Tokyo, most folk attest, is expensive. Some claim prohibitively so, and while Japan’s capital does have something of a rep for hiking up the prices on imported brand goods this might be why it seems there are so many oddly dressed people in the city at times.
They swing all ways: gray flannel types with pallid ties and ill conceived brown-with-black ensembles, as well as tired students decked out primarily in jeans, with creases ironed over the front pockets.
There are others too, of course, those who pull off their chosen look masterfully, a look they’ll parade on their very next shopping trip. From personal experience, however, I wanted to see if shopping can be achieved on a reasonable budget in Tokyo, my own desired look: the British gentleman.
The first stop was not a vintage store at all, but Uniqlo, which along with H&M is quickly becoming fashionable as the place to buy something cheap and inexpensive to chicly go with the very expensive item you’ll wear over the top of it. The theory is that it’s better to stick with dark items so that iffy stitching or buttons won’t draw unwanted attention to themselves. With black T-shirt (¥500) and a black belt (¥1,000) bagged, it was time to head to Look (ルック in the local parlance) Street in Koenji; one of Tokyo’s better havens of cool vintage and thrift boutiques.
First call was Lady Feoh, a tiny enclave for the ball-dress inclined madam, which drew attention to itself via the item displayed in the front window: a grand-glam-jet-black-power-plastic dress. Next was Kiki: Cowboy day-glow classics, and Soul Box, beautiful jewelry and items with a decidedly French accent.
For the uninitiated there are a couple of things to mention: Vintage shopping is not about the buying, it’s about the browsing in Japan. Secondly in the changing rooms here in Japan, you’ll often hear some of the best music you’ve ever heard. Thirdly, finding what you’re looking for is hard, like trying to discover the girl of your dreams in, say, your hometown shopping center. She is there, but like art, you have to search deep.
Heading towards Koenji Station the staff get prettier and the clothes less aged: Green Dor – a kind of Ann of Green Gables apology – is the best of the bunch. If I were a girl I’d bring my knitting and spend the day. Next, at Gloveeex I spent some serious money: black Levis A-types, for ￥6,000, before leaving for Harajuku: tourist central in some ways, but also home of some seriously impressive shops. Thrift Store Chicago has an excellent supply if you don’t mind the crush, with goods sorted by brand: you have your secondhand Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, your Levis, and North Face in itemized sections and. We Go, just down the hill operates a chain of stores that offer a mixture of the old and the new.
These stores behind me, shopping done and bags in hand I headed home – until the next day when I paraded my newly acquired jeans and T-shirt like the rest, and like the rest I pretend not to notice anyone else. We all kept checking ourselves in the glass-fronted café and store windows though, the beautiful girls and boys within staring out into space eternal. Their drinks probably cost more than my T-shirt.
Decent Discount / Vintage Shopping Spots:
Shin Koenji / Koenji
Lady Feoh: Koenji Minami 3-23-20 Look
(ルック) Shopping Street (商店街)
Kiki: On Look Street close to the above, on the right.
Soul Box: Koenji Minami 2-48-7
web: www.soul-box.com (in Japanese, but owner speaks English)
Green Dor: On Look Street in the arcade leading up to Koenji station. Small (green) entrance on your left.
Gloveeex: Before the above, on your left.
Thrift Store Chicago: 31-21 Olympia Annex Bldg, B1F, Jingumaewww.chicago.co.jp