About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough runs Bohemian Trails, an online travel magazine focusing on global art, culture and off-the-beaten path destinations. A wanderer by nature with a love of all things fashion, music and street art, Megan encourages readers to ditch their rigid guidebooks and discover a city by purposely getting lost. Her personal travels have taken her through Europe, South America, Mexico and Egypt.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
Philadelphia holds a soft spot in my heart and that’s mainly because I caught a ball at a Philly’s game when I was about ten years old. It’s one of those stories that I love hear my Dad tell his friends. Even though I sort of ducked underneath a crowd of much larger men stretching their arms in all directions to catch that most coveted prize, it was a little girl who ultimately scored that day. Any other memory of Philadelphia I might have had faded into the distance on that summer day. This past weekend, I rediscovered this city and learned a few fun facts along the way.
But let’s rewind a bit. It all started about a month ago when Diego was invited to speak as a panelist at the Wharton Latin American Conference. The event fell on Valentine’s Day and instead of celebrating the day of love alone, I decided to tag along and make it a weekend trip. Besides a less than stellar hotel stay and an entire day of rain, the silver lining came on our last day in town when the sun shone so brightly that it hurt my eyes to gaze upon Philadelphia’s buildings too long before needing to look back down.
Our first stop was Independence Hall and the surrounding buildings. We started off by taking a look at the Liberty Bell and I thought the exhibit did a a good job of showing the irony of this “symbol of freedom.” While the bell stood as a symbol of independence and hope for so many, it served as a constant reminder to slaves and women that this was still out of their reach. I’ve never been a huge history buff but it was really interesting to imagine what this time period was like for all those living in the United States.
Visiting these monuments also made me ponder the government of today, which is another topic I’ve never been too fond of. One one hand, I think its unrealistic to base the laws of today on the Declaration of Independence, simply because a lot of things change over time and I’m sure the Founding Fathers could not foresee every problem.
On the other hand, the principles that upheld are extremely admirable and I wished that all politicians acted solely for the benefit of their people instead of for selfish reasons.
While all governments have their ups and downs, I left Philadelphia in good spirits and with a stronger sense of my own country’s history. Yet, it really opened my eyes to how little I remember from elementary history classes. It was slightly embarrassing that my own husband, who isn’t from the United States, had to jog my memory of how the US was formed. Yet, I do my best learning when I’m truly interested in a topic and as a first grader, that interest just ins’t there, so I don’t totally blame myself. That being said, I do want to study world history on a deeper level.
Moving on…let’s talk about how amazing the architecture is in Philly. There were moments when I felt like I was in Europe rather than the United States of America. City Hall was one of my favorite buildings because there’s really no bad angle photgraphy-wise. With nearly 700 rooms, it’s makes perfect sense that the construction lasted from 1871 to 1901 and a cool 24 million dollars. For a few years it was even the tallest habitable building in the world.
Since our visit coincided with Valentine’s Day, there was no way I was leaving without snapping a few pictures of the original LOVE statue in John F. Kennedy Plaza. Philly is known as the City of Brotherly Love but ours felt much more romantic. Having seen the statue of the same name and design in Manhattan countless times, this one is much smaller in size but still extremely authentic. The Robert Indiana creation was installed in 1976 and has been inspiring people ever since.
Before heading to the bus terminal, we did a little shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, which is essentially a one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly need. We spent most of our time in the organic produce aisle and I nearly cringed at how low the prices were compared to Whole Foods. Anyway, there are plenty of things to do here, from sampling locally produced cuisine to hunting down the best souvenirs for your family and friends.
1. Find My Itin
As a traveler that specifically wanders off the beaten path, Find My Itin allows users to breeze through the planning process by using hashtags like #inspiration to discover your next destination. If you’re anything like me, hashtags are second nature, as you use them for pretty much any social platform so this integration is extremely intuitive for most users. The goal of the app is to alleviate the stress that often comes with booking flights, hotels and everything in between. Also technically not an app just yet, I personally like Find My Itin because it makes your passion the priority, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important factor.
