"In the United States, people only know, like, three Japanese designers," Maiko Seki says, with a go-figure shrug.
Maiko Seki is a fashion publicist in Tokyo. To be a fashion publicist in Tokyo is to be in the midst of a scene so frenetic, so demanding, so chockablock with developments that arise by the day, the hour, the minute (have I mentioned the nanosecond?), one can risk death from overexertion, and that is not intended as a gag.
The Japanese have a term for this syndrome, karoshi, "death from overwork," and it's no rare occurrence here, even in fashion. Perhaps one should say, especially in fashion. When the New York Times Magazine recently announced that Tokyo has become the style capital of the world, it was noting a truth that the cognoscenti had known for some time, a reality that an evening with Ms. Seki makes abundantly clear.
The two of us are careering through a famous intersection in Shibuya, where giant billboards cast a sexy, poisonous sheen on what is, in some ways, the crossroads of 21st-century consumerism. On this, a typical Friday night, the crowds are nearly impassable, although not remotely in that purposeful ant-farm way Westerners usually picture the Japanese.
Nobody's going much of anywhere tonight in Shibuya. Nobody is doing much of anything purposeful to improve Japan's socioeconomic future. Every Friday at Shibuya station a certain segment of young Tokyo convenes near a statue commemorating a famous Akita that, devotedly or heroically or misguidedly, returned every day to this spot for years to await his master, who, as it happened, had died.
Maybe there's a metaphor in that, but if so, it's lost on the thousands of young people who are, at the moment, putting on a gorgeous display of what an American expatriate of my acquaintance once described as "a young creative vibe that's almost chaotic."
The visual evidence is all about. There are imitation B-Boys clustered in their Chuck Taylor sneakers and porkpie hats and Kazz Rock Original graffiti T-shirts, their hair the weak tea color common among Japanese youth seemingly engaged in a mass effort to become a nation of bleached blonds. There are teen girls arrayed in thick-soled monster boots and black dirndls and white knee socks in a style that is known as Lolita, but which probably owes less to Nabokov than to Mary Shelley.
There are girls in pink wigs, girls with cornrowed hair, girls with towering Erykah Badu-style head wraps, and girls whose dreadlocks are pulled up into the wool tams that mark them as devotees of Japan's dance hall-music craze. There are scores of girls all talking at once into their computerized I-mode cell phones, saying "Ima doko?" ("Where are you now?")
There are girls in the slutty fishnets and slashed Daisy Duke shorts that, later tonight, will help guarantee entrance to Shibuya's hot club Womb, and girls in the Playboy-bunny outfits that mark them as members of the informal Red-Hot Sexy Girl Mafia. There are boys wearing customized soccer jerseys, ripped and resewn and emblazoned with the name of Hidetoshi Nakata, the 25-year-old midfielder who constitutes a kind of one-man Red-Hot Sexy Boy Mafia in this newly soccer-obsessed nation. There is a woman wearing a shirt from a label called Eccentric Pill, the legend on which reads: EIGHTIES WOMAN, SHE GREW INTO HER WOMANHOOD, YES SHE DID!
"I mean," says Maiko, who is wearing a skirt over trousers and a Prada raincoat suitable for a flasher, "all you ever read about is Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, you know. It's a little bit boring, don't you think?"
Of course it is. And, as much as I have spent time wondering who actually goes for all those three-sleeved sweaters, I am equally confounded that people persist in thinking of Japan as some kind of luxury-goods dump. (In fairness: 60 percent of LVHM receipts are said to come from Japan.) Never mind all the people who still carry around a mental postcard of Tokyo that includes bamboo tea whisks, silk kimonos, and rice-powdered geisha.
These things exist, of course. But when I inquire of my Japanese friends whether the women I see on the subway wearing kimonos are traditionalist holdouts, they laugh. "Probably restaurant hostesses," Yutaka Mori, a commercial photographer, said one night as he proffered a piece of pork sushi from his earthenware plate.
The Tokyo I know resembles so much less the Western depictions of it than some fantastic DJ's motherboard that I have to laugh, too. And this is not to suggest, as people often do, that traditionally insular Japan hungers indiscriminately for all the cultural junk of the outside world. Much more probable, it seems to me, is that the Japanese are merely persisting in their delight in wabi sabi, the beauty of decay, and are finding their own way to absorb and transform what can sometimes seem like the weirdest and most evidently indigestible things on earth. (I passed on the pork sushi, by the way.)
