Archives for category: culture

tokyo quality coffee

Tokyo has plenty of coffee options, from the latte choices at Starbucks to the canned beverages in the roadside vending machines, but it’s a lot harder to find the quality of coffee that comes from an artisanal cafe, roaster and barista.

mapp : : tokyo has compiled a list of ten of the best cafes around Tokyo.

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sakura season

Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!

While the appearance of plum and peach blossoms during the past month have hinted at the changing seasons, the ephemeral cherry blossoms are now in full bloom in Tokyo, giving the sleek skyscrapers and dazzling neon some serious competition in the viewing stakes. 

A harbinger of Spring, the sakura adds seasonal daubs of pink and white to private yards, office plazas and suburban streets. More dramatically, the blossoms of the somei yoshino, shidarezakura and other trees transform the landscapes of the city’s biggest public parks and gardens.

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ginza dori

Tokyo’s Ginza district has the distinction of being Tokyo’s original upmarket shopping destination, some of the most expensive real estate in the world, the first to feature electric street lighting, the first with modern department stores, the first with stores that allowed customers to wear shoes inside the premises, the first to host luxury European brands. During Japan’s golden ’bubble’ years Ginza was the city’s glitzy playground, its stores raking in phenomenal earnings from cashed up citizens.

Times, though, have changed.

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snow city

This winter’s first snowfall came a little early, spoiling the party for many a twenty-year-old dressed up to celebrate their coming of age on 成人の日 (seijin no hi).

While parts of Japan are famous for the quality of their powder snow, snow in the city of Tokyo is not that common and when it does fall, there isn’t usually that much of it. Yesterday, though, the kanto area was, according to news reports, blanketed with some 40 centimetres of the stuff.

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Merry Christmas

Christmas in Japan is at once familiar and different. This land of Buddhism and Shinto, a largely secular society, has relatively few Christians, though Tokyo does have a smattering of churches that do hold Christmas services. However, the society in general does not follow the Christmas traditions of Christianity.

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I do not know the day
my pain will end yet
in the little garden
I had them plant
seeds of autumn flowers.
– Masaoki Shiki : 正岡 子規

Autumn is such a beautiful season in Tokyo. Crisp mornings regularly give way to perfect sunny days and the city’s verdant parks and gardens are colored with a seasonal palette of reds and ochres. Known as koyo, the seasonal transition is widely anticipated, much like the Spring-time cherry blossom season of hanami.

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Ginza is a great neighbourhood to explore in Tokyo. It has a refined, cosmopolitan character with a bright, shiny exterior and old-world soul.

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starbucks popup harajuku

When it comes to coffee, Starbucks has never been my first choice; aside from the taste of the house blend, I can’t get to grips with the oversized ceramic mugs, plastic ’grande’ iced-coffee containers and ’frappuccino’ style tea and coffee based drinks.

But if there’s one thing Starbucks do better than any other cafe chain – in Japan at least – it’s to provide a great customer experience.

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Tokyo: a vast city, with so many things to see; so much to do. What follows is one of dozens of possible “best of” to do lists for this city. Individually, these places and experiences offer glimpses of Tokyo’s unique culture; taken as a whole, they should provide a multi-faceted view of the city to a first-time visitor.

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With the previous post, tokyo’s yamanote line, mapp : : tokyo published its 100th post. It’s a milestone worth reflecting on – an indulgence, I know, but I’ll make it short.

This blog actually began as an idea for an iOS app, but for various reasons, it morphed into a website that is part magazine, part travel guide, part cultural anthropology and part tribute to one of the world’s great cities, publishing new content on Japanese culture, design and media on a weekly basis, creating a digital tapestry of – as the blurb says – cool stuff in Tokyo and Japan.

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