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Each IJC columnist loves Japanese culture and knows different facets in detail.
You’ll find original articles written with unique style and vision.

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  • Where luxury and kaleidoscopic subcultures collide: Isetan Dept Store's "Tokyo Kaiho-ku"

    Mar 3, 2015

    Where in Tokyo can you find the most kaleidoscopic view of the city’s myriad street cultures? Does such a playground of whimsy, rough extremes, fantasy and fashion from Harajuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara exist in one easy-to-find spot? It sure does, and it may be in a place you’d least expect it to be. It’s time to put down the hiking boots and step inside the comfort of Isetan Deptartment Store in Shinjuku. This is where you’ll find the “Tokyo Kaiho-ku”. Frilly good-luck pop-up shop "Pink House" with uber-idols "Momo Iro Clover-z" In Tokyo, each of it’s 23 wards are called -ku. The Japanese word for “letting loose” is kaiho. So this Kaiho-ku is literally a place for “all-things-go”. Every week or two weeks, the area is taken down and redecorated, opening under a new theme. While there are no official rules to who or what can take over the space, the underlying current runs on subcultures, artistic fashion and experimental ideas.     Boudoir for acute grrrls and Nero Some of the pop-ups are more obvious, such as the girlie “All Pastel” or Lolita-themed ones. But for the duration of the shop, you can find both shoppers and sales staff dressed head-to-toe for their parts, like a Tokyo Disneyland gift shop from a parallel universe. “Where can I find cool kids dressed up?” is a common question, and if your timing is right it could be right here. The wild world of Gustav Higuchi Yuko    Experiments by Written by...by Some popular ones include the twisted “Alternative Wedding” pop-up, with pretty dresses of tulle and lace by local brands in very DIY or a dark color palette. There have also been ones that comment on social issues, like “unisex” or  “gender-less” clothing that has become popular with Tokyo subcultured fashion. This means lots of skirts and dresses made for men, by designer Mikio Sakabe who is spearheading the movement. I even got to make my own pop-up store here, proving that they are certainly willing to take risks with their curators (*wink*).     Some challenging ideas in Un-gender by Mikio Sakabe Some of the themes are more esoteric, such as the recent pop-up based on Jellyfish, with a selection of designs from local brands. Fluffy, squishy, purple and pink goods in ombre decorated the space, which was curated by stylist Ijima Kyoko (known for her work with rival for weird with Lady Gaga, J-Pop idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu). The "New Bride" pop-up You may forget that this is still Japan’s most luxurious and famous Department Store, Isetan. True, you can find all other famous brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada just a few steps away. So you might think that this Tokyo Kaiho-ku store would be pushed to some dark corner, but on the contrary, it’s right at the foot of the escalators on the 2nd floor (if lost, ask for “Tokyo Kaiho-ku”). The entire floor was remodeled recently, and it is all decorated like a modern playground. Don’t forget to stop by the champagne bar next door afterward, before stepping back out into the crowded Shinjuku bustle. You can also check for what store is on or coming up next before you venture there here. Keisuke Kanda It's a knitted world we live in.... Knit Vol 2   This author at the Kansai Yamamoto pop-up  Open: 10:30 to 20:00 (8pm) Mon-Sun. Check the website below for some infrequent closures Isetan Online (for visitors)

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • HIGASHIYA man – Discover a world of wagashi, one bite at a time

    Mar 2, 2015

    The unknown, the unexpected and the peculiar – new experiences in unfamiliar surroundings forge some of our most memorable travel stories. Within the vast and varied world of Japanese cuisine, traditional sweets (wagashi) are built upon the subtle combination of distinctive ingredients, many of which remain uncommon – if not unknown – outside of Japan. Tucked into the side of an orange-gold tiled building at the top end of Omotesando, HIGASHIYA man is a shop with a counter’s worth of Japanese sweets – all the better for visitors who like to try “one of everything”. When creating HIGASHIYA man, Japanese sweets maker HIGASHIYA sought out an unlikely location in Minami Aoyama with the hope of bringing the charm of a neighbourhood sweets shop to an area dominated by high end fashion and luxury retailers. Taking its name from the humble manju – sweet buns with a filling of smooth bean paste – the shop’s sleek interior and quality goods have seen it settle in comfortably alongside the likes of neighbouring fashion labels Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons. Each and every morning, several varieties of manju are steamed in preparation for the store’s first customer, who often arrive as the doors open at 11am, if not a touch earlier. Rain or shine, you’re likely to encounter warm manju being passed out the window from morning through night, along with seasonal treats that are ready to be eaten as you stroll along Aoyama’s slender streets. The winter menu includes an original take on shiruko, pairing the velvety red bean soup with a wafer stick and fleck of butter, while in the warmer months you can enjoy ice monaka – vanilla ice-cream and red bean paste sandwiched between two crisp wafers. Aside from the takeaway window, the store also boasts a rotating selection of namagashi – small batch delicacies delivered fresh each morning – along with immaculately packed boxes of one-bite snacks such as brandy jelly wrapped in a ball of savoury mashed chestnut. Whether you’re familiar with Japanese sweets or are sampling mochi (rice cake), anko (red bean paste), yomogi (Japanese mugwort) and other ingredients for the first time, the store’s original creations carry a balance of flavour, texture and beauty that defies their petite appearance. And so when hunting for presents or picnic treats, HIGASHIYA man is a must-visit destination for wagashi both familiar and peculiar, simple and extravagant. <Information> -HIGASHIYA man -Where: 3-17-14 Minami-Aoyama, Minato -When: 11am-7pm -Website: http://www.higashiya.com/shop/man/

