Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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Motto Japan Fine Art Ceramics & Tableware

I haven’t posted on this blog for a LONG time, but today, I just wanted to mention a company I recently did some work with that I’m really excited about. I’ve been interested in Japanese crafts men and women ever since I arrived – be it sword-makers, fan-makers, metal workers or potters. This time it’s about the latter. There will be a new website launching at the beginning of October 2013 called Motto Japan which is to begin by offering never before available fine art ceramics and more everyday use tableware made by the skilled craftsmen and women of Japan. Later it may be expanded to include a wider range, but for now it’s to be focused on ornamental and practical pots, vases, plates, cups, teapots and a variety of other formats of glazed and unglazed clay, porcelain and the like for you table and/or collection. Anyone who’s been to Japan and browsed tableware items in the shops or eaten off of it in any of the amazing restaurants or ryokans over here will know what I’m talking about when I say it’s really wonderful stuff. The online store is currently warming up in preparation for the forthcoming launch by offering visitors the chance of winning one of three teapot and cups sets. It’s free to enter and even if you don’t win you can get free delivery for the first month, so do get over there and see what it’s all about and see if you can win yourself some of the cool ovenware on offer. http://www.mottojapan.com

 

niko and…

This brand might not be so new to those living in Tokyo, but recently niko and… is starting to come into its own as it finds its identity and finds a market for itself. Like so many other Japanese fashion and lifestyle companies such as BEAMS and MUJI, it combines lifestyle concept with fashion style in an attempt to create a complete lifestyle philosophy around which to build its range of products. Now, with more new stores, a series of TV adverts and an online shop, they’re set to become the next big thing. It’s more expensive than some comparable stores, but not overly so, and offers some great stuff in this year’s Autumn/Winter range, recently picked up by and featured in Monocle Magazine. Temperatures are dropping here in Tokyo and I’m thinking of moving house soon, so I can see me buying quite a lot of stuff from the Niko and… online shop in the coming weeks and months. If you’re able to do so, take a look in one of their stores in either Ikebukuro’s Parco, Ebisu, or Kita-senju’s Marui.

 

Biscuit in Sendagi/Yanaka

I was so impressed with Sendagi I was planning on moving there having visited the area just last month for the first time. Actually, I’d been to Yanesen (nickname for the area comprising Yanaka, Nezu, Sendagi) many times before but only to Nezu and Yanaka for some reason. On the walk into Sendagi from Yanaka Cemetery I went down Dangozaka, a small street on a gentle slope that ends at a crossing in front of Sendagi station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. There are lots of interesting shops and even some good-looking drinking places and cafes but about half-way down was Biscuit, a shop which is owned by Japanese artist Masami Takewaki. The address is officially Yanaka but I feel like it’s more a part of Sendagi based on its proximity to Sendagi station and I actually made the mistake of thinking it had a Sendagi address when I started writing this post, hence the strange title. What you see above is the postcard designed by the artist herself. What’s interesting is the ‘O’ in house is stuck on as a sticker over the printed background.

The shop is interesting, although mostly geared towards women with its retro dolls and accessories, but it also has some good stuff for your house and some (mostly German) retro board games and even stationery. There’s wrapping paper and cards in there literally dating from as far back as the sixties and maybe even further. One of the reasons I liked it is because I’ve never seen a shop that sells these kinds of products before, and the rest of the neighbourhood is worth visiting too so if you’re out for a walk I recommend checking it out.

 

New Loft Store Opens In Yurakucho

Loft Yurakucho

As of tomorrow, Loft will be opening their doors to customers in their giant new store right next to MUJI in Yurakucho, central Tokyo. If you’re not familiar with Loft, let me direct you to their website – but if you can’t be bothered to click, they’re basically a designer homewares and stationery store. I usually go there to get my diaries and planners that I usually end up not using. I’m going to try to pick up one of the new Harris Tweed Hobonichi Techo if I can beat the crowds.