Image: Find My Itin
Having just experienced one of the worst hotel stays to date, I have since downloaded CheckMate. As a professional travel writer and blogger, I’m often arriving to hotels at odd hours and the worst thing is having to wait in the lobby for an unknown amount of time. With CheckMate, users can check-in directly from their smartphone. The app allows you to pick your room preferences, enter your arrival time in advance and if you’re staying at one of their partner hotels, you receive a room key printed ahead of time. Just like you would pre-check in for a flight, CheckMate allows you to do the same for your hotel.
Waze has been getting a lot of attention lately but it’s all well-deserved. Proving some stiff competition to GoogleMaps (Just kidding – Google already bought the app for a cool $1.3 billion), the app shows your the quickest way to reach your destination. If you’re traveling to a city you’ve never been to before, this sort of insight is invaluable. Perhaps the coolest feature is that the community is there to help. Users gain points for reporting road blocks, police traps and other driving conditions that may affect the effectiveness of the route. If you’re visiting a city, this is probably not necessary but definitely download it before a road trip.
While I’m still a fan of Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and the like, Triposo is quickly becoming my go-to app for on-the-go travel recommendations. Unlike traditional guidebooks, Triposo takes location, weather, season and personal preferences into account. Like most apps out there, the more active you are on Triposo, the more accurate these suggestions will become. Their inventory reaches 15,000 destinations across 200 countries and my guess is that more will be added soon. Whether searching for an art gallery or on the hunt for a local bar that serves your favorite cocktail, Triposo is a great tool to use while on the road.
Even though travel is all about disconnecting from your day to day responsibilities and experiencing some place new (or at least it should be), that doesn’t mean that you should completely cut ties with your friends and family back home. Cloze is kind of like a dream come true when you have limited time to sort through all your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even emails. In a nutshell, the app lumps all these into one stream and prioritizes them based on which contacts you speak with most often and in many cases that will be your significant other, parents and other family members or best friend.
I had traveled to South America during January before but I had never actually spent the holidays anywhere but in Virginia with my family. During the two and a half weeks we spent in Argentina, I learned a lot about myself and about how much family and friendships are valued in Argentina, in South America in general.
One of my favorite moments in Argentina is when we visited one of Diego’s grandmothers who literally lives in the mountains. The drive there was a bumpy one, as the rode consists of pebbles rather than gravel, and there were so many moments when my fear of heights was really put to the test. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the view and with each twist and turn up the mountains, the world below looked farther and farther away. When we finally reached her house, I felt strangely comforted by the stillness of the town. It was almost as if I had entered a bubble of beauty only we knew about.
The air was so crisp and clear that when the night started to descend, every color appeared more vibrant. I have mentioned this before but sometimes I really do think about just moving to the country for awhile. I’m not sure I’d last terribly long but I’d be willing to give it a shot. New York City can beat you down and then lift you back as if nothing ever happened. Living there has given me so much confidence but it’s also added extra padding to my shell whereas, here in the Argentine countryside, I felt like nothing could harm me.
The next day we drove through a few of the neighboring towns, passing families playing in the river, horses grazing in green pastures and landscapes that would make you week in the knees. I had traveled to Argentina once before with Diego but this was the first time that we really ventured outside of his town. It was a really special feeling to experience these natural escapes with him and in many ways, I think I came to understand him more because of it.
A few days before heading back to the US, we joined another couple for a trip to Tafí del Valle, a scenic retreat just a few hours drive from Tucumán. Unlike Las Estancias – Aconquija, Catamarca, Tafí is more than a summer town. This is perhaps best proven by the gravel, rather than pebble, roads leading up these mountains. Many residents living in Tucumán either own a house out here or they visit with family members who do. Summer (which is winter for those of us in the US) is the most popular season but there are many people who live here year round.
