Two Weeks in Japan: A Style Journal (Week One)
While in Japan last winter, I tried to keep a style daily diary of little things I saw here and there so I could piece them into a post or two down the line. However, when I got back I thought rather than relegate it to my own reference, it might be interesting to post on its own while preparing for more complete pieces in days to come. It's a bit of a stream of consciousness at times, and patched together from snaps I took on my phone, pictures from my camera, and snippets I found online while traveling, but here it is:
Day 1 - A Night in Tokyo: Beams, and Getting X'd Early and Often
|Top Floor - Ta Ca Si Denim Shawl Coat|
- Shortly after arriving, we head into Ginza to have some dinner and check out a few stores, including my first time in a Beams store (!). And oh, is it awesome. Basically, Beams is what J. Crew wishes it was. Or what I wish it was. Lots of cool collaborations, well thought-out lines with basic and more interesting apparel and several different price points. The bottom floor is stocked with casual wear and accessories, and the top floor has mostly tailored wear and higher end clothing. And by higher end, I don't just mean construction. Conceptually, it's a few degrees further outside the realm of what you'd normally see in the US outside of boutiques. Except for all the Wrangler jackets. For some reason Japan is really into Wrangler jackets.
- I'm quickly learning that almost nobody lets you take pictures in their stores (like 0 for 5 so far). 90% of the time when I'm trying to snap a picture of something they make a polite X sign with their arms at me just like in my phone emojis. Sometimes I like to pretend they are just telling me I'm SO X-TREME. They're not. But it's really hard to take pics of anything, and it's frustrating and a bit deflating because there is a ton of amazing stuff in stores I wish I could capture and share - like the denim shawl coat pictured above.
Day 2 - Osaka: J.S. Homestead, Kendo, and Japanese Kids
|A J.S. Homestead piece I searched|
all over Japan for in vain
- There are a lot of kids walking around the city wearing some really interesting outfits - a lot of drapey Yohji Yamamoto type looks, but overall a very large scope of developed styles, including some that are pretty extreme - at least from a Western standpoint. Nobody cares. I have a feeling you could be on the street wearing nothing but a pineapple hat and and a unicorn horn strapped to your groin and no one would look twice at you. Later I see a young woman wearing a plain black sweatshirt emblazoned with the words "FINGER CITY" in gold letters on it. Nobody cares. I care.
- J.S. Homestead by Journal Standard, one of the mainstream retailers in Japan, is fantastic if you like workwear. The Nigel Cabourn collaboration they have on display is downright incredible (pictured below). A guy X's me taking pictures of the store, though. One minute later, another employee asks me where I'm from and to please tell my friends in America about them. Which is it? Make up your damn mind. I snap some pictures on the DL. Feeling so X-treme.
- One of the employees sees me eyeing a sashiko type II jacket and informs me that the fabric was originally traditionally used in Kendo uniforms. I spend a half hour on my phone googling where to buy Kendo uniforms.
Day 3 - Osaka: Buying "Japan" and Gatsby Osaka Not In Osaka
- Stop into a Baycrew Outlet, the parent company for Journal Standard, on the western side of Osaka with some really great deals (~70-90% off, including stuff like an Engineered Garments chore jacket for $150). Somehow I leave with a pair of Alex Mill moleskin chinos as my first "Japanese" purchase.
- We take a few walks on the main shopping strip in Osaka, which is really something to see and experience. In the evenings it turns from a steady trickle into a whitewater flood of people. On that strip is an Urban Research store (similar to Journal Standard/Beams) that carries some great third party merchandise, including Freemans Sporting Club. Wife comes by as I'm trying on a casual, unlined indigo sashiko blazer with patch pockets and a notch lapel, and says she actually likes it and wants to buy it for me for Christmas. I tell myself it is Japanese because it is part of the "Made in Japan" FSC capsule.
