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THIS IS MY CITY | Stanislava's Tokyo

We are very big fans of artist Stanislava Pinchuk, or Miso, here at Benah. When we found out that she splits her time between Melbourne and Tokyo we jumped at the chance to tap her for a city guide to the Japanese capital. We love her stories of hidden bars, French bookstores and vintage Chanel. This is Tokyo, by Stanislava.

 Polaroids of Tokyo | Stanislava Pinchuk 

one. Best thing about Tokyo? It never stops being inspiring.

two. Worst thing about Tokyo? That Tokyo sewerage waft.

three. Favourite secret spot? I have this tiny bar, right next to my place. I call it 'Best Friends Bar'... I'm not sure what the real name is. It's run by two old Shakespearean actors. They don't speak much English, but they seem to know all of Shakespeare in Japanese. They're also really good at darts. But because it's so small, the best thing is that you never know who you sit next to there, and you have to chat. Last time I was there I sat between a Michelin-star chef and a sex toy company CEO. I recently got a text from a friend that's also a regular, that said; "I'm at Best Friends Bar, sitting next to the original blue Power-Ranger. He makes wigs now." It's that kind of place.

four. Favourite everyone-knows-it-but-it's-still-good spot? Yoyogi park & Meiji-Jingu! It's so dense, you forget you're in the middle of Harajuku. Tokyo really lacks public spaces {given how small the apartments are}, and I love watching everyone use it for their own thing - people practicing dancing or playing instruments for fun, studying, birthday parties, theatre groups, dogs in amazing outfits, picnics. I love the dense parkland and the ravens that live there, and the walls of sake barrel offerings. And I love seeing Shinto marriage processions at the Meiji Jingu shrine. They are so incredible.

five. What was your newest discovery in Tokyo? My friend Frank just opened 0fr in Tokyo! It's my favourite bookstore in Paris, in Le Marais - and he's just opened a little one in Naka-Meguro, right by the canal. They have amazing books, magazines, a little gallery. It's also Frank's studio, and he makes you French eggs, baguette and coffee there in the morning - and wine at night. He is an amazing, intelligent, handsome man and a great artist - please go and meet him. And if you get enough drinks into him, he will tell you about the escaped baboon that he's been seeing roaming around Tokyo.

six. Where is the best place for.... morning coffee/pick-me-up? meal with friends? romantic rendez-vous? late night drink? even later-night boogie? - Morning coffee at Omotesando Coffee, the most beautiful, tiny traditional garden and tatami cube. They also do Cafe Kitsune Maison coffee round the corner. - Pick-me-up at any vending machine! - Meal with friends, make it Whoopi Goldburger, run by a bunch of funny skaters in great bands and the best burger you will ever eat. - Romantic rendez-vous, at SoraNoNiwa on the Shibuya train tracks. Walk past the trains rattling, into a traditional room, they make tofu at your table. I'm so lucky it's around the corner from me - it's the most amazing place, and dirt cheap for how good the food is. They make this soy tiramisu.. it's out of control. - Late-night drinks at Tatsumichiya - an underground izakaya in Naka-Meguro, run by some awesome punk rock dudes. They have a wall full of amazing bottle-keep sakes, Japanese posters for great bands like CRASS all over the place, and drunk Yoshitomo Nara drawings all over the walls. Really cold beer and izakaya. That place is magic. - And a late-late-late boogie, it's gotta be Le Baron in Ayoama. It kicks off around 3 am. - And a late night read, go to T-Site. It's a huge, dimly lit book store across 5 buildings that's open until 2 am; good drinks, art books, magazines.

seven. Where are Tokyo's style spots? Where is the best shopping? My favourite is 1LDR in Naka-Meguro, so French (but so Japanese) and full of the most amazing clothes, with a tiny tiled wine and coffee bar on the side. I've spent way too much money there, I would wear every single thing they stock to death. It's a dream. Otherwise - Harajuku and Ayoama! Opening Ceremony, Comme Des Garçons flagship, Cosmic Wonder Light Source, Chicago (cheap, amazing, vintage kimono.) The best places are the designer consignment stores; Rag-Tag, We-Go, etc. Recently I found a classic Chanel black tweed miniskirt on sale for $70... and now I live in it.

eight. What is something you can get/read/experience/eat that you can only do in Tokyo? Golden Gai! It's a little yokocho area in Shinjuku, just off the red-light district Kabuki-cho. It's right by the train station, all these little rooms stacked on top of each other. After the war, they housed a black market for things outside of rations - they could fit about 5 people in them. As time went on, they weren't needed - and slowly these rooms tuned into bars, and it was where jazz really took off in Japan. It's a tiny block, and houses maybe 300 tiny bars stacked on top of each other, with tiny cat-ladder staircases to go up them. It's a very fun, very wierd, drunk maze. Because they're so small, that you're meant to talk to the barkeep, which I like. There are a few places run by Buddhist monks on the 'grey path' - you can drink beers with them and talk about some pretty important things. Until recently, there was an amazing 94 year old woman who ran a little karaoke bar there - she'd do vodka shots with you and sing. But mostly they are awesome music bars; usually jazz or punk rock. I like the Booska-theme one - the barkeep plays awesome Turkish psych music, Ethiopian jazz... and just wrote a book about K-Pop. He's really good to swap records with, and now there are Ghostpatrol drawings on the walls. And "The Loneliest Cowboy"; the barkeep has run it every night for 50 years, and played me beautiful acoustic songs about his girlfriend's death. He sounds like Serge Gainsbourg and hands out lyrics sheets for the other regulars to sing harmonies. In between that we watch boxing on TV and talk about Akira. And after about 1 am, you just hear these great thuds through the block... drunk salarymen toppling back down the little cat stairs. It feels like a dream.

nine. You can tell a lot about a city from their airport. Describe Tokyo's. It awes me that Narita is dead silent. When you land, when you get your bags, when you find a ride to the city.... it's just silence. Everything is happening, but it's like the sound has been turned off in your ears. It's very orderly, and always floors me when I land. Incredible.

ten. How would your describe Tokyo to someone who has never been there before? There is nothing else like it.

Read our previous city guides here.

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