A tropical garden in Tokyo, Yoyogi Village is filled with exotic plants, repurposed storage containers and a pick-and-mix selection of eco-friendly shops and cafes.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Yoyogi Station, this corner of the city could easily be missed as you walk by. Yoyogi Village is an alternative to the average Tokyo shopping mall, with an eco-friendly goal. It’s owned by music industry leader Takeshi Kobayashi, producer of Japanese band Mr. Children among other claims to fame.
He curates the music at the up-market Music Bar, but the rest of the restaurants and cafes are independent and all have a chilled feel. Divided into two levels, Yoyogi Village hosts coffee shops, bakeries and information booths about the unusual plants that fill the area.
Designed by Seijun Nishihata of Wonderwall Inc., the gardens are a unique collection of 120 species from across the world. The space is perfect for an afternoon spent with a book, a friend or your laptop—and you can sit in or head to the terrace area on the higher floor and enjoy being outdoors.
Ground level: Cakes, coffee and curry galore
Whether you’re after a quick coffee or a leisurely lunch, you can find something at the mix of cafes and restaurants on the ground level.
With a terrace, cocktails and delicius homemade curry, Yoyogi Curry is a reliable option for an easy lunch and a surprisingly sophisticated dinner. The menu offers three different curries, including a traditional Japanese one and seasonal options from around the world, with other non-curry specials available too.
A little farther along, Dimlight Coffee is a trendy coffee shop with a small selection of tasty homemade cakes. From farmer to roaster to shop, the coffee is carefully selected and quality-checked along the way. The brews are strong and fresh, with seasonal menu highlights on offer throughout the year. Find a less-jittery option in the homemade ginger lemonade—it’s delicious. And note the jars of sugar-steeped ginger lined up along the back shelf.
For a fancier option, Meat Bar Maison and Super Me Restaurant offer wines and set lunches along with sharing dishes, tapas-style options and more. Not too pricey, the tapas plates at Meat Bar Maison start at ¥380. The menu focuses on seasonal dishes like a spring risotto with broccoli or a summery shirasu marinade with lemon. Super Me’s menu is similarly fresh, with pesticide-free vegetables, seasonal food and bio-wine.
For something sweet or a savory snack, Pour-Kur Bakery is a tempting corner filled with freshly baked pastries and breads. Using only homemade yeast, the shop is a blend of Pourquoi bakery and Ishigaki Pizza from Shonan. The slow-ripening yeast gives a subtle umami flavor while the stone-baking technique for pizza gives a crispy base every time.
Photograph the famous Shibuya scramble crossing, wander around the curious and quirky love hotel hill, visit Yoyogi park and Meiji shrine...
Around the corner, in regular buildings, the Music Bar and Code Kurkku restaurants are a more serious, indoor affair, with tempting menus and a smarter feel.
Second level: Tea, Takefu and trees
With an elevated walkway and tiered storage containers, the second level is where you’ll find the shops and information center.
If you head up from the walkway at the main entrance, you’ll be greeted by the Sora Botanical Garden Information Center and Cafe. This container provides plenty of information about the unusual plants and where they come from. Unfortunately, the majority of the information provided is in Japanese, but the pictures and diagrams are pretty interesting. The second, smaller information container is more of a workspace or lunch spot, with a very unusual table and some information along the walls.
Contenart is a combination of art and tea, with a small cafe area at the back of the container (nicer than it sounds, we promise). With all sort of fancy teas available, it’s a good spot for gifts or a treat for tea lovers. The gallery section holds themed and temporary exhibitions while the cafe offers teas and tea-inspired seasonal treats like a black tea kakigori (shaved ice) in summer.
Across the way, Eau shop of Takefu is the main ‘shop’ of the area, selling natural bamboo fabric items. A really homely shop with a tatami area and a no-shoes rule, they sell take cloth, made from bamboo, which is an eco-friendly option. From clothes to gifts and scarves, there’s plenty to choose from and it’s another good place for gifts.
Events: Beer gardens and food markets
The area hosts a range of events, with the calendar filling up in the warmer months. The Good Sunday and Good Saturday Markets are a frequent option with changing themes, like Family DIY or specific countries. Including workshops, kid-friendly activities and themed food and drinks from the vendors, these markets are a good time to visit. That is if you don’t mind it being a little busy.
The larger garden space towards the Music Bar is often the main events area. This year, Hoegarden hosts the White Birch Garden. Annual events include sakura parties, Oktoberfest events and starlight nights—often sponsored by beer companies. The latest events can be found on the news section—so keep an eye out.
There are certain times in the year that can make your visit to Tokyo less than idea.