1. Sakurai
    Photo: SakuraiSakurai
  2. Okamoto Taro
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum

12 best things to do in Aoyama

From picturesque brunch spots to lively after-dark music venues, you can explore Aoyama – even on a budget

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
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Aoyama is miraculously uncrowded considering it’s one of the most popular districts in Tokyo. While its high price point has window shoppers gravitating towards the streets of neighbouring districts like Shibuya and Harajuku, Aoyama has far more to offer than just scenic weekend walks, even if you’re on a budget. 

On top of having innumerable designer boutiques, Aoyama boasts a surprising number of galleries and art museums, including some offbeat gems. And while the bustling farmers market is a good reason to get there in the early part of the day on weekends, the district isn’t just for daytime fun. 

From soothing tea shops and wine bars to a lipstick museum and one of Tokyo's coolest underground nightlife venues, here are the best (and most affordable) things to discover in Tokyo’s poshest neighbourhood. 

RECOMMENDED: Check out these 50 things to do in Shibuya

Things to do

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Aoyama

The posh neighbourhood of Minami Aoyama is often associated with upscale boutiques and bakeries, but the area is also chock full of small museums and galleries, which often get overlooked in favour of larger attractions in the vicinity like Meiji Jingu. Among these hidden gems is the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, dedicated to one of Japan’s most prominent masters of contemporary art.

Born in 1911, Taro Okamoto was an artist and art theorist famous for his avant-garde paintings and sculptures that have become permanent fixtures in public spaces across Japan.

Opened in 1998, the museum served as Okamoto’s primary studio and residence for the last 44 years of his life. The paint splatters in the studio and the half-finished work on the shelves have all been left untouched since the artist’s death in 1996.

  • Things to do
  • Aoyama

Japan has a long and fascinating history of cosmetic rouge, or beni, as it was called during its rise in popularity during the Edo period (1603-1867). Made with natural pigment extracted from crushed safflower, beni makeup was traditionally used as lipstick or blush for centuries, before Western makeup was introduced during the Showa period, but modern day geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) still use this versatile product. 

At this shop and free museum managed by the long-standing Isehan Honten makeup company, you can look at antique lipstick cases and 19th century makeup boxes as you learn about how beni makeup evolved over time, along with Japanese beauty trends. Shop for authentic products made the traditional way with natural safflower, or ask for a free application of beni lipstick to see which shade of red suits you best.

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  • Art
  • Aoyama

Nezu Kaichiro Sr, a businessperson whose career included being the president of Tobu Railway, had a penchant for pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art. Founded in 1940 with his private collection, the museum now houses 7,400 exhibits spanning a wide range of genres.

Several Buddhist statues and ancient bronzes from China are on permanent display. On the other hand, the seven annual temporary exhibitions feature the rest of the museum’s collection – which includes paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquerware, wooden and bamboo craft, and textiles – on a rotating basis according to the theme. The current building, a stunning mix of traditional and modern styles, was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and opened in 2009.

  • Art
  • Aoyama

Yoku Moku is best known in Japan as the company that produces those irresistible cylindrical buttery cigare cookies that come in a dark blue tin, but in 2020, the biscuit company made an interesting foray into fine art. Yoku Moku director Toshiyasu Fujinawa, who is the grandson of the company founder, is an avid art collector and has accumulated more than 500 of Pablo Picasso's ceramic works over the course of 30 years. It's one of the largest collections of Picasso ceramics in the world and it's on display permanently here. 

Located near the Yoku Moku flagship store in Aoyama, the Yoku Moku Museum is as much about education as art. There are art workshops for young children, a library and a café – named after the town of Valoris where Picasso produced numerous ceramic works – serving freshly baked sweets.

Food and drink

  • Restaurants
  • Bistros
  • Aoyama
  • price 2 of 4

If you've grown tired of paying absurd mark-ups for inferior bottles of vino, head to this basement wine bar and restaurant in Aoyama. A casual sister establishment of the upscale restaurant Julia in Jingumae, W Aoyama serves up modern seafood dishes, pasta and charcoal-grilled meats to pair with both Old World and New World wines.

Most of the dishes are seasonal, including the signature seafood platter which can be ordered in single portions or for sharing. With offerings like grilled carrots and burrata and grilled flounder with lemon and herbs, you get a simple yet delicious spread of specialities showcasing the best of the season’s produce.

