Tokyo is a dream city for lovers of all things aesthetic
Flickr/Moyan BrennTokyo is one of Asia’s top fashion destinations, known for its boundary-pushing style. The city itself is inspiring and buzzing with activity, with so much going on at any given time. So when it comes to fashion, there are a million things you could be checking out or shopping for, but don’t be overwhelmed.
Here are my top 5 things to see and do in each of Tokyo’s most fashionable districts (plus a few bonuses)...
1. People-watch for outrageous costumes, Harajuku
Aurora ChanHarajuku, the land of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls reverie, is known around the world as the centre for fashion-forward Japanese youth. Visit on a Sunday to admire girls decked out in elaborate costumes: from gothic Lolitas and French maids to Decora ravers (pictured) to Mori girls (forest-wood nymphs).
If you want to join in the fun, look no further for all things kawaii (Japanese for “cute”) than the 6% Doki Doki store, which has been a supplier of cuteness for over 20 years.
After checking out the doll-like getups, be sure to pop into the backstreets of Harajuku, known as Ura Hara, to find some lower key indie boutiques.
Fashion instagrammer’s tip: Visit Reissue Café where you’ll find some of the world’s best 3D latte art—hello, (foam) kitty!
2. Revel in retail architecture, Aoyama
This world-renowned building attracts many non-fashionphiles as well. The tall crystal-like building is a work of art: the exterior is a series of connecting convex, concave and flat rhomboid-shaped windows. There’s also an alternate cave-like entrance that accesses the basement floor for menswear.
Nearby, visit Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons flagship, known for its sloping glass façade. If you’re interested in buying their popular heart-logoed tees from CDG’s Play line, make sure to arrive early.
Lastly, check out Issey Miyake, not for building architecture but for architecture in his avant garde clothing—he’s known as the king of pleats for good reason.
3. Get a dose of fashion history, Shinjuku
Miranda SamWant to get a real lesson in fashion history? Look no further than Bunka Fashion College’s Costume Museum. Famous alumni from the school include Paris Fashion Week veterans Kenzo Takada, Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto.
The current exhibit is on the Western influence on Japanese fashion. One of our favourite looks was a kimono top paired with a high-waisted box pleat skirt from the early 1900s. Although exhibits are presented in Japanese only, the unique collections are very worth the visit.
While in Shinjuku, stop by for some sweet treats near Shinjuku station, officially the busiest train station in the world. There’s the deliciously rich BAKE Cheese tart at the Lumine Est shopping centre, or if you’re dressed to impress, try Asian pastry chef Joyce Wong’s award-winning high-end dessert bar.
4. Window shop at luxury fashion houses, Omotesando
Miranda SamThe word "Omotesando" means the main road leading up to a shrine. In Tokyo, Omotesando is the avenue lined with zelkova trees and luxury boutiques that leads to Tokyo’s famous Meiji shrine. Essentially, Omotesando is the Champs-Élysées of Japan.
Here you’ll find every possible luxury house to window shop from: Chanel and Dior are closer to the shrine, while further down you’ll find Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Burberry, Balenciaga and more. But you’ll want to keep your yen in your wallets because imported luxury goods tend to cost more in Japan.
Though this street is drenched in luxury, other shops are sprinkled in the mix. One notable store is Kiddy Land, regarded as Tokyo’s best toy store that can make or break a cartoon character’s popularity. There’s a Snoopy floor in the basement, and departments for Pokémon, Sanrio and other Japanese characters. It’s a great place to buy super kawaii souvenirs for the kiddies on your list.
5. Shop for staple pieces on all 12 floors of Tokyo’s largest Uniqlo, Ginza
You may feel like giving up halfway after the women’s collections, but have the stamina to make it to the top! There’s usually something very special. Case in point: currently the 12th floor features former creative director of Hermès women’s wear Chirstophe Lemaire’s first in-house collection of Uniqlo U, an elevated and innovative take on basics. Who says fast fashion can’t be unique?
Like most retailers in Japan, if you spend over a certain amount, your purchase is tax-free. It’s approximately $50 at Uniqlo, so it’s like you’re not being financially responsible if you don’t spend more! Also stop by Uniqlo’s sister store GU (pronounced gee-yu, Japanese for “freedom”) offering trendier seasonal pieces. Notable purchase: gaucho pants synonymous with GU’s name.