After seven happy years at our home on Omotesando, one of the most glamorous streets in Tokyo, we finally had to admit that we had outgrown our Monocle office. What started out as a two-person operation has grown into something much bigger and there was only so much desk shifting and rearranging we could do to squeeze everyone in. With a certain reluctance, we started the hunt for a new home. Our only essential demands were that the new office had to be bigger and, this time, at street level. We wanted to incorporate a Monocle shop at the front, a more substantial radio set-up at the back and enough room for the permanent staff as well as visitors from our London HQ. After discounting a number of former hairdressing salons and convenience stores around Harajuku we cast the net further afield. Although as it turned out, not that much further.
We honed in one location: Tomigaya. Only one metro stop from our old place in crowded Harajuku it has a completely different feel. Close to pulsating Shibuya and a short walk from Yoyogi Park, Tomigaya manages to be both central and local. The neighbourhood’s main thoroughfare, Kamiyama Street, is a cosy low-rise affair tucked in behind the hulking TV centre of Japan’s national broadcaster NHK. Some of shops have been there for years: a tatami-mat workshop, a craftsman who’s been making biwa for decades and Uorikia fish shop, which is run by the fourth-generation owner Yasuhisa Suzuki. Then there are the newcomers, places that Monocle staffers were already frequenting such as the bookshop Shibuya Booksellers, the eclectic design shop Archivando and Pignon: a busy bistro run by hard-working chef Rimpei Yoshikawa.
After being shown a place on Kamiyama Street that ticked all the boxes we knew the search was over. It was just around the corner from the coffee and cocktail bar Fuglen and next door to Pivoine: a boutique and homeware shop that is also home to Stock, a miniature Schnauzer. We signed the lease and unleashed a small but skilled building team to transform the space. The builders finished a few days ago, just in time for an opening that saw more than 200 friends and colleagues descend on the neighbourhood. The office and radio studio are already up and running and up front the Monocle shop is open for business and currently hard to miss thanks to the sea of congratulatory bouquets and flower arrangements that were sent for the opening.
We miss our old friends around Omotesando but we’ll be back to visit. And as with all the right decisions, there are no regrets about moving on. It’s not even been a week but our new neighbourhood already feels like home.
Fiona Wilson is Monocle’s Asia bureau chief.