When we imagine exploring Tokyo, one of two visions comes to mind: the sometimes exhilarating crush of commuters being shuttled between Shibuya, Yurakucho and Shinjuku stations, or the quiet reserve of a cab, helmed by a suited, gloved and masked driver.
But there’s another mode of transportation to consider, one that takes you back to the streets and allows you to explore the city at your own pace. Tokyo’s tolerant cycling culture means that once you have your bearings, biking might be the most enjoyable way to get from point A to B—and it leaves you open to discovering something unplanned along the way.
Since Covid-19 hit, bicycle demand has increased all over the world, and tokyobike, an independent bicycle company founded in 2002 in the quiet suburb of Yanaka that has since become a global brand, has felt the new interest in every country where it has a presence. In the United States, the company surpassed its total 2019 sales in only 12 weeks.
Their bikes are known for a classic, restrained style and fashionable color palette and have built quite a cult following amongst aesthetes, so PRIOR tapped the team at tokyobike to share some of their favorite design shops in Tokyo. Below, find the 11 best places to purchase homewares, traditional crafts and art—all of which can be reached on two wheels, of course.
Located on the former site of the 300-year-old sake purveyor Isego, the tokyobike concept shop serves a selection of their sakes and serves as a gateway to the east side of Tokyo. Start the day there with coffee and choose from a colorful range of bicycles. (Our favorites are saffron and moss green.)
4-2-39 Yanaka Taito-ku Tokyo
Perched at the top of Yuyake Dandan, the staircase leading to the famous Yanaka Ginza arcade, Matsunoya is run by a third-generation wholesaler of the same name. Woven baskets, kitchen utensils and brooms can be found either stacked and bundled or hanging from every corner of the tightly packed interior.
3-14-14 Nishi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo
The humble scrubbing brush has been a mainstay of Japanese homes for the past century. Kamenoko’s handmade brushes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes—there are some for cleaning skillets, others for shoes, and still others for vegetables—and they make for affordable (and useful) souvenirs.
2-5-14 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Ranging from porcelain tableware to natural incense, organic rice to contemporary lacquerware, the items on sale at Kumu Tokyo share what owner Noriko Konuma calls “Japanese DNA.” The focus on craftsmanship extends to the gallery and community space upstairs, where regular events provide a chance to connect with makers, designers and writers from various corners of the city.
1-13-16 Higashi Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Ascend the stairs of this art center’s main entrance and you’ll find a building with more than a dozen galleries spread above and below ground.
6-11-14 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Ex. Flower Shop & Laboratory
Ex Flower Shop & Laboratory shares a high-ceilinged industrial space with a cafe in Higashi Komagata. The shop features countless vases of fresh flowers, while their dried counterparts fill open drawers and sit bundled together in loosely wrapped bouquets.
1-1-9 Higashi-Komagata, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Maito specializes in naturally dyed clothing and accessories. The rich colors are derived from cherry blossoms, chestnuts, mulberries and indigo, among other ingredients.
4-14-12 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Surrounded by greenery on a quiet corner in Torigoe, the minimalist SyuRo is home to designer Masuko Unayama’s original creations as well as a curated selection of stoneware plates, leather goods, skincare products and other home goods.
1-16-5 Torigoe, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Inspired by library design, Postalco’s second shop sells a range of stationery, meticulously constructed rainwear and wallets developed with a traditional washi manufacturer in Tokushima.
2-2-1 1FL Kyobashi Chuo Tokyo 104-0031
You probably won’t have many reasons to go to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, but if a ride across the Sumida River doesn’t lure you, 10 will. The shop, which features exclusively Japanese-made ceramics, jewelry, clothing and incense, is a family affair: Owner Sae Yamamoto’s partner, Kodai Kawaii, designed the detailed steelwork.
2 Chome-1-17 Saga, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0031
Housed in a slender concrete building with a geometric facade, this architecture bookshop is filled with magazines, guides and English-language publications.
1-21 Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
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The PRIOR editorial team, overseen by David Prior, works together to write and produce stories that inspire curiosity about, and the desire to connect to, places and people across the world.