Perhaps I was in a susceptible mood, but I felt my acclimation to Tokyo had already begun when, on the flight over, I read an interview with the artist Hiroshi Sunairi, whose autoerotic photographic collages are much admired. Asked to name his influences, Sunairi cited sources almost nutty in their dispersion: the melodies of John Lennon, the aqueous qualities of Richard Diebenkorn's landscapes, the colors in Öyvind Fahlström's installations, Björk's strenuously adventurous lyrics, the logos on United Bamboo polo shirts, and, finally, Tezuka Osamu, the inventor of Atom Boy. I was listening to a mixed tape by DJ Jazzy Jeff at the time, and so Sunairi's welter of referents made fine sense to me.
"The DJ is the perfect example of the Japanese searching for their own individuality," Maiko said. "They're independent: they just choose their favorites of everything—music, clothing, style. It's the same in fashion. Sampling is the new way."
To see Tokyo style with Maiko is to experience it as a DJ might, skittering across the surface of things, dipping into various riffs and licks and then pulling up abruptly to luxuriate in some unexpected groove. From Omotesando, the sedate shopping street that is Tokyo's analogue to New York's Madison Avenue, we will, one gray afternoon, head to Aoyama, where both high-end luxury and indie brands are sold at a patchwork of locations that, in typical Tokyo fashion (the city lacks numbered addresses), are infuriatingly difficult to track.
At the multifloor Laforet department store, hub of the teenage kawai, or "cutie" trend, labels like Super Hakka, Alphabet Club, and Tout à Coup are sold alongside the efforts of experimental designers so fresh on the scene that they barely have a business plan.
Akira Takeuchi and Tayuka Nakanishi's company, Theatre Products, for instance, makes T-shirts that are formed and affixed to a continuous fabric roll. To buy one, you cut off a length of cloth and then peel it free. It is at Laforet that we run into Kei-ichi Tanaka, the men's wear designer for Comme des Garçons. "In Japan," Mr. Tanaka remarks, as young women with blond hair and bee-stung lips crowd the candy-colored lobby, "the passion for fashion is immense."
The proof of that passion is at the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji-dori, where hip young Tokyo comes to preen in skirts over trousers, gauze dresses, baby-doll clothes, patent-leather raincoats, mop hair, mullets, hot-pink cardigans over olive-drab maxi skirts and flat Chinese acrobat shoes. Somehow even the most unlikely sartorial combinations appear pleasing and logical in this context. About the only thing that might jar the eye would be tastefulness.
From Meiji-dori we make our way to the Comme des Garçons store, whose canted window juts into the street from beneath a nondescript apartment building, to Prada, and then to 10 Corso Como Comme des Garçons, a brand-new collaboration between Rei Kawakubo and the Milanese store-owner Carla Sozzani, whose sister, Franca, is the editor of Italian Vogue. "I hate copies and I never, ever wanted to do another store," Carla Sozzani told me not long ago. "But doing it in Tokyo with Rei was another story; we could try new things."
Japan is a Shinto country with bracingly catholic tastes. That this seems particularly conspicuous to me now probably has to do with where I've just been. For the past two weeks I have been assembling my own mixed tape of fashion and style impressions, drawing mainly from Paris and Berlin. If I occasionally failed to come up with the same pitch of frantic activity Tokyo offers, I found much to confirm that style itself has become a global Esperanto.
Tokyo is the homely child you have to love; Paris is, of course, the precocious wonder so beautiful it defies you not to. Isn't Paris, after all, the place renowned for its austere refinement, its residents' famed élan, fashion savvy, and deft scarf-tying techniques?Doesn't everything creative in commercial ready-to-wear and haute couture come from there?The answer is a tiny bit complex.
I would not be the first to remark how easily Parisian self-assurance can devolve into tiresome conceit. Part of being stuck-up, after all, is being stuck. Yet if the French have genteeled themselves into a corner, it's a corner that can still command admiration. Lately I have developed renewed affection for Parisian pretension. Parisians may lack brio. They may occasionally seem trapped by their conformity. They may sometimes justify the judgment of Kate Moss's agent, who once told me, as his limousine glided through the streets of the 16th Arrondissement, "I hate chic."
But, still, they look so good! When I arrived, I dumped my luggage and went immediately for coffee to a small square off the Rue St.-Honoré, the current hipster rialto. There, as fat cinematic clouds chugged through a typical sky of bleachy blue, I sat at a sidewalk café for an hour drinking in the array of lovelies. And I don't mean just the girls.
