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Each IJC columnist loves Japanese culture and knows different facets in detail.
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  • Qoo: Edging out the others as Tokyo's best vintage luxury boutique

    Jan 8, 2016

    I know it seems we’ve been on a vintage kick, and that’s just because we here at “Is Japan Cool” are just keeping up with the trends. At Qoo, you will find perhaps what is the world’s best and cleanest section of vintage luxury bags. What's old is new again, and in fashion these days, vintage is very cool. In a city like Tokyo, there really are no shortage of vintage stores. What sets Qoo apart from the rest, is perhaps an innate dedication to perfection and quality- and I`m not talking about the luxury bags themselves; I`m talking about Japanese culture. Because at this store, only the cleanest and best-quality bags picked up from around the world are allowed onto the sales floor. This means that customers actually come in from around the world to shop here because despite the goods’ second-hand nature, it all as been cleaned to pristine condition. As you peruse the shelves of pomp and glamour, you’ll notice that one brand in particular overshadows all others in number: Oui, c'est Chanel. Chanel is the main draw for this store, for two reasons: 1. They stay in great quality long and have the best re-sell value no matter their age. 2. Chanel is owner Junna Mori’s favorite brand, naturally. The young Junna started Qoo after working as buyer for another second-hand store, traveling the world with a discerning eye and picking up the best goods for their store. She took her know-how and worked it into Qoo, but with an extra twist- Qoo seems like an actual Parisian boutique, rather than a musty ol’ vintage store. You’ll see the walls decked out like an old-world boudoir, with soft carpets and vintage posters dotting the room. Even her shop assistants play the part in retro looks and coiffed updos, but still working the vintage accessories into modern-retro outfits. If you happen to venture to Osaka, there is a Qoo store decorated in homage to Coco Chanel’s famous atelier with spiral stairs. Also in Osaka is sister store “Pour Mademoiselle” with vintage interior, clothes and a cafe inside. Qoo quickly became the favorite vintage luxury store among people in the know in Tokyo, with celebrities like actress Kiko Mizuhara often stopping in to pick up something new. At any time, there can be at least 100 different Chanel bags on the shelves. I was told they have experts at discovering fakes check every bag before it goes on sale, and no bag that is questionable will ever be put out. As for rarity, the colored Chanel quilted bags are considered the most difficult to find. Aside from Chanel are other favorites like YSL, Celine, Gucci, Moschino, Hermes, and more. These type of brands go for a steal; pick up a Gucci or YSL in the 30,000 yen range! Qoo is not in a storefront boutique- you’ll need to find the alleyway before the Apple store on Omotesando, and go to the end and see the large apartment complex on the right. Go in, and use the entrance elevator to go up to the 5th floor and Qoo is just down the hall to the left at #515. It’s a bit of a secret hideaway, which makes it all the more like a treasure hunt. Note that staff speak several languages, including English and Chinese. 4-3-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo Central Omotesando Room 515 Tel: (0)3-6804-2201

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • Pragmata Gallery – An alternative take on contemporary craft

    Jan 5, 2016

    A compact and gently-lit space in an old office building. Artistic tableware, utilitarian tools, lifelike ornaments and other familiar pieces huddle together on an island of antique units. A palette of black and white, with occasional touches of rusty auburn and metallic grey. Distinctive and independent, Pragmata Gallery showcases compelling works that combine a curious mix of tradition and modernity, functionality and experimentation; blurring the lines between functional items and works of art. As a collector turned gallerist/curator, Petros Titonakis opened Pragmata in 2013 as an extension of his growing collection of, an long-held interest in, contemporary craft and antiques. Among the thirty or so artists whose works are featured in the gallery, a strong group of Japanese creators are complemented by a handful of artists from Scandinavia and Central Europe. While predominantly dealing with ceramics – bowls, vases, tableware and sculptural objects – there are also works in metal and glass, along with paintings and assemblage. Monthly exhibitions feature works made specifically for the gallery, which is transformed each time through various installations and arrangments, all of which Petros constructs himself. The result of this approach – which becomes more apparent as you spend time with the works and speaking with Petros – are unique presentations of pieces with curious textures that are not as straightforward as they may first appear. The midnight black of Akihiro Sugita's bowls results from the artist painting, smearing and rubbing the wooden forms with urushi – the sap-based coating traditionally used on Japanese lacquerware. Emerging contemporary painter Gaku Matsuoka references nihonga (traditional painting) in works that make use of materials ranging from charcoal and silver leaf to caramel. Yukiharu Kumagai’s ceramic bowls are left unglazed, with the granular snowy-white surface designed to inherit colours, allowing the object to evolve and gain value as time passes by. Located a generous stroll away from Tokyo Station, the humble and hidden gallery offers a refreshing perspective on longstanding crafts and craftsmanship. From exhibitions that are a true collaboration between artist and gallery to the antique pieces and strange specimens spread throughout, Pragmata positions itself on the fringes of the city’s gallery scene and provides a welcome change from the typical white-walled gallery experience. <Information> -Pragmata Gallery -Where: 3F, 2-3-3 Hatchobori, Chuo -When: Tue–Sun, 12pm–7pm -Website: http://www.pragmata-gallery.com/

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    by Ben Davis
    Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer. He currently works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, an online magazine that shares the things locals love.
  • Alcatrock: Vintage clothing for a night on the town

    Dec 21, 2015

    There are tons of vintage stores in Tokyo,  but none of them are like Alcatrock, the unicorn of vintage stores (unicorn emphasis mine). This is the place where funky women looking for something to stand out in would flock to, with a heavy leaning on cocktail and party dresses. And of course,  you get the discerning eye of style and extremely high "like-new" quality that you can only find in Tokyo. If anyone spends any time shopping in Tokyo, you'll notice there's something missing: party-wear. In fact, Tokyoites are so much more comfortable dressing for the day, that daywear often essentially IS night-wear. But for the rest of us who like to dress to impress, there are very few options outside of luxury or import brands (and that import tax is a killer!). The focus here is on cocktail dresses from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. They have all been fixed of any damage and even better-do not smell of musty vintage. The dresses are not all luxury-name, but they were all very obviously custom-made or were high-end for their day. It is a bit like a treasure trove in here, and you'll want to spend a little bit of time going through the racks, which are separated by color or style. To shop, find the pricetag on the neck of the garment. If it doesn't have one, it means that you'll just need to ask the staff- there are so many dresses in here, that they can't even keep up with price-tagging before getting it on the shelf! Also note that some items are rental, only. This store is so unique in Tokyo that you'll see wardrobe stylists rummaging through the racks and perusing the accessories for their celebrity clients to wear to parties and events. Or, you might rub elbows with an actress yourself (look for the women in giant sunglasses). The store is also very popular with brides, looking for a one of a kind wedding and reception dress. The sizes lean on the petite side, so make sure to try them all on before making a decision. However, the store is ample in re-sizing skills, and I have used their services to fix up a dress I bought there on occasion (in fact, I liked the back side of a cocktail dress better than the front so much, they tailored it so I could wear it front-to-back!). The store hours are a bit unusual so be sure to check below before heading out. The store is located between Ebisu and Daikanyama, about 8 minutes from JR Ebisu Station on the Yamanote Line, or about 5 minutes from Daikanyama Station on the Toyoko Line. It will be across the street from a 7-11 Convenience Store. Happy hunting! <Information> Open: Mon-Fri 3pm-8pm Sat-Sun 12pm-8pm Tel: (0)3-6427-0909 Alcatrock Online 1-32-24, Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.
  • Style Tokyo Friends' Home: Spacious and relaxing shopping for the whole stylish family

    Dec 5, 2015

    "Spacious and airy" wouldn't normally be such a huge sell, but this is Tokyo we're talking about-the land of shoebox apartments  gasping for land (side: did you know only 20% of Japan's land mass is actually habitable? The more you know!). So here we have Style Tokyo Friends' Home, in a house-style building with big open windows and ample space to meander among the various goods. Above, you can see how it is set up to look like a big Californian-style home with different areas giving way a themed selection of products. There's something for everybody here: the teens, dad, mom, toys and books for kids and even home interior goods. It wouldn't be "Tokyo" without the kitsch and there's plenty of that here among the hardy basics. I was especially smitten with the bedazzled bags in POP-culture candy and products motifs. It's this rather contrasting "mix" style that has made Tokyo one of the most fashionable cities on the planet. Speaking of kitsch, here is some homegrown subculture for you-all of the hand-painted mecha figurines strewn throughout the store. It was like a Where's Waldo in trying to "catch" them all. Seeing these little duded alongside luxury-level fashion is one of the things I love about going on shopping discoveries in Tokyo. It makes it just a little bit more fun. In fact, the creative director for the shop is one special lady, named Rei Shito of a website by the same name, Style from Tokyo. She is a veteran street-style photographer, who got started as one of the first generation of photographers for Fruits Magazine. She ventured on her own, and was one of the first photographers to be invited inside the hallowed halls of the Chanel Fashion Show she had been taking photos at as a guest. If anyone knows about what is popular or up-and-coming from the Tokyo streets, it's her. There is also a large book corner, including novels and art books, as well as some toys for both kiddies and their parents. Did I forget to mention that there is a new outpost for Urth Cafe, one of the most popular organic cafes in the city? This one has a big outside terrace that makes for an extra-relaxing treat. The shop is not hard to miss, situated just one street behind Omotesando, about three minutes from the Apple Store. <Information> 4-9-8 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, TOKYO 12pm-8pm Tel: (0)03-6455-5277 Style Tokyo online

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    by Misha Janette
    Key Japan fashion stylist-journalist-editor. Born in Washington State USA, graduated Bunka Fashion College. Honored as Business of Fashion's BoF500.

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