Sarugakucho Uncovered

Fashion Tokyo Life Trends & Culture - July 17th, 2009
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by Melissa Forester

Just up the road from Shibuya is a wonderland of shops and cafes just waiting to be discovered. Daikanyama is well-known as possibly the most stylish and cutting-edge shopping district in Tokyo, but recent years have seen the area become more commercialized. But luckily, the area of Sarugakucho, on the other side of Hachiman-dori from Daikanyama, is still bursting with quirky, fun, and fashionable shops, making it the perfect place to explore on a Saturday afternoon. Full of twisting alleys bursting with greenery, Sarugakucho is a quiet residential neighborhood dotted with both high-end and affordable shops. Many of the stores here are unique to Tokyo, giving Sarugakucho its very own vibe: on the one hand, it is very posh and upscale, yet you can still find some amazing vintage shops and great deals. No matter which stores you visit in Sarugakucho, you can be sure to find something eye catching and unique.

A little off the beaten path, next to Natural Lawson, you will find Apart by Lowrys. It is a strikingly decorated store featuring cute floral frocks, shoes, accessories and bangles. Many of the dresses, which can be described as a casual mix of the feminine and the eccentric, have unique cuts and subtle embellishments. Also recommended are the casual chic cardigans, jackets, and denim pieces. The flowing, lightweight cotton pieces are the perfect antidote to Tokyo’s muggy summers, and with a bit of layering can easily take you through to fall as well.fashion-4fashion-3

With stores across Europe, Asia, and the US, Final Home is quickly making a name for itself abroad. Featuring mostly men’s casual wear, the Sarugakucho shop is uniquely decorated and features an eye-catching entryway. The designer, Kosuke Tsumara, creates functional garments out of nylon and pays little attention to trends and what is deemed ‘fashionable.’ His trademark item is a nylon coat with multi-functional pockets. After you’ve had your fun with the coat and are ready to pass it on, bring it back to the store and it will be donated to an NGO that helps refugees and disaster victims.

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Discover Ray Beams and Mangart Beams T hidden down Sakaragi-cho alley. Beams is a very popular chain in Japan with shops across the country and even in Hong Kong, but the Sarugakucho location is the only one to boast both Ray Beams and Mangart Beams T stores. Find more casual and affordable Beams pieces, as well as a wide variety of the ever-popular Melissa brand of stylish ‘jelly’ shoes at the Ray Beams store. Right next door, Mangart Beams T has unique and cool t-shirts inspired by manga and anime. Select styles rotate around the store on an innovative track display.  Hidden away down an alley in Sarugakucho is the quirky vintage boutique Hanjiro. There is no visible sign, so look for the descending white stairs lined with beautiful green plants. Inside you will find a vast array of different clothes, accessories, shoes, and bags. Hanjiro is a chain, and each store is designed slightly differently; the focus of this store is on decoration and design. The atmosphere is what sets it apart from any other Hanjiro in Japan. The interior features distressed wood, a vintage carousel horse, bathtubs with fish, and mysterious lighting. The majority of the store is devoted to women’s wear, with new merchandise arriving weekly. The store also carries second hand pieces hand-picked from Europe and North America. The summer looks are very bohemian: layers of white and off-white, all made of lightweight cotton. You will find well-made and competitively-priced pieces at Hanjiro, perfect for sprucing up your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

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You can’t miss the 7 For All Mankind store on Hachiman-dori, separating Daikanyama and Sarugakucho. The brand’s first Tokyo flagship opened this March and is beautifully decorated with a modern yet homey feel. Although basic blues are on offer, the store focuses on selecting jeans that are embellished, distressed, and embroidered, making it the perfect place to find that special pair. In addition to the popular denim items, the shop carries dresses, tops, shoes, and bags. The Sarugakucho location features two labels not available in North American stores: Ella Moss (worn by stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker) and Splendid collaboration pieces. The store also carries the limited-edition 777 series, a collection of handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jeans. What is the must-have item for this fall? The distressed denim boyfriend jeans.

Buyer beware!
Don’t visit Daikanyama until around noon, as most of the stores and cafés don’t open until eleven or twelve o’clock. Also, don’t forget to visit nearby Saigoyama Park, perched atop a hill with a wonderful view of the surrounding city. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of shopping.