- At the north end of the strip a few blocks away is the Strasburgo store of Akihiko Nishi aka "Gatsby Osaka" Instagram fame. In my mind, as we walk in he's sitting there in a badass suit and odd vest. He greets me at the door and says "Dan, thanks for coming and I love your blog!" (I never contacted him prior to the trip). Then he hands me a glass of Yamazaki 21 and we laugh and laugh. In real life, after we walk in and out of the store without seeing him, later that night he posts a stylish pic of himself in Kyoto.
|Urban Research - Osaka|
Day 4 - Kyoto: Selvedge Floormats, Kapital Country, and Real McCoy Feels
- I was not expecting Kyoto to be that great of a shopping destination, but they've actually got a lot of great stuff around here. At the Japan Blue store, the manager tells me he likes my jacket. I've never been happier. On the fitting room floor, they have you stand on a large bolt of raw indigo selvedge. As a floormat.
|Japan Blue Jeans - Kyoto|
- Kyoto's Kapital shop looks like you imagine it would - like the inside of an old converted barn a family of crafty hobos lived in and swept clean. No century denim anywhere, though, and no ring coats around either (WTF). Lots of fur on things that normally don't have fur on them. You know, Kapital stuff.
|Not my picture, but I got X'd before I could take any of my own|
- On the way back to the hotel I just happen across a Real McCoys store next to a shrine. When does that ever happen? You head down a flight of steps into a dimly lit showroom, and they have entire walls full of steerhide jackets. I start crying when I see them, staff seems concerned. I tell them I have been cutting onions. They don't seem to understand English. Or onions maybe.
Day 5 - Kyoto - Blue Blue Japan Domestic Prices, Secondhand Gold, and Sweats
- In the Blue Blue Japan store (not the same as Japan Blue Jeans), I see the same sashiko jacket Mr. Porter has on sale for $500 in the US for ~$360 - both at MSRP. I'd say that pricing comparison has been relatively similar for other Japanese-made brands so far. No tax, either. Can't wait for the day in the US when the government realizes that they can't tax basic, indispensible items like indigo boro pants.
- At a secondhand shop named "Kindal," I find an indigo Blue Blue Japan wool zip sweater in basically new condition for ~$110 (and buy it). They had a few BBJ coats as well in the $160 range, including the double breasted Edo coat, and another rack with some immaculate Browns Beach style pieces in the $100-200s range. Based on the stores I've been to so far, Japan is turning out to be a goldmine of higher end secondhand shopping for a lot of different genres and brands - I've seen racks of Visvim, Needles, TS(S), United Arrows, Naissance, Ring Jacket, Yohji Yamamoto, just to name some of the Japanese brands, in addition to a lot of imports like Mackintosh, SLP, Eidos, etc. Secondhand shopping in Japan definitely deserves to be its own dedicated post, which I'm planning to do. They make the majority of US secondhand stores seem like your grandfather's garage sale. Or your grandmother's. Whichever is more boring and filled with old H&M shirts.
- Later, I see the same employee from Japan Blue (the same one in the above pics) the other day walking around on the street in old grey Champion sweats smh. Or maybe...ratty Champion sweats are next level? It's Japan - I just don't know anymore. I spend a half hour on the subway googling sweatsuits to prepare for SS 2017.
Day 6 - Kyoto: Tofu, Harris Tweed, and Selvedge for Toddlers
- With some time to kill before an amazing kaiseki tofu dinner (I realize how bougie that sentence comes across), we pop into a Japanese fabric store on a whim and they have bolts of Harris Tweed wools in several patterns. I pick up a small donegal piece to use as a pocket square or to pet from time to time.
- We still have some time before our reservation, so we hop into Blue Blue again down the street. Looking at an ombre handkerchief with a mountain design, the guy tells me it's a special edition only made for their Kyoto shop. It's like he knows exactly what to say to me. I hand him my wallet. Hanging on the wall behind the register they have a crisp Type II jacket and straight selvedge jeans cut for a three year old. I think "what a lucky kid!" and then I realize he's in for a rough break in.
Day 7 - Day Trip to Nara: Deer and Curry
- We stop to get lunch at an udon joint around the famous deer park, and one of the waitresses trips and drops her tray, spraying some green curry onto my olive waxed Barbour jacket. She is horrified and profusely apologetic, but I can't find a way to tell her that curry patina is amazing. 10/10 would splash again.
|Barbour Waxed Olive Jacket, Seagull 1962 watch, Kato pants, Red Wing Beckman Boots|