Many of the cool neighborhoods are not within walking distance of downtown Nashville so I definitely recommend renting a car or at splurging on a taxi to visit at least one of these areas while in town. Exploring Nashville’s innovative art hubs was a major highlight of my trip and completely altered my perception of the city as a whole. Here are five neighborhoods to shop for everything from handmade crafts from local artists to vintage designs from generations past.
This area is one of Nashville’s hipster hangouts, especially for young and stylish urbanites. When I first arrived to Hillsboro Village I was slightly underwhelmed because for whatever reason, I pictured a large network of interwoven streets rather than a single street with very little foot traffic. Fast-forward about five minutes and I realized I’d judged this place way too soon.
I immediately gravitated toward the downtown, alternative vibe going on and began popping into the different shops. There are three main types of stores here: cafes, fashion boutiques and used bookstores. There are also a few restaurants, a beauty salon and a few artisan shops selling flowers, handmade soap and other items. Try Fido for coffee and The Impeccable Pig (pictured below) for affordable but fashion-forward clothes.
This urban oasis has developed into “Nashville’s Creative Community,” over the past few years. Certainly not your typical neighborhood, the four block complex is comprised mostly of artist, photographer and designer studios. Marathon Village got its name because it was originally the home to the Marathon Motorworks Factory. The area still has a very industrial appearance. Mike Wolfe’s store, Antique Archaeology, is probably the most popular store but my personal favorite is the Otis James studio even though it mainly caters to men.
There’s also a coffee shop, an artisan distillery, a delicious candy shop and a radio station here, not to mention a restaurant and music venue that are still under construction. Unlike other shopping areas, the owners of each studio have different opening hours so if there’s a store you really want to visit, make sure to call ahead of time or check online.
12 South got its name quite simply. All the action takes place along along 12th Avenue South. Similar to Hillsboro Village, there is one main street of shops and a few that intersect at cross streets. However, 12 South, felt more mainstream to me but that could have just been my perception. There’s a little bit of everything here including a cafe, flower shop, design store, vintage clothing stores and restaurants.
I started out by grabbing a coffee at the Frothy Monkey, which by the way has a winding staircase leading upstairs. Then I wandered into the Imogene + Willie to see first hand how they custom their jeans to fit each customer’s exact size measurements. I can totally relate to jeans that don’t fit properly, so I was super intrigued by the whole process. My last stop was The Filling Station and if I wasn’t on my way to dinner, I’m sure I would have bought some of their beer on the go.
Catering to both the foodie and the fashionista, East Nashville is brimming with creative minds. My exploration of East Nashville began at Edley’s East for some BBQ and locally brewed beer and ended with the shops along Woodland Street. Just next door to Edley’s East is Fat Bottom Brewing, which has a nice outdoor seating area for the summer months and if you’re interested, you can even take a peek at the brewery in the back to see how the beers are brewed.
The shops around Woodland Street were some of the most interesting in my opinion. On one end of the spectrum there is a small bookstore that strictly sells Nashville-based authors and on the other, there’s a tiny shop selling gourmet oatmeal blends. The one common thread is that all the vendors were friendly and passionate about their work and that’s contagious.
Although more residential than some of the others on this list, Germantown has a lot to offer in terms of design. The area got it’s name because of the large number of German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century. There is a year-round farmer’s market, various restaurants and gorgeous houses built in Victorian style architecture.
Stepping foot into the Peter Nappi store felt more like walking through a museum. I hadn’t actually heard of the designer before traveling to Nashville but so many people suggested I visit. He specializes in Italian leather boots, handmade leather bags and other leather goods, with a few vintage items thrown into the mix. Even if you don’t buy anything, I’d recommend stopping by for the decor alone. The studio is huge, at least by my New York City standards, and the warm brick gives the space a warm, cozy feel.
This trip was hosted by the Visit Music City and Geiger & Associates. All opinions are my own.
There are so many fabulous neighborhoods in London to explore. Similar to New York City, I found that each area had its own distinct personality and that’s not the case in every city. This list doesn’t cover them all, but here are five neighborhoods perfect for the traveler wanting a unique off the beaten path experience.
