Posted on September 17 2019
Recess is back from a whirlwind trip to Japan! Ten days in Tokyo flew by far too quickly, and we had a wonderful time shopping, eating, and making new friends on our fourth trip to one of our favorite cities. We're really beginning to feel at home in Tokyo and are deeply appreciative of the warm welcome we received. We're also stoked to have had the opportunity to bring a little taste of Recess to Japan. Come along and check out our adventure!
"There is so much inspiration all around, from the food to the clothing. Similar to Morocco, I love visiting Japan and being surrounded by the art, textiles, and ceramics. I love the attention to detail that runs throughout every facet of Japanese culture, and am really starting to feel more familiar there with each trip."
Recess participated in a pop-up event in Tokyo with Arcade Shops and A Current Affair in collaboration with Eva Fashion Art. We were joined by friends New/Found and TheFindPDX. The event was held in a gorgeous glass space with soaring ceilings and lots of natural light in Tokyo's Daikanyama neighborhood. Referred to as the "Brooklyn of Tokyo" by Vogue, Daikanyama is a quiet residential neighborhood just outside of Shibuya filled with artistic cafes, boutiques, and restaurants.
It was a great event over 4 days and the people watching was an affair in itself! We love the deliberate dressing of stylish Japanese women (and men!). No detail is left untouched, a feat made even more spectacular in the 95+ degree weather with 80% humidity. The EVA team was wonderfully welcoming, and Japanese customer service is outstanding. If you're ever in Daikanyama, be sure to visit them!
We slipped away for a quiet moment to enjoy the "All About Mariano Fortuny" exhibit at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum. While we knew Fortuny was a designer, sculptor, and artist, we were in awe to see the scale and depth of his innovative concepts. He truly lived up to his nickname, the Magician of Venice. (Bonus: it was the perfect place to escape the heat!)
Though he began as a painter, Fortuny was constantly inspired by the arts and revolutionized stage lighting with an accordion dome that recreated daylight using artificial light. His creation was patented and used in large theaters on in international scale. He also drafted the blueprints for a fabric printing machine. He later created the Fortuny lamp, still popular today for it's flattering diffusion of light.
Fortuny is best known for his creation of the iconic pleated silk Delphos dress and his printed silk fabrics. His woodblocking techniques brought him to Japan, where the admiration is mutual, and his painted/printed overlays are visual inspiration for Zandra Rhodes. The Delphos is a timeless style that has inspired countless designers, from the silk handiwork of Patricia Lester and poly pleats of Mary McFadden to the avant garde sculptural shapes of Issey Miyake- Fortuny's legacy lives on. Be sure to visit the exhibit, now through October 6, 2019.
THE INSPIRATION: DELPHOS
HAIGHT & ASHBURY
Boutiques for everything you can image are on every corner throughout the city, and our other favorite way to beat the heat is by popping in to one to enjoy the AC and artful displays. Space is at a premium in Tokyo, and these merchants have found a way to add their personal touch to these small shops. These treasure troves are so much fun to explore, you never know what will be hidden in the nooks and crannies!
DARUMASAN GA YAICHATTA
Otsukaresama desu! Okonomiyaki, monjayaki, copious highballs, and free-flowing beers were on order with our new friends from Eva Fashion Art. Okonomiyaki are savory Japanese "pancakes" made with a flour egg batter, cabbage, and thinly sliced meats topped with loads of condiments (the best part!): okonomi sauce (very similar to tonkatsu sauce), kewpie mayonnaise, dancing bonito flakes, and aonori (a type of powdered seaweed). It's perfect for sharing with friends, as you drink and talk while it's cooking, then share it directly from the griddle with your own tiny spatula. Or in our case, the kitchen can also make one for you and sauce it beautifully so it looks like a chocolate cake!
Hidden off a grassy pathway leading to Golden Gai, Chachahana is a cute izakaya perfect for starting your night off right. We met up with some local friends for dinner and hopping the nearby alleyways crammed with little bars. Sashimi, salads, yuba (tofu skin), and tsukemen (dipping noodles) with sudachi were among the many dishes sampled, topped off with the local drink of choice- refreshing whiskey highballs. At a 1:4 ratio of whiskey to soda water, they are as easy-drinking as beer, without the carbs. Great for lasting through a night of nomikai (drinking with the boss), and also perfect for the intense heat!
