When it comes to shopping, Tokyo never disappoints. Service is in a league of its own and its retail landscape is unique and ever-changing, particularly in Aoyama, where small shops are tucked away behind the towering glass-fronted global flagships.
Junji Tanigawa is founder of spatial-design agency JTQ. He has created concepts, designs and installations for the likes of Ginza Six, Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto and Tsutaya bookshop. Who better to take us around the city for a shopping spree?
“You need to get out to see the city and what buyers are selecting in the flesh,” says Tanigawa, who’s a loyal patron and a key figure on Tokyo’s retail scene. “Online purchasing is like harvesting something from what’s in front of you, but getting out to bricks-and-mortar stores is more active and fun because it’s like treasure hunting.” Here’s his pick of shopping destinations.
To take the temperature of Tokyo’s fashion retail scene head to Graphpaper, run by creative director Takayuki Minami. “This is where I spoil myself,” says Tanigawa. Nestled in a residential area of Aoyama, the gallery-like two-storey shop sells an eclectic mix of fashion and crafts. The likes of OAMC jackets, Aeta leather bags and Studio Nicholson dresses are hidden away inside drawers for a touch of surprise.
Housed inside Shibuya Bridge, this 76-room hotel – which opened in October – is a new addition to the city. Designed by Tokyo design studio Tripster, the interior is simple and minimal with seven types of guestrooms, ranging from dormitories to twin stays. A 10-minute walk from Shibuya Station, its location couldn’t be a better starting point for a shopping trip.
Despite its hard-to-find location on a backstreet of Aoyama, florist Makoto Azuma’s shop, open since 2002, has won a cult following with its haute couture flower arrangements. “This is a florist like no other,” says Tanigawa. You’ll spot not one flower in the shop; instead, experienced florists create unique bouquets to order for the requested date. “People who are used to giving flower gifts come here to get something different,” says staff member Eri Narita.
Owner and chef Yuri Nomura’s restaurant is housed in a former residential building. Its menu changes daily and the tastefully furnished interior is an inviting space for convivial get-togethers. The Little Shop of Flowers, tucked away in the courtyard next door, sells beautiful bouquets and made-to-order arrangements.
Just off the corner of Aoyama and Kotto Dori is French fragrance brand Diptyque’s Japanese flagship store. “I use this in my office,” says Tanigawa, taking a sniff of Tokyo, a handmade candle with the scent of hinoki (cypress). “The product, the story behind each fragrance and packaging make a great gift,” says Tanigawa as he discovers a new favourite: Oyedo, infused with yuzu.
Located under the bustling Nakameguro station, this bookshop, open since 2016, is a mecca for fans of print. The trading hours – from 07.00 to midnight – are ideal for some last-minute shopping too. “I love this pen by Craft Design Technology, or this Polaroid would be a great gift,” says Tanigawa. The store also sells a great selection of lifestyle and design goods.
Complex is a furniture shop founded by Yutaka Kimura. “If you speak to him about the projects he’s working on you’ll know which retailers and hotels are opening in which part of town,” says Tanigawa, who has kitted out his house with made-to-order furniture from Kimura. For Christmas he says he’d pick up a nice rug or some smart tableware.
For a coffee break, head to this small café near Tomigaya crossing. It’s a popular hangout for local creatives including Tanigawa, who comes here for the coffee made from beans roasted on site, as well as the hotdogs and muffins. Little Nap Coffee Roasters also has a coffee stand near Yoyogi Park, where you’ll find delicious gelato (even in the winter).
At menswear brand Minotaur’s only shop in Tokyo, Tanigawa would pick up an ultra comfy T-shirt or Minotaur Urban Gear X Porter pouch, which he uses every day at work. “For the Christmas season our turtleneck sweater is popular,” says staff member Takashi Onodera. “It’s easy to wear and its size means it fits women too.”
The October opening of Danish interior brand Hay attracted a crowd of 1,500. The shop, in the basement of the Gyre Building in Omotesando, has a range of homeware, stationery and furniture pieces. The Tokyo outpost even has a café by Frederik Bille Brahe, owner of Copenhagen’s Café Atelier September, as well as a small bookshop by influential book director Yoshitaka Haba.
This two-storey bike shop in Sendagaya has everything cyclists could want, from durable “denim” trousers made with cotton and stretchy polyurethane to “wool-sucker” packable and washable jackets, and functional laptop-friendly backpacks. You can also rent a bike here from Helmz (a collaboration with Bridgestone) or a German version of the Brompton, known as the Birdy.
Nadiff, near the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in Ebisu, is a four-storey art complex with three gallery floors and a bookshop on the ground floor, specialising in contemporary art and photography as well as prints, T-shirts and totes. “We have exhibitions of everyone from up-and-coming talents to celebrated big names such as Daido Moriyama,” says adviser Gen Igarashi. “Our shop is very difficult to find but the door is open to everyone.”