I lived in Islington and I must admit that when I first arrived to my flat, I was disappointed. It was a rainy day and I had just had my first experience of taking the Tube during rush hour and let’s just say that my spirits were low. I soon learned to love this neighborhood for various reasons. For one thing, many residents are young, which means that there are tons of bars, shops and music venues nearby. Don’t be fooled by Islington’s hipster appearance. This is a popular neighborhood for people from all walks of life, including celebrities, socialites and successful professionals.
By now I’m sure you know how much I like writing about revamped neighborhoods and Shoreditch a great example of one. This is a great area to spot graffiti and wall murals because there are still many industrial warehouses yet to be covered in art. Some of the older brick warehouses have even converted into art galleries and in some cases, a free canvas for Banksy and other street artists. The neighborhood’s gritty appearance even extends indoors. Local bars and restaurants generally keep with the same ambiance, thus separating Shoreditch from other trendy hubs.
I worked in Marylebone at a fashion agency so clearly, this is a more posh neighborhood than some that made the cut. I much prefer the shops here rather than the ones on Oxford Street. Even though Marylebone is mere blocks from Oxford Street, it feels much more remote. There were so many days when I strolled through the neighborhood and barely heard a peep. Here you fill find top notch 5 star hotels, cozy cafes and small bookshops in addition to high-end boutiques and family-owned shops. Everything here is simply beautiful, from the elegant white stone buildings to the colorful streets.
Similar to Shoreditch, World’s End (not to be confused with the pub in Camden) is a revamped neighborhood that in many ways is still in the works. Location-wise, it’s in the western end of King’s Road in Chelsea and the residents here range from boho-chic young professionals to elderly couples who have lived here for decades. Definitely check out the Lots Road Auctions if you’re in the mood to score some vintage items. During the Swinging Sixties, bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones lit up the stages on Kings Road. Nowadays, Chelsea is a mix of true bohemians and polished professionals.
Located in the heart of London’s West End, Soho has cleaned up its rowdy reputation for the most part. Once happening spot for shadiness has since transformed into a cosmopolitan hub for music, stand-up comedy and cabaret performances. This is a great area to experience different forms of culture, from cuisine to clubs. Sure, Soho is crowded, but there is always something going on here and it’s that contagious energy that makes it so alluring to locals and tourists alike.
What is your favorite London neighborhood?
Kyoto is often considered a traditional city, particularly because there are so many temples and places of worship. While that’s certainly true in many aspects, I also found it to be very modern and full of creative people doing innovative things. Here are three cultural activities that I recommend for any savvy and stylish traveler…and even if you’re not necessarily seeking these off-the-beaten path attractions, these ideas will give you a glimpse into the local culture.
Visiting HOSOO was the very fist thing I did in Kyoto and if I hadn’t heard about it from another journalist, I probably would have skipped it entirely. For one thing, it’s not located in the city center but rather in the Nishijin District, a neighborhood characteristically known for its weaving and textile history. I had a meeting with Mr. Hosoo and since I was running late I decided to take a taxi, knowing that my sense of direction in a new city is never too accurate. Upon arriving, I immediately noticed the old style architecture of the houses. It’s also much quieter in this area and it feels more residential than the hustle and bustle of Kyoto Station.
Founded in 1688, Hosoo is a Kyoto-based textile company specializing in high-end interior design and fashion. Their headquarters are in Kyoto but they’ve partnered with global brands like Dior and Chanel so you might have already seen their work. As modern as they may seem, I was surprised to learn that the company actually traces back to the Kyoto silk industry in the sixth century.
On this particular afternoon the Hosoo team was prepping for a gallery reception that night where they would unveil their latest collection. I had a chance to see all of the items up close and let’s just say that I quickly became obsessed with the concept. Basically, each artist contributed furniture and decorative pieces to the space.
