Just back from a week in Tokyo and, to be honest, a little shell shocked. In a good way. Maybe it’s the jet lag but I’m still trying to piece it all together.

I know I should be led out behind the mess hut, blindfolded, wrists bound, and shot by firing squad for saying “it’s a clash of cultures” but blimey, it’s quite a clash of cultures.

My number one tip for Tokyo: take a deep breath and dive in. You’re going to get lost. You’re not going to know what you’re eating half the time – see above. (Actually, make that 90% of the time. That’s eel on a stick in the photo by the way and a bargain at less than a pound). Communication is going to be difficult (pretty much no speaks English and Japanese isn’t easy) – but it’s going to be amazing.

First things first – do a bit of planning. If you’re going to be travelling around the country get a Japan Rail pass, available only to foreigners, which will definitely save you money if you’re doing anything more than just a Tokyo-Kyoto return. And before you use the Tokyo metro for the first time pick up the tourist board’s English language leaflet when you’re at the airport on how to buy a ticket – first time it’s terrifying, second time onwards you’ll wonder what the fuss was about.  Outside of rush hour it’s really not cramped at all. And it’s spotless. No one drops litter, no one talks loudly on their mobile, no one turns their iPods up so you can hear what’s blaring out of some spotty youth’s headphones from three carriages away. Trains arrive on time. So all in all just like London then.

Oh and get used to people wearing masks. Seems weird at first, but when you’re home some and some herbert sneezes all over you, you’ll look back wistfully at your time in Japan.

Accept that some things are too weird to accept. Yes, you could go to Starbucks (and they are liberally sprinkled all over Tokyo) or you could shake a banana milk shake and sing a little song in a squeaky high pitched voice in a maid cafe.

And there can’t be too many capital cities in the world where you can be buried in hot sand and poach in natural hot springs a 20-minute metro ride from downtown.

And where else can you change into the same cult-like brown pyjamas as all fellow guests for a night, and sleep in a poorly-ventilated, oversized coffin for the princely sum of around £30 per night? (You may be picking up a bit of cynicism here, but seriously, capsule hotels seem like a fun idea when you’re planning a trip to Japan. The reality is a bit more down to earth when you’re lying in one wide awake with jet lag at 3am. I don’t think you’d find many tourists who’d willingly do two nights).

But there again, it’s pretty cool to be wandering down the road and bump into blokes like this.

And to eat sushi and have a view like this out of the window – sushi, which by the way, is so good it will make you cry the next time you buy packaged supermarket rubbish back in the UK.

And OK, the Big One may be on the way – if the ground starts to shake, make like the cat in this poster and dive under a table; number 2 thing to do, turn the gas off; number 3 thing to do once it’s all stopped wobbling, prop open a door with a chair – but that’s just another thing that makes Tokyo what it is.  Pretty bloody amazing.






It’s slightly disconcerting to see at least 20% of the population of one of the world’s major cities wearing face masks, but it is flu season – even if it feels more like late Spring than mid Winter at the moment in Tokyo with the sun blazing away.

If you want to join the throng a pack of 7 disposable masks will set you back 230 yen (£1.90) from any Family Mart corner store.

And pick up a green-tea flavoured Kit Kat while you’re there for 126 yen – quite addictive.


A website I come back to time and time again is www.inyourpocket.com.  In fact if I had to nominate the absolute best travel website I use it would be this one.

On first click it doesn’t seem anything that special but what it does it does fantastically well.

Essentially it provides guides to cities in eastern Europe, although it’s spreading its wings with Belfast, Zurich, Hamburg and other westies making an appearance.

What makes these guides great for me is that for many of the cities you can just click and download a full PDF guide which is always up to date and provides all the info you need for a weekend away.

And they’re free! What’s better than free? Not much that’s what.

So if you’re heading to Minsk or Zagreb or Moscow definitely head to this website first.




Two of my favourite things are Cape Town (twenty visits and counting) and great coffee. Brad Armitage founded the South African chain Vida e Caffe (think Starbucks but with actual decent coffee) with his business partner Rui Esteves (no, not the former Portuguese soccer international, a different Rui), before selling the business and setting up boutique beer producer cum bar &UNION on Bree Street a few years back.

Brad Armitage; portrait by Morne Van Zyl

I asked Brad to tell me about the places in town he’d send his mates if they were visiting Cape Town.


Super star chef Luke Dale-Roberts has been claiming the headlines with his award-winning study of molecular gastronomy, The Test Kitchen. However the waiting list is a lesson in patience to say the least. Rather opt for his ‘spill- over’ option, the less formal Pot Luck Club. Small, and unceremonious, it is part lite-meal diner, part gallery.

