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The 2024 Japan Design Diaries: Part 1, Tokyo

You can’t really say what is beautiful about a place, but the image of the place will remain vividly with you.

-Tadao Ando

We came for sushi, SAANA, and sakura; Tadao Ando, technicolor and technology; adventure, Akihabara and art!

We arrived in a trickle, some from Germany, some from the US…. then in a flood - and most of us were at Hotel Hamacho by dinner time on Sunday March 10th. Cold - much colder than anticipated - jet lagged and disoriented, our group of 24 was an eclectic mix of architects, designers, design-affiliated spouses and partners, design aficionados and programming engineers. We all came together for the opportunity to explore Japan within the lens of design, technology and nature, with a very robust itinerary spanning Tokyo, Naoshima and Kyoto, and we were ready to go!

The trip was organized by Bettina Johae of aplusNYC Tours, as well as Tai Kojro-Badziak of zpd+a in Chicago, and led by Ulf Meyer, an author/ journalist and architecture/design teacher, and a wonderfully passionate and knowledgeable guide. We started the trip in Tokyo, the largest city in the world and the center of the Japanese universe - with an urban population 13.9 million and a regional population of 37.4 million, the city is the political capital of Japan, and its financial, cultural, industrial and transit center. With it’s blend of ultramodern skyscraper and traditional temples, phenomenal transit system, pop culture and traditional craftsmanship, it’s an incredible blend of history and modernity, woven through with a polite and considerate population that reveals secrets beyond every door and alley.

The Hamacho Hotel was very conveniently located in the Chome district, just off the Sumida River. We were delighted with the comfortable and welcoming rooms and wonderful self serve bath salt bar! For the first night, a group meal had been organized at a local izakaya, where we experienced the Japanese tradition of a time-limited all you can drink while enjoying a variety of bites including beef tongue, fresh mackerel, and fried snacks. We enjoyed the cool air on the brisk walk back to the hotel and turned in, ready to tackle Tokyo the next morning.

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