For every young Frenchwoman whose low-slung Earl jeans were at just the right angle to flash a blade of lean hipbone, there was a cocky young Frenchman slouching along in snug, slept-in Levi's, his forelock flopping with a casualness that takes plenty of mirror time to achieve. For every well-tended matron looking as though she had been gift-wrapped at Hermès, there was a municipal worker whose coveralls had obviously been tailored to accentuate the pert loft of his behind.
Coming from my home in New York—where half the population dresses as though for some imaginary red carpet and the other half as though they intend to mow your lawn—the Parisians' dedicated efforts to uphold their stylish reputation is as strutting a gesture of civic pride as a Kiwanis parade.
"There isn't much happening here," said Sarah Lerfel, the owner of Colette, the first and the best of the "concept" shops that have mushroomed all over Paris. "It's a drag." Ms. Lerfel, who typically goes by just her first name, was speaking of nightclubs. The only place worth bothering about, she said, was Le Pulp. The music there can be fantastic, she said, but the space is . . . well, what's French for a dump?
I happen not to agree with Ms. Lerfel. It may no longer be anyone's idea of cutting-edge, but I still enthusiastically send friends to Favela Chic, the Brazilian restaurant and bar near the Place de la République. I first learned of the place two years ago from Richard Buckley, who is the editor of Vogues Hommes and who lives in the city part-time with his boyfriend, the designer Tom Ford.
You might expect that club fatigue would have set in since I first wedged myself into this hectic dive, first crammed myself onto a bench at one of the communal tables, first joined in the mayhem that seems to occur when, after a certain number of caipirinhas have been consumed, everyone jumps up on the chairs and tables and starts to dance. But Paris is, after all, a city where one of the most celebrated nightclubs, Les Bains, is going strong after 20 years. Success has added more tourists to the mix at Favela Chic; that doesn't necessarily mean models have kept away.
The speed of fashion is less frenetic in Paris than elsewhere, an idea that runs counter to intuition. In New York, a concept store like Colette might be expected to maintain its credibility for, at most, a few seasons. Colette is now entering its fifth year. And it gets better with each. It is at Colette that Ms. Lerfel previews the design world's latest efforts, displayed in combinations that the head buyer, Alain Snege, says deliberately seek to flout the tyranny of label dressing.
"What's amusing is to make the connections," said Snege of a window display that combined a jacket from Marc Jacob's hippie collection with a patched leather skirt by an obscure designer and a pair of Stallion boots.
Plenty of boutiques in Paris sell this stuff, of course. But at Maria Luisa, to name one, the latest fashions are jammed on racks with as much regard for display as you'd see at Filene's Basement. It's only at Colette, after all, that one can find items from the Vitra design museum sold alongside suede Pumas and Raf Simons's biker skull-belts and Yves Saint Laurent's Mombassa bag and publications like the delightful gay Dutch 'zines Butt and Kutt. That the aural backdrop mixes Vive la Fête, Tiga, Tommie Sunshine, and Mirwais adds to the feeling that the whole experience hasn't been programmed from some corporate template for retailing hip.
It was the Irish writer Patrick Kinmouth who asserted that "chic is nothing, but it's the right nothing." In Paris, the pursuit of the right nothing, a practice dating at least to the ancien régime, has lost none of its compulsory allure. In Paris it is important to know that the best stationery comes from the graveur Benneton, that the best place to buy cheese is Barthélemy, that the best Thai transvestite drag show is at L'Insolite, that the baker Pierre Hermé is the ne plus ultra in macaroons.
"You've tried them?" the jeweler Joel Rosenthal asked one night over dinner on the indoor terrace of the Café Costes. That I still bought my macaroons at Ladurée caused Mr. Rosenthal to fix on me one of his characteristic mock-withering looks. At least I think that was the reason. It may have been the woman smoking a cigar at a table nearby.
It happens that I find Mr. Rosenthal's frequent theatrical expressions of distaste lovable, although I'm aware that there are those who do not.
Born in the Bronx, Mr. Rosenthal moved on to Harvard, and then, fairly soon, to Rome and to Paris in the early 1970's, where he opened a jewelry shop, JAR, in two tiny rooms off the Place Vendôme. To say that Mr. Rosenthal set himself up as a jeweler in the Place Vendôme is a bit like saying of someone that he got an idea to open a little hat shop on Fifth Avenue. There is not exactly a dearth of competition.
