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What in the world:
Za Koenji Public Theatre, Tokyo, Japan
Why go: Bright with neon wattage and bustling with Lady Gagalike Harajuku fashionistas, Tokyo is not known for subtlety. But the aesthetic is less flashy and more fanciful on the outskirts of Suginami City, where rising Japanese architect Yoko Ito settled on an otherworldly, craterlike look for his Za Koenji Public Theatre. "I tried to create an impression of an enclosed tent cabin, or playhouse," Ito says. A thin, sheeny skin of black steel stretched over a scalloped silhouette, the 36,000-square-foot construction certainly dwarfs low-lying neighbors, but its crenated sloped roof and dotty apertures hint at its role as an outlet for community performing arts. Ito designed three stories and three basements to comply with stringent height restrictions. One concert hall is flat and flexible; another, created specifically for rehearsals of the Awa Odori dance festival, has a revolutionary concrete floor that bounces back from the liveliest cartwheels and steps.
Where to stay: In 2007, the Peninsula Tokyo became the city's first freestanding new-build hotel in more than a decade. Earthy wooden fixtures and rough stone elements belie rooms' high-tech features (doubles, $670$890).
Where to eat: At Kushibeh, much yakitori is served and the walls are plastered in sake labels (Koenji-Minami 4-6-1, Asahi Bldg. BIF; 81-3-3318-7756; entrées, $9$27).