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    by Ben Davis
    Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer. He currently works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, an online magazine that shares the things locals love.
  • Do you shop-by-color? Shop at IROYA, the color store.

    Feb 19, 2015

    When you're dropping dollars, it's rewarding to shop with purpose. And that's why I love concept shops. These stores stick to themes, making the experience a memorable one. Lucky for us Tokyo is full of 'em! The latest one that I can't stay away from is IROYA, which takes a single color and gives it every role to play in the show. Since opening in March of 2014, every month (from the 1st) has seen the shop shrouded in a different, single color (the month I visited for this post it was black). This is presented in the varied mix of products sold there, from clothing and accessories to household doodads- and all of them in the shade of that month's color. Many of the products are locally sourced and made, especially when it comes to the accessories. Some of the quirky, underground brands sold here have amassed followings, and each month they play the game by releasing items that match that month's color. Especially watch out for Rotari Parker, with her fossilized pretzel and popcorn accessories (3,000yen for a brooch), and rings by RGB laboratory (2,500yen) in a manga-style Japanese alphabet. I picked up two that spell out "d'oh!", but you can ask the sales staff and they'll help you make your own comical combinations. The idea for IROYA (which means literally, "the color store") was born from a man who was a buyer for a used clothing shop and felt a stronger affinity to the colors than just the items themselves. In the IROYA store, you'll find a mix of both new and vintage items, like band shirts, new designs from young overseas brands, or even archives from top-tier luxury houses. It's always a surprise to see what's going to be on the racks. If you're looking for something modern-traditional, there's a lot of that too. Leather embossed coin purses and chic cardigans covered in Japanese prints are available, and in the past they've had scissors, knives and hand-dyed scarves on the shelves too. In the future, we may see more than solid color themes, with hints of prints like leopard, stripes, or two-color on the horizon. If you're in Tokyo, it would be worth it to check it out every month to see the new product mix. Even if you're out of town they run an efficient online shop, with items separated by color.   The sales staff get into the dress code every day, too DIRECTIONS: You'll find IROYA on cat street, the diagonal road that connects Omotesando to Shibuya, parallel to the main Meiji-dori road. IROYA is sandwiched next to an abandoned wood shack, with a faceless facade and a single window displaying that month's color. Check it out and add some "color"ful conversation to your wardrobe! Online shop: Iroya Online Open: 12:00-20:00 Closed Mondays Tel: 03-6450-6190

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • Meguro Sky Garden – Float up and away into the winter sky

    Feb 13, 2015

    As much as one can try to capture the poetry of urban spaces, there are places that simply have to be experienced first hand. Without any doubt, Meguro Sky Garden sits comfortably in that category. An all-season park that sits atop a giant expressway, it is one of the more unique publicly accessible destinations in Tokyo – without peer on (or above) the ground. Constructed on the sloping roof of Ohashi Junction – a high-volume trumpet interchange that connects a dizzying assortment of a expressways – the park retains a sense of peace almost entirely disconnected from the traffic passing below. Aside from the occasional high rise lounge or viewing platform, it’s rare to have access to such an expansive public space where you can not only appreciate a 180 degree view from Mt. Fuji in the west to Tokyo Tower in the east, let alone being able to enjoy navigating open-air terrain as you take in the scenery. Seemingly floating between street level and the clouds overhead, you can make your way up and down the snaking paths, or simply head straight for a bench or sun-licked patch of grass. Despite being located within a minute or two from Ikejiri Ohashi Station (one stop from Shibuya), Meguro Sky Garden remains relatively unknown to passers-by, with a simple set of stairs leading you up off the street and through a short tunnel to the park’s lowest point – several stories above the ground. As you move upwards  past the grape vines and community gardens, you'll encounter all manner of greenery, along with locals – often with children and pets in tow – appreciating the uninterrupted sunshine and the most glorious of skyward views. And so whether you choose to enjoy an afternoon wander or pack a picnic and find a comfortable perch to enjoy some peace and quiet, the park offers an uncanny alternative to the city’s better-known green spaces, not to mention an impressive view from morning through evening. <Information> -Meguro Sky Garden -Where: 1-9-2 Ohashi, Meguro -When: Daily, 7am–5pm (winter hours) -Website: https://www.city.meguro.tokyo.jp/shisetsu/shisetsu/koen/tenku.html

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    by Ben Davis
    Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer. He currently works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, an online magazine that shares the things locals love.

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