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The 2024 Japan Design Diaries: Tokyo, Part 3

Day 3 dawned overcast and windy, and didn’t really improve over the course of the day, but we still had a great adventure exploring layers of Tokyo’s architectural history, and simultaneously learned about the absolute conscientiousness of umbrella management throughout Japan!

After our cafe breakfast, we boarded the subway for Monato City, where we visited the Art Deco splendor of the Tei-En Museum (1933/ 2014). The lush Art Deco home, set within a beautiful garden, was commissioned as the private residence of Prince Asaka Yasuhiko and his family, who resided there from 1933 to 1947, and features interiors designed by Henri Rapin,while the main architect of the building itself is credited as Gondo Yukichi of the Works Bureau of the Imperial Household Ministry. Cast glass panels by Lalique, hand textured ceramics, gilded murals, carved doors, coffered ceilings, sumptuous curves and spacious rooms offer testament to the wealth and luxury of the family.

We finished the day at Kengo Kuma’s Sunny Hills Dessert Shop (2013) - an exuberant wooden structure that looks like a game of pick up sticks gone rogue, the design is inspired both by a bamboo basket and the pineapple signature to the cake shops offerings. Inside, the wooden lattice is warm and welcoming on a grey day. The first floor features a retail area selling prepackaged goodies, while the tea room on the 2nd floor offers a treat of cake and tea to anyone who has already purchased a cake downstairs. It has the effect of being inside a forest, heightened by the interaction of the earthen slope at the stairs, where soil presses against the glass.


Dodging the rain, we walked back towards Happo-en Garden, marveling at rain chains, and bonsai trees that were alive during the time of Michaelangelo. Our lunch was in the gorgeous Thrush Cafe, featuring a seasonal farm to table menu in a lovely wood screened dining room highlighting views out to the lush garden.

Shortly down the road we again enjoyed the kindness of large overhangs, as we walked towards Kengo Kuma’s Nezu Museum (2009). Stepping away from the commercial bustle of Omotesando’s boutique shopping streets, the wide sheltering walk is lined by bamboo on one side, creating a serene transition into the hush of the museum, which houses Japanese and oriental antiques and is surrounded by a  rich green Japanese garden and tea rooms. Expansive windows link the interior to the gardens beyond, while the interior itself is lined with coral-gray sandstone from Qingdao, a material whose mood resembles that of the exterior bamboo.

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