New Year. Sales. Crowds. The New Year holidays are of course a time for rest, families, shrines and traditions. They are also the time for the year’s great sales, when the depato and chain stores outdo each other with another tradition dating back to late Meiji era Japan, the fukubukuro - 福袋 – lucky bags containing mystery goods whose value can be double or more the price paid for the bags; some bags are especially lucky as they also contain additional special gifts. The crowds at Tokyo’s shopping centers over the sale period are phenomenal and from early morning lines of people snake their way along streets, around corners, up and down stairs, as customers wait for access to their favorite stores and the discounts to be found inside. The bigger stores employ security staff to control the crowds and many stores have costumed staff amping up the excitement with loudspeakers. Overall, it’s a pretty intense experience.
For a more laid-back shopping experience, the riverside neighborhood of Nakameguro is an alternative destination with a hip, relaxed vibe. It’s a place of eclectic stores, undiscovered brands, quirky cafes and an atmosphere of discovery. It offers a refreshing human scale with rough edges that contrasts with the grand designs of the multi-level shopping palaces in Ginza, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Omotesando.
Nakameguro is a neighborhood that encourages leisurely exploration. Along the tree-lined banks of the canal-like Meguro River and hidden in narrow side streets between Yamate dori and Kyu Yamate dori are a growing number of quirky and cool boutiques, flower shops, bars and eateries. We highlight some of them in this post.
Takayuki Minami’s men’s fashion concept store has the feel of an apartment, complete with its front porch. Expect imported and domestic casual clothing labels – e.g. Analog Lighting, Unused, Black & Blue.
A quaint cottage style cafe with timber and flowers creating a warm interior in which to enjoy some simple cafe fare. Upstairs Kinfolk provides a drinking space with an earthy vibe – lots of wood, sofas, and a quirky design touch: a series of bicycle frames suspended from the ceiling.
Inside the blue corner store is a world of funky streetwear and music. The feel is a reinterpretation of 70s hippie and soul trends and the Soulsmania brand clothing also shows Hip Hop influences.
A tiny space stuffed with basic casual clothing with workwear and military influences. Also has Ts and quirky pieces like ponchos and fisherman’s caps. Labels: Toll Free, Danton, Gaijin Made.
As the name suggests, this shop is for the cycling enthusiast. They sell cycling clothes, but there’s not a scrap of colored lycra in sight. This is urban cycling gear for the street.
This store heralds the future of the still ungentrified neighborhood. The beautifully finished showroom on the corner of Yamate dori & Komazawa dori takes up most of two floors of the recently built Nakameguro Heights retail complex. It’s full of slickly designed and beautifully merchandised furnture and homewares. The complex also includes a boulangerie, import wine and cheese store and a dog salon.
This is a cool little store tucked away in the back streets of the Aodobai neighborhood that specializes in streetwear for men and also stocks some women’s pieces and accessories.
This cute casual dining space offers an Italian menu. It’s a good place for a pizza and a beer.
Raise High the Roof Beam. Carpenters. Wander into a store that takes its cues from an 18th Century jeanery as imagined by hip Tokyoites. This is the type of cool individualism that gives Nakameguro its character.
This stylish women’s store on the riverside promenade carries selected European labels that won’t be found all over town. Shoes, bags, accessories and cosmetics complete the story. Labels include KLAR berlin, MAISON SCOTCH, Joe Sanchez & selvedge. Cosmetics brands include Agronatura, WELEDA & L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Nill Style Cafe
A tiny teal cottage and one of the cutest shops around; it’s virtually a Nakameguro icon. It stocks a small selection of clothing, accessories and jewelry pieces; it has few seats and a small menu. It’s simply a unique cafe/store.
Another retro looking shopfront – this one from Smalltown USA. Inside it’s all about vintage BMX bikes, as well as vintage car toys, posters. stickers & embroidered patches and other bits and pieces.
Also on the riverside promenade, this store has an earthy feel with lots of white and timber. It stocks an eclectic mix of understated womenswear labels as well as shoes and bags. Brands include Ulla Johnson, nikki-b & Sound Trac.
Nakameguro’s version of the City Lights bookstore. Cow is a cool space that specializes in hard to find 1960s & 70s counter-culture books – think Beat writers, Black Power, alternative lifestyles, Ken Kesey & Timothy Leary.