Step into Tokyo's Daikanyama playground for the intellectually curious adult
"Library in the woods" Tsutaya Books (T-Site) is a three-building, maze-like lifestyle complex of books, craftsmanship and gourmet offerings for discerning grown-ups.
Frequent travellers to Tokyo will head for the glitzy glare of city lights, snag the best of quirky street fashion, and slurp up the yummiest bowl of ramen.
But for locals and insiders, there’s a spot in Tokyo far removed from the frenetic pace of the city: The suburb of Daikanyama. Known as the Brooklyn of the Japanese capital, this neighbourhood is just a 15 min walk from Shibuya Crossing – the world’s busiest intersection.
Daikanyama is dotted with upmarket low-rise buildings, bijou boutiques and cafes, and offers visitors a laidback charm that’s hard to beat, but most of all it hides a neo-modernist complex known as Daikanyama Tsutaya Books (T-Site) – a place of worship for the intellectually curious, as some are wont to call it.
The three-building complex opened in 2011, and is often referred to simply as T-Site – referencing the T’s of the Tsutaya Book Emporium logo that wrap the facade of the building. This is a haven for grownups who love books, music, movies and artisan stationery. It’s a place filled with specialised books for all to while away their time.
The firm responsible for the building’s design, Klein Dytham Architecture, themed it as A Library In The Woods. To wit, the building has a lot of wooden structures and is designed with lots of small cubicles. Entering the place is like going into a maze – with a sense of excitement and an expectancy that there’s something to uncover around the corner.
“I really like this building. I can feel the different seasons in here, and I can see when it’s clear, whether it’s raining or night time,” enthused Sakuma Kazuko, the stationery concierge at T-Site. “I can feel the shift of time and change of seasons. And because of that, it feels very comfortable working here.”
Kazuko is one of several specialist concierges at the complex. She advises customers, recommending products like handcrafted pens in her section. “I help by writing and designing birthday cards, and through that they can see how the pen functions,” she said. Her unique role at the shop has seen her hand-draw more than 1,700 birthday cards for her customers.
T-Site is the crown jewel of the neighbourhood, and while it might well be the future of retail, where carefully curated materials are offered for an older, more discerning audience, it has also become its unofficial community centre where people gather and relax.
The place, said Kazuko, “looks like a garden with trees… It’s a place where people come together and spend time for no specific reason.”
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on Channel NewsAsia, every Sunday at 7pm.