Tokyo Tower rises from the concrete jungle of the city
Hotelier Yuta Oka’s Insider Guide to Tokyo
CEO & Founder of Naru Developments and Insitu Japan, Yuta Oka is a hotelier involved in the creation of design-forward, boutique boltholes in Japan, including K5 in Nihonbashi, and Azumi Setoda in Setouchi.

Travelling, it seems, is in Yuta’s blood. Born in Okayama, he was then raised in Connecticut until the age of 10. From there he returned to Tokyo until his early twenties, before heading out for stints in San Francisco, Singapore, Kyoto and finally back to Tokyo, where he now lives, in the Ebisu area of the city. Along the way, Yuta was engaged in real estate private equity, including consultation for the management team and owner group of Aman on its real estate investments and management strategy.

Thanks to all its neon lights, tall towers and late-night karaoke bars, it's easy to feel intimidated by Tokyo's veil of intensity - however heritage and quiet can be found in the city’s streets, if you know where to venture. Yuta takes us on a tour of Tokyo's more peaceful scenes, his favourite Friday-night escapades and some of the best street food in the city.

CEO & Founder of Naru Developments and Insitu Japan, Yuta Oka

What’s one common misconception about Tokyo?

Perhaps, that it doesn’t have much nature? Tokyo actually has the most beautiful parks and gardens. My little secret place is the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, and its garden / café. The annual pass to the museum is actually a great deal, usually very quiet, yet right in the middle of the city.

Where should we go on a Friday night?

Kabuto-cho in Nihonbashi. After we opened K5 in Feb 2020, there’s been new spots popping up almost every month. Hopping around these joints is my favorite Friday night activity nowadays. Neki, Omnipollos, Human Nature… and of course K5.

We want to explore a quiet, pretty part of town with no tourists, where should we go?

I’d recommend Kiyosumishirakawa or Yanaka. Both areas are by a big beautiful park, deep local community and boutiques (both with a big craftsmanship foundation), lots of new small restaurants popping up, and never forget the museums (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in Kiyosumi, and NMWA or the Tokyo Met Art Museum in Ueno).

Best market/antique/vintage store?

I like exploring new types of specialty shops/markets where you can buy groceries/ingredients. These are some select shops where you can buy fish/meat/organic vegetables delivered directly by fishermen and farmers:

Sakana Bacca

Esko Meat

Food and Company

If we want a street food fix, where would you send us?

Take out a banh mi at Stand Banh Mi in Gakugeidaigaku and take a stroll down the shotengai (a covered shopping arcade).

And for something a little fancier?

Always full of surprises - Caveman and Kabi

You’re planning a staycation, which hotel would you choose?

Sequence Miyashita Park but get the suite or the king room. You are literally at the epicentre of Tokyo, but somehow secluded atop it. The large and clear windows, views of the constantly moving city, and the bench mounted speaker and tube amp - by puddle – make it feel like you are floating.

Where do you go if you want to escape the city?

I drive to Karuizawa for a hike and a good meal, combined with an onsen dip and a basket full of grocery shopping on the way back – it's full of great local supermarkets. Hoshinoya Karuizawa is our favourite, but we love the area so much we started building our own small house and are planning to go back and forth between Tokyo when its finished.

If we want to take in some culture, where should we go?

Get off at Ueno station, stop by at the NMWA/Tokyo Met Art Museum and walk through Ueno Onshi Koen. Perhaps find something at the flea market there, then stroll over to Yanaka, an area full of small coffee shops, crafts shops, and eateries.

How do you relax in the city?

Public bathhouses have become a normal routine, and I cannot think of my daily Tokyo life without them. Relaxation comes from sympathetic nervous / parasympathetic nervous systems which baths and saunas are key to stimulating.

What tourist attraction do you think is a bit overrated?

Hmm I don’t know.. I can’t think of anything.

What’s your Tokyo secret?

Used to be Chigusa-sushi in Meguro, but they closed down this summer. Bummer... Actively looking for my new little secret.

Caveman. Image courtesy of ©︎K5
Image courtesy of ©︎K5
Studio. Image courtesy of ©︎K5
Switch Coffee. Image courtesy of ©︎K5
Staff Writer