So far in our vintage fashion odyssey here at Tokyo Telephone we have been neglecting the darker side of vintage fashion, so we thought we would remedy that with a good look at the ultimate destination for the crust of Tokyo, horror punk aficionados and anyone who basically wants their fashion to be a light-hearted middle-finger to society.  Kuro-Benz, ironically named after the Mercedes-Benz owning club of conservative kachigumi types purring around Ginza, is a vintage fashion institution responsible for dressing at least one person in each issue of Tune magazine in a mix of scummy colours, worn fabrics and confrontational artwork.  It is the perfect anecdote to the otherwise prim and proper world of Japanese fashion, but even though the aesthetic is on the right side of dirty, it has to be said that it accords to the best thing about Japanese vintage shopping – the stuff is immaculately clean and free from that smell that comes hand in hand with vintage shops in the West.  Basically, it takes all the best things about run-down clothing, but still has lining in the studded leather jackets and is good and clean (only in Tokyo can you buy new crust jeans).

One of the best features of the shop is the artist in residence Desperate who has kitted out the inside of the shop with some of his artwork as well as this being one of the few places in Tokyo where you can actually buy his clothes (the other being The Virgin Mary in Harajuku).  He is the one responsible for the sign below, as well as the majority of studded jackets and horror objects.  For the ladies not taken with the grimy male stock, there is plenty of creepily cute gear tucked away inside.  The dedicated women’s shop is only a short walk away from Kuro-Benz over at Gaijin, so the vintage that ends up in Korobenz does tends to be on the edgier or more mature side of things.

With that in mind, what can you expect to find in there on a normal day?  Without fail plenty of studded, painted and embroidered leather jackets , a good amount of camp 70s biker gear, a wealth of shredded t-shirts and sweaters and no end of rusty, worn or otherwise creepy accessories.  On the Japanese side of things there are always some authentic biker gang jackets, genuine post-war Sukajyan and the manager clearly has a thing for Okamoto Taro (another taste we have in common).  It all adds up to a shop that you have to add to your Tokyo shopping itinerary and you are almost guaranteed something that falls into the “has to be seen to be believed” category, enjoy:

The unassuming exterior with sign by Desperate.

Inside, worn wooden floor boards contrast with the patchwork corrugated iron ceiling.

Fixtures are rusty, clothes hang from chains or else on meat hooks.

The women’s corner goes for a slightly off old-school oshare vibe.

The mens falls somewhere between beat up gent and creepy punk.

There is always a bit of absolute quality in the shop so you can expect some museum quality T-shirts or leather jackets to tap at 6 figures.

More classic Desperate – his vibe may be ultra distressed, but trust me he does what he does with a quality control you only seem to find with any regularity in Japan.

The shop is a testament to the ability to spot the slightly “off” in all things.

A perfectly aged and atmospheric button?  Look no further.

Masonic vintage is such a big trend in Tokyo right now, you always can spot these trends on the rise if you keep an eye on the Yoyogi street markets…

I hope I have managed to impress upon you just how cool this place is, and given that is is located right in the hub of the Koenji Vintage shopping streets, you really have no excuses not to go.

Official Blog with address is here.

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5 Responses to Tokyo Vintage: Introducing Kuro-Benz, Koenji

  1. Laura says:

    Oh my, this store looks great! I really love that sweater with the witch/skeleton/dracula on it! It’s cute, in a weird way :3

  2. Wim's says:

    I definitely have to go and check those shops out in Koenji. It looks great !

  3. Samuel says:

    @ Wim’s and Laura

    Glad to be an ambassador for KuroBenz, it really is one of my favorite vintage shops in Tokyo and the owner is really cool as well.

    FYI they are having a renewal opening sometime in February so keep an eye on the blog for details of that.


  4. Andrew says:

    This place looks amazing, those rusted studs, the pony head mannequin, dead hand and meathook hangers.. you guys are really starting to make me feel like if I had to choose only one place to shop in Tokyo for a day,it might have to be Koenji.

  5. Samuel says:

    @ Andrew,

    Thanks man, Koenji is great – there is a reason I chose to live here! It is one of the few places in Tokyo where you see people “living the lifestyle”. You see 24/7 punks, mods, rockers, club kids etc, not the ones swept along by fashion, but people actually living it. It all leads to it being a really exciting place, but relaxed and open at the same time.

    Oh and we still have so much more to show you.


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