Delving into the Classy Cityscape of Aoyama: A Selection of 20 Recommended Spots
Aoyama is a ritzy, fashionable city which can be best enjoyed among adults. The city is known for its subtle, suave flair compared to Takeshita Dori in Harajuku. In case you might be wondering which prospective attractions to visit, this will be an introduction that will hopefully enlighten you on some of the surprisingly overlooked aspects of Aoyama.
Sep 09 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
A Selection of 10 Sightseeing Spots in Aoyama
1. Nezu Museum
Nezu Art Museum is located a 10-minute walk away from Omotesando Station, where there are numerous National Treasures and Articles of Cultural Importance on display. The museum's easy access makes it a great option to casually stop by, especially considering how the museum is relatively small and can be rounded with ease.
Although the regular exhibits are undoubtedly ornate, the museum is known for the work they put into their special, periodic exhibits. The museum's Japanese garden is also a marvel to look at, with an air of beauty almost like a handcrafted art piece itself. As such, the museum is frequented not only by Japanese visitors, but by travelers from abroad as well.
2. Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum
The Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum is located an 8-minute walk away from Omotesando Station. Okamoto was known for his trademark phrase, "art is an explosion!", and the memorial museum was erected on the grounds of his place of residence until he passed away at 84 years old. The location also served as his atelier, and he was said to have designed "The Tower of the Sun" while he was living there.
The atelier was left untouched to preserve and memorialize the artist's working environment. In a practice that is uncommon, photography in the museum is permitted, so feel free to preserve some interior design ideas from the colorful world of the artist's mind. Admission is also inexpensive at 620 yen a person, allowing you save your money to do other things as well.
3. Aoyama Flower Market TEA HOUSE
Aoyama Flower Market TEA HOUSE is situated at the intersection of Omotesando and Aoyama-dori. The cafe is run by Aoyama Flower Market, a florist brand often found in fancy department stores. This cafe also happens to be adjacent to one of their flower shops.
The cafe has been designed in the likeness of a greenhouse, where flowers throng the entirety of the cafe, and the table itself is also furnished with a variety of beautiful flower arrangements. It shouldn't come as any surprise that their menu is full of dishes prepared with meticulous attention to aesthetic detail in their arrangements. The picture-perfect delicacies and picturesque setting make for an ideal place to have some afternoon tea with the gals!
4. Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium
Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium is located a 10-minute walk from Aoyama-itchome Station, right at the midpoint of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akasaka, and Roppongi, and visiting the stadium is a convenient stop en route to the major cities of Tokyo. The stadium is used for both international rugby matches and Japan's national rugby championships.
The historic venue has also been described as "Chichibunomiya of the east, a flower garden of the west", in deference to its status as a kind of holy land for rugby in Japan. Many major matches are held at the stadium, and visiting the open pitch will give you a feel for a stadium that you may very well catch a glimpse of on a televised match.
5. TEPIA Advanced Technology Gallery
TEPIA Advanced Technology Gallery is located a 4-minute walk away from Gaiemmae Station. The gallery exhibits various cutting-edge technologies from a variety of different fields and gives visitors the opportunity to not only watch how the different devices work, but even try what it feels like to operate them. Admission is free of charge.
The gallery also has several adorable robots on display, and offer a robot programming class, as well as a 3-D printer trial experience. Although you'll need to make a reservation, the gallery also has a theater where you can learn about some of the secret backstories pertaining to the construction of the Tokyo Sky Tree. The facility is sure to spruce up your sightseeing with some hands-on time handling high-tech gadgetry.
6. Omatsu Inari Shrine
Standing out among the slew of trendy brand shops to either side is Omatsu Inari Shrine. Though the shrine is relatively small, its conspicuous location and contrast with the stores surrounding it often draws the attention of visitors from abroad.
Although it's unknown when exactly the shrine was built, the shrine was named Omatsu (large pine) Inari after the giant pine tree that was said to have once stood in the area. If you ever get tired of the bustle of the city, perhaps a stop at the shrine would make for a pleasant change of scenery.
7. Aoyama Baisouin Temple
You'll find Baisouin Temple right in the center of Aoyama, just after exiting Gaiemmae Station. The storied shrine was built in during the Tokugawa reign in 1643 and has survived to this day. The path to the temple is lined with bamboo forests on either side, immersing your periphery in a manner that allows you forget you're in the city.