Loft Yurakucho

 

MUJI Flagship Yurakucho New Interior

loft-muji-1

Two MUJI posts in a row? Bear with me, this is important. Well, the interior is not completely new but it’s a major refurbishment with a lot of new sections/features. As well as the entrance area on the first floor being completely changed, and the layout altered, there’s also a new MUJI Megane (glasses/spectacles) department, Atelier MUJI has been updated, MUJI house has been completely changed plus loads of other cosmetic changes. All this via MUJI’s Facebook page. I’ll be there tomorrow to take a look and to see the new Loft store in the same building. That opens tomorrow (1st September).

loft-muji-2

loft-muji-3

 

Tokyobike Gallery

Tokyo Bike Gallery

I finally made it down to Tokyo Bike Gallery in Nezu/Yanaka, Tokyo this past Tuesday and it was a really worthwhile trip. The place is pretty small and really serves as a showroom for their current line of bikes which can be found on their site here. You can also rent bikes for the day, although not their sporty range, only the town cruisers. When I entered the shop a young guy wearing a hat came out from the back and I asked him if I could take some photos and he said it was OK.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

As you can see from the photo, there are bike frames and hanging on the walls with some built bikes on display. There are wheels hanging from the ceiling and you can pick and choose what components you want on your bike, but you will pay more. The pre-built standard colourways currently in stock work out cheaper. They also sell accessories such as bike locks, pedals, clips, keychains, etc.

After I had finished snapping the interior I asked if I could rent a bike, but it wasn’t possible to rent the kind of bike I wanted to try out, so the guy let me test-ride a couple of versions for 10 mins each. It suffices to say I fell in love immediately flying down the narrow streets and downhills towards Ueno. That was until I got a wave of paranoia as I approached a stern-faced policeman outside a Koban and it was then I decided to stop and take a picture for this blog.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

When I came back to the store the guy was waiting for me with a set-up bike from the other range. This one has gears and is quite a bit more expensive. The geared version was great, but the bike itself doesn’t look as cool, and it’s expensive. The simplicity and style of the first bike appealed to me more.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

Anyway, I’m going to pick up my new bike next week from Tokyo Bike HQ. People in the UK and Australia you can get these bikes at home too. I’m still thinking about which colour to get though. Red, purple or black?

 

Wakadaisho Vintage Skate Shop

Wakadaisho Vintage Skate Shop

In Shimoktazawa (where else?) you can find a store called Wakadaisho, stocking retro skate clothing and accessories. They even have late 1980’s Vision Street Wear sneakers and Santa Cruz screaming hand T-shirts. Powell Perelta’s great logo T’s are also on offer, so for me, this is a must visit on my next trip to Shimokitazawa.

Via CNNGo.

 

Porter Bags

Porter Bags

Porter is a brand of luggage, bags, wallets and accessories from Yoshida Co. in Tokyo. People familiar with them will know that they are renowned for their high quality and high price, but in this introduction to the brand, I need to stress just how incredibly high the quality of these bags actually is. Recently, with no intention of actually buying one, I’ve been stopping to admire them at every opportunity. I found a huge range at Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro (Sunshine City), and a small traditional bag shop in Ameyayoko-cho packed full of Porter goodness, and every time I see them I go and check them out. The problem is, with such a huge variety and at such a high price, it’s difficult to choose a particular bag. Do you get a Boston bag, which looks amazing, but you couldn’t fit your 15-inch laptop in, or do you get the messenger, which is extremely practical but also extremely boring, or do you go for a rucksack, which is fit for almost any use but seems to lack the brand’s trademark sophistication? This is the main factor behind my inability to buy one. However, I actually found a new line of Porter bags in Ikebukuro’s Parco with anodised blue zips against their trademark graphite which just might have narrowed it down for me. If you want a decent-sized item from the range get at least ¥20,000 at the ready (£127, $210), and put aside at least three hours for the selection process – this brand is prolific.

Yoshida Co. are also the company behind Luggage Label, a similar kind of brand with different motifs and a more military feel. Porter has a flagship store in Harajuku, behind Murasaki Sports, opposite the mouth of Takeshita Dori, called Head Porter. You’ll find the cheapest ones at Tokyu Hands Ikebukuro, and potential buyers should skip the Ameyoko store as everything is overpriced, the display is cluttered and the service is icey cold.

The bag in the pic at the top of this post is an Original Fake x Porter Boston bag (drool).

 

UT Harajuku

UT Harajuku

Uniqlo’s ever popular T-shirt project UT has been going for a while now, but as a recent addition to their plethora of usual outlets, they’ve added this dedicated UT store in Harajuku. It was opened last April, but this is the first time I’ve been there. With temperatures the way they are at the moment I wasn’t planning on buying any T-shirts, I just wanted to check out the store itself. The shop consists of a few racks of T’s and other items, surrounded by a wall of vending machines, above which you have the ticker-tape displays with lines of text making laps of the room as you shop. The vending machines contain the bulk of the T-shirt stock. You choose the one you want, and then out pops the T in the trademark tube-like plastic packaging. I get the feeling they will need an iron once you get the back to your house though. Generally I like the store, so I’ll be back in the spring to pick up some from the manga series.

