The area around Naka Meguro is richest in these stores; again, like elsewhere, they're by no means the finest attraction of the area. We loved this compact location, made friends there, hung out by the canal, guzzled iced coffees from the streetside vending machines. But the shops were great, so here's my all-too-brief selection.
I'll append a map later, and update this post with other people's suggestions for shops. So please email me or leave a comment if you have any additions, corrections, or gratuitous insults.
If you're walking south, this is the first of a run of fabulous small shops. Brits will feel a patriotic surge at the display of Trickers'; there's a compact selection of vintage, many tasteful accessories and some original designs; chinos, tops etc.
A block or two down from ACTS; Cabourn's label is, to my mind, one of the most exciting newer British label - in a Tokyo context it looks even more impressive.
In many ways, just a typical Tokyo vintage store, with a sprinkling of Levi's 507 and other items. But I liked the more down-market items best; simple deadstock French T-shirts for example.
Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters
Mostly women's clothing. As one sees so often in Japan, the standard of execution for what I presume is a pretty small label, is simply staggering. Their website is well worth a look.
By now, we've walked down near to Naka Meguro tube station. This area is full of intriguing stores, like Gaku Vintage Tools, on the other side of the canal from the clothing shops. It was, frustratingly, closed the day we noticed it.
Up from RHRB, I believe turning up towards Daikanyama, was another intriguing little shop, Reflex, with an American Hunting and Fishing theme. Not my particular bag, but as usual the sourcing, and quality of items on display, was impressive.
Follow the train line round from Naka Meguro and you soon reach Daikanyama, home to what is now one of Japan's most established denim brands, Evisu. The story of Evisu is fascinating; often credited as the first Osaka 5 label, Evisu were of course at the forefront of the resurgence of selvage denim. They were also the main company described as purchasing redundant American looms; I'd personally written them off for such marketing porkies, and have grown depressed by the poor quality European Evisu items - and some of the business practices of Evisu Hong Kong. But a wander around the Daikanyama stores helped revive my decades-old enthusiasm for the label - especially the first floor, with its wealth of golfing items.
There is a loom in the entrance to the downstairs showroom; the staff didn't know, but I suspect it's a Toyoda Type G, the pioneering loom shown in action here.
I love the portrait of Evisu's founder, Hidehiko Yamane, which has the feeling of a religious icon in this setting.
Barley Harvest Season
Barley Harvest Season are over the road from the Evisu showroom. I've heard great things of them, but sadly didn't have a chance to check out the store, which is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
My disappointment at missing BHS was eased by my visit to another of Tokyo's finest small stores...
UES is just north of the junction dominated by Evisu, set back from the street in a huddle of mostly lowrise apartment buildings and small shops - like Naka Meguro, this is a corner well worth spending time in. UES alone justifies the trip - for a small company, the execution of their denim is stunning. Sadly, I didn't have enough Japanese to find which mill they use, but the denim, and the standard of finishing on their pants is very impressive.
Of course, Tokyo has plenty of choice in Levi's-inspired pants. But... no one else has kids' wear as impressive as this.
The kids' jackets retail at around 15,000 Yen, available from Size 0 to Size 3. That's a fair amount of money, indeed, but fully justified by the workmanship.
This is Tomohito Inomata at work in the store; like many Japanese denim outlet, there's a Union Special in the shop so customers can get a custom inseam with the obligatory chainstitch.
The UES blog is here.
Just around the corner from UES, there's Hollywood Ranch Market. As the name suggests it was a little generic, at least on cursory examination, but it's worth a quick look.
Continue North up the main street, Komazawa Dori, toward Ebisu and there are plenty more nice stores. Wild Life Taylor boasts Alden, Mr Freedom, LVC, some choice RRL items, lovely canvas bags and another very tasteful interior.
Komazawa Dori also has this impressive shop selling vintage Harleys...
This street takes us up to two of Tokyo's most significant denim stores, Warehouse and Kapital.
I didn't visit Kapital in this location (although it's marked on the map, below), as I planned to do so in another location in Kojima - where, unfortunately, I was told not to take photos and was getting very short of time. But I was very impressed by the full range. Designer Kazuhiro Hirata draws on a huge range of denim mills, and there's some very impressive laundry work, all of which I believe is done at the Kapital factory in Kojima.
I had a fixed plan of what denim I planned to buy in Tokyo; but it was very hard to resist temptation and buy a pair of 1001XX. Sadly, Warehouse don't seem to support the Duck Digger range any longer, but that's made up for by the superd Heller's Café range - all based on the collection of Larry MacKaughan, a denim collector and dealer who's also, I found when researching Denim, one of the most helpful people in the industry.
Downstairs has the standard Warehouse range.
Upstairs we have the Warehouse Archive, with more of the one-off Heller Cafe items. I have far too many cinchback jeans... but am sorely tempted by these.
This is very attractive denim, with an authentic vintage look, fine yarns and short stitch lengths rather than the exaggerated vintage style we see on many repros. The pants retail at Y24,000, good value for that attention to detail. I loved the One Pocket Pleated Jacket, too, at a slightly heftier Y33,000.
I would have loved to have visited Toys McCoys and Freewheelers in Tokyo, two places I've heard a lto about, but sadly didn't make it this time. I will follow up with far briefer stories on Shinjuku and Harajuku, plus Ueno market. Watch this space...
And now, it's possible you might see a Google Map giving you direction to all these denim destinations.
View Naka Meguro, Daikanyama & Ebisu denim in a larger map