If you shop like I do, then you live for those days when your arms are stacked with plastic handles. Each one dangling a rectangular pouch that’s filled with tissue or more plastic and at the center of all that expert packaging is pure treasure. The biggest sack can rest on your shoulder but most of them have slipped down. Like a weight lifter who’s paused her curl workout, your elbows are bent at 45 degrees while the weight of the handles are pressing red, wounded zebra stripes down your forearms. Even your purse is stuffed, but still you trudge on, swinging the weight of those precious bags. Around the next corner your eyes widen as you gaze at the cleverly styled mannequin behind which is the most perfect skirt hanging on the rack. Despite the reality that there’s no room remaining on either your arms you demand, “Oh! Let’s shop there!”
My first love and reigning Supreme Queen Shopping District is Harajuku. It’s all about that teenage feeling when you behold the entry arch of Takeshita Street. As the train rolls into the station and chimes, “The next station is Harajukuuu, Harajukuuu”, it’s impossible not to get giddy with a little clap and wiggle. Locals and tourists flock to her crowded blocks no matter the day of the week. It’s here, where young men and women come to show off their freshest fashion offerings, giving a look into what’s trendy on Tokyo streets.
Vivienne Westwood Vintage by Closet Child – Turn right after the Santa Monica Crepe shop, just off Takeshita Dori and this designer gem is ahead on the left. With a huge selection of collections from her 70’s fame all the way up to last year, you can sift through the goodies and find a piece from your favorite season. The shop is well laid out and even sometimes arranged by color. Quirky, and girly punk, I adore Vivienne Westwood whose Saturn scepter is my favorite of any designer logo. Her accessories are loud, her frocks are feminine and this shop is a thrifty way to get your paws on a designer bag for a fraction of what you’d pay at her flagship store only a few blocks away at Laforet.
Dog – After you’ve come out on the other side of Takeshita Dori, cross Meiji Street and veer left towards the Sebastian Matsuda (6% Doki Doki) clock. Down a little avenue you’ll see a sign for the basement level refashion icon, Dog. Designers at Dog create one of a kind pieces, pairing them with loud techno music which will take you back to your rave days. Be prepared for lots of numbers on the price tag but rest assured that no one will be wearing the same camo print and leather fringed, hand altered pleated mini-skirt. When Lady Gaga is in Tokyo, Dog is where she shops. Follow them on Facebook to see what’s new. Instagram @DOGHJK
HyperCore – Nearly right next door to ‘Dog’ is a small boutique called, HyperCore, manned by the creator himself. His designs feature an adorably evil and sexy character who appears on shirts, mugs, stickers, jewelery and more. Every time I visit HyperCore he has new designs and new items. Last time I found a shirt with zombies and this time it was a top with a kiwi fruit, both are equally awesome in their own special way. The shirts that are tattered and distressed by hand are pieces of art themselves. We’ve found gifts for friends and even my husband who’s difficult to shop for in Harajuku. Support small run designers and bring home something unforgettable. Take a peek at his online shop.
Candy Stripper – To the Northeast side of Omotesando on Cat Street you’ll find sweet brand, Candy Stripper. Admittedly, it takes a special kind of fashionista to pull off this look but Candy Stripper carries the type of cute that’s a little off the beaten kawaii path. Even those who can’t deck themselves out in pink and ruffles will find something to make you smile. If you’re lucky enough to be in town during their famous “flea market” just head down to the lower level of the shop to find racks of affordably priced and expertly curated second hand fashion.
Our next neighborhood is Shimokitazawa. This hip and charming enclave is known for vintage boho fabulousness. It’s where to go to find unique and amazing pieces which allow for a suave kind of expression. With the average age range of shoppers slightly higher than Harajuku, Shimokitazawa attracts a mid-twenties to mid-thirty’s crowd. Shimokita’s streets are a sort of small, circular maze, making it easy to wander and discover amazing threads.
Little Trip to Heaven – A mix of old and new, Little Trip to Heaven (2 Chome-26-14 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan) is chock-full of outfits and accessories from every era. With racks and hangers that reach the ceiling, each inch of this boutique is covered in delicious dresses, coats and shoes. Some of my favorites were the gorgeously huge animal prints on 70’s satin jumpsuits and the drop dead selection of soft, leather motorcycle jackets. Since I’m a sucker for all things embroidered, I came home with this lovely cotton dress which isn’t vintage but feels amazing under the Hawaiian sun. That quilted Baron Samedi brooch was scored at Candy Stripper’s flea market.
Broken Doll – Owned, created and operated by the J-Rock band of the same name, Broken Doll gives you an opportunity to meet and show your support for these Kitazawa darlings. They’ve even caught the attention of pop icon Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu. Located upstairs in a larger building, look for the Broken Doll sign on the wall. You can find a map to the shop on their webpage. In case you don’t plan on going to Tokyo soon, they also have an English friendly web shop. A bit kawaii and a bit kowai, everything is hand made or curated by band members. Their signature items are the re-designed gas masks sometimes steampunk and sometimes with bows. When the band is on tour, there’s no one to man the shop so be sure to keep an eye on their social media for show dates. If you want to learn more about who Broken Doll is, visit their Facebook page for videos and pictures.
Haight & Ashbury – Named for the famed hippie crossroads of San Francisco, Haight & Ashbury leaves nothing to be desired for the vintage connoisseur. The quality of the clothes stocked in this second floor shop are top notch. As if you’ve stepped into another decade, everything looks fresh off the shelves. Come at least to admire how well preserved the 80’s t-shirts and 60’s linen are. I walked around asking myself, “Where do they find these wonderful things?”. Pristine trends from bygone brands, true flower child sundresses, rhinestone granny glasses and sumptuous sock-hop silk scarves, it’s all here. Almost like a museum, Haight & Ashbury will take you back from whence you came.
Grown Up Tabatha – Remember that old T.V. show, Bewitched? This hat shop’s name is a nod to the child witch of that old sitcom. If you check out the Wikipedia page for Shimokitazawa then you’ll see a picture of Grown Up Tabatha featured there. I love, love, love hats and this shop is a must see if you’re in Shimokitazawa. The prices range from high to low but in my opinion, the perfect hat is priceless. (I’m not proud of the time I yelled at a flight attendant for attempting to put a coveted hat in the overhead compartment.) After trying on all the lovely chapeaus the shop offered, I settled on a brown felt number with an embossed skull. The craftsmanship is unparalleled and worth every penny. Something for him, her and the little witches too.
Style in Tokyo is special because it’s always thoughtfully put together and fashion forward. Well composed outfits are evidence that people have put forth effort to look their best each time they step outside. This sort of mentality leads to unparalleled shopping and brave trends. There are plenty of jaw dropping clothing collections that didn’t make the list but if you and I were in Tokyo together, these would be our must-shop destinations. I’ll be back to Tokyo in September and I’d love it if you would share in the comments some of your favorite places!