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3D Statues Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

“Nice statues,” I said to my photographer. “They’re very detailed, almost like… ‘by God Eliot, it is like a photograph from life!’’’

3D Statues Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

“What are you talking about?” my photographer asked, snapping photos. “And my name is Andrew, not Eliot.”

“These statues! They’re actually 3D photographs!”

And they are! On the 6th floor of the Shibuya LOFT is the LoftLab 3D Studio, where you can get dressed and strike a pose in front of a circular setup of 102 high-speed cameras. After that, LOFT’s technicians will edit your photo and print a statue of you using one of their state-of-the-art 3D printers!

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan

“But how can I get one of these for myself?” you ask. Well read on, and we’ll show you how it’s done!

STEP 1 – THE APPOINTMENT

It is better to make an appointment for this experience. It might be possible to get in without an appointment, but what if you can’t? Wouldn’t that be awful? To prevent disappointment, ask your hotel concierge or a Japanese friend can help you make a reservation for your 3D photographic experience at the following Tokyo-area LOFT locations—

Shibuya Loft 3D studio (TEL 03-3462-3863; reservations accepted 10:00 am – 9:00 pm daily)

Yūrakuchō Loft 3D studio (TEL 03-5223-6210; reservations accepted 10:30 am – 8:30 pm daily)

STEP 2 – GETTING READY

Each LoftLab 3D studio has a waiting and dressing room, where you can get yourself ready for your 3D statue debut. What, you’re going to go in your street clothes? Where’s the fun in that? There’s nothing to stop you from putting on your wedding dress, or your James Bond tuxedo (complete with martini), or you ski suit and snowboard. Or your Mario costume!

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan Mario

Do you see that? That is not a Photoshop. That is what one of these statues looks like up close.

For your photo, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one subject. You and that special someone can be photographed together and preserve that moment forever.

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan

And the LOFT at Yurakucho has a special deal for those of us with furry friends. Thanks to the high-speed cameras, you and your best four-legged pal can be in a statue together! Pet photos and statues are only available at the Yurakucho LOFT by appointment, so make sure to call and make an appointment beforehand.

STEP 3—STRIKE A POSE!

It’s ok to just pose, but c’mon! When is the next time you are going to be able to get a statue of yourself made? Go ahead and strike a kung fu pose! Or if you are into more active pastimes, the LoftLab 3D Studio’s cameras can capture you in action with a soccer header, puck flip, or baseball catch.

STEP 4–PAYING FOR IT…

At all LOFT locations, you get a discount of 5% off your purchases (over 1080 yen) just for shopping there! Just show your passport at the counter to claim your discount. Also, all three LOFT locations are registered Japan Tax-Free Shops. After checking out, take your receipts and passport to the Tax Refund Counter to have the tax portion of your purchase refunded. No waiting in line at the airport!

STEP 5—WAIT FOR IT…

It may seem disappointing, but it takes a fair amount of time to for one of LoftLab’s 3D printers to build your statue. But never fear! LOFT will ship your statue to you approximately three weeks after the photo is taken. But think of it this way—a few weeks after you return home, you can get a present from yourself from Japan!

STEP 6—DISPLAY PROUDLY!

And what will you do with this stunning masterpiece? Statues of children (at the varying stages of their lives) are great gifts for parents and grandparents, and a collection of family members will be a wonderful memento of your trip. And if you get really crazy with costumes, you’ll be able to play “Where’s Waldo?” by inserting yourself into your action figure collection. Just be sure to avoid placing your statue in sunlight and keep it away from water.

And think of it—if it’s already possible to make a 3D statue of yourself, how long will it be before a 3D printer can make figures with articulated joints? With molded hands and crazy 3D printed accessories and a Kung Fu grip? In a future visit, it may be possible to get an action figure of yourself. Now there’s some souvenir technology we can all appreciate.

LoftLab 3D Studio Location Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Stations:

Yūrakuchō LOFT: 3-minute walk from Yūrakuchō Station (reachable via the Keihin-Tōhoku Line, Yamanote Line, and Tokyo Metro Yūrakuchō Line)

 

Shibuya LOFT: 7-minute walk from Shibuya Station (Hachiko exit) (reachable via the Yamanote Line)

 

Hours of Operation: Yurakucho LOFT 10:30 am – 9:30 pm daily; Shibuya LOFT 10:00 am – 9:00 pm daily.

Estimated Price: Varies depending on pose and accessories; see price guide for details

“Why Go?”: Get a 3D statue to put on your mantle!

March 25, 2016 0 comment
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(photos and video by Yingqian Zhao and Andrij Dynko)

You forgot again, didn’t you? Didn’t we warn you about this last time? You were having so much fun on your Tokyo adventure that you didn’t remember to buy gifts for the people back home until it was almost too late. Now you only have a few hours and you need to get some nice souvenirs, and fast!

