Wonders of Tokyo
"Japan is Open Again" Special Report
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— Jonah & Erin
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Wow — Japan. If you ask us?? It’s a Living Legend in the world-nations game. And it’s where I (Jonah) am writing today’s sletter.
Erin & I like to get over here as much as we can. Imagine in yr head the minimum number of trips that a typical very-cool person has probably taken to Japan. Trust that we have come more times than that. Our last visit was in May 2019, and we had to cancel another trip in May 2020, so when word hit last month that the borders were effectively on pre-Covid status again, we were amped to hop on a d*mn jet and tap back in.
O yes, we touched down at Haneda for a week-plus of getting in these steps on the gingko-carpeted sidewalks of Tokyo and beyond. How many steps are we talking? This is one of the great walkable cities, so I’ve been clocking ~17-25k steps daily, straight O.D.-ing on steps, a.k.a. “committing steppuku.” Occasionally we’ve dipped into various forms of world-class mass transit, too, caressing the very essential PASMO CARD (below right) across the turnstiles. And we’ve taken a few butter-rice-smooth rides in the legendary lace-doily-decorated black Toyota Crowns that glide thru the metropolis, piloted typically by chill older kings in suits… All the while we’ve been keeping our eyes & ears open for YOU, the “beautiful and blessed” members of Spy Nation.
Today is Part 1 of our special “Japan is Open Again” 2022 Spyplane report, full of COOL CLOTHES intel.
⚠️ Part 2, full of FOOD & LEISURE intel, is now live HERE ⚠️
(Check our Global Intel Travel Chat Room for more far-flung city recon.)
For ease of use, when you see a “📀” below, that’s a DVD-ROM: Dope Vibey D*mn Recon Ordnance Marker. Let’s get into it —
Something that really takes travel to another level is when you can link up abroad with homies, interweaving the foreign with the familiar. In this hustle-bustle modern world it can be tricky to get the stars to align, but SpyFriends Ezra Koenig and Rashida Jones happen to be in Japan now, too, and on our first full day Erin and I united with them to get it in across mad different chōmes.
On a tip from Erin’s friend Shota we met up in the morning at the 📀 Hanazono Shrine Antiques Market, held most Sundays in Shinjuku (you can check the market’s Twitter feed to make sure it’s happening on a given day). It’s a small, funky, unassuming cluster of tents and blankets filled with lovely vintage textiles, yellowing magazines, old postcards, matchbooks and assorted other vibey bric-a-brac, like padlocks carved to resemble turtles and Ganesh, or sick wood buttons carved to look like mushrooms and peace signs…
Afterwards we micro-gorped with a lil picnic at the vast 📀 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (above — more PARKS intel coming Thursday), with sushi from the nearby basement of 📀 the extremely sick department store Isetan. They carry blue-chip designer s**t like Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Prada, alongside smaller labels like Studio Nicholson, Attachment, Lemaire, White Mountaineering, Rototo (who make some of our favorite socks), and FilMelange (who make some of our favorite pocket tees). On the top floor of the men’s building there’s a Leica store, and on the ground floor there’s a wall where you’ll likely find some 📀 Japan-only New Balances and Keens, along with other footwear.
Shinjuku is not, generally speaking, our s**t, even if it’s where the wonderful Netflix series 📀 Midnight Diner takes place, and even though it contains our 📀 favorite udon spot in the city and the unreal warren of tiny (like, 6-seat) bars known as the 📀 Golden Gai, which we hit up one night with the writer, DJ and all-around Tokyo legend Kunichi Nomura. (More on those gems in Pt. 2, on Thursday.)
So after the picnic we bounced to Shibuya, where Ezra & Rashida took us to check out the subterranean 📀 Archive Store. This is a big-ticket sauce cavern that hosts tightly curated rotating vintage capsules: From now until 11/27 they’ve got a bunch of Phoebe Philo-era Céline for sale, plus some Margiela-era Hermès.
It’s wild s**t to see all in one place, and not remotely cheap — you can either dig deep & splash out or just treat it like a little art museum and happily cop nothing, i.e. enter N.O. C.A.P. Mindset.
Imagine my PRICETAG WHIPLASH, though, when we left Archive Store and beheld the bargains to be had 4 flights up at 📀 the Shibuya vintage-grail-purveyor 10Tow, where the focus is on vintage Yohji and Comme des Garçons.
Peep these GREAT ‘90s wool Yohji suits they were selling, both under $400:
Shibuya’s tightly curated 📀 Laila Tokio, which we caught wind of via Cactus Store-denim-designing Spyfriend Becca Rosen, is another second-hand designer spot, somewhere in between Archive Store and 10Tow vibewise. For a more sawed-off secondhand-designer emporium in Shibuya, check out the multiple enormous locations of 📀 Ragtag. I’ve never lucked into anything great here, but some people swear by it, and the designer list is illustrious…
Also in Shibuya, you can pop into the 📀 Margaret Howell Café and, while you’re at it, acquaint yrself with the surprising (from an American perspective, anyway) Japanese-retail phenomenon of nearby shops like 📀 Beams Men Shibuya, Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Sun House, and Ships, all of which present like handsome but kind of milquetoast mall stores — and yet, DECEPTIVELY, stock rarefied slappers from excellent independent Japanese labels like 📀 Outil, Comoli, Auralee, Visvim, and Kaptain Sunshine…
For a very different department-store energy than Isetan, the Shibuya 📀 Tokyu Hands is an overstuffed 7-floor delight, highly worth spinning through for appealing housewares, Japanese-made coffee-head-paraphernalia, crafting supplies, clocks, lamps, notebooks, pens, skin-care concoctions, Made in USA Sierra Designs jackets, some vintage electronics, and other “only in Japan” hyperdrive-retail-cornucopia s**t.
I picked up a very kawaii little Y2K-era Sony clock-radio there for $40 (collaged in the art for today’s post, all the way up top). It made me realize — with no time left to do anything about it — that I’ve never gone to Tokyo’s 📀 Akihabara electronics district, where a maze of vendors sells all kinds of audio gear and components, new and old. I vow to go next time, but maybe you will beat me there and report back on some finds.
Shibuya is just the tip of the iceberg though…
Let’s get into a Jawn-Recon Dossier of the slappingest stores, vintage shops, under-the-radar designers, and other wonders we f**k with across Tokyo (plus some heat in Osaka and Kyoto):
Harajuku contains a ton of cheap vintage spots that sell much of the secondhand treasure harvested by Japan’s legendary globe-trotting “pickers”—