Archive for September, 2007


September 19th, 2007 dotted line

Favorite Tokyo stores

What’s a blog without lists? Here are some of my favorite stores in Tokyo, grouped by shopping district. Many of the foreign stores represented here also carry Japan-only products you won’t see elsewhere, which tend to push the boundaries of style and fashion a little bit more.

A shop assistant told me that most of these foreign brands will bring the same styles from overseas, but have them recut and shaped in Japan for Japanese sizes (typically one size smaller than the US, and cut slimmer) – a pleasant surprise for visitors who have a slender build.

Tokyo/Ginza

  • Uniqlo: The so-called Gap of Japan – but sized perfectly for the Asian body, good for every clothing need you could possibly think of, at prices which are the epitome of reason. Spread over five floors in the center of the main Ginza shopping area, space to browse with ample fitting rooms, and one hour clothing alterations (just 300yen for original trouser hems).
  • Ginza Hands: Four floors in the newly opened Marrioner Gate building near Yurakucho station – the same Tokyu Hands we’re familiar with, but more high-end and Ginza-style. Not as a large range as the Shinjuku or Shibuya stores (where you’ll be able to get furniture as well), but a great setting to browse in.
  • BEAMS: A well-known boutique name that has a great selection (including the more stylish slim-fits) of business shirts on the second floor. On a side street off Chuo Dori.
  • Itoya: Stationery and accessories for every budget – I really like the leather goods (folios, notebooks, etc.) on the higher floors.
  • BIC Camera Yurakucho: Might be the biggest BIC Camera store in Tokyo, opposite the Yurakucho station.
  • Muji Yurakucho: I guess you’d have to call this the Ikea of Japan, this is the Tokyo flagship store – check out the display house on the first floor. There are branches at most major stations, and they’ve recently become more serious with their clothing range, including some nice pants and denim – the Yurakucho store will perform alterations for free or minimal cost, even on clothing purchased at other branches.
  • Marui Yurakucho: Opened recently, one of my favorite department stores – excellent selection of men’s clothing, both business and casual, though prepare to open your wallet. Great for just browsing as well – other big branches in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ikebukuro.
  • Maruzen: Bookstore with a nice foreign section at the top – Marunouchi exit of Tokyo station.

Shinjuku

  • Odakyu: This department store at the west exit has an outdoor and sports clothes section next to and beneath Bic Camera, including Lacoste and Aigle – more importantly, its sales are more frequent than you might expect for a department store.
  • L-Breath: At the south exit, this outdoor store regularly has discounted items outside its entrance. Seven floors covering your every outdoor need, with a point card too. It has a great selection of Columbia (among other brands) clothing in Asian sizes. I got my Eagle Creek carry-on roller backpack here. Currently, they’re the only place I know of that carries the Montbell coin pouch I use (I can’t even find them at Montbell stores).
  • Eddie Bauer: On the southern terrace – the American outdoor clothing company in Asian sizes, functional, solid and stylish. Has a points card.
  • Kinokuniya: Nice foreign books section at the top.

Harajuku/Omotesando/Aoyama

  • United Arrows Blue Label: Stylish shirts on the Beauty and Youth label at this well-known Tokyo boutique, occasionally discounted. There are two Blue Label stores on either end of Meiji Dori.
  • Oshmans: an alternative to L-Breath (though with fewer sizing options) just across the road from the Omotesando exit. Carries a points card too.
  • AssistOn: design store at the west end of Meiji Dori, with an intriguing selection of items from all over.
  • Omotesando Hills: Not a store, but a complex containing several high-end stores which opened last year – the interesting feature about the building is that it’s designed in a helical shape; if you walk in a straight line, you will eventually hit every shop in the building, and finish at the top. I’ve eaten at two restaurants there, an organic and an Italian restaurant – both were excellent.
  • Uniqlo UT: Designer T-shirts, but being Uniqlo, on the cheap at 1500 yen each (compare that with Design T-shirts Graniph). They’ve also recently started branching into tracksuit jackets.

Shibuya

  • The Suit Company: There are a number of inexpensive suit store franchises in Tokyo (think 20,000 and 30,000 yen price ranges) with branches (and different stock) across the major stations – think Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro. This is my favorite, found in the basement of the 109 Part 2 building, just across the road from the station. They stock suits down to 160 cm (height – the others typically go down to 165), and have a great range of Japanese-sized casual and business shirts at 5,000 yen each. The points card is a barscan code you download onto your keitai, which is scanned at each purchase; if you don’t read Japanese, you may need the help of a store assistant to set this up.
  • Suit Select 21: Has the slimmest cuts of the suit stores I’ve been to, and I preferred their styling and range over the others – and so ended up getting my suits here. Also has a nice range of odd jackets and outerwear, and like the others, a points card.
  • Perfect Suit Factory: Another suit franchise, with some interesting pieces in their Collection range (less than 30,000 yen). I bought a shawl lapel one-button business suit – it seems to me the Shibuya store (in the Tokyu Plaza building, which is next to Mark City and opposite the south exit) stocks more of these types of pieces than other locations. A nice selection of inexpensive skinny ties.
  • Franc Franc: Furniture store, a little cheaper when compared to Bo-Concept – they carry some Mogu (or Mogu-styled) sofa cushions.
  • Gap: There’s also another big branch in Harajuku – Asian-friendly sizing, though designs tend to be more adventurous than the US store.
  • fcuk: Flagship store in the Cocoti building (the other one is in Omotesando). There are some nice jackets here, though clothes are styled to a more European sizing. Has a points card.
  • Tower Records: Very good classical selection, and a number of listening stations.
  • Book First: Another bookstore with a good foreign section.
  • Yamaha: The music store has a good selection of scores (the flagship store is in Ginza), the music school has a few soundproofed rooms with grand pianos you can rent for a very reasonable 750 yen per 30 minutes.

Factory Outlets

There are three factory outlets around Tokyo that are easily reachable via train. They tend to have roughly the same stores (with some notable exceptions), are styled after the factory outlet malls found in the US and elsewhere, and are perfect for a lazy Saturday or Sunday. Discounts vary, though be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

  • Yokohama Bayside Marina: My favorite – large number of stores, including Marui, Birkenstock, JCrew, Lacoste and Osh Kosh B’Gosh. Probably the most complicated to get to though, involving three train changes and a 5-10 minute walk.
  • Garden Walk: At Keihin Makuhari station from the JR Keiyo line. The smallest of the three.
  • Grandberry Mall: Also quite convenient, at Minami Machida on the Denentoshi line.




September 19th, 2007 dotted line

Firefox and Adobe Reader replacements

I’ve been using Firefox for web browsing for the last year or so, but it has become a bit of a memory and resource hog for my slightly underpowered laptop (a Dell X1/Samsung Q30 ultraportable), which has only 512 MB of RAM – it doesn’t take that much to ratchet up its memory usage to 100 MB and beyond. Googling “lightweight browser”, two which came highly recommended were Opera and Kmeleon. Opera has a lot of the functionality of Firefox without having the need to download a bunch of plugins at the start, but I found it only slightly less memory-intensive than Firefox. Kmeleon on the other hand is small, and very, very fast (it’s built on the native Windows API) – it shares the same rendering engine (and same standards compliance) as Firefox, has fewer frills and conveniences, but just about everything I need when I’m surfing at home. For my laptop, it’s perfect – it’s free, offers incredibly speedy browsing, and gives me enough space to run other apps such as Word or iTunes.

In a similar vein, I looked for an Adobe Reader replacement, and found the free and open source Sumatra PDF – it runs as a standalone EXE without the need for installation, and is tiny – 800K is all the disk space it takes. Again, blazingly fast relative to its predecessor, simple and minimalist, while still meeting my rather modest needs.