The main building of the temple is relatively modern in design. You can also receive a Goshuin (a collectible stamp that can be found at shrines and temples across Japan), the collection of which has been popular of late. The reception desk for Goshuin is open until 9:00 pm, so you can take your time browsing. The Goshuin, unique to each shrine and adorned with calligraphy, are a great souvenir to commemorate the various shrines and temples you've visited.
8. Fukui Minami Aoyama 291
Fukui Minami Aoyama 291 is an antenna shop, which refers to a newly opened shop testing the market on new products. The store is located a 5-minute walk away from Omotesando Station, and their products consist of local cuisine and arts and crafts from Fukui Prefecture. Fukui Prefecture is said to have the highest happiness index out of all the prefectures in Japan. Perhaps their produce will shed some light on the secret to the well-being of the people from the area.
The first floor is restaurant run by a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) from Fukui Prefecture where they serve dishes local to the region. Additionally, they have a sightseeing information corner and an event display corner, both of which may stir an interest in visiting Fukui Prefecture.
9. Aoyama Park
Aoyama Park is an oasis amidst the endless rows of buildings, located a 7-minute walk away from Nogizaka Station. The spacious plot of greenery is recommended for an easygoing date, or for some time outdoors with your family.
On occasion, the park hosts events such as the German Festival. During the spring, there are also great spots in the park to see the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Roppongi Hills isn't far from the park, and the park is a great place to take a break from shopping and walking around in the city.
Kotto-dori, or literally, antique street, can be found just outside of Omotesando Station. The street's official name is Minamimachi-dori, but the nickname was devised following the Pacific War when there were several antique shops in the vicinity. Even today, several antique shops remain as the remaining vestiges of those times.
Aside from the antique shops, there are also modern, fancy boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Although the street is lively, it should feel considerably less hectic than Omotesando. The area tends to get crowded on weekends, so consider aiming to visit during a weekday.
5 Recommended Spots Around Aoyama-itchome Station
1. Aoyama Twin Towers
The Aoyama Twin Towers are directly connected to the Aoyama-itchome Station, and the buildings are an excellent spot to visit regardless of whether you are alone or with family because of their varied selection of shops and restaurants. Additionally, the buildings also contain a bank, pharmacy and hospital, making it an especially convenient location to stop by in case of an emergency.
From ramen and set meals, to fancy cafes, there are restaurants to accommodate a plentitude of settings. If ever in doubt on where to get a bite to eat, take a trip over to the Aoyama Twin Towers, and you're sure to find something to sate your palette.
2. Aoba Park
Aoba Park is situated a 3-minute walk away from Aoyama-itchome station. The park has an assortment of children's playing equipment such as swings, sandlots, and a jungle gym, making it the perfect park to let your kids have some fun amidst some shopping and sightseeing.
The park is located nearby a bunch of delectable eateries, so you could order some take-out and enjoy a makeshift picnic in the tranquility of the park. If you ever find yourself exhausted by the panorama of buildings and people all around, a moment of quietude in the park with some delicious food should have you rejuvenated in no time.
3. SHARE GREEN MINAMI AOYAMA
As its name alludes, SHARES GREEN is an area located a 6-minute walk away from Aoyama-itchome Station and is a bit of an anomaly among the clutter of tall buildings, in a languid space covered in fresh, earthy grass. Adjacent to the grass you'll find a fancy, pastel colored building.
The grounds house, a cafe known as the Little Darling Coffee Roasters, is where you'll find a mixture of a rustic and modern look in a renovated storehouse. There is also a separate working space where you can clear your mind and get some work done without feeling like you're cooped up indoors. The area represents a new kind of lifestyle, blending modern conveniences and the comfort of nature.
4. Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama
Situated just outside of Exit 5 of Aoyama-itchome Station is Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama. The Welcome Plaza is a showroom on the first floor of Honda's headquarter building, where a slew of their different products is on display for the automobile aficionado.
From rare cars to bikes, and even some motorsport vehicles, gearheads old and young should have quite a blast. They have a special event every year on Children's Day (May 5), so be sure to try and bring your kids along if the timing works out! Check the official website for details regarding the most up-to-date information.