No problem! If you can find the busiest intersection in the world at Shibuya Crossing, you are mere steps away from the solution to your omiyage dilemma. All you have to do is walk a six minutes from the Hachiko exit of the Shibuya JR. All of your souvenir and gift-shopping can be done in one trip to the fabulous Shibuya LOFT!

Shibuya LOFT’s Top Ten Souvenirs and Gift Items

So what treasures does Shibuya LOFT have to offer the discerning traveler? With the vast array of offerings, it was difficult to pick only ten things to recommend. Even if you don’t see anything here that strikes your fancy, make the trip anyway! It’s easy to get to, there are many discounts for tourists, and you’re certain to find a delightful surprise.

10. Character Items. In the souvenir shop on the 6th floor, you can get the Japanese interpretation on characters both foreign and domestic. The usual suspects of the Japanese animated world are there (Doreamon, Dragonball, etc) as well as the Japanese take on foreign characters.

Huchiko Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

Do you know who this is? This is Koppu no Fuchico, a cute little office lady that hangs from your coffee mug or tea cup (if you are unfamiliar with Koppu no Fuchico, you can see an explanation here). She and other cup hangers-on are popular with tourists, and they won’t bust your budget at 500-800 yen per figure.

Teapot Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

9. Teapots. A simple gift from a country that knows their tea. Options range from the durable simplicity of the iron teapot to beautifully-decorated traditional models.

8. Chair Socks. You know how some people put tennis balls on the four legs of chairs to avoid scratching up the floor? Well, Japan came up with a more elegant solution that won’t send your dog into a frenzy. Chair socks protect your hardwood or tile flooring and gives your friends and neighbors something to shake their heads at. What will those crazy Japanese folks think up next?

7. 3-D Puzzles. 3-D puzzles of iconic Japanese subjects (sword stands, castles, and temples) are popular with tourists. They are packaged flat, making them easy to fit in your suitcase for the trip home.

Knife Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

6. Knives. Japan is renowned worldwide for the quality of their cutting instruments. Shibuya LOFT stocks a number of high-quality cutting implements (both steel and ceramic) suitable for home or professional use. Obviously, you may need to ship these home instead of fitting it into your suitcase, so please make arrangements for shipping before purchasing.

5. Postcards. The inexpensive way to brag about your trip! The first floor has a wide array of Japan-specific postcards to choose from. Send a shot of the Skytree, or a sumo tournament, or maybe one of a cat hanging out at a torii gate! Your hotel concierge will be able to assist you in sending a postcards through the post.

Bento Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

4. Bento Boxes. You’ve seen them on TV, anime, and even in person—and now you can have one of your very own! Styles range from the cute character boxes for children up to the understated elegance of boxes made for adults.

Sumo Notebook Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

3. Stationery and Pens. It’s been stated before that Japan knows how to make beautiful stationery and writing utensils, and the basement of Shibuya LOFT is full of them. Sure, they have the Moleskines and fountain pens, but you can get that at home—this is where you choose from the vast array of notebooks and pens that have that certain Japanese something. Or maybe it just has a sumo wrestler on the cover. Hey, you know your friends and family better than I do.

sake Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

2. Souvenir Sake Barrels. Sake barrels can be a work of art all by themselves. These tiny barrels actually have some liquor in them, so be careful about what you declare for customs! These will look great on a shelf and will make a great conversational piece.

3D Statues Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

1. 3-D Printed Statues – Of You! Shibuya LOFT has a 3D printing studio on the 6th floor. Here, you can strike a pose in front of 102 mounted cameras and have a photo-realistic statue made of yourself. It can be expensive, but on the other hand, they have a dressing room—and no one is going to stop you from making a 3-D statue of yourself in your ninja suit! Unlike other products at Shibuya LOFT, these statues can be shipped overseas and require approximately three weeks for delivery. Check out our separate article on the statues here!

Problem-Free Shopping

Are you nervous about being a stranger in a strange land? Don’t be! Shibuya LOFT is six floors and a basement full of Japanese souvenir goodness, and their staff is ready and able to assist busy tourists.

First, you get a discount of 5% off your purchases (over 1080 yen) just for shopping there! Just show your passport at the counter to claim your discount. Also, Shibuya LOFT is a registered Japan Tax-Free Shop. After checking out, take your purchases, receipts, and passport to the Tax Refund Counter on the 6th floor to have the tax portion of your purchase refunded. No waiting in line at the airport! Both of these discounts combined will save you a bundle on your trip.

“That’s all well and good,” you might think. “But how am I actually going to get these discounts? I don’t speak Japanese!” Shibuya LOFT has already thought of that, and each floor has at least one English-speaking staff member to assist you with any questions you have and help you with your purchases. Problem solved!

And your bags? If you aren’t pressed for time and you don’t want to carry a bunch of bags through the streets of Tokyo, Shibuya LOFT can help with that, too! With a purchase of 450 yen or more, the store can ship your purchases to your local hotel (postal fees apply). Shipping in the city is fast, taking only a day to get your packages from the store to your hotel. How fast it gets into your suitcase for the flight home is entirely up to you. Unfortunately, Shibuya LOFT currently cannot ship overseas (with the exception of the 3-D statues).

Shibuya Loft Store Information

Website (via Google Translate) | Facebook (Japanese only) | Online Store (Japanese only; only ships domestically)

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Shibuya JR station (Hachiko exit). (Click on the map for walking directions via Google Maps)

 

Hours of Operation: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm daily.

“Why Go?”: For your last-minute souvenir-shopping and gift-giving needs!

Click on one of the tags below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

March 18, 2016 0 comment
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WIFI available, Tokyo, Japan FI

One of the worst things about world travel is that feeling of being held incommunicado. You have no phone, you have no wi-fi access, you have no way of getting in touch with anyone. And if you get lost…well, you won’t stay that way, but it sure won’t be fun trying to find your way back to familiar surroundings.

If you travel frequently, you already know that you don’t dare use your own phone beyond the direst of emergencies. Unfortunately, this also means that you can’t make or receive phone calls, use Google Maps to find places, coordinate meetings with acquaintances, or do any of the dozens of other useful things that have made our phones an indispensable part of our daily lives.

Y Mobile Phone Tokyo Japan

 

But what can you do? Wait until you return to the hotel to check your email? Not update Facebook with pictures of what you are eating? Leave notes with the concierge and plan ahead? Like some sort of pre-technological savage?

No way! Here at Enable Japan, we have put together this guide to help you keep you connected via cell and the internet to the rest of your life back home.

BUYING AND RENTING A PHONE IN TOKYO

Softbank Store Phone Wifi Tokyo Japan

Rental Phones (1 week or less): If you are coming to Tokyo for the short term, such as for a vacation or a business trip, renting a phone might be the way to go. By using one of the websites below, you can have a phone delivered to you at the airport, to your hotel, or any other place you might need one. Or, if you know where you are going, you can also pick up a rental at any of their convenient locations. Rates and phone types vary, so be sure to check out all of the options before deciding.

Softbank Phone Rental

Rentafone Japan

Pupuru

JAL ABC

Prepaid Phones (1 week to 30 days or more): If you are planning on staying in Tokyo for a longer period of time, a prepaid phone may turn out to be a less expensive than renting. Prepaid phones are purchased from vendors and then filled with credit (via a prepaid phone card), and can later be refilled at by purchasing additional prepaid cards from places such as kiosks and convenience stores. Prepaid phone vendors offer prepaid phones from ¥6,500 and up, depending on the phone, but it is possible to get no-frills models for as low as ¥2000.

Prepaid phone registration usually requires official Japanese documents (such as a residence card, health insurance card, Japanese driver’s license, etc.), so this option is best for people staying in Japan for a longer period. Some stores may be able to register you with just a hotel information and passport, so be sure to ask.

Softbank Mobile Prepaid Services

Au Prepaid Services

Pupuru Mobile Rental

Buying a Phone (1 year or more): For an extended stay, you will probably want a cell phone contract, which will allow you to buy a smart phone. Because of the duration of the contract, subscription plans are best for locals or people holding residence cards.

NTT Docomo New Subscriptions

Au How to Purchase an iPhone

Softbank Price Plans

WI-FI SERVICE IN TOKYO

Phone service is nice and all, but not everything can be done on a tiny phone screen. What about your computer or tablet?

Free Services

  • Reputable hotels usually provide free Wi-Fi services. Even better, the service extends out into the hotel’s lobby and coffee shop, which means that you won’t be stuck in your room while checking your email.
  • Major train stations (such as the Metro subway stations, the JR lines, and the Keikyu lines), buses, and convenience stores have free Wi-Fi connections that requires email registration when used for the first time. Although useful, you can’t completely rely on these networks—if there are a lot of people using the service, you may not be able to make or keep a connection.
  • Free WiFi Passport is a service provided by Softbank that allows travelers to use over 400,000 hot spots in Japan (mostly restaurant, cafe, and hotels) for up to two weeks. However, the service must be set up before you arrive in Japan. To do so, you must call *8180 with a phone that has a global roaming contract to get a password. With your phone number and password, you can connect to any network called “SSID .FREE_WI-FI_PASSPORT” for the duration of your trip.
Softbank Free Wifi Tokyo Japan

Free wi-fi Passport sign

Pocket Wi-Fi

Another common method of connecting to the Internet in Japan is by way of a Pocket Wi-Fi rental. A Pocket Wi-Fi device acts as a mobile modem that allows multiple devices to connect and is charged like a cell phone battery. A Pocket Wi-Fi device can be rented prior to your arrival in Japan, picked up at Narita or Haneda Airport, or delivered to your hotel or other location. Prices vary depending on the data plan.

In addition to the services offered under cell