious site, constructed in honor of Emperor Meiji in the 19th century, illustrates just how much Japanese visual culture has changed in the past 200 years. The very modest design aesthetics on display at this shrine help to underpin the discussion of the rest of the tour’s look at more modern Japanese design.
Head next to the Tokyo areas of Harajuku and Omotesando, where you’ll have a chance to admire two more contemporary, yet very different, takes on Japanese design. Stroll first through the kaleidoscopic neighborhood of Harajuku, listening as your guide explains the history of the neighborhood’s diverse subcultures. Your guide will help explain how traditional Japanese roles and principles are expressed via the mechanisms of consumerism and clothing, helping to create social identities.
Continue to Omotesando, a district that is home to some of Tokyo’s most exclusive fashion brands like Prada and Dior, each of which uses architecture to help reinforce their brand philosophy and aesthetics. This high-end neighborhood, studded with design studios and boutiques, plays a pivotal role in Japanese design, art and fashion. This role is evident in Omotesando’s many fine examples of modernist architecture, including the Cartier building, the Nezu Museum, Tokyo Plaza, the TOD’s building and Gyre, a structure which combines dining and retail under one roof.
Move next to Roppongi, where you’ll have the chance to view examples of Japanese design including superflat, a postmodern art movement spearheaded by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, along with modern expressions of the movement known as Japonisme. You may also have the chance to see the 21_21 Design Site, an impressive architectural masterpiece by Tadao Ando that is home to the city’s first design museum.
Finish you walking excursion in Roppongi Hills, an interesting example of urban planning that blends commercial, cultural and residential spaces into one area. The area is the brainchild of Tokyo developer Minoru Mori, who has turned the area into a centerpiece of contemporary art, including the Mori Museum at the top Mori Tower. Finish your tour here and make your own way to your next destination or your hotel.