OCCUPATION: Owner and director, Yukari Art
MY STYLE: Less is more!
I LOVE TOKYO BECAUSE: There’s good public safety and order, plus a dramatic contrast between old and new.
The Setagaya Art Museum
Shozo Uchii, who designed the Setagaya Art Museum, was intent upon creating a structure in harmony with its natural surroundings. The result, which calls Frank Lloyd Wright to mind, incorporates a wave pattern common to Japanese art and design, including some of the many examples inside. The museum has shown works dating back to the prehistoric era, but the permanent collection skews modern, with a heavy focus on photography and naive art. After an extensive eight-month renovation, the museum reopened in March of 2012. A month later, it unveiled one of its major summer shows, a retrospective of Japanese printmaker Tetsuro Komai.
After pounding Tokyo’s pavement, you’ll be happy for the urban oasis of Kinuta Park. The sprawling lawns, now used for family picnics and sunbathing, are a carryover from when the park was a golf course. If you’re more the get-up-and-go type, walk along the Yato River or bike on the cycling course. Kinuta Koen provides plenty of opportunities to feast your eyes. If you tire of the tall trees, the plum tree forest, or the bird sanctuary, head indoors to the Setagaya Art Museum, located on park grounds just north of the children’s forest.
Yukari Mitsuma might have gotten a taste for art from her father, who for years ran a Tokyo gallery featuring edgy, new artists. She too decided to make a career out of her passion, working at Gallery Es in Omotesando before starting Yukari Art in 2007. There, she shows only artists of her generation, believing she can understand their work more fully. If her artists share certain points of reference, though, they produce a wide range of unique and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs. The work of Hideaki Shibata and Kazuya Matsunaga—sculptures of animals and organic structures made from trash and other found objects—is always a big hit. Other artists shown at Yukari Art include Shintaro Ohata, Ami Ko, and Akira Yoshida.
Komazawa Olympic Koen
The 1964 Olympic athletes who ran, wrestled, and volleyed in this park are long gone, but it’s still a hub of athletic activity, with everything from tennis courts to a baseball field to an archery range. There’s even a special lawn where dogs stay active! Even with the concrete sports facilities, Komazawa is a very pretty place. There are sculpted hedges, tall trees, and plenty of flowers. Spring might be the best time to visit, considering that’s when the magnolia trees and azaleas are in bloom, though runners brave the trails in all seasons.
Royal Garden Café
The dishes at both the Aoyama and Shibuya locations of this cool café change weekly, but you can always expect fresh, feel-good options, like grilled swordfish with olives, vegetable salad with organic olive oil, and beef stew. The desserts are somewhat less healthy, but one bite into a dish of ice cream with nuts and caramel sauce drizzle, who cares?! From the wooden tables to the open kitchen, the décor is like the menu in that it’s simplistic with thoughtful flourishes. If you can’t stay to enjoy it, Yukari Mitsuma recommends getting a baguette from the in-house bakery, or one of Royal Garden’s lunchboxes to go. Don’t worry—you won’t find a flimsy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but one stuffed with pastrami and sauerkraut.