Mr. Rosenthal persisted, and on the strength of his determination—and gifts, of course—developed an impressive clientele that is now composed largely of deep-pocketed countesses, the occasional film star, and the consorts of billionaires living in glamorously upholstered exile among Monaco's tax refugees.
In the jewels sold at JAR—in an almost perversely discreet passageway near the Ritz—colored gems are used to produce shading effects, as if they were the watercolor pigments that fascinated Mr. Rosenthal as a child. JAR is sometimes referred to as a jeweler's jeweler. It is a claim Mr. Rosenthal tends to brush aside. A taste for JAR jewels is well developed among the cognoscenti; that does not mean they're for everyone. If a particular piece does not suit a client, Mr. Rosenthal is not shy about pointing out the misjudgment. If a client does not suit Mr. Rosenthal, he is not likely to disguise this fact, either. That the temperament of a civil servant's son from the Bronx is tailor-made for navigating the deepest shoals of Parisian snobbery I take to be a wholesome sign. How, after all, can one not enjoy a culture that will lionize an American who peppers his speech with terms like shmendrick and who is not afraid to tell a duchess where to get off?
While in Paris, I also stopped in at Tokyoïte, a tiny Marais shop run by an Algerian-born Frenchman and his Japanese partner, selling such all-American items as Chuck Taylor sneakers, biker decals, Smiley Face patches, and jackets from Burger King uniforms. The predictable reference here would be to Jerry Lewis and the unaccountability of French taste. But the truth is that the French were right about Jerry Lewis, so who can say that the folks at Tokyoïte aren't onto something, too?
On the advice of a perfumer friend, I visited Guerlain to purchase a bottle of Mouchoir de Monsieur, a subtle old-fashioned cologne that dates from the early days of this illustrious house, and that, as I learned only after the bottle was emptied, is impossible to find in the States. That same afternoon, I tipped the hotel concierge richly enough for him to try to book a table at Le Voltaire, a Left Bank restaurant that has perfected the preparation of grilled sole, as the social X rays and French media stars who throng the place can attest. He succeeded. At Le Voltaire, I ate very well, accompanied by Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue. And I drank a bit too well, which may have something to do with the subconscious motivations that led me, the next day, to Astier de Villatte, a ceramics store near the Palais Royal that sells, along with white glazed dishes of artful crudeness, little Neapolitan figures of sinners being licked by the flames of purgatory. When you come from a Puritan culture, it helps to keep these talismans around.
The following night I was in Berlin, hunting down louche creatures who I imagined would be slinking around town in some grotty German version of urban hip. I never encountered any, of course. What was I thinking?The days of Einstürtzende Neubauten and Nick Cave are as over as Checkpoint Charlie. Fassbinder's widow-pretender, Juliane Lorenz, is squatting on the filmmaker's archive, waiting for all those actors who never signed releases to fade away. Fassbinder's star and former wife, Ingrid Caven, moved 20 years ago to Paris, where she has been reincarnated as the eponymous heroine of a novel by her boyfriend, Jean-Jacques Shuhl, a book that won the 2000 Prix Goncourt. The techno scene, I was told, is not what it was just a few years ago. What everyone is obsessed with now, a writer friend explained, is not the latest party drug but real estate.
I did come across, in the upscale neighborhood of Charlottenburg, a pair of leather queens out grocery shopping in their lederhosen. But that was about the cheeriest demonstration I met of Berlin style. Yes, there were scores of good-looking jailbait-type boys in much-touted Mitte. Once Berlin's Jewish district, Mitte now looks a lot like New York's Lower East Side, which was once New York's Jewish district. As one might imagine, the boys were dressed in the slacker uniform of low-waisted trousers and polyester seventies shirts. There were plenty of pretty girls, too, wearing doorknocker ornaments suspended from their nasal septa and weird comb-over hairstyles that seemed to have been inspired by the sunburned drifters in Richard Avedon's In the American West. They all looked as if they'd come from art central casting, which makes a certain kind of sense, since Berlin is what some call the new artistic hotbed of Europe—350 galleries (it should be noted that the charge was led by Max Hetzler, the respected Cologne dealer, who decamped to Berlin as early as 1994) and as many as 4,000 artists.