Kanpai! Ganko is a pretty restaurant nestled in the bamboo, hidden in plain sight right in the center of bustling Shinjuku. We were whisked away to a peaceful respite complete with an outdoor garden, pagodas, and a little pond on our first night's arrival. We fought off jet lag with plates of sushi and tempura, topped off with beer and sake. When the restaurant let us know that tuna was their specialty, we made sure to order a second round of sushi- and it didn't disappoint~
SKINAKO BROWN SUGAR KINTOKI KAKIGORI
MATCHA KINTOKI KAKIGORI
MONDRIAN ICE CREAM
MANGO MILK KAKIGORI
Pounding the pavement- whether to explore the area or do a little shopping- is brutal in hot weather and high humidity. Our relief? Popping into a cafe for some kakigori, or Japanese shaved ice. A summertime favorite for good reason, the ice is shaved from a large block, turning it into fluffy snow. Common toppings include roasted soybean powder, sweet azuki beans, condensed milk, green tea syrup, mango puree, or strawberry sauce.
160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−27, 5APMビル1F JAPAN
We headed to Savoy Azabujuban for one of the best pizzas in town. As fans of David Chang's Ugly Delicious, we were excited to try the Neapolitan pizza at Savoy- one of the descendants of Seirinkan's Susumu Kakinuma school of pizza. Though David Chang was served a special tuna pizza unavailable to us, we were in heaven with the Margherita, Marinara, and off-menu Bianca pies. They were perfectly drippy- cooked within seconds with the most minimal, highest quality toppings and ingredients. The light and airy crust with puffy edges was good from first bite through the last. Our favorite was the Marinara, featuring hand-shaved garlic with tomato sauce, herbs, salt, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Definitely make sure to get yourself a pizza (or two) when in the area!
〒106-0046 東京都港区元麻布３丁目１０−1 中岡ビル201
Google Map Link
Japanese breaded pork cutlets (tonkatsu) are a crispy, crunchy, golden-brown-and-delicious dish served alongside shredded cabbage and rice with a sweet and savory, tangy Worcestershire-based barbeque sauce. Tonkatsu Maisen is considered one of the best tonkatsu restaurants in Shibuya, and we were able to take over one of the counters at the Hikarie location. You might remember our visit last year, as tonkatsu is always a fave.
You all already know we love ramen! We trekked over to Afuri in the heat, ready to down a steaming bowl on a sweltering day. Their specialty of lighter chicken-pork-yuzu broth was great, plus Ian's bib was the fashion statement of the day! Chewy noodles, a perfectly jammy egg, and citrusy chicken broth are always a winner! Afuri recently opened their first location in Portland in 2017, so you can also get your fix in the US.
AFURI RAMEN NAKAMEGURO
〒153-0051 Tokyo, Meguro City, Kamimeguro, 1 Chome−23−1 中目黒アリーナ 1F JAPAN
Eat your spaghetti with chopsticks! Spajiro specializes in wafu pasta (wafu = Western fusion), alternatively known as Japanese-style pasta. In my personal opinion, I have to say that the Japanese prepare the best al dente pasta outside of Italy. They really appreciate the bite of the noodle (hello, ramen?), and take care to preserve it. You can find wafu pasta nearly everywhere throughout Japan, and the Japanese versions of spaghetti might include cod roe, butter, soy sauce, uni, and tomatoes or cream. This combination creates the most umami dishes that are a unique genre all their own; not entirely Italian nor Japanese, born from the post-WWII American occupation of Japan.
There are many locations of Spajiro, a chain throughout Japan- with just about as many options to boot. We indulged and had an umami-rich seafood pasta with cod roe and butter bursting with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and octopus, in addition to one with mushrooms and clams, and tomato beef with burdock. Definitely recommend!
TEMPURA TENDON TENYA
GENKI SUSHI UOBEI
Exactly what you want, when you want it. You might remember our vending machine escapades from previous years, and that convenience extends past bottled drinks and ice cream bars. In Japan, you can order most items directly from touchpad kiosks with English screens that print out tickets, and have the food delivered directly to your seat. It's the perfect way to end a busy day in the city, and fulfills our quick, good, and affordable trifecta between more indulgent eats. These are a few of our favorite go-tos that make us feel like we've stepped into the future!
PS- You can also visit one of Ichiran's 3 New York locations for a solo ramen experience in the US!
GENKI SUSHI UOBEI
〒150-0043 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Dogenzaka, 2 Chome−29−11 第六セントラルビル 1F JAPAN
Art & Words by Erica Sanae
Photos by Erica Sanae, Marie Monsod, Ian Shepp