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Each IJC columnist loves Japanese culture and knows different facets in detail.
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  • 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.
  • Vintage Qoo: a slip through time for luxury

    Feb 2, 2015

    The Japanese are known for being meticulous, from their hats to their socks. Just imagine if a particularly meticulous shop-owner happens to be a vintage fanatic? You get Qoo, a haven of beautifully preserved luxury goods from another era. It’s no secret that Japanese girls love their brands. Louis Vuitton, Chanel and DIOR wallets were once de rigeur for even high school girls up until very recently. It’s surprising then that the vintage goods you’ll find at Qoo tend to be sourced overseas, and not locally. The models here are procured by owner/buyer Junna Mori herself, who picks them up from various locations around the world. If you’ve ever wondered where the best shoppers in the world would go to pick up truly one of a kind vintage guaranteed to be in tip-top shape, and in an atmosphere that is like a boutique theme park, then Qoo would top the list. The store is quite hidden, almost like its location is on a “need to know” basis. I almost felt like I needed to be vetted before first stepping inside, in the large retro office building it occupies on a nondescript hallway without bells and whistles… you might mistake it for a storage unit or backend office…until you walk in. A step through the door triggers a little bell which prompts the sales assistants to welcome you with a chipper “irasshaimase” as you’ll adjust to your surroundings. Timely and classic décor barely peeks through the copious number of brand goods, with luggage, clothing, accessories, hats and shoes on display. Bags rule the roost here, and they cling to hooks on the wall like bunches of money bananas on a tree. The goods here are guaranteed to be in pristine condition, and at a much forgivable price than buying new. Many of the models are classics, meant to be used as a gateway for new luxury shoppers, or for fans who want something with a story or a piece to round out their collection. Of course, you'll find some quirky items too, like Chanel suspenders or kitschy Moschino pochettes.   Qoo happens to have a bias toward one brand in particular, and that is Chanel. Owner Junna happens to be a fanatic collector of Chanel herself, and she passes on her know-how to the customer with a fantastic collection of double-C goods in the store at any given time. If there’s a particular piece you’re looking for, chances are one of her sister stores in Japan may have it in stock. The sales staff help make this one of the best vintage shops in the land. They are young and spunky girls who take their role seriously in jerry curls and vintage duds they mix with modern cuts. They are extremely knowledgeable and speak English and even Chinese. Their daily outfit pics they post to their instagram account (@vintageQoo) have also garnered fans. The clientele is equally young and chic, with celebrities like Kiko Mizuhara often dropping in for some shopping. Their brands include Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermes, Ferragamo, Celine, Versace, Moschino, MCM and Fendi (among others). Drop in to slip through time, but don’t let a treasure slip through your fingers! Important: Qoo is located in room 515 on the 5th floor Official website:  qoo-online.com

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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.
  • Kogei Keaton – Encounter mingei ceramics, handpicked from the kiln

    Feb 2, 2015

    Whether it be a softly lit cocktail bar where each creation calls for a vessel of its own, or a rural ryokan where meals cover the table in a wave of colourful dishes; the pairing of seasonal cuisine and craft tableware is part of what makes dining in Japan such a memorable experience. As a small store specialising in ceramics and glassware, Kogei Keaton not only presents an impressive selection of Japanese mingei (folk-craft) tableware, but is a place where you can gain an insight into the culture, craftsman and circumstances that come together to make each handcrafted piece unique. A casual fifteen minute stroll from Merci Bake in Shoin-Jinja, Kogei Keaton can be found in a quiet, inconspicuous space along the ginkgo tree-lined Setagaya Dori. Built upon owner Fumiko Ishihara’s long held fascination with handmade and craft goods, the shop – along with its online partner, Hibinokurashi – shares the yields of her regular journeys to the kilns of Western Japan, and further afar. From the distinctive glazes of ‘Yumachi’ in Shimane to the earth-toned slipware of ‘Sodo’ in Hiroshima and the ocean blue-rimmed ‘Okuhara’ glassware; Fumiko has an eye for tableware that bring meals to life and is always happy to share the story behind any piece that captures your curiosity. Part of a visit to Kogei Keaton is taking the time to sit down on the wooden koagari to work your way through the rows, stacks and clusters alongside. The considered arrangements are often accompanied by minimal information, encouraging you to follow your instincts in selecting the pieces that look and feel right, without being influenced by knowledge of a famous origin or ancient lineage. Coupled with the subtle variations that give handmade items their incomparable charm, mix-and-matching your way towards an unique set becomes an enjoyable challenge. From the renowned kiln towns of Onta, Tanba and Kurashiki to far-flung rural outposts in Japan, France or the Middle East, Kogei Keaton brings together tableware befitting of your favourite cuisine, destination or occasion. And for the inquisitive at heart, the store can be a step towards uncovering Japan's rich history of craftsmanship and a chance to do some hands-on research before heading off into the countryside. <Information> -Kogei Keaton -Where: 1-48-10 Setagaya, Setagaya -When: Wed-Sat, 12-6pm -Website: www.kogei-keaton.com

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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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