The artists featured are all part of Japan Handmade, a cooperative of Kyoto-based craft artists. They have a playful approach to traditional Japanese crafts and are constantly breaking boundaries through their work while keeping with the beauty of Japanese design aesthetics. They also teamed up with Oeo, a Danish design studio, to bring their vision to life. The collection includes pieces made from ceramics, metal-knitting, wood and bamboo.
What’s really fascinating is that even though many of these designers are young, they learned their trade from someone in their family so in many cases, these skills have been passed down from generation to generation. Although the technique and materials may be traditional, the designs feel so modern and very cutting-edge. Their techniques are 1,000 years old but their products are geared toward a global audience.
Before leaving Hosoo, I had the chance to go behind the scenes to see where they make their kimonos. The machines were so impressive but I was more interested in touching the soft fabrics scattered around the room. Hosoo fabrics are developed using premium materials like silk and wash paper and everything is manufactured right here in their workshop. The end-result is a design that stays true to the Japanese three-dimensional weaving technique but one that also showcases a more contemporary and international style.
If you’re interested in visiting the showroom during your trip, they recommend you making an appointment ahead of time just so they are aware of your visit. Their website is super informative and in English so don’t hesitate to reach out to them. To see more design spaces, keep an eye on Beyond Kyoto. Their luxury tour packages have not officially launched yet but they will feature visits to several artisan studios in addition to other unique experiences like an excursion to a tea plantation and a private Zen meditation session and Michelin-star restaurants for dinner.
Address: 752 Bisyamon-cho, Kuromon-dori Motoseiganji sagaru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8227
Fashion: Nishijin Textile Center
After visiting Hosoo, I stopped by the Nishijin Textile Center and within five minutes of being there, a live Kimono fashion show took place. It was so exciting to see how the seasonal elements of fall influenced the kimono designs and apart from the music and backdrop, the show felt just as fashion-forward as many of the shows I’ve seen during New York Fashion Week. What I liked about this textile center is that it allows tourists to learn about the art of kimono making in a free and interactive way.
If you go upstairs you can either souvenir shop or watch local weavers in action. I happened to visit on a day that was not crowded but I’m sure this place does fill up pretty fast during high season. However, it was one of the highlights of my trip and I left with a deeper appreciation for Kyoto art and tradition. Hosoo is less than a five minute walk from the Nishijin Textile Center so you can easily do both in one afternoon.
Address: Imadegawa Minamiiru, Horikawa-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City
Sake: Matsui Shuzo Brewery
Unlike my journey to Hosoo, I took a public bus to Matsui Brewing during rush hour and I nearly missed my appointment altogether. From the outside, the space looks like a house rather than a sake brewery and store but then again, I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to look for. Shortly upon arriving, the owner Matsui-san, took me behind the store to where he actually brews the sake. I climbed a small ladder to the top of the barrel and for the first time ever, I saw sake taking form.
I’ve taken tours of a couple vineyards before but I’ve never been able to get close enough to really understand how the whole process works. Matsui spoke perfect English and was genuinely excited by all of my questions. He also said that anyone can take a look at his brewery so if you are in town, don’t be afraid to ask.
When we went back to the store, it was time to sample a few different types. All are local and all are delicious, I promise! If I wasn’t planning to take my suitcase as a carryon, I would have had a shopping spree in here. The brewery tends to have a mixed clientele and that’s mainly because it’s located in a residential area but also quite close to the university. If you’re planning a day of sight-seeing, Matsui is about a ten or fifteen minute walk from the Imperial Palace.
There are two main reasons why I found this brewery extremely unique. Firstly, this water you see in the photo below is from the local water source. Sure, this is hardly revolutionary but I really appreciate that he is making use of his surroundings and thinking about the environment. Furthermore, 60-78% of energy used is solar energy and he even has a machine that keeps track of the measurements. It was also one of the last things he mentioned to me and only after he saw me aimlessly wandering around the shop.
Address: 1-6 Yoshida Kawaramachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan 606-8305
This trip was hosted by the Kyoto Convention Bureau. All opinions are my own.