5. Spaghetti Mugigoya
Just a 3-minute walk away from Aoyama-itchome Station is an ideal means to sate an itch for something other than rice with the fresh, springy pasta at Spaghetti Mugigoya. The spaghetti is tendered to the tastes of people in Japan, so like Japanese curry, you'll get to try out a slight variation to a familiar dish. The spaghetti is made using a Japanese method of making pasta.
How could you have pasta without a little wine? The restaurant offers glass decanter bottles, so you can specify exactly how much you want to drink. The plentiful selection will likely have you craving more but be careful! Don't overdo it with the drinking so you can continue to enjoy yourself with your senses still intact.
5 Recommended Hole-in-the-Wall Spots in Aoyama
1. Niko Niko Park
Niko Niko Park, "niko niko" meaning all smiles, is the name of a children's recreational facility where they offer a large playground designed for small children, and it's the perfect place to give your kids some time to play while on the road. Although generally quite popular, the park is relatively less busy on weekdays.
On the grass are some little adorable horse toys for your kids to sit on known as RODY, which make for a memorable photo opportunity. A number of RODY pictures with jubilant children on their backs have been posted on Instagram.
2. T-PLACE (Minami Aoyama Yusen Building)
T-PLACE (Minami Aoyama Yusen Building) is a 2-minute walk away from Omotesando Station, nestled away in a back street behind Omotesando. The location is popular as a little hideout tucked away from the frequent traffic of passersby. The brick-red building is eye-catching in how it contrasts with the surrounding buildings in the vicinity.
Between a boutique, cafe and beauty salon, the services provided are ideal to treat yourself on a day off. The building also has some spectacular evening scenery during the evenings on sunny days, and when you enter or leave the building, you'll find the glowing, orange sunset blending hues with the red bricks of building. The building is best visited on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
3. Minami Aoyama Santa Chiara Church
Minami Aoyama Santa Chiara Church is located just outside of Omotesando Station. Although typically used as a venue for weddings, the elaborate ornamentation like the arch at the entrance is beautifully photogenic. The smattering of foliage throughout the area contributes to the placid atmosphere.
Furthermore, there is also the TOKYO Whisky Library right next to the church, where actors Kanda Sayaka and Murata Mitsu announced their wedding! The retreat-like ambience is especially relaxing.
4. Shotaro Akiyama Photo Art Museum
The Shotaro Akiyama Photo Art Museum is located a 7-minute walk away from Omotesando Station, and blends in so seamlessly into the quiet complexion of Aoyama that you might not even recognize it as a museum at first. The art museum is a renovated atelier of the photographer Shotaro Akiyama, known for his many works with themes of women and flowers.
On the third floor of the museum is the cafe simply called "a-cafe", where you can take a quick breather after browsing the museum's works. The location is quite removed, making it an ideal spot to visit if you're looking for some peace and quiet.
5. TOTO Gallery・MA
TOTO Gallery・MA is an architecture and design gallery run by TOTO, located a 7-minute walk away from Aoyama-itchome Station. Those privy to the interior decor and architecture will immediately recognize a creative atmosphere that embodies a cutting edge of modern design trends. The gallery also regularly holds limited-time exhibits, and returning visits are a no-brainer for those interested in staying up to speed with the latest ideas in the field. You'll also be glad to know that admission is free of charge.
Countless photogenic works throng the space of the gallery. Finding designs which could suit your own aesthetic tastes is an exciting prospect, especially considering the space is inundated with people who have a very particular sense of what is aesthetically pleasant to look at. Perhaps you'll even find some designs which would fit well in your own home.
Aoyama, a City with an Air of Opulence
Although Tokyo's Aoyama has a reputation that seems to precede it as a high-end part of the city, the things that can be found in Aoyama, relative to the city's reputation, is not as well known. This article has hopefully introduced you to locations you've never heard of before, even for those of you who were already somewhat privy to the city. Aoyama tends to draw out crowds on weekends, so try to visit during a weekday if your schedule allows for it. Whether it's for an extended stay, or for a quick stroll, enjoy the ambience of some refined tastes in Aoyama, whose elegance is undoubtedly true to its reputation.
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Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.