If you are looking to head out of the city, then it has to be The Table at De Meye wine farm (voted best country dining spot in the recent Eat Out Awards). The Table is what happens when you unleash a chef, a food stylist and a gourmand photographer on a disused barn in the winelands. It’s a single, set menu of local specialities, and its only open twice a week. Booking is a must and be sure to try the Rosé – grown within earshot of your table.


Of course any good evening of libation will start at with a fine selection of craft beers at &UNION. But that is because I am blatantly biased. From then on I would have to recommend dive-bar cum neighbourhood cafe, Power & Glory. It has a limited selection of well-made, old-school cocktails like the crisp and refreshing Army Navy- made from artisanal organic gin, almond liqueur and lemon.

There is a small node of great local designers on the corner of Long and Church streets. David West is still cranking out some of the finest South African menswear and his store is shared with local industrial designers Dokter en Missus. For a little street flavour there are two great choices: pioneers of Cape Town’s streetwear scene ASTOREISGOOD on Kloof St. – it has limited selections from Vans Vault, Rudolph Dassler, Adidas Originals, local menswear from Citizen Band and Adriaan Kuiters and a bunch of great selection of books and local menswear from Citizen Band and Adriaan Kuiters. Next head for Loading Bay, in De Waterkant. Menswear selections from Acne, Our Legacy and Velour are presented overlooking a great little cafe.


A morning surf up the West coast at one of the beach breaks beyond Big Bay like Horse Trails. Head back into town for espresso and quick breakfast (try the Heuvos Rancheros at Clarke’s Diner). Then regroup with the family and pack the car to get some more sun and swimming in the rock pools at Bakeoven Beach – probably Cape Town’s best kept secret. An afternoon braai (barbecue) around the pool, and watch the lights come up on Table Mountain. If you have anymore strength, you would walk down into the city, and enjoy a Negroni at Tjing Tjing – one of the few rooftop bars in Cape Town.


Head up the coast to the West Coast National Park. Once inside, forget the wild flowers, and head straight to the secluded beaches like Kraalbaai – it is on the lagoon, with azure warm water that is more akin to the Greek Isles than the stark West Coast – and only an hours drive from the city. Pack a lunch, and stay the whole day.


A Chicken Roti from the roti lady in Bo Kaap. Sorry, that is all the details I have – she sells the best Roti’s ever! They cost next to nothing, but she only sells for 1 hour, on a Friday, as all the men leave Friday prayers in the mosques in the Muslim neighbourhood of Bo Kaap. Simply brilliant. It all sells out in half an hour.


Always carry a light-weight, weather-proof jacket. No matter how hot it was today – tonight may get icy, and you will get caught out in the rain.

Shark cage diving. It is messing with the mojo of mother nature. And just not cool.


Concept Developer and Brand Custodian, Brad Armitage has been crafting retail experiences for over 12 years. Passionate about the way we spend our time, and our money, and the things we do to make us feel good. He is co-founder of Collective São Gabriel and the Brewers & Union range of craft beers, as well as the purpose built ‘beer shrine’ &UNION, on Cape Town’s Bree Street. Brad continues to work in the realm of brand development, and clients including Woolworths, Paint & Place, Union Swiss and Plascon/Midas Eathcote. He has been involved in a variety of menswear blogs, and is a contributor to Future Laboratory, GQ and Monocle magazines. Brad hates to talk about himself in the 3rd person.






I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled all over the world – but it’s always great to come home to Malton in North Yorkshire, where I grew up and where Mum and Dad still have a farm. If there’s one thing Malton hasn’t had for a long time, though, it’s a really good hotel. But that’s all due to change this April when the old Talbot Hotel will re open with 26 rooms and a restaurant overseen by James Martin, after being totally gutted and refurbished (the hotel that is, not James.) Can’t wait.

There are some great independent shops there, such as Boyes (which is how Woolworths used to be ie lots of little nick nacks for bathroom, kitchen and the car at incredibly cheap prices) and Yates which stocks lots of country wear, but also toys, DIY and lots more besides. My favourite though is Woodalls which is an absolute Aladin’s cave of everything to do with the countryside from hiking boots to knives, string, mittens, lamb castrators, brooms….you name it, they could probably dig it out for you.

Having said that, there are also unfortunately a fair few empty shops there at the moment, which is something I have never seen before. The recession is biting. Come and spend your money in Malton!