There’s not much that I can write about Tokyo’s central fashion node Harajuku that hasn’t been written already – certainly if you’ve ever read style magazine Fruits you’ll be familiar with the impact the area has had over global fashion in the past. There are those more cynical commentators who will tell you that the scene here is past it’s best, but take it from this reporter: there must still be something here to attract the visibly large number of western models and aging fashionistas sipping coffee and smoking French cigarettes while keeping their wrinkle-cream treated eyes on the outfits of the passing teenagers.
Away from the skate shops, tiny boutiques and excellent second hand clothes shops (ever a source of great bargains), the high street houses more mainstream and big, global brand stores. Worth a mention are Blister, which specialises in Japanese toys and figures based on western uber-franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, and t-shirt store UT.
Part of a major chain spanning 23 stores across East Asia, UT offers a unique shopping experience for the western visitor. T-shirts are served up in capsules, larger versions of the ones you find full of collectible toys in vending machines all over Tokyo (more of that to come in a future post), and interactive touchscreen catalogues guide you to which part of the multi-level store to find your item of choice. And you’ll need the help, because the chrome, scrolling LED displays and framed 808 State album covers that adorn all the walls are enough to distract even the most focused of shopper. Even more interesting is the pricing policy – simply put, the more you buy, the cheaper it gets, ensuring that we left with bags full of the oversized plastic containers, that sadly we’ll have to jettison if we ever wish to get their contents back home.