Sunday, 9 September 2012

Tokyo Denim Tour part 2: Harajuku and Ueno

My post on the Naka Meguro area was pretty comprehensive, as many of the shops are comparatively new. In contrast, most of the Harajuku and Ueno stores are pretty well-known, so this is more of a quick and dirty update.


Harajuku is well-established as a centre for youth (ish) fashion; it has a decent sprinkling of vintage stores, none of them earth-shattering. For me, the key destination was Full Count. Full Count were, with Evis, as they then were, one of the key companies in what we now call the Osaka Five. Before the rise of Evis and Full Count, Japanese denim was pretty well-established via two companies, Edwin and Studio A'Artisan. Meanwhile, Hidehiko Yamane and Mikiharu Tsujita worked for Lapine, a small store in Osaka, which imported vintage denim - together, they both speculated about producing vintage-style denim in Japan.Yamane was the first to do so, with his company Evis, which started volume production in 1992 - Tsujia followed a few months afterwards, with Full Count.

Although they're long-established, Full Count still seem modest in size, if we go by their Tokyo showroom. It's just off Harajuku Street; follow the main market street, which you can see from Harajuju, pass the KDDI Design Studio, and their shops is on the left, at the next junction. I've added it to my Tokyo denim map.

I don't have too many photos, because I didn't do too much looking in this store. I was buying. In this case, a pair of Full Count 1108. I'll probably do an update on these later; along with the SDA 103XX, these represent the definitive, vintage style,  Japanese reinterpretation of 1947 Levi's. I love their subtlety, especially in terms of the pocket shape, and the stitching. The cut is great, too, again, very subtle. All their classic cuts are available in both raw and one wash - which is very handy for making sure your raw pair will shrink to the right size, of course. 

I saw these intriguing, 1920s-style prototypes in the shop, too. No idea if these are intended for volume production. I wasn't really supposed to photograph them, I was told afterwards - so I've left this tiny photo in to intrigue and frustrate you.

Full Count's washed items are terrific, too - they show, again, superb attention to detail. Full Count washed denim has the train tracks and crinkling at the seams  that are found on vintage Levi's but which remain very hard to mimic.

It's worth having a good, leisurely walk down Harajuku Street itself - a lot of interesting stores, although I got the feeling the halcyon days when it would take vintage buffs a day to peruse all the stores are long-gone. It looks as if OK & Emotional, which stocked a range of denim and was near the new Full Count location, is now closed.

Lee Concession, Laforet

This is tricky to find - unless you realise it's within the LaForet department store. A lovely little shop, with very helpful staff (who, like many others, ask you not to photograph but seem to wait until you've finished to do so). They feature the full range of Edwin-made repros, which at around 17,000 Yen are distinctly less expensive than many Japanese repros; you'll also find the Bluebell Wrangler repros, too.

What I especially liked was the selection of accessories, perfect for presents. I picked up a Hickory Stripe book cover, and a couple of aprons. The accessories are keenly-priced - unfortunately, they're made in China, which seems particularly ironic for items that are so distninctly branded with the "Union-Made" tag.

I was somewhat foxed in my attempts to find the Edwin showroom, just over the road. It's still there in Google Maps but in reality has disappeared. The Lee staff told me the shop has indeed closed, but that Edwin plan to open a new one.

Other nearby stores include Nudie (another concession within LaForet), Raw Drip (opposite side of the road from LaForet, with a decent selection of US brands including Rag & Bone, White's and LVC), and, a little further down, a large Levi's store, with a selection of LVC. (The main LVC location is at Aoyama, it's a beautiful store and is well-worth visiting).

In Shibuya proper, the 45RPM store is worth a look - there are several interesting shops in the same block. Sorry, the location for 45rpm on the map is a guess, as my iPhone battery died around this time.

Ueno Market

Ueno market needs little introduction - it's always been a key part of Tokyo culture. The two main stores, Hinoya and Americaya, are easy to find. The only trick is to look for the Shinobazu exit from the station (it's clearly marked). The stores are under the railroad tracks, at the end of that street to the right of Uniqlo. 


The first Hinoya stocks lots of Sugar Cane, Buzz Rickson (like the lovely shawl collar jacket, above), a good smattering of Mr Freedom (including older stock, but mostly washed), and of course their own brand, Burgus. Hinoya PlusOne is next door, and stocks Hawaiian shirts, Iron Hearts, some nice Heller's Cafe, including the H-094 early 1920s Repros, that took my eye...

Just a little further down are Hinoya PlusMart and Americaya.

Hinoya Plus sells some of the same items as its neighbour, plus more of the Burgus Plus Range. 

Immediately adjacent is Americaya. They have an excellent selection of Freewheelers/Union Special items including their lovely, albeit pricey, Wabash shirts. 

Note also these Toy's McCoys Lee Steve McQueen repros.

There are several others shops in this block selling interesting denim. The most notably one is probably Sun Dial - it's owned by the Hinoya people, I would guess, and features interesting items by Engineered Garment and Junya Watanabe, as well as more Burgus Plus Chinos. 

There are other great Tokyo stores I've left out. In time, I should be able to add these to the Google Map. Please feel free to email me with reminders, or locations. As mentioned before, I would have liked to visit the Kapital and Freewheelers stores. Maybe next time. 

Here's the map again - hopefully, you'll now find Full Count and others on there. 

View Naka Meguro, Daikanyama & Ebisu denim in a larger map