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Tokyo’s Cutting Edge

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Photo: Andrea Fazzari

APC Surplus Store

As at any surplus store—with last season's overstock—the finds in this small discount APC store can be hit-or-miss. On a good day, you'll unearth men's jackets, structured women's dresses and tops, and accessories (belts, sunglasses, wallets)—at up to 50 percent off.


The cawing of crows offers an incongruous counterpoint to the intense rock music pouring from storefronts in this neon-lit neighborhood, which comes alive with sexy energy at night. During the day, it's a mecca for shoppers craving the next new thing.

Shibuya 109

This multistory outpost is the epicenter of cutting-edge Tokyo. On a recent visit, I found its plethora of boutiques pushing pink quilted heart-shaped handbags, gold padded-bra tops with chain straps clearly informed by a Superfly aesthetic, and other youthful indiscretions.


A slightly more sober cousin to 109, spread over four stores. If you get lost, cheerful guides wearing hats that seem lifted from Ludwig Bemelmans's Madeline are on hand to help. Among the many international temptations (by Vivienne Westwood, Miu Miu) is rock-and-roll, celebrity-friendly jewelry by Royal Order.


Bare metal shelving serves up the incredibly affordable clothing that has made this brand a worldwide sensation. Though the big draw is knitwear—this season's hot number, the smocked sweater, is a paltry $33—there are also slinky skirts for an astonishing $10.

Roppongi Hills

On three consecutive evenings, Japanese acquaintances insisted I visit Roppongi Hills, Tokyo's immense cluster of modern skyscrapers bursting with restaurants, shops, a nine-screen cinema, and even an art museum. Though the shopping is glittery it is also slightly sterile—who needs to come to Tokyo for Coach and Tiffany's?The real retail excitement is in the gift shops on the observation deck, where you'll find limited-edition designs by Takashi Murakami, including plush-toy versions of his strange creatures and the quintessential Tokyo souvenir—a candy tin featuring a cartoon depiction of Roppongi itself, with smiley Murakami characters gamboling in the skies above.

Tokyo Midtown

The Japanese love affair with sleek architectural projects continues unabated: joining Roppongi Hills and Omotesando Hills is Tokyo Midtown, composed of six high-rise buildings and containing, among many other draws, a Ritz-Carlton hotel, an art gallery designed by Tadao Ando, and last, but by far not least, stores that are a cut above the usual expensive and exquisite high-end mall fare. Lucien Pellat-Finet cashmere is here, along with Issey Miyake's Pleats Please; Via Bus Stop, which offers a carefully curated selection of European brands, is in the house as well. Best of all, Muji, a Japanese chain with a worldwide cult following, has merchandise here you can't find at any of their other stores.


This brand-new retail neighborhood—the bulldozers are still at work—is located near Tokyo's main train station and has a Blade Runner-ish appeal. Unfortunately, while trees entwined with little pink lights provide some softening, the long expanses lined with shops still have the feeling of a somewhat soulless concrete plaza. Nevertheless, most shoppers seem perfectly happy to board the glass elevators that whisk them between destinations, from Diesel to Bottega Veneta, from Harrods to YSL.

Togo Shrine Market

There are many flea markets in Tokyo, but on the last Sunday of every month, the grounds surrounding the Togo Shrine are transformed into a terrific antiques market. Not only is the physical setting lovely, but the goods invariably include obis, vintage kimonos, antique dolls, trunks, and other wonderful collectibles. And when you're through with the market, you're a stone's throw from Aoyama, where you can revisit Comme and Yohji and Issey and have yet another espresso at the Anniversaire Café.


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