The "strong youth culture and chaotic, almost raw feeling" that I had been promised by Hedi Slimane, the designer of Dior's wildly successful men's-wear lines, eluded me. That is not to say I wasn't captivated by the city. There was the light, for starters, unexpectedly lambent, a moody softness that anyone with a whit of geographical knowledge could tell you is a result of the region's many rivers and lakes. People call Berlin an ugly city, with none of the appeal of, say, Prague, that theme park of the Baroque. But I loved it. I loved the sturdy dignity of those buildings, Neoclassical and Baroque, that somehow survived the war. I loved the concentration of substantial middle-class architecture from the early 20th century—Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, bosomy, balconied buildings ornamented with swags of stucco schlag. I loved even the ugly postwar boxes put up for the miserable masses during the days of the GDR. They reminded me of the projects in New York.
I loved the way the place shoulders aside what you thought you knew about it, so urgent is the pressure to get on with reinvention. This is not an easy quality to pin down, but it is most palpable in Potsdamer Platz, an area that by the end of the 1980's was, as journalist Barbara Sichtermann wrote, "an open wound."
In a sense Berlin has become the architectural equivalent of one of those cinematic behemoths that stagger under the weight of their stars. To name just some of the contemporary projects, there is Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum, which 340,000 people visited before any exhibitions opened purely to see the building; the office and retail complex at Potsdamer Platz, designed, with what you could hardly call consensus, by Arata Isozaki, Renzo Piano, José Rafael Moneo, and Helmut Jahn; Christian de Portzamparc's French Embassy; Jean Nouvel's Galeries Lafayette; Norman Foster's Reichstag, one of the few works of architecture I can think of that people line up to see.
My own favorite buildings in Berlin are Karl Friedrich Schinkel's war memorial, which, unlike so many so-called memorials, rescues the act of public grieving from the clutches of emotional kitsch, and the Pergamon Museum, whose famous Babylonian riches represent the long view on the sublime.
But I would happily have extended my time in this city just to idle in the sixth-floor food hall of the Kaufhaus des Westens (universally known as KaDeWe),the vast department store near the Kurfürstendamm, where an inadvertent genius of design has placed the bratwurst department alongside the candy department, and where you can find porcelain from houses that make patterns dating back some 300 years. I would like to explore the underground clubs that open and close monthly, mutating through mayfly life spans, and, I assume, producing some of the "chaotic energy" Slimane spoke of. I would like to spend more time in the celebrated zoo, where, on the afternoon of Pentecost Monday, I came upon a male camel laboriously attempting to copulate with a female, who made it plain that she was having the dromedary version of a headache.
I would haunt the city's antiquarian bookstores and the design stores at Savignyplatz. And I would linger at the Hamburger Bahnhof, the contemporary-art museum located in a converted railroad station where I sat briefly one afternoon in a darkened gallery, as an old-fashioned movie projector beamed Green Ray, the English artist Tacita Dean's painterly, and eerily evanescent, elapsed-time record of a sunset over a darkening sea.
And I would take every meal at Mario's, an art dealers' hangout in Charlottenburg that does not appear in any guide. Why this restaurant, where the owner is Neapolitan and the cooking Venetian, should be virtually empty during the course of my visit is anyone's guess. Blame the World Cup. It certainly was not the delicate beef fillet, the slivered disks of lightly dressed beets, the perfect artichoke, the veal cooked with a simplicity that never fails to persuade me that the Italians have it all over the French when it comes to food.
There are, however, things about the Germans that simply cannot be explained. After my visit, Mario's unaccountably became a hybrid restaurant, Sab Thai & Mario's Pasta Bar, serving pad thai as well as vitello tonnato.
In Tokyo such a collision would be unlikely to occur. If it did, it would resemble less an unfortunate accident than a deliberate conjunction, haphazard maybe, but somehow correct. Perhaps that's because, as Koji Yoshida, an art curator, once said to me, "In Japan, there's a level of gamesmanship to style—Gucci mixed with Hysteric Glamour mixed with Michael Jackson T-shirts mixed with something from haute couture." That gamesmanship gets played out most richly in fashion—with its welter of references, symbols and signs, its curious codes of behavior—in a theater whose changeable backdrop is Tokyo's many stores. You can see it among the eager shoppers at Cabane de Zucca, Akira Onozuka's store, pawing through denim dojo jackets; or at Bapexclusive, where limited-edition T-shirts are shown under glass; or any of Issey Miyake's seven stores, which function like laboratories for Mr. Miyake's famous experiments in fabric; or at Under Cover, an Aoyama shop run by Jun Takahashi, the brilliant protégé of Rei Kawakubo. "Illusion of Haze" is the name of a recent collection, and in the windows are displayed—folded and stacked with the fetishistic quality of a Joseph Beuys installation—examples of all the clothes Mr. Takahashi has ever designed.
