As a former beauty writer for Harper's BAZAAR Australia, Anna Lavdaras has experienced her fair share of luxurious press trips and international travel. But it was a recent trip to Tokyo that made the most lasting impression on the founder of cashmere brand Philé. From the most luxurious day spas to the most Instagram-friendly hot spots, to the hard-to-find-but-impossible-to-forget ramen houses in town, Anna's tips to the Japanese capital is definitely one to keep on file.
Describe Tokyo in five words.
Serene, ordered, efficient, gracious, beautiful.
What five items are a must-pack for a stylish and comfortable trip?
A new season cross-body bag and a fun pair of earrings can instantly make a jean-and-tee combo feel more special. An oversized white cotton shirt is the travel essential, be it over a bikini or under a wool coat – I’ll never fly without at least two. I’m a sucker for kitten heels, and these Balenciaga Knife Point mules make everything look cool. Finally, no trip of mine is complete without a cashmere scarf.
What three beauty products would you recommend to packing for Tokyo?
I took a stack of hydrating sheet masks, and God was I grateful for them every single afternoon when rolling into the hotel room with dry, wind-chapped skin. Try these by Patchology from Mecca for a quick drink of water for your face pre-dinner. La Prairie Anti-Aging Eye and Lip Perfection A Porter was my BFF in Japan, keeping my lips hydrated and the delicate skin around my eyes protected from the harsh cold. I’m big on cream colour products, especially when it’s chilly. They stay on much longer than powders and can be applied with your fingers, which is extra great for when you’re limited on space. Tom Ford’s Shade and Illuminate Cheeks in Scintillate is my all-time favourite multi-purpose palette, as I can use it as a highlighter, blush, eyeshadow, lip colour – you name it, it does it.
Best places to stay?
The Aman - kind of a splurge, but so ridiculously lush even a couple of nights will do it. The pool has a view of Mount Fuji people would usually line up for hours to get a glimpse of. And the spa is next level.
Ometosando - in the Aoyama district. A tiny suburb that sadly doesn’t have any hotels, so Airbnb is probably your best bet. It’s picturesque, with zelkova tree-lined streets and all of your favourite boutiques. What is your favourite restaurant in town and why?
Ometosando Ukai-Tei - unforgettable meal. We were introduced to our own private teppanyaki chef, who cooked our entire mouth-watering meal, including the best wagyu steak I’ve ever tasted. Dessert is taken in the ornate sitting room, with an epic view of the neighbourhood.
And what is the must-order dish?
Blow the budget and opt for the Special Lunch Course.
Where’s great to go for...
... cocktails or drinks? The Park Hyatt for a sunset martini with a side of live jazz and one of the more breathtaking views of the city.
... a quick bite? Ramen Street in Tokyo train station.
... a fine dining experience? for a totally elevated sushi experience, pre-book ahead for Sushi-ya.
What’s the most Instagram-friendly spot in town?
Daikanyama - online guides call this little neighbourhood the ‘Brooklyn of Tokyo’, probably because it’s full of cool, young Comme des Garçons-clad hipsters. Between the minimalist landscaping, chic boutiques, and outdoor lunch spots, you’ll be hard pressed to take a bad picture here.
Best place to take a stroll and see the sights?
Shibuya won’t disappoint if it’s sights you’re after. Walk through Yoyogi Park, past the shrines and golden ginkgo tree forest, until you reach Harajuku station, and then prepare for a total sensory overload.
What is the one experience, unique to this destination, that you can’t have anywhere else in the world?
Golden Gai is a cute hub of tiny (I mean teensy – most places fit four people, max) bars and restaurants with the occasional Karaoke bar. Also, the Shibuya crossing. It’s apparently the busiest intersection in the world.
Outline your itinerary for the perfect 24 hours.
I’d start with a coffee at Café Kitsune in Ometosando, then head straight to 21 21 in Roppongi. It’s a design museum created by architect Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake. The area surrounding it is fun to explore. You’ll need to make a reservation to get into the nearby Gonpachi Nishizabu for lunch (Kill Bill was filmed here). I’d then spend my afternoon at Gallery Side 2, a space which specialises in young innovative local artists. Finally, a dinner of cheap but delicious gyoza and Sapparo at Harajuku Gyozano and a dance at The Room in Shibuya. What local buys would you recommend bringing home?
Conran Shop for homewares, Imabarti Towels, Higashiya Japanese treats, and Found by Muji for everything home and minimal. What’s your go-to outfit for a day of sight-seeing?
I basically walked all day, every day, so I lived in my Chelsea boots. I paired these with some very unsexy wool thermals, my tailored black trousers, a cashmere sweater, a shearling wool coat, and Céline black Eva sunglasses.
Anything visitors should avoid or be wary of when visiting?
It can feel at times like you’ve travelled to an entirely different planet in Japan. The culture is steeped with nuances, behaviours and rituals that occasionally feel so foreign from our own learnt way of doing things. These feelings of being an outsider are only exacerbated by the fact that many Japanese people don’t speak or understand English. Personally, this is what I loved about this country, so my advice is to observe, listen, and try to absorb some of their calm and gracious nature.
Most useful phrase to learn?
Arigatōgozaimashita – thank you. Also, manners. They are a must.
What is the song that best encapsulates this place to you?
Fatima Yamaha – What’s A Girl To Do.