Tokyo is a city that will always have this South African girl’s heart, not least because both my babies were born there: my son Aisaku and my art gallery, Subject Matter. Azabu-Juban is the perfect place to stay: it’s one of Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhoods, and while it has loads of character, it’s still super-central.

Wooden shoes at Nishi Azabu traditional house
Wooden shoes at Nishi Azabu traditional house

Cycling in Tokyo is the fastest and easiest way of getting around, and I always head straight to Tsutaya in Roppongi for inspiration, and to reconnect with the city. Tsutaya is a bookshop and coffee shop that is open 24 hours a day; it boasts an incredible selection of Japanese books and stationery (and is a fabulous spot for people-watching).

The Mori Art Museum, on the 54th floor of Roppongi Hills, is a five-minute walk from Tsutaya. It hosts great contemporary exhibitions, with a breathtaking view from the 54th-floor outdoor observation deck. On the way down make a quick visit to the enormous Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture: nothing feels more sci-fi than this awesome creature in this modern setting.

Louise Bourgeois, The Spider, and Yayoi Kusama, Trees, Roppongi Hills
Louise Bourgeois, The Spider, and Yayoi Kusama, Trees, Roppongi Hills
Image: Supplied

You’ll find a cluster of gorgeous neighbourhoods a few kilometres west: Aoyama, Omotesando, and Harajuku. Start with a visit to Meiji Shrine, which is five minutes away from the surreal Harajuku and glamorous Omotesando neighbourhoods, but in a different world. Sundays are particularly magical — this is the day on which traditional weddings take place. As I exit the tranquillity of the shrine, I criss-cross through the back streets of Aoyama, stopping at Kitsune for coffee in a traditional Japanese house.

Cafe Kitsune, Aoyama
Cafe Kitsune, Aoyama
Image: Supplied

Lunch at Maisen is a must for the best tonkatsu in town, followed by a stroll down Cat Street, which leads to Shibuya. One million people pass through Shibuya Crossing a day: it is the busiest intersection in the world. I remember standing there when we had just arrived, wondering how I would ever fit in. The energy is electrifying. Tokyu Hands in Shibuya is a must, as is Claska Do, a wonderful Japanese design shop in the Parco 3 building.

The best place for sushi in this part of town is the Standing Sushi Bar, hidden among the chaos of the backstreets of Shibuya. Just be sure to order quickly, clearly, and precisely as the excellent sushi is made at speed and the chefs have little time or patience!

Daikanyama is well worth a visit and also close by. T-Site was designed by our friends K&D Architects (also the founders of PechaKucha), and it won the award for best architectural structure a few years ago. It houses an incredible bookshop with a comprehensive selection of art and design books.

A quick walk down the hill takes us to the lovely Nakameguro, a neighbourhood next to the river, where the streets have independent shops and the boys and girls are dressed to impress. Dinner is at our favourite restaurant Maru: it has some of the best food in Tokyo and the set menu is to die for. Leave space for the special rice at the end of the meal. Most of our evenings end at the hidden Library bar.


Additional images from Liezel's Tokyo Diary


To find out more about Subject Matter Art, launching in South Africa this month, visit subjectmatterart.com or @subjectmatterart on Instagram.

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