As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in awe of the street style in Tokyo. Whether cute, crazy or classic, the women of Tokyo were seemingly always dressed to impress. Naturally, I had to sample what seemed to be one of the city’s favourite pastimes, and dropped in on a number of Tokyo’s shopping districts…
First off was Harajuku, the shopping district famous the world over for its eccentric outfits; National Geographic calls it “the ground zero” of Japanese fashion. Quirky and cute stores line the constantly crowded streets, especially on Takeshita-Dori, the thoroughfare teenagers flock to. Keep an eye out for the teens in elaborate, cartoon-esque costumes.
Jizo Dori, Sugamo
This is ‘Grandma’s Harajuku’, so-called because it is where the elderly come to bargain. I didn’t do much shopping myself (the lucky red underwear didn’t do it for me!) but undertook plenty of eating at the street stalls and restaurants lining the busy lane. It was an interesting location for people watching, from the OAPs queuing up outside Koganji Temple, to the quiet old lady keeping an eye on her kimono stall from a spot on the steps.
This cat is everywhere, even more so than she was in China. Despite being a cartoon, Hello Kitty is a cultural icon, which meant I had to make a pit-stop at the flagship store in Ginza. Frying pans and toilet seat covers, champagne bottles and sofas: anything and everything is graced with the Hello Kitty image. Be warned: there are hefty price tags to match.
The Ginza is shopping central in this city. Time Out calls it the “centre of Tokyo elegance,” which is understandable when Chanel and Gucci rub shoulders with high-end Japanese department stores. Chuo Dori, the district’s main shopping street, becomes a pedestrian haven on weekends when it is closed to cars – Uniqlo opened its largest store in the world here last year.
My favourite finds were Ito-ya, where an entire nine floors are dedicated to stationery (hello, writer’s heaven); and Loft, an interesting outlet selling everything from stationary and furniture to fun Japanese fashion items and typically outlandish Japanese gifts. If, for example, you’re looking for a tie for your iPhone, Loft is the location for you.
One of Tokyo’s oldest flea markets (it’s been on the go for over 400 years), Setagaya Boroichi is held twice annually, from the 15th-16th of January and again on the same dates in December. This year it fell the day after one of Tokyo’s worst snowstorms, but the cold didn’t dampen the spirits of the sellers – or the thousands of shoppers.
It was here, on my last day in Tokyo, that I let my inner shopaholic loose, getting over-excited about antique china and wooden Kokeshi dolls. Finding the flea market is a little long winded as it’s not on the main metro line, but it is well worth the extra effort. My afternoon of bargaining ended with some hot fried gyoza – perfection!