CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Tokyo CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Tokyo

East meets west in Tokyo

Western culture is taking hold of the Japanese capital, with Japan-born, European-trained artisans setting up shop across the city



Japan's ties with the west only really began during the Meiji era, which marked the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s history. Since then, Japanese interpretations of foreign cultures have created some unique expressions in a number of different fields. Here, LUXOS takes a look of a few of the most interesting examples of this new wave of creativity, based on personal experiences of East meets West in Tokyo.

Japanese-style pampering

18Himalayan inspired décor and treatment room

Kitsetsu Ritual, at Chi, The Spa at Shangri-la, Tokyo, uses one Japan's most famous products, green tea, well-known for its anti-oxidant properties, as the treatment's main ingredient. A bath rich in local fresh herbs leaves you nice and relaxed, before a green tea scrub restores the skin's healthy glow. Next, your therapist will be using essential oils specially produced in Japan to perform a full-body massage. You can fully unwind while enjoying the season's most treasured aromas showcasing Japan's natural resources. Indeed, the country's love for spa treatment has taken this originally western concept to a new level with its unique take on pampering. Chi, The Spa, set in a Himalayan-inspired décor, goes a step further to take you to an otherworldly realm, far removed from bustling Tokyo. 

Related: What's On in Tokyo this February/March

Master craftsmanship with a Japanese touch

finished-product 04Guild of Crafts

Expert cobbler Chihiro Yamaguchi, having completed shoemaking courses at the Cordwainers Technical College in London, began working at Tecnic Shoes, Tricker's, Crockett & Jones and Dr. Martens, and went on to refine his craft in Italy, researching leather production and shoemaking techniques. After becoming a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen in 1991, he returned to Japan in the hope of establishing his own shoemaking business. However, he realised that bespoke footwear had yet to become popular in the Japanese market. So, utilising his European luxury shoemaking skills, he went on to become a shoe designer for several brands, before at last setting up his own 'Guild of Crafts' label and workshop in 2001 to create bespoke footwear.

His business really took off following recognition by a well-known publication, and currently it has a production of about 300 pairs of shoes per year. For Mr. Yamaguchi, quality is far more important than quantity. Combing European leathers and painstaking hand-sewing techniques, his shoes have Japanese bamboo soles to provide added flexibility, comfort and support, an innovative touch that replaces Europe's more traditional use of wooden soles. Also, as most Asians prefer taking off their shoes indoors, Yamaguchi's convenient slip-ons are ample proof of how Japanese designs build upon Old World traditions to create innovative products.

Related: How to keep fit in Tokyo

The taste of Japan’s best-kept secret

IMG 7902-01New York Grill

Helmed by Chef Federico Heinzmann, the New York Grill steakhouse in Tokyo exudes the Argentinian chef's love for Japanese culture. While beef from Argentina is famous around the world, Chef Heinzmann realised that Japanese Wagyu beef is simply superior, with over 500 years of history. The Japanese tradition of pedigree control, feed quality and techniques produces a Wagyu beef with evenly-distributed fat, and lower cholesterol levels compared to other beef varieties, which means both better flavour and healthier meat. While in Japan, he discovered that local Wagyu beef farms have a very small production of only two to five head per month.

Today, he counts on the help of locals during auctions to bid for the best meat served in his restaurant. Inspired by Japanese cuisine's seasonality, Chef Heinzmann sources only the best seasonal ingredients, evaluating their quality one province at a time throughout the country. Thus, his menu is also a direct reflection of the strong ties with local suppliers. This combination of Japanese ingredients with western culinary methods is the perfect example of Japan's unique gourmet culture today.

Related: How to: eat like a local in Tokyo

Japanese craftmanship with European design

DSC02805 sMikimoto

Japan’s unique East-meets-West culture is perhaps best illustrated by Mikimoto’s history itself, when Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in culturing pearls in the late 19th century, overcoming extremely difficult circumstances. When Mr. Mikimoto visited Thomas Edison in his home in the US in 1927, the meeting of these two great men – one from the west, the other from the east – made headlines in the New York Times which declared Mr. Mikimoto as ‘the world’s first man to ever culture a pearl.’ From the very first pearl to today’s collections, Mikimoto’s blend of traditional Japanese craftsmanship with European jewellery-making techniques has transcended borders. 

You can experience the world of Mikimoto at its current Ginza 2-chome location, while its historic 4-chome flagship goes through a thorough makeover to re-open in spring 2017. The 2-chome boutique, with its ivory, beige and royal blue colour themes dedicated to separate areas, puts the spotlight on Akoya, South Sea pearl and other beautiful jewellery pieces. Crystalline designs add a new twist to the innovative lighting in store, where Mr. Mikimoto’s wish to adorn every woman in the world with his beautiful pearls has come true.

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1 CHI, The Spa at Shangri-la, Marunochi
2 Guild of Crafts
3 New York Grill
4 Mikimoto, Ginza 2