 

Tokyo People Volume 1: Shop Shouters

This is the first in a series of ‘programmes’ on Tokyo Story that will feature at irregular intervals from now on. The series will explore the many different types of people who live in the city. This, in addition to the series also recently started on Japanese Beer!

Tokyo People Volume 1: Shop Shouters

So, the first character I’ll introduce is a guy (or girl) who advertises their shop by standing outside and shouting about it. I’ve decided to call this person a Shop Shouter. Their shifts can last a long time, but they continue to yell at the passing public in the hope of drawing attention to a special offer, or campaign as the Japanese call it – or just to the shop in general, and it works. After checking out this guy, I clocked a pair of newly released Nike Terminator hi-tops and had to take a closer inspection! I’ve seen Shop Shouters in almost every major shopping district in Tokyo. The shouters of Harajuku are particularly noteworthy as they tend to wear traditional Japanese Happi (I guess you’d call it a smock, or like a loose jacket of thin material) with vibrant designs. These guys are professionals. Sometimes they have megaphones, sometimes not, but they compete to outdo each other, welcoming customers before they’ve even entered the shop with drawn-out screams of irasshaimase (welcome). Sometimes, if it’s late in the day, their voices are completely worn out and it’s painful to hear them trying to continue on shouting. If you look, the guys in this picture are balancing on stepladders with impressive stability.

Intelligence: 4
Stamina: 7
Speed: 5
Resistance to Alcohol: 4
Sleeping Ability: 4
Combat Skill: 3
Voice Volume: 8
Magic Points: 2
Gold: 2

 

Little Old Bookstore of Kuramae

Little Old Bookstore of Kuramae

I’ve been walking past this place for months and I wanted to take a picture of it. It’s a very small, old bookstore, based in one of the oldest buildings in the area. An old woman clad in kimono tends the shop which is open onto the street. A small oil burner keeps the place from getting too cold in the winter months and if you do go inside you can find piles of books everywhere you look. They all look old or used, and in places the shelves have broken and the rows have collapsed down on one another. I can’t read the books at all, but I like going in and looking at the retro covers with the funny typefaces – much to the bemusement of the woman who watches me from the back. I should buy a load just to use to decorate my bookshelves, you can get one for as cheap as ¥100 (about 70p or $1).

 

H&M Report

H&M Report

I finally managed to get inside the new H&M store in Tokyo’s famous, upmarket shopping district of Ginza. It was a weekday evening, so I was confident I would be able to get in. However, come on a Saturday and you will still queue 150 metres down the street. No exaggeration.

Despite the fact that there was no queue, the shop was packed. The first thing to strike me was the floor plan near the elevator. Three floors of women’s clothes, with only the basement dedicated to men. I was on the ground floor (which is known as the 1st floor in Japan), and had already seen the women’s clothes on display when I came in, and I was already thinking that it was, as I feared, going to be very different from H&M in the UK. I already expected this to be the case based on my shopping experiences in H&M stores in Barcelona and Lille, both of which were quite different from each other. I went down to the basement level and looked through the racks for a bit, but nothing really jumped out at me. H&M in the UK is definitely more adventurous than it’s Japanese counterpart. In Japan, H&M is more like Gap. No bright colours, no design prints, and a muted palette. Most of the stuff is either black or grey, and verges on smart-casual. Last time I was in the UK H&M stores, it was more like a cyberpunk 80’s revival. The two couldn’t have been more different. Zannen.

 

Hello Kitty Bling On Sale at Shibuya 109

Hello Kitty Bling

Here you can see the jewel-encrusted items on sale at Shibuya 109, a large department store consisting of several floors of fashion and accessories aimed at ‘Shibuya boys’ and ‘Shibuya girls’. I can’t remember how much the bike cost, but it was A LOT. Ker-ching.

 

H&M in Ginza

H&M in Ginza

I know H&M have been in Tokyo for over a week now, but I didn’t bother to post about it before, because I hadn’t been there to get any pics at that time. However, I was in Ginza on Saturday, and got a shot of the frontage. The crazy thing is, they’re still queuing up the street to get in. Police and security are controlling the crowds. Maybe the Rei Kawakubo gear dropped already?