Tokyo has long been associated with futurism – its neon spangled sky scrapers, glittering billboards, and towering radio antennae have inspired sci-fi hits such as Blade Runner. But Tokyo’s modernist movement walked so futurist Tokyo could run – starting with iconic structures like Tokyo Tower, the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Shizuoka Press and Media Building, Yoyogi National Stadium, the International House of Japan, and the Yasuyo Building. There’s even the National Museum of Western Art, designed by the great modernist master Le Corbusier.
You can self-guide your way between these classics, of course, but if a guided tour is more your thing, there are a lot to choose from. There’s so much Tokyo architecture worth learning about that tours are often focused on a niche like, say, Harajuku, Omotesando, and Roppongi, or working your way from the Meiji Era to modernism. There’s even a whole tour dedicated to Ueno Park, home to modernist structures by Le Corbusier, Kunio Maekawa, Tadao Ando, and Yoshio Taniguchi.
Stay at the legendary Hotel Okura, which was designed by Taniguchi and Hideo Kosaka and opened in 1962. The Okura was featured in the 1966 Cary Grant feature Walk, Don’t Run and the 1967 James Bond flick You Only Live Twice. Despite its reputation for mid-century glam, the original Okura was torn down ahead of the 2020 Olympics (which were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic), partly to expand and partly to meet earthquake standards. But Taniguchi’s son picked up where his father left off, faithfully recreating the beloved lobby down to the last detail. The Orchid Bar, another beloved public space at the Okura, was also recreated as part of the rebuild.