"One great thing about fashion in Japan is that it always reveals something about the culture," Masahiro Nakagawa told me one evening. A former artist from Shiga prefecture, Nakagawa now runs a clothing store and bar in a Shibuya hole-in-the-wall. His clothes are sold under the awkwardly named label 20471120 (a date when "something important will happen," he says) and are made from recycled garments aggressively dissected and then restitched. At the New York art space P.S. 1, Nakagawa and his brother Tatsuya, or Tattoo, once performed an installation in which people brought in an old garment, related a story about it, and returned a week later to find it transformed into something else altogether: jackets into trousers, suits into dresses, jeans turned upside down.
"With fashion, there is a glimpse into what is otherwise still a very closed society," Nakagawa continued. Reminded that the same might be said of fashion in a lot of places, Mr. Nakagawa laughed. "Yes," he said. "But in other cultures you could ask a direct question and hope for a response. You could do that in Japan, too, but getting the answer might take a very long time."
Womb A hep bar and dance club. 2-16 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya; 81-3/5459-0039
Laforet Hargiuku Multi-floor department store stocked with young designer labels; hub of the "cutie" trend. 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3475-0411
10 Corso Como Comme des Garçons Carries Junya Watanabe, Tricot, Azzedine Alaia, and Balenciaga. 5-3 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/5774-7800
Cabane de Zucca Designs by Akira Onozuka on three floors of a sleek space that includes a gallery and café. 3-13-14 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/3470-7488
Bapexclusive Home of the popular Bathing Ape label. Steel fixtures, white tiles, and limited-edition T-shirts. 1F Nowhere Building, 5-5-8 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/5464-0335
A-Poc Designs by Issey Miyake cut from a single piece of cloth. 3-17-14 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/5770-4500
Under Cover Rei Kawakubo protégé Jun Takahashi's flagship store. Unimat Bleu Cinq Point #C, 5-3-18 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/3407-1232
Colette Paris's best selection of the latest in fashion and design. 213 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/55-35-33-90
Favela Chic Brazilian restaurant and bar that gets going after midnight. 7 Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple, 11th Arr.; 33-1/40-21-38-14
Benneton Elegant stationery from the famous graveur. 75 Blvd. Malesherbes, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/43-87-57-39
Fromagerie Barthélemy A cheese shop in Paris noted for its Fontainebleau, Camembert, and Brie. 51 Rue de Grenelle, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-22-82-24
L'Insolite Gay club that spins pop and dance music. Men only. 33 Rue des Petits-Champs, First Arr.; 33-1/40-20-98-59
Pierre Hermé Swoon-worthy macaroons and pastries that rival Ladurée's. 72 Rue Bonaparte, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/43-54-47-77
JAR Gems for le tout Paris. 7 Place Vendôme, First Arr.; 33-1/42-96-33-66
Tokyoïte American retro chic and vintage Adidas. 12 Rue du Roi-de-Sicile, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/42-77-87-01
Astier de Villatte Provençal ceramics and glassware with a twist. 173 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/43-45-72-72
Le Voltaire Left Bank bistro. Dinner for two $120. 27 Quai Voltaire, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-61-17-49
Jewish Museum Berlin Designed by Daniel Libeskind, devoted to German-Jewish history. 9-14 Lindenstrasse; 49-30/3087-85681
Kaufhaus des Westens Berlin's best department store. 21-24 Tauentzienstrasse; 49-30/21210
Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary-art museum in a former train station. 50-51 Invalidenstrasse (Tiergarten); 49-30/397-8340
Pergamon Museum Named after the altar of Zeus and Athena. Museum Island (Mitte); 49-30/2090-5555
Sab Thai & Mario's Pasta Bar Thai and northern Italian cuisine. Dinner for two $60. 43 Leibnizstrasse (Charlottenburg); 49-30/324-3516
Cibo Matto Chic Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge. Dinner for two $56. 44 Rosenthaler Strasse (Mitte); 49-30/2838-5170
Adidas Originals Berlin Old-school Adidas for modern hipsters. 13-15 Münzstrasse; 49-30/2759-4381
Pan Asia Fusion fast food. Dinner for two $25. 38 Rosenthaler Strasse (Mitte); 49-30/2790-8811
Hans Peter Jochum Design Strictly 20th-century furniture. 41 Bleibtreustrasse; 49-30/882-1612