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If I were to sum up Tokyo in one word, it would be this: amazing. I totally loved the city and my time there.
I’m going to do a quick recap of my experience of clothing and shopping in Japan, parts of which I’ve already written about on my personal blog. For other coverage of my trip (most of which was done on bi-lingual keyboards, which I never fully understood) check out the Travel category on Bigguybigcity.com.
Shopping in Tokyo is very much an enjoyable experience, even for a guy who is far larger than most Japanese people (well, I do own a website called ‘a big guy in a big city’…). So even though I couldn’t fit in any of the clothes, most labels only went up to size large, I had a good time going through stores and seeing how their style differs from ours in the UK. And differ it does, Japan seems to suffer (or benefit) from fashion schizophrenia. On one hand there are a lot of very clean lines on subdued colours, sharply suited salarymen, elegant simplicity of design, basically these people were dressing well without attracting any attention for it. And on the other hand, cosplay, bright colours, giant sunglasses, punk-inspired aesthetics, geek-chic, ganguro style, ripped jeans, people who were clearly in their mid-20s dressing like schoolgirls, and a surprisingly large amount of tartan. I know its a blanket description, but I felt that in Tokyo people of all ages were more fashion conscious than those of us in Britain, and thats not meant to reflect badly on my home country, but there was a lot of horribly dressed people in Heathrow when I landed on Thrusday afternoon.
Considering Tokyo is meant to be one of the most expensive cities in the world I actually came home with quite a lot of Yen left over (and only hotel payments on my credit card). Of course there were a lot of expensive shops, but $1000 Louis Vitton bags aren’t particularly my thing (though their shops did look very cool), but there were also a lot of cheap places, such as the place where I bought a new white belt for Â¥525 (about $4). I also bought a cream coloured beanie for Â¥1050, and that came with a cool metal pin on it. When I see those kind of prices I don’t really understand why people were telling me how expensive Japan is, yes I did see a melon for Â¥11000 ($91!), but I also had lunches that were both tasty and substantial for less than $5, with tea included!
I think I’ve mentioned on HYA before that I don’t really understand the culture that there is surrounding limited edition and rare sneakers. I take it back, I get it now. To reference (probably incorrectly) one of my favourite movies, “you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen”. I did go to Japan with getting a pair of sneakers since I’d heard stories about how great the choice is there, and I wasn’t really dissapointed. I actually went into stores and gasped when I saw particularly nice shoes, if I weren’t in the land of otaku culture they probably would’ve thought I was weird. Admittedly, despite the wide choice I was pretty limited, whilst in the UK my feet aren’t out of the ordinary, in Japan they’re positively boat-like, and not a lot of sales people were rushing back to me with shoeboxes when I asked them for 11s. After 5 hours in Harajuku and Shibuya going around every store I could find I acutally bought a pair of Nike SBs (size 10.5, you gotta make sacrifices) from the very first store that I’d visited earlier in the morning.
They had some amazing t-shirt boutiques, Graniph were a particular favourite of mine, and because their sizes only went up to L my brother was the lucky recipient of this t-shirt, after I had explained to the (really quite cute) sales girl that I wasn’t going to attempt to squeeze myself into a tee that was merely large.
They do seem to have a penchant for hats, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Japanese blog called ‘Hide Your Scalp’ out there, and there was several stores that only sold hats, and one which only sold trucker caps! There did seem to be a lot of identical items from store to store, but there was quite a lot of good stuff out there that wouldn’t be so easy to find in the UK where hats are generally an afterthought.
If I had really planned out this whole shopping thing out then I would have gone there with some business cards with HYAs address on them so that I could explain to the staff who I was and get some pictures of the stores and products, because there was some really cool stuff out there, but I guess there’s always next time…
Beyond clothing I had a fun time in Akihabara, the world famous electonics area and where my hotel was for the first week. Electronics certainly are cheaper there, but they weren’t exactly years ahead of us, and there was a lot less variety in terms of MP3 players and digital cameras than I had expectly, which resulted in me buying a iPod shuffle instead of something rather more exotic. And memory cards were surprisingly expensive, I spent about $70 on a SanDisk 1GB compact flash card for my camera, although I did find some cheap generic brands when I ventured into the backstreets of Akiba, though they were still on the expensive side. I also struggled to find ‘wacky Japan’ electronic souvenirs, and whilst a $1.50 USB-powered
vibrator personal massage device shaped like a hand giving the Vs was quite funny, it wasn’t a purchase I was willing to make. The wackiest thing I could find was a solar-powered plastic plant, which has been happily flapping away on my windowsill for the past few days.
I’ll slowly be adding my favourite pictures from the 100s I took to my Zooomr profile over the next few days, so keep an eye on that if you want to see what I saw.