We have been discussing the influence of Akihabara culture on fashion quite recently on Tokyo Telephone. It all began with the Akihabara Fashion Week, then a look into 5okai, the shop that is leading the way in the future of Akihabara fashion, but if that represents where we are going, where are we right now in terms of Japanese fashion with Akihabara influences? The answer came to me rather abruptly on our travels in Shibuya when we were quite literally grabbed and taken into a new vintage shop that has just opened this month in the same building as Wagado in Shibuya.
As the unremarkable door to the shop opened we were greeted with a cacophony of imagery, sound, light and music that as your eyes adjusted to the darkness against flickering screens and lights, yielded a truly unique celebration of retro Japanese anime, manga and cult western imagery. It is a shop that finds the common thread between Akihabara culture, overly cute kawaii culture, retro futurism and other aspects of Japanese popular visual culture, and represents it through fashion. Perhaps a difficult concept, but when you see it and are in the shop banging your head on the toys hanging from the ceiling it all makes sense and as it becomes clear that it is all inherently “of Japan”. Even the inclusion of Western culture, is only by the virtue of its popularity in modern Japanese culture, that it finds its identity as a truly “Japanese” space.
So what can you expect to find inside? Courtesy of Kamisama-Gokko (Playing God), the resident re-make brand that unites a couple of different designers, you will find Gamecubes hollowed out and made into handbags, skirts made from plastic sheets with anime characters on them and childrens clothes with extra panels inserted in them so that they can be worn by adults. On the edgier side of things there are punk vests encrusted with patches, pins and drawing all taken from Otaku culture, fencing and straight jackets that look aggressively distressed and bleached from the front, but have a cute panda hand-embroidered on the back. Likewise, the fittings of the shop place traditional Japanese taxidermy next to cuddly toys, and pictures of cute idols next to text from adverts promoting aggressive dieting.
In short, the space is rich with detail and is so of the moment, that it feels like a single visit to this shop will tell you all you need to know about modern Japanese culture. It is also a very welcoming and fun space, and not just because the manager’s dogs were playing with us the whole time we were in there (I cannot guarantee they will be there when you visit). There are arcade machines you can play, a Nintendo 64 with 4 controllers ready to be played, manga you can borrow and the space can easily be cleared for parties.
But that is enough from me, you really need to visit this place to get a real feel for it, have a chat with the manager over a game of Smash Bros and listen to the remixed anime music. If that is not a possibility then I am afraid that you will have to make do with the following pictures:
The entrance – it really makes you think just what wonder might be behind all the unmarked doors you see in buildings all over Japan. Certainly, this one feels like you are intruding in an Otaku’s room.
Good luck navigating this place if you are particularly tall, but this part of the fun! It reminds me of how Wagado used to be with his low lights and smoke machine that made the shop almost impossible to navigate. FYI, Wagado is re-fitting at the moment, and I have been assured that it is going to look amazing when it re-opens.
Jason masks sit next to Disney’s gnomes, next to cute Sailor Moons and game center prizes. It is all a bit of a mess, but that is Japanese visual culture after-all. I suppose that it is almost like walking into a real-life Tumblr.
The vast majority of the clothes are re-made vintage and it is interesting to see the contrasting cultures in the fittings, replicated in the clothes themselves when you find a western dress spliced with retro anime t-shirts.
There is indubitably too much to take in in a single visit, but I think you will be back to this place fairly regularly. It is like Grimoire, sometimes it is nice just to go and drink the atmosphere in when you are in the right mood.
I hope I have persuaded you to add the mischievous Itazura to your Shibuya shopping map. It has only been open for a little while now, so it is still growing and getting its identity together, but I predict great things for this one. To some extent it is close to Hayatochiri in Kitakore and Veveropparuuu’s approach to fashion, but this one is unique in that rather than trying to create a new fashion through Otaku culture, it is trying to reach into Japan’s recent past for inspiration. This is vintage Japanese culture spliced with vintage fashion, and what can I say – it works.
They are working on getting their homepage sorted, but rest assured we will have any updates here (as well as from the rest of the Tokyo vintage scene) as it happens.