If there’s one thing that Tokyo does better than any other city in the world it is the shopping experience. New York, London and Paris are all great, but nowhere will you find the same amount of stores, nor the same variety, as you will in Japan’s largest city.
Of course, like any other big city the majority of fashion retail space is dedicated to women’s clothes, but menswear has a great showing. If you’re in Tokyo for a few days, be it for business or pleasure, and fancy doing a spot of shopping, here’s a brief selection of some of my favourite places. With the exception of 1) you’ll be able to find branches of each in various parts of the city.
1) Isetan Men’s, Shinjuku
Isetan Men’s is probably the largest menswear-only department store in Japan, if not the world. Nine floors’ worth of sartorial goodness await the intrepid shopper. The footwear section is absolutely vast (and usually incredibly busy on weekends), while the suit-and-shirt floors often play host to some of Savile Row’s finest tailors. On the whole, it’s not cheap, but if you’re short on time and want to get a wide range of items, this is the place to go. Rejig, the eighth-floor café, is also a good place to grab lunch. The portions are very generous by Japanese standards.
Beams is one of several high-end clothing chains for which there isn’t really an American or European equivalent. Depending on the store, it caters to casual denim lovers, professional business types or a mixture of both. Displays are immaculately maintained and the sales assistants really know their stuff.
For contemporary business wear Beams is definitely one of my favourite places to shop. Much of their stock is Italian by manufacture, though they have a very good selection of made in Japan, own-brand items. I’m a huge fan of their slim-fit dress shirts, which are just about the best fitting off-the-rack jobs that I’ve managed to get anywhere. They’re also especially good value for money come sale time.
3) United Arrows
Much like Beams, United Arrows is a high-end retailer with Italian leanings (its founder is a former Beams man, so this is no surprise). I’ve found that they’re particularly good at producing summer-weight jackets to beat the stifling Tokyo heat – they’re unlined, lightweight, breathable and very comfortable. With spring in the air they’ve taken to producing a very nice line of suede driving shoes and loafers that retail for half the price of Tod’s or Gucci’s. Will have to check them out further this coming weekend…
4) Lifegear Trading Post
If you’re looking for shoes Lifegear Trading Post is the place to go. They offer a fine selection of reasonably-priced footwear for the discerning gent. My only gripe is with sizing. My (British) size-nine feet may be fairly average by western standards, but in Lifegear – as with many other Japanese footwear stores – they tend to cater to more dainty hoofs.
There are also lots of smaller shops that I’d like to talk about, but a single article really doesn’t afford enough space for me to do them all justice. I’ll bring you more of the best that Tokyo has to offer in future instalments.