The STANDARD H Travel pages are our version of city guides presented by our founder, Wesley Smith. These are places he's traveled, enjoyed, and recommends, so they're all vetted and what we refer to as STANDARD H verified. These lists will evolve, so check back often and travel safe!
"I grew up liking Japan, and really only based on the fact my mom lived there from age 10 until 13 as a military brat. Her having lived there only made me want to visit that much more as I grew older. Finally, in 2014, I made it over. My friend Brett had taken a job in Tokyo, I had a few other friends from high school living in Japan, and I even had a Japanese customer from my days working at James Perse in Malibu I'd kept in touch with via Facebook, so I knew I'd be in for a treat. I've always preferred the locals' view on travel as opposed to the touristy version, so I was extremely lucky to already be set up for success." - Wesley
Bear Pond Espresso
2 Chome-36-12 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031
I found out about Bear Pond by way of the WSJ magazine article, "Made Better in Japan" back in 2012. When I read about owner Katsu Tanaka's requires his baristas to train for at least a year before they're able to serve espresso, I was immediately on board. I had to try it. The ristretto shot was unlike anything I had ever had before, and even had since. It was there where I learned about artist Curtis Kulig, as well, by way of the "Love Me" sticker that adorns Bear Pond's La Marzocco machine. Only later did I learn that Tanaka lived in NYC throughout the 1990s and then trained at Counter Culture Coffee which happens to be a Durham, NC-based business I'm very familiar with. It never ceases to amaze me how small the world is.
17-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0033, Japan
Perhaps my favorite bookstore in the world, Tsutaya represents an architecture buff's dream world of reading. It's just as cool on the outside as their assortment is on the inside. Just go; trust me.
Yakatori Toriyama Roppongi
Japan, 106-0032 Tokyo, Minato City, Roppongi, 4 Chome−4−2 1
Have you ever eaten raw chicken? Neither had I prior to this visit. I was staying across the street during my time in Tokyo, and I was able to meet two high school friends here for dinner. After so many years of not seeing them, it was such a cool experience being able to catch up while eating things I never even thought to try. We sat at the bar to get a bird's eye view of the chef preparing our meal which served as bonus entertainment if even only for me. Order a lot and drink a beer. It's great.
5-462 Hanakoganei, Kodaira Tokyo Prefecture
My second day in Japan, I took a short subway ride to meet my (above-mentioned customer) friend Mitch. He picked me up from the subway station in his smile-provoking, burgundy G Wagon and immediately took me to eat lunch at an udon noodle house that had been there for nearly 100 years. They have since moved to this location, however, due to the old location not having been up to appropriate building codes for earthquakes. Regardless, the food hasn't changed and it's amazing. The noodles are still handmade without any additives and it's only open for lunch. You can elect to eat their udon served hot or cold. We ate it cold, and if you're like Mitch, hold the onion...
Ofuro no Osama Onsen
3-9-10 Minamicho Hanakoganei, Kodaira Tokyo Prefecture
An onsen experience is a must if you've never been to Japan. As a volcanically active country, there are thousands of hot springs throughout Japan. However, there are commercial onsens like this one: the largest in metropolitan Tokyo. Keep an open mind and a willingness to subject yourself to some of the hottest environments you may ever be in. I guarantee you'll leave feeling refreshed, just remember to hydrate.
3 Chome-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan
This store is like Bloomingdales on crack. 10 stories of absolutely everything you can ever find. They even have an area where you can test out golf clubs on a Trackman. If you were ever a child visiting FAO Schwarz for the first time in New York City, entering this building is like that as an adult. It's crazy.