If you're seeking a more ethical way to experience Japan, the resurgence of traditional crafts and the uptick in upcycling will catch your eye in Tokyo. Against the backdrop of a bustling metropolis, you can find locals committed to positive change around almost every corner.
Savor the amazing aromas of sustainable craft gin at the world's first "regenerative distillery." Tokyo Riverside Distillery is tucked away in Kuramae, a neighborhood known as the "Brooklyn of Tokyo" for its burgeoning scene of artisanry and sustainability. Committed to circular economy and "starring the hidden gem," they distill fragrant ingredients that would normally be wasted, like cacao husks or sake lees, into aromatic arrangements where the upcycled ingredients take center stage. And they win awards too, taking gold at the World Gin Awards 2021. The distillery, styled more as a studio, features a rooftop botanical herb garden and a hideaway bar pairing gin-based cocktails with delicious light bites. (Co-produced by Shota Shiratori)
A visit to the Kosoen dyehouse in Ome, west Tokyo, is like stepping back in time or into another world. In Japan's Edo period (1603-1868), the area was an enclave of expert weavers and dyers, and their Ome-shima fabric was highly prized. Industrialization saw this art decline, but it remains at the heart of local history and culture, and today, Kosoen is leading its revival. Founded by the Murata family, who have been in the industry since 1919, this atelier offers English-language workshops where you can experience traditional aizome dyeing guided by their expert hands. Committed to sustainability, their approach is as natural as can be - the fermented indigo dye is literally alive. Everything comes from the land and returns to it, the spent materials eventually fertilizing the fields that feed the artisans. And aizome is perfect for upcycling, so bring your pre-loved or faded clothes and turn them ethereal shades of the beloved "Japan blue" that can't be achieved any other way.
Kakimori, perhaps Tokyo's most innovative stationary store, fits in perfectly with the revivalist vibe of the former downtown area Kuramae. Here, in collaboration with local artisans, the team assists you to customize a one-of-a-kind notebook, or mix a unique ink for your refillable pen. This oasis of creativity and craftsmanship celebrates the joy of writing and nurtures a community around the process and the beautiful tools of the trade. Upcycling, creativity, and customization are the name of the game here. Choose from a plethora of unique notebook covers, some of which are repurposed from beautiful fabric offcuts. Their unused materials in turn are reborn as various leather goods you can find in the store.