One of my travel goals is to explore more cities in the United States and Nashville was at the top of that list. Oh, and if I’m going to be completely honest here, the ABC hit show of the same name might have had something to do with it. Although I don’t own a TV, I started to notice that every week I came up with some silly excuse to watch an episode on Hulu. Nashville was never far from my mind but the show definitely reignited my interested in visiting.
I also chose to explore Nashville in the winter because I simply love off-season travel. As a newcomer to Music City, there were a few things I noticed right off the bat that I think are worth sharing. Here are five reasons travelers will appreciate this cultural and creative city.
1. Nashville IS and IS NOT a walking city
Clearly, I didn’t do too much research before boarding my flight because I always assumed that Nashville was a walking city…and it is in some ways. On one hand, many of the main touristic attractions are located downtown – The Country Music Hall of Fame, the famous honky-tonks and The Frist Center for Visual Arts to name a few. Then there are the attractions that are father away and require a car, like The Parthenon (more on that later), Cheekwood and Belmont mansions and the Belle Meade Plantation. You might not have time to see them all but I recommend at least visiting one mansion because it’s a great representation of Nashville’s old-world charm.
2. Nashville’s music scene goes way beyond country
With a hit television chronicling the lives of two fictional country stars and a city with the nickname “Music City,” it’s only natural that one might assume that Nashville is all about country music. In many ways, it is but there are several different types of genres represented here and I wasn’t expecting that. Being the nerdy classical fan that I am, I spent an evening at the Nashville Symphony listening to The Irish Tenors perform. I got so into the live performance that there were moments when I forgot I was in Nashville and not Ireland. Then, the next night, I caught a show at The Bluebird Cafe. The lineup changes nightly but the intimate seating arrangements and soulful atmosphere remains the same.
3. Honky-tonk hopping is a culture
Yup, I discovered this first hand. If you’re unfamiliar with honky-tonks just imagine a crowded bar filled with people of every age jamming out to live country music, with a beer in hand. Then multiply that scene by about twenty because if you stroll down Broadway, there are a slew of of bars to choose from. It’s not like karaoke though – the performers do know how to sing and I really appreciated that. I stopped by a few but The Second Fiddle and Tootsie‘s were my favorites.
Even though each honky-tonk was more crowded than the next, I found the atmosphere very friendly and welcoming. Couples young and old were dancing to their favorite country song as others simply bobbed their heads to the music. My advice is to be prepared for anything. I got pulled onto the dance floor by a random, which felt completely strange to me but based on the reactions of those around me, this is a completely normal occurrence.
4. There are a lot of crazy talented people living here (and I’m not just talking about musicians)
I don’t even know where to begin. If I had to pick one thing that surprised me the most, this is hands down the winner. I got really lucky because I was able to stop by the Porter Flea Holiday Market, which only rolls around twice every year. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, with innovative design concepts and quirky crafts surrounding me in every direction. It was so refreshing to speak with these young designers and learn how and why they started their businesses. Beyond markets however, there are a few really hip neighborhoods that feature crafts as well. 12 South, East Nashville and Marathon Village are definitely worth checking out.
5. Everything is bigger (and better) in Nashville
Did you know that there’s a Parthenon in Nashville? I certainly did not and when I turned the corner and saw Athena staring me in the face, I nearly toppled over. Ever since my fifth grade school project on how awesome Athena is, I’ve been fascinated by Greek Mythology. Both the 42-foot statue and the Parthenon itself are full-scale replicas of the originals. Sure, this seems a bit odd but having never been to Greece myself, I found this fun fact really thrilling. If you’re not sold on the whole Athens thing, that’s fine. There’s also an art museum inside that features permanent and temporary exhibits and lovely walking trails in Centennial Park, where the Parthenon is located.
Fun Fact: Aspiring artists can actually sculpt with the renowned sculptor, Alan LeQuire, at his gallery. Reservations aren’t required so you could literally walk in and take a class. Perfect for the avant-garde traveler looking to master a new skill.
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Although my time in Tokyo was short, I was still able to experience several unique aspects of the city. It almost felt like a sneak peek though because as soon as I touched down in New York City I was ready to turn back around.
