Kotobuki is yet another new Tokyo vintage shop that opened without warning on Takeshita-doori from the same group that has previously brought you Itazura and their Shibuya hub – Wagado. If you are familiar with those boutiques it should come as no surprise that it is similarly counter-culture, sticking a firm middle-finger to mainstream values and creating a new cult of its very own. Compared to Wagado’s creepy clubber and Itazura’s lost generation vibe, this is distinctly feminine and a little bit… dare I say it: kawaii. But don’t be fooled by the pink cat wallpaper, this place has a hidden edge, but more on that later…
Kotobuki is a difficult Japanese word to pin down, being as it is a formal word meaning something along the lines of “felicitations”, but culturally it is a name that springs to mind a couple of renowned manga writers and also a member of Susumu Hirasawa’s progressive rock band P-Model. Given Itazura’s cultural leanings and the fact that they are using a distorted Hello Kitty as their logo, I would say that the name is a reference to otaku pop-culture by association, a reference to the introverted group that is set to patronize this place and indeed, a celebration of that cultish aspect.
The shop interior is designed to be changed on a weekly basis according to the manager Juni who showed me around, and the stock being pretty equally split across vintage, new and re-made items.
The shops symbol is a red cross on white, a reference to both the medical and Japanese flag and one I hope they make more use of across their re-made line-up.
The vibe is definitely washed out pastels with a very loose fit and minimal details – in fact there is something of cartoony simplicity to the overall ensemble.
One of their most popular lines is this range of hyper-cute accessories from Sorushieere,
These boots are simply perfect, apparently they had an umbrella/parasoul produced in the same style that had sold minutes before I arrived.
If that has all been a bit too cute for you, then don’t worry because now we are heading into the secret room at the back which is currently hidden behind a black curtain – but don’t be scared, just push on through.
The concept to the second space is to take the kawaii vibe built up in the main room and push it to an uncomfortable conclusion. Here the cats are blown up to terrifying proportions, the cute animal are real taxidermy and the clothes ravaged and covered in UV paint.
My camera settings went a bit berserk at this point, but it captures the mood nicely – most of this rail was by Homeless Party which is always a hit at Japanese clubs.
Be careful not to collide with this cheeky fellow on the way out (as I did!).
There you have it, another bastion of Japanese creativity, showing that there is still room for real Harajuku culture on Takeshita-doori. If you want to visit (and why wouldn’t you) then their official site is here - although a bit in progress. To find it trot down Takeshita-doori until you find Amo’s Style, it is in the building directly opposite and on the 3rd floor – the door is marked by a massive cat, you can’t miss it!