Japan is a shopping paradise. Not really because prices are any lower than elsewhere but you can pretty much find anything there. Into high end brands? There’s a Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Cartier around every corner. I think when I was in Nagoya, I was totally amazed by the number of Louis Vuitton stores everywhere. There are smaller satellite stores and massive, alpha-architecture flagship stores. Into streetwear? There’s brands like NBHD, Stussy, Bounty Hunter, BAPE all over the place…even some of them are secret locations they don’t want you to find. This is before you even get to the mainstay Japanese boutiques and department stores. Oh, and don’t forget the little holes in the wall where you can find great unique, one-of items.
Of course this is all well and good but sometimes, you just need some basics and need them to not cost you any arms and/or legs. This is when you want to head to Uniqlo, a chain you can find all over Asia and in a couple major US cities. You can find shirts for 1000Y ($10) and other stuff like hoodies and jeans in the $20-30 range. Of course, you’re probably wondering how this is different from Old Navy or any other discount clothing chain. Well, for one thing…Uniqlo clothing is made relatively well. For another, you actually want to wear their clothing. Many of Japan’s top designers have either worked with Uniqlo or praised the label for their clean and stylish designs. In particular, they make great graphic tees, usually inspired by various aspects of pop culture in Japan, such as manga, anime or video games or stuff from the rest of the world. They also have a knack for design. The store you see above is located between Harajuku and Shibuya, right next to the Audi display building. All the t-shirts here come in plastic tubes, similar to those you see shuffling documents from place to place in warehouses via pneumatic tubes.
When I was in Japan, I picked up a few items from Uniqlo, including one of my new favorite shirts that they made in collaboration with Metal Gear Solid 4, featuring a man with a cardboard box on his head. I’m not sure if this would be funny to anyone that isn’t familiar with the game but it probably still is.
If you ever happen to find yourself in Japan or Hong Kong or, I believe, New York, head to a Uniqlo if you’re looking for some clothes. You’ll have a lot to carry when you leave but at least your wallet won’t be light.