If you’re interested in architecture, then Kengo Kuma should be a household name. His architectural works have shaped many cities worldwide, from Turkey to Japan. In Japan, there are many wonderful buildings that clearly showcase the talents of Kengo Kuma and his team from Kengo Kuma & Associates. He has stated that his aim is to reestablish traditional styles and reinterpret these to fit in this century. He has a particular focus on building works, the connection to their environment and the manipulation of light. Kengo Kuma’s style can transport you into another world just by looking at the building from outside, or indeed, stepping over the threshold. So, we think it’s time for us to show you some of his best works in Japan. Now you too, can unearth the secrets behind Kengo Kuma’s majestic buildings and explore one of the richest cultures in the world. Simply read on for our top 10 Kengo Kuma architecture in Tokyo, Japan, that you can see.
1. Visit the bamboo basket pineapple cake shop
Distinctive like all his other works, SunnyHills Minami pineapple cake shop in the upmarket area of Aoyama stands out. The shop opened in 2013 and is designed to emulate a bamboo basket. It is built utilizing the unique joint system, Jigoku-Gumi, which is a traditional wooden system still popular today. The building is located in the middle of a residential area, so rather than add one more solid concrete building, Kengo Kuma wanted a softer approach to work in harmony with the light and the surroundings.
Address: 3 Chome-10-20 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062
Website: SunnyHills Minami
Opening hours: 11am - 7pm (daily)
2. See Tokyo University buildings re-imagined into fish scales
From bamboo baskets to fish scales, you’ll be in awe (again) at Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building. The cedar planks cover three sides of the building, while the fourth side is a mud wall. The main entrance is large and reflects the beautiful garden inside. The team said that they wanted to break away from traditional university buildings and instead create a softer approach. It’s a great place to visit, not just for the architecture, but also for the on-site cafe and garden.
Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building
Address: 7 Chome-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 113-0033
3. Find peace and tranquility at the bamboo walkway of Nezu Museum
This project was completed in 2009 and is considered an important cultural development. Nezu Museum holds over 7,400 works which include seven national treasures. For this project, Kengo Kuma wanted to create a delicate relationship between the building, its surroundings, and even its important contents. Nestled in the heart of a busy upmarket shopping area, the bamboo approach was designed to calm the heart and mind of visitors. An absolute must-see, for both the art and the architecture.
Address: 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062
Website: Nezu Museum
Opening hours: Tue, Sat - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon, Wed - Fri)
Museum Price: 10 USD
4. Visit a tourist center like no other in the world: Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
This spacious seven-story building is located near the popular Sensoji Shrine and has a free observation deck on the seventh floor. This is a great spot to visit and enjoy the glorious views of Sensoji Shrine and Skytree. We love that the external design features are continued through to the interior of the building. The somewhat ‘teetering’ layers of floors are an incredible concept, and each can function independently from the others.
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Address: 2 Chome-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0034
Opening hours: 9am - 8pm (daily)
5. Grab an artisanal coffee and sip it under an origami ceiling at Starbucks Reserve® Roastery Tokyo
If you’ve ever been to Japan then you’ll know just how popular Starbucks is here. So, to us, it was no surprise that Kengo Kuma joined forces with the folks at Starbucks to develop a Japanese-style venue. The Starbucks Reserve is one of only five in the world. The traditional architectural style and handicrafts are beautifully showcased with terrace-style roofing and an origami-style ceiling. Each floor has its own specialty drinks. We’ll give you an insider tip: you can buy delicious espresso martinis on the second floor.
Starbucks Reserve® Roastery Tokyo
Address: 2 Chome-19-23 Aobadai, Meguro City, Tokyo 153-0042
Website: Starbucks Reserve® Roastery Tokyo
Opening hours: 7am - 11pm (daily)
6. Step into the past and future at [email protected]
Finished in 2017 and located in Oshiage, this area sees a juxtaposition between the historical Edo period and modernity. The large, interwoven wooden planks on the ground level are said to represent the local industry. Combined with a silver piping open-design ceiling, [email protected] has a futuristic and industrial vibe. This is continued, in a non-overbearing way, into the hotel rooms on the upper levels. We sometimes think that industrial-style architecture can feel a bit cold, but thanks to the numerous white drapes hanging from the ceiling that defines the space, [email protected] actually feels very cozy. Perfect for a coffee from the lower level cafe or bar.
Address: 1 Chome-19-3 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo, 131-0045
Website: [email protected]
7. Explore the award-winning Keio Takaosanguchi Station and the surrounding area
In 2015, Keio Takaosanguchi Station won a design award for the cladding features designed by Kengo Kuma. The large wooden roof represents the thin barrier between our physical world and that of the gods. The platforms are also designed with wood. The special use of lighting was sparked by the visuals of the soft lanterns that are popular in the local area. The local tourist information service is located inside.
Keio Takaosanguchi Station
Address: Takaomachi, Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0844
8. See the world from inside a diamond at Tiffany in Ginza
When the sun shines on the Tiffany store in Ginza, you’ll be amazed by the natural light display. For this design, Kengo Kuma wanted to focus on the way that Tiffany designers cut the diamonds, to allow the light to reflect better. He also wanted to create a soft air of elegance and sophistication, which matched both the level of Tiffany’s expertise and the local area of Ginza. In total there are 292 special front facet panels. Each is made from glass and honeycomb. Inside, the light is still allowed into the room, but in a diffused, soft manner. Looking out through the panels, the world seems blurred and distorted. You will feel like you have truly stepped inside a diamond.
Address: 2-7-17 Ginza ChuoKu Tokyo, Japan
Website: Tiffany Ginza
Opening hours: 10.30am - 8pm (daily)
9. Watch the 2020 Olympics at the world-renowned New National Stadium
This project was built to hold the 2020 Olympics. Conscious that a huge stadium could be overbearing to the local surroundings, Kengo Kuma looked for ways to create harmony. He decided to build the entire roof with wood. It is said that the Gingko trees that line the outer gardens of Meiji Shrine were his inspiration. New National Stadium will act as a hub for the 2020 Olympics and beyond.
New National Stadium
Address: 160-0013 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kasumigaokamachi, 4−2 JAPAN SPORT OLYMPIC SQUARE 408
10. Explore the delicate connection between building design and art at Suntory Museum
The building material of ceramic panels was chosen to match the collections of the museum. These panels were then positioned as vertical louvers throughout the buildings, thus allowing plenty of natural light in the room but also creating a relaxed atmosphere. Kengo Kuma wanted a building that would highlight the need to care for and preserve such collections. Not only can you see world-class architecture but you can also explore the beautiful collections inside Suntory Museum.
Address: 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 107-0052 Tokyo, Japan
Website: Suntory Museum
A trip to Japan isn't complete without seeing Kengo Kuma's work
Kengo Kuma is one of the most famous architects in Japan, but his works are revered worldwide. His expansive portfolio means that there is always an opportunity to see his breathtaking architecture in Tokyo, as he has shaped the landscape of Japan. So book your trip to Japan and see one of the world’s best architects, in one of the world’s most fascinating countries.
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