Like most international hubs, there are so many different ways to tour Tokyo and this post is aimed at five: architecture, avant-garde art, cuisine nature and nightlife. I could have kept going but I figured it was best to stick to the areas I explored myself. Whether you’re interested in cultural travel or simply in search of a quiet city break, this boho guide should help get your started.
I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to Tokyo architecture because it’s literally everywhere. Tokyo Tower is pretty hard to miss and while it’s not exactly Paris, it’s certainly impressive. Built in 1958 and reaching 1,093 feet in the air, the tower offers a 360-degree view of the city. I also enjoyed visiting the Asakusa Kannon Temple, which happens to be one of Tokyo’s top touristic attractions so you’ll probably find yourself here sooner or later.
The next time I’m in Tokyo I’d like to see St. Mary’s Cathedral’s stainless-steel exterior, the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the Golden Gai Bar District and the edo-era architectural style of Fumiko Hayashi Memorial Hall.
One of my favorite hidden art hubs in Tokyo is 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan. The art space is located under the elevated part of Okachimachi Station and it’s also close to the Suehiro-cho Station on the Ginza Line.
This was the last place I visited while in Tokyo and I wish it had been the first. It wasn’t until stopping through 2k540 that I really felt connected to this city. I was so inspired by all of the local designers and craft artisans that set up shop here. You can buy everything from leather bags and wooden figurines and the prices are reasonable. There was even one store that sold clothing made from eco-friendly materials with built-in SPF.
Aside from this artisan space, there are many museums and galleries to choose from including The Museum of Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Modern Art. I’d also recommend walking through Akihabara, a neighborhood known for its futuristic tech shops and comic book stores. It’s such a sensory overload that it’s almost as if you’re part of a living exhibition.
I ate a few authentic meals while in Tokyo but my favorite foodie experience was wandering through the famous fish market. I arrived around 9am and it was already bustling with people shopping or selling fresh seafood. Even though I’m not generally a huge fan of crowds, there is enough space to walk around that it doesn’t feel too confined. The outer market sells household items and offers food samples while the inner market is where you’ll see lots of fish. I sampled a little bit of everything and would have waited in one of the restaurant lines if I had more time.
As far as fine dining goes, I had a tofu feast at Shiba Tofuya Ukai, a restaurant located right next to Tokyo Tower. Before even sitting down at our table, I walked through their private charming Japanese garden for a few minutes. It was the ultimate city escape and the staff also gave our group a mini tour of the property. The restaurant is made up of several dining rooms that all overlook the garden.
The picture below is from the Shiba Tofuya Ukai garden, which leads me into my next point. My first impression of Tokyo was that it was overwhelming. Of course, I like the chaos of big cities but there are still times when I need some peace and quiet. There are a couple public parks and green spaces in Tokyo and they are spread out throughout the city.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens is less than a ten minute walk from Tokyo Station and is free of charge. This is where the Edo Castle once stood and the home of the current Imperial Palace. Ueno Koen is another scenic spot and it’s quite close to a handful of museums. It’s also a popular spot once the cherry blossoms bloom. It was interesting to be standing in the middle of a park and still be able to see the modern buildings in the distance.
Tokyo has a lively nightlife scene and there are a few neighborhoods where most of the action takes place. When the sun sets and the bright neon lights come on, it’s hard not to get a boost of energy. Most travelers stick to Ginza, Roppongi and Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku because this is where most of the famous venues are found. They range from super expensive geisha bars to dane-heavy clubs so it really depends on what you’re looking for and of course, your budget.
Our group actually checked out one of Tokyo’s themed-bars called Ninja. Much to my surprise, there’s a location in New York and a few other cities. Themed bars and restaurants are apparently really popular in Japan so I’m glad I got a taste of what it’s all about. Before reaching our tables, we were led through a dark cave and when we did finally start eating, there was a performance for each course.
This trip was hosted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. All opinions are my own.
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