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Photo Log: Brick End Stand Yokocho Opens


Here is a photo log on the recent opening of Brick End Stand Yokocho at Ebisu Garden Place. Brick End consists of a small cluster of eateries at one end of Ebisu Garden Place. Right beside the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, it faces the museum’s modern cafe, Maison Ichi. Here is a collection of photos highlighting this new commercial nook.


Located at the opposite end from the Sky Walk in Ebisu Garden Place, the businesses located in Brick End lies in a small and narrow lane that leads pedestrians towards the Meguro direction. Situated right beside the photography museum, customers are likely to be nomikai (afterwork drinking) patrons from the adjoining office building or from the museum. There are already a selection of restaurants and bars at Ebisu Garden Place, on its ground floor, basement floor as well as the top floors of its office building, but Brick End makes a welcome addition.

There are five different establishments: Aalaap Lene Waala,  KakuUchi, The Great Burger Stand, Music Bar Berkana and Moze No Yorimichi. The list includes a curry eatery, burger joint, Japanese eatery, music bar with craft beer and cocktails, and another drinking and snack place. The individual places are pretty small and cozy given the narrow surroundings.

For more information: http://gardenplace.jp/special/brickend/


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Golden Accents Illuminates at Dolce & Gabbana in Stylish Aoyama


Tokyo is the place to head to for unique architecture and design, particularly in the retail and commercial segment; and the metropolis maintains its far lead from fellow Asian counterparts. In this article we highlight an interesting retail space in Aoyama.

Recently published by leading design and architecture webzine, Dezeen, the Aoyama District has a new boutique featuring a superbly decadent golden staircase and inner display nook at the new Dolce & Gabbana store. Below is an excerpt of the article. For the full article, as well as an entertaining 3-minute video on the layout and creative use of lighting at the store, follow the link to the Dezeen article.

dggoldenshop2The theatrical lighting illuminates products inside the new black and gold Dolce & Gabbana store in Tokyo by French designer Gwenael Nicolas. The Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana commissioned Nicolas’ Tokyo-based studio Curiosity to create a one-off design for its new store in the wealthy Aoyama district. The result is a 550-square-metre space that uses dramatic contrasts between pale and dark surfaces to spotlight garments and accessories, with 400 spotlights across the ceiling that move around and switch on and off. The lighting design creates pools of bright light and areas of intentional shadow to suggest the natural play of light on a sunny day.

Walls and plinths are painted with matt-black paint, which was selected as the flat color reflects the light to seem white when hit by the spotlights. The store houses both menswear and womenswear collections, and accessories over two levels. Each display plinth and surface is topped with a thin slab of pale Arabescato Carrara marble, and the floor is covered with matt-black ceramic tiles. The large staircase and a small room for the brand’s fine jewelry collection are finished with gold-colored walls and brass fittings – including a brass ceiling and gold-toned carpet in the jewelry area – to contrast with the rest of the store.dggoldenshop3

The Aoyama district is home to a number of flagship shops for international fashion companies, with well-known architects and designers brought in to add extra cachet by creating unique shops. Last year Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron completed work on an “understated” box-like shop for the Italian fashion brand Miu Miu led by Italian designer Miuccia Prada, opposite the seminal Tokyo Prada store it created 15 years ago. Aoyama’s Omotesando Street has possibly the highest concentration of luxury fashion stores designed by renowned architects, including buildings for Dior by SANAA with interiors by Peter Marino, Coach by OMA, and Tod’s by Toyo Ito.

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More on Omiyage (Souvenirs) from Japan

Following our last feature on Japanese souvenirs, here is a new list that is centered on bags and small accessories.

sushi-backpacks-turn-over-japanese-7The Sushi Backpack:

Created by bag maker, Turn Over, is the Sushi Backpack. There are three types of sushi featured: egg, prawn, and salmon, which sit on the main body of the bag that is made to resemble sushi rice. The backs include a lot of functionality with pockets for drink bottles, smartphones and other small accessories.

More info from Turn Over: http://turn-over.jp/detail.php?id=220

gamaguchi1The Literal Gamaguchi bag:

Gamaguchi is a metal clasp that fastens a bag or a purse, and often seen on coin purses. The name Gamaguchi translates to mean the mouth of a toad’s mouth, which resembles the metal clasp with its wide, thin lips. This frog-shaped backpack is a literal take on this wordplay.

Made by GymMaster, this is available from Rakuten: http://item.rakuten.co.jp/gymmaster/g321357/

mtfujionigiri1Mount Fuji Riceball holder:

What’s more authentic than a holder for one’s favorite onigiri? While there are countless products featuring Japan’s number one natural wonder, this one is too cute not to mention, and is made from silicon. A completely adequate way to pack your lunch or snack.

Comes in two colors (pink and blue) and is available from Amazon: click on this link.


More Fujisan, you say!

Looking for something more traditional? Then how about a Mount Fuji tote by the king of all tote bag makers, Rootote, a Japan-grown maker of canvas totes.

Comes in two colors (red or blue), this is available from Amazon with this link.

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Cool Tokyo: The 100 Views of Tokyo By Shinji Tsuchimochi


Today we highlight an interesting artist that has drawn one hundred hip illustrations of modern Tokyo.

The Tokyo 100 Views project was created by Shinji Tsuchimochi, a Japanese artist. The illustrations depict life in modern Tokyo revealing a surrealistic calm and tenderness with the hustle and bustle of city life, coupled with elements that are unique to Tokyo and Japanese culture.

Inspired by Edo-period Ukiyoe artwork, particularly Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Tsuchimochi began illustrating the 100 views of Tokyo a few years ago, and has recently completed the 100th illustration.

Follow this link to see the artist’s website that showcases all the illustrations: https://www.behance.net/shinjitsuchimochi


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Lessons from the Bees: The Rooftop Hives of Central Tokyo

Today, we share an translated article published in the English page of Nippon.com (originally written in Japanese by Sakurai Shin and published on May 12, 2016. Photos © Nagasaka Yoshiki). Back in 2006, the Ginza Honey Bee Project set up hives on the top of a multistory building in central Tokyo. A decade on, the project is a regular supplier of honey to local businesses and continues to provide food for thought on the relationship between the urban and natural environments.

Here is the article: Lessons from the Bees: The Rooftop Hives of Central Tokyo

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Average rents in 23-Ward Tokyo increased marginally YoY

According to the latest Kantei rental data, the average monthly rent was JPY3,307 per sq. meters in 23-Ward Tokyo, representing a month-on-month (MoM) drop of 1.4%, However it also represents an increase of  2.1% year-on-year (YoY). Kantei recorded an average apartment size of 55.94 sq. meters and average building age of 16.7 years.

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Flat 35 & 50 Mortgage Rates Lowered

According to Suumo, for the first time in two months, the Japan Housing Finance Agency (JHFA) has announced lower official January rates for its Flat 35 and Flat 50 home mortgage loans. Click here for the Suumo article (in Japanese): http://suumo.jp/journal/2016/01/05/103756/ The Flat 35 are fixed interest loans with terms of 35 years, which are offered by Japanese banks and securitized by the JHFA. Further to the Flat 35, the Flat 50 loans are for a loan term of between 36 and 50 years. See table below for summary.

90% or less financing % Change MoM Industry Average Above 90% financing % Change MoM Industry Average
Flat 35 1.540-2.090 -0.01 1.540 1.670-2.220 0.01 1.670
Flat 50 2.010-2.510 -0.05 2.260 2.140-2.640 -0.050 2.390
20 years and below 1.270-1.890 -0.05 1.270 1.270-1.400 -0.05 1.400
Source: January 5, 2016 announcement, Suumo News

Foreign residents do qualify for mortgages in Japan, provided certain criterias are met. Please come talk to Higherground’s property consultants if you are interested in purchasing a home in Japan with financing.

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Uniquely Tokyo: The 1.8-Meter Width House


We share an article recently published in DeZeen Magazine that fits into our “Uniquely Tokyo” series that showcases out-of-the-box design in architecture. Dezeen is a leading architecture and design magazine that brings an edited selection of the best architecture, design and interiors projects from around the world. This particular article shows a Runway-Style detached city home, aptly named the 1.8 Meter Width House. Click here for the full article: http://www.dezeen.com/2015/08/18/yuua-architects-tokyo-house-japan-skinny-rooms-less-than-two-metres-wide/.

Published by DeZeen Magazine: Japanese studio YUUA Architects & Associates has slotted a house into a 2.5-metre-wide space between two existing buildings in Tokyo. The rooms of the four-storey-high residence have a width of just 1.8 metres, hence its name: 1.8m Width House. This forced Madoka Aihara and Toshiyuki Yamazaki – the two principals of YUUA Architects and Associates– to plan the interior very carefully.

catwalk-house41Their response was to use split-level floors to create natural partitions between different spaces. This reduced the need for walls inside the house, helping to make small rooms feel more generous.

“In this project, we have considered the house as an aggregation of small ‘places’ and designed a space where such ‘places’ expanded in various floor levels,” explained the pair. “Floating floors in long and narrow space generate the spatial expanse.”

The house accommodates a single resident and a cat in Toshima Ward, the densest municipality in central Tokyo. Like the central areas of many Japanese cities, the lack of space has resulted in an increase in narrow houses – referred to as eel’s beds or nests.

The biggest issue with these kinds of properties is ensuring plenty of light penetrates the interior, which is why architects often include double-height living spaces and high-level windows in their designs. Recent examples include a 3.4-metre-wide house in Osaka and a 2.7-metre-wide house in Shiga.catwalk-house51

“This small and narrow piece of land is a typical ‘eel’s bed’ site, where one can reach his or her arm from the left wall to the right wall, as buildings stand very tight and compact next to one another,” said the architects.

“We have tried to reserve as much space as possible as well as to provide psychological openness for the resident. Light and fresh air, which has been taken in from openings in the frontage and upper side of the building, flows into every corner of the house, utilising the floor difference.”

There are four main storeys inside the building, each divided into two floors. A staircase at the back connects the three uppermost levels, while small sets of stairs in the centre of the building create routes between the lower floors.

catwalk-house6Both staircases comprise steel treads without supporting risers, which allow light to filter through. Slender handrails run down alongside.

Instead of using a light colour scheme, the internal walls were painted dark to “give a sense of depth” to the space, while floors and ceilings were covered in scaffolding boards to offer texture.

This adds emphasis to the window wall that fronts the building – it becomes the focal point on every storey.

The occupant shares the house with a cat. The main living space is on the second floor, where a kitchen counter extends out to create a dining table. It also provides a platform for a ladder leading up to terraces on the level above and the roof.

A loft room, a washroom and a bathroom are also located above the living room. The bedroom and a study space can be found on the level below, and the lowest floor functions as a storage area.

The house has a steel frame, but there are few traces of this within the building.

“The structural design was developed by fully considering the singularity of the building shape,” said Aihara and Yamazaki. “Columns and beams were limited to maximise the interior space.”

Skinny houses have also become increasingly popular outside Japan, with recently completed projects including a three-metre-wide house in Germany and a 2.3 metre-wide house in London.


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Free Christmas Concerts in Tokyo


There are a number of special events being held in Tokyo to celebrate Christmas. Among them, you can find some choir group performances and orchestra concerts. Below is a selection of some of the free events happening around town.

roppongihillskrajaRoppongi Hills

The annual Roppongi Hills FREE Christmas concert is being held from December 23rd to 25th.

On December 23rd are KRAJA, a Swedish choir group, and LITTLE CAROL, a Japanese choir group are performing.

On the 24th and 25th there will be two performances by KRAJA.

For more information: http://www.roppongihills.com/christmas/2015/event/concert/

newotanihotelHotel New Otani

On December 23rd the hotel will host two charity concerts of Christmas carols at the Atrium Chapel.

The first performance is at 5pm and the second session is at 7pm.

Both last about 40 minutes.

For more information: http://www.newotani.co.jp/tokyo/xmas/events/05_charity.html

megawebMegaweb, Daiba

Marunouchi Symphony orchestra will perform a live free Christmas Concert at Megaweb in Tokyo Teleport area on the afternoon of December 23rd at 1pm and 3:30pm.

There is also a Christmas illumination display at Megaweb.

For more information: http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/article/xmas_concert/

midtownMidtown Christmas Live

Each weekend leading up to Christmas, there will be a live Christmas concert of classical music held at the Galleria at Tokyo Midtown.

There will be three performances between 3pm and 8pm. The concerts last about half an hour each.

For more information: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/detail.php?id=632

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Uniquely Tokyo: The Garden House


Shared by Richenda Elledge

We showcase an article published by DeZeen Magazine, highlighting one of architect Ryue Nishizawa’s unique works. The Garden and House is already a few years old, but nevertheless an important reminder that we all need some green in our urban lives. It also highlights a creative way to make full use of any plot of land no matter the size or any other compromised attributes, such as being in a dark spot.

Here is an excerpt, click here for the complete article and more photos.

greenglass-home2The Garden House

This Tokyo five-storey townhouse by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa is fronted by a stack of gardens. Located in a dense commercial district, the building provides a combined home and workplace for two writers. The site was just four metres wide, so Nishizawa designed a building that has only glass walls to avoid narrowing the interior spaces even further.

Gardens are interspersed with rooms on each of the four floors of the building, creating a screen of plants that mask the facade from the eyes of passing strangers. Glazed walls beyond protect the interior from the elements.

greenglass-home3Nishizawa states that “the entirety is a wall-less transparent building designed to provide an environment with maximum sunlight despite the dark site conditions. Every room, whether it is the living room, private room or the bathroom, has a garden of its own so that the residents may go outside to feel the breeze, read a book or cool off in the evening and enjoy an open environment in their daily life.”

Staircases spiral up through the building, passing through circular openings in the thick concrete floor plates. A similar opening cuts through the roof, allowing taller plants to stretch through to the upper terrace. Bedrooms are located on the first and third floors and are separated from meeting and study areas with glass screens and curtains.greenglass-home-plan1

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