Exploring Japan: High-end Tokyo area features beautiful museum, chic cafés

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Exploring Japan: High-end Tokyo area features beautiful museum, chic cafés

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

A seven-minute walk from JR Meguro Station, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is a unique and sophisticated museum with traditional Japanese and typical Western-style gardens.

The three-story plaster-built museum has a relatively simple yet modern appearance. Its flat roof and tall rows of sheet glass windows are clean and impressive against the backdrop of beautiful green gardens.

The museum was built in 1933, as the residence of Prince Asakanomiya, by applying French Art Deco design style using patterns with straight lines, along with three-dimensional forms of various geometrical structures.

The glass entrance featuring a standing female figure was impressive and made me excited to go in the unusual and artistic space that was in front of me.

Walking in the museum made me feel as if I had strayed into the good old days of the 1930s.

Despite the building being the Art Deco style, I found it interesting that the first and second floors had different looks and atmospheres.

The first floor served as a space for welcoming visitors with a great hall, drawing room and dining hall. It was designed by renowned French designers, such as Henri Rapin and René Lalique, and showcases authentic French Art Deco style. The second floor, used as the private quarters of the Prince’s family, was mostly designed by the Imperial Household Ministry’s Construction Bureau which applied some traditional Japanese flavor to the impressive art style.

It is also interesting that all the lights are different, and each room has a unique shaped light depending on the size and use.

The museum is currently displaying an exhibition “Looking at Architecture 2023 - Reminiscence of a House.” It features the architectural designs and furniture when the residence of Prince Asakanomiya was built.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
Hours: Tue – Sun, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.  (closed Mondays)
Location: 5-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: Varies
Tel: 03-5777-8600

Shirokanedai’s forest in the heart of Tokyo

Shirokanedai, where the museum is located, is known as a decent residential district with high-end shops and chic cafes. But, most uniquely, the district is also home to a large untouched forest in the center of Tokyo.

Feudal lords owned the area throughout Edo Period (1603-1867) before it became military property and then an imperial estate.
With the end of World War II, the area became a national natural-education park for the public. Today, the National Museum runs the park as “The Institute for Nature Study”.

While walking along the forest path, you’ll find various deciduous trees and conifers, along with a botanical garden, marsh, pond and ruins of an ancient villa.

The park is a must-see attraction in the district, as it gives you a chance to check out how Tokyo looked like in old days.

Institute for Nature Study 
Location: 5-21-5 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo (7-minute walk from JR Meguro Station)
Hours: Sept. – Apr, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., May – Aug., 9 a.m. 5 p.m. 
Admission: 320 yen (adult), Free (17 and below or 65 and over)
Tel: 03-3441-7176

Top-notch tonkatsu a perfect meal

Only a 15-minute walk from the museum and park, you’ll find a top-notch tonkatsu  restaurant.

Taiho specializes in tonkatsu - the Japanese specialty of breaded pork cutlet dishes.

Among the countless tonkatsu restaurants across the nation, Taiho is known for offering authentic taste at reasonable prices.

The popular restaurant attracts people from all over Tokyo, including some famous names in TV. And, because of the popularity, you may encounter a wait if you visit the location. But, believe me, the long waiting time will surely be worth it if you are a fan of one of Japan’s most popular dishes.

My wife and I had to wait in line for about 30 minutes before getting a table. When we went into the shop, the interior was cozy, but tiny - a counter and tables for about 15 people.

Sitting in the middle of counter, we watched as two young chefs in traditional white attire skillfully fried up tonkatsu dishes.

I ordered a roosu katsu (pork loin cutlet) set for 1,500 yen ($11), while my wife had a hire katsu (pork filet cutlet) set for the same price.

According to a chef, their cutlets are breaded with natural yeast breadcrumbs made from their own homemade bread. We enjoyed watching our white breaded cutlets gradually changed color to a golden brown.

The cutlet was crispy and tender enough to cut with our chopsticks. With one bite, the flavor and juices burst from the pearly pink meat wrapped in golden breadcrumbs.

The cutlets come on the plate with shredded cabbage, a sprig of curly parsley and bright wedge of lemon. The cabbage was surprisingly sweet and crispy. According to the chef, they use the leafy vegetables harvested in the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture, which is known for its high quality of fruits and vegetables.

You can choose between soy sauce, two types of Worcestershire sauce, as well as rock salt to dip your meat in. Among the options, I recommend the rock salt first, as it goes well with the savory, juicy meat that’s rich in flavor.

The set also comes with rice, miso soup, salad and pickles.

Tonkatsu Taiho
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 – 10 p.m. 
Location: 1-6-15 Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo (5-minute walk from JR Meguro Station)
Tel: 03-3491-9470

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