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Tokyo’s Cutting Edge

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Photo: Andrea Fazzari

Comme des Garçons

The sales staff looks so good in outfits that you might first dismiss as borderline unwearable—frothy tutus paired with rubber jackets; sweaters made of fishing net—that you will rapidly discard your residual reluctance and come out bearing a shopping bag containing an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit T-shirt, a muslin-and-tartan pleated skirt, and, for good measure, a gold Lurex fedora.

Omotesando Hills

This new mall (the local community is still angry over the number of beloved traditional houses mowed down to make room for it) has sweeping ramps like those in New York's Guggenheim Museum, and every imaginable high-end shop, from the predictable—Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo—to the unexpected. At SJX, silver skull cuff links are $175 and a tangerine-colored plastic watch is $306; Tabio has a stunning array of socks that make great souvenirs.

Hanae Mori

This Japanese designer was famous long before the crop of avant-gardists that included Yohji, Comme des Garçons, and Issey swept in. Recently the windows offered mannequins robed in traditional kimonos sharing space with others dressed in Mori's meticulously detailed gray flannel trouser suits. Curiously, the small mall located below the store has a number of dealers specializing in Edwardian and Victorian jewelry. The bracelets and brooches may hail from Europe, but the rigorous way they have been curated and their stunning quality are thoroughly Japanese.

Loveless

It's Tokyo's answer to Paris's Colette or Milan's 10 Corso Como. All three of these much touted shops carry the latest luxury labels, fashion books, toys, and eccentric—though by no means inexpensive—accessories. Raff Simons and Alexander McQueen are shown alongside argyle sweaters whose inside labels read EDUCATION FROM YOUNG MACHINES. The walls are fuchsia; a huge chandelier with hanging multicolored glass shaped like Christmas ornaments dangles over a mammoth staircase; on the lower level, Zelda Fitzgerald's collected works, translated into Japanese, lie next to a punk teddy bear made from a lisle stocking, studded with nails, and marked a cool $700.

Liquor, Women and Tears

These beautifully crafted men's clothes have an unabashedly naughty vibe, which may have something to do with the 80's Versace revival emerging in Tokyo's most forward-thinking shops (scoff now, then see it on Milan runways in six months). The shop features gorgeously tailored suits and necklaces that spell out CORRUPT in diamonds, along with silver New Balance sneakers and a maroon velour smoking jacket trimmed in gold.

Undercover

This temple of sartorial excess has recently undergone a renovation, with the former surreal-laundromat décor—piles of clothes stacked ceiling-high in the windows—now replaced by a somewhat more conventional interior: barn walls, a wrought-iron fence used as a room divider, and three old theater seats on which to catch one's breath. The clothes, elegantly made if notoriously strange, make Comme des Garçons look like Liz Claiborne: a $3,200 chiffon jacket sinks under a profusion of pink blossoms; a skirt is buried under a welter of crimson feathers.

A Bathing Ape

Sweatshirts, T-shirts, and caps are emblazoned with APE SHALL NEVER KILL APE in this extremely popular and influential shop, the brainchild of Japanese enfant terrible DJ Nigo. The store's white-tiled interior resembles a very fashionable shower stall, and though the merchandise seems meant to appeal to streetwise hipsters, everyone from preschoolers to matrons loves the place. On a recent afternoon a woman in a pale-pink cashmere overcoat and sleek black patent heels stood at the cash register, purchasing several rolls of Bathing Ape toilet paper decorated with the brand's trademark simians.

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