Walking the one kilometer Omotesando street is a great experience. Known as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees, it is a zelkova tree lined avenue, featuring numerous fashion flagship stores. Omote being ‘frontal’ and Sando being ‘approach’, it has been serving as the main approach to Meiji shrine since the Taisho era. Nowadays the broad avenue stretching from the Meiji shrine entrance all the way to Aoyama Street sees millions walking its pavements to shop at the luxury brand stores.
The narrower, winding back streets of Ura-Harajuku on either side of Omotesando are also interesting. In these streets, we find many not so branded stores yet charming clothing stores, themed cafes, and some of the best Japanese restaurants in Tokyo.
But even if we are not in Tokyo to shop, just walking along Omotesando is refreshing, enjoying the atmosphere, and observing the distinct architecture of the buildings designed by Japan superstar architects such as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Jun Aoki, Hiroshi Nakamura and Norihiko Dan.
Tadao Ando designed the shopping mall Omotesando Hills, with 250m facade made along the street, each floor was built along a slope to create a continuation from the street, giving additional public space. A garden was made on the rooftop, to continue the atmosphere from the zelkova trees along the street.
Toyo Ito designed the building especially for Tod’s, famous Italian shoe and handbag brand. With the L-shaped and a narrow frontage, the concrete wall gives the impression of a row of zelkova trees in relation to environment in Omotesando. Where many luxury brand boutiques have been built, by selecting concrete as a material the designer daringly proposed a substance and strength in contract with the surrounding glass buildings.
Jun Aoki designed the Louis Vuitton building in the image of a stack of trunks, as Louis Vuitton is famous for its luggages and bags . The trunks, each representing a unique room, are connected with corridors between trunks. The building with the soft texture of the metal fabric on the facade representing fallen leaves from the zelkova trees in front of the building.
Norihiko Dan’s Hugo Boss eight-story building is surrounded by Tod’s L-shaped building. Thus, he designed it trying to loosen the influence of the Tod’s building by creating vertical shapes combined with circular floors. This seems to accentuate the adjacent Tod’s building, and creates a symbiotic harmony. The building’s structure is composed of columns made from steel with a wood-like texture.
Another shopping mall, Tokyu Plaza, has emerged as a fortress of fashion. The unique structure was designed by Hiroshi Nakamura, an award-winning architect. It officially becoming the home base for big fashion retailers, as well as a host of smaller domestic Japanese brands. The front elevator walled with mirrors looks attractive from far, but when we climb the elevator it is quite dizzying to see all the reflections on the mirrors. It is like walking inside a tunnel with walls of discotheque glittering ball. Fancy, but not something for the minimalists.