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Aoyama
  • price 2 of 4

It took Shinya Sakurai 14 years to become a tea master. That's a long time to dedicate to tea. But when you visit his shop in Aoyama, Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, and sit down opposite him as he prepares an exquisite tea ceremony in an equally exquisite café space, you'll begin to appreciate the hard work and patience that goes into this tradition.

Shinya has modelled his store on the concept of tea being a form of medicine – as it once was – and he travels around Japan to source the best quality tea leaves. They're all on display in little glass containers, which are lined up in front of packs of tea for sale at his shop. At the back of the store, there's a seating area where you can enjoy sipping on the tea of your choice. If you'd like to taste different varieties, you can sample individual teas (from ¥1,400) or the 'five tea tasting course' (¥4,800) for the full experience.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Shibuya
  • price 2 of 4

One dish, one wine, one artist – that's the minimalist concept under which this venture, occupying a chic mezzanine-like space just off Aoyama-dori, is trying to set itself apart from the other swanky restaurants in the area.

And true to form, it literally serves only one type of food, one type of wine, and only play one artist. On our visit, that meant a buttery pasta with freshly shaved seasonal truffles, a red wine picked to pair optimally with the food, and music by Led Zeppelin to create the ultimate trifecta.

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Aoyama
  • price 2 of 4

Few cafés near Omotesando can rival the atmosphere at this verdant tea shop, which sits inside the Aoyama Flower Market shop on the corner of Aoyama-dori. Flowers and plants crowd the greenhouse-like interior, where customers can sip on herbal teas alongside a menu of food including open sandwiches, parfaits and French toast. The only downside to this pretty café is that its popularity often means long queues, so aim to get here on the early side. 

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  • Shopping
  • Omotesando

This family-friendly restaurant and shop is famous for its all-you-can-eat buffets of healthy home-style dishes. The menu changes on a daily basis, but typically features wholesome spreads of tofu patties in daikon sauce, potato salad and stewed cabbage rolls – all made with organic produce. The restaurant is located on the basement level, where you'll also find a small shop selling organic and fair trade products, while the ground floor shop of Crayon House  sells children's books and toys. 

The lunch buffet is ¥1,500 for adults and ¥1,320 for children. The dinner buffet is ¥2,750 for adults and ¥1,375 for children. The menu is meatless on Mondays, with plenty of options for vegans.  

Nightlife

  • Nightlife
  • Late-night bars
  • Aoyama

After a lengthy hiatus during the pandemic, hideaway bar and music venue Aoyama Tunnel has reopened and is ready to welcome back the city’s alternative partygoers. As its name suggests, the nightlife venue is located behind a black and yellow entry way at the head of the Aoyama Tunnel. 

The space has undergone a renovation, so it looks a bit different from the grungy DJ bar you may remember. The art on the walls has been replaced with different pieces and new sofas have been added as well. Even the sound system has been upgraded with Taguchi amps and the acoustic design has been adjusted so that people in every corner of the space will be able to hear the live music better. 

The admission fee of ¥300 will grant you access to the main floor as well as the Red Bar found on the floor above. Regular events feature DJs of all ages and backgrounds, though house music is the predominant genre here.

  • Clubs
  • Aoyama

Aoyama Hachi has a lot to celebrate this year. The quirky Aoyama venue is marking its 27th anniversary this year and was voted Best Club in the Time Out Tokyo 2022 Love Local Awards. This club takes up the entirety of a four-storey building, each floor decked out in a different colour scheme. It might sound overwhelming, but Hachi is actually one of the smallest underground clubs in Tokyo and features a range of genres including hip-hop, house and rock.

Aside from the booty-shaking tunes, one of its main attractions is on the second floor where you’ll get a view out over Roppongi-dori, which is especially beautiful in the evening. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to join one of the special early-morning Asa-Hachi events. They’re held around the time of the first train in the morning and partygoers get to dance to the sunrise.

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  • Clubs
  • Aoyama

The swanky shopping district of Minamiaoyama seems an unlikely location for a basement party, but the first-class sound system at Vent combined with its cult following of music lovers makes this event space one of the best of its kind. Vent hosts a different set of artists every week, with music varying from acid jazz to techno. 

Having the main performance floor and bar area separate from each other means you're free to mingle without having to shout over the speakers, or you can take your drink towards the front of the stage and fully immerse yourself in the live music. Look forward to seeing up-and-coming local artists as well as seasoned international DJs in an intimate space with a revolutionary sound reinforcement system.

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