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Shop like a local in Tokyo.
Even in cutting-edge Tokyo, Aoyama stands out. The neighborhood is known as the city's central shopping district for high fashion, and its main boulevard, Omotesando, is surrounded by a maze of little streets full of excellent shops. Here, you’ll find all the local stars (like Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto) along with the other big names you're accustomed to seeing everywhere in the world, but in Aoyama many of the buildings—from Chanel's Peter Marino-designed black and white cube to Jun Aoki's stacked-box design for Louis Vuitton—are attractions in themselves. Although it’s possible to spend an entire trip to Tokyo weaving in and out of the seemingly endless boutiques in Aoyama, here are five you shouldn’t miss.
The first thing you notice when walking into this Studio Toogood-designed space is the sales staff, who look impossibly chic in outfits that you might first dismiss as borderline unwearable (frothy tutus paired with rubber jackets; sweaters made of fishing net). But they look good enough that you’ll find your initial hesitation melt away and come out carrying a shopping bag containing, say, a muslin-and-tartan pleated skirt or a gold Lurex fedora.
Mori was one of the original Japanese designers on the world stage, even before the likes of Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garcons. Pass by the store windows, and you might find mannequins robed in traditional kimonos sharing space with others dressed in Mori's meticulously detailed gray flannel trouser suits. Be sure to visit the small mall located below the store, which has a number of dealers specializing in Edwardian and Victorian jewelry. The bracelets and brooches may hail from Europe, but the rigorous way they have been curated and their stunning quality are thoroughly Japanese.
Designer Jun Takahashi’s temple of cool streetwear recently underwent a renovation, with the former surreal-laundromat décor—piles of clothes stacked ceiling-high in the windows—now replaced by a somewhat more conventional interior: barn walls, a wrought-iron fence used as a room divider, and three old theater seats on which to catch one's breath. Takahashi’s clothing combines minimalist luxe with sportswear influences, as evidenced by collaborations with Nike and Supreme.
Japanese record producer and designer DJ Nigo founded this extremely popular and influential streetwear emporium in 1993. With its high-end sweatshirts, t-shirts and caps, the merchandise might seem to appeal only to sartorially-minded skateboarders. But in style-conscious Tokyo, everyone from preschoolers to school teachers love to come here to shop.
Herzog & de Meuron's monumental building is the star here—a six-story crystal geometric wonder, accented by convex and concave glass bubbles. Inside, it offers the full range of Prada’s famous goods, some of which actually look more at home in Tokyo than they do in their native Italy: a small black nylon purse decorated with a beaded bear, for example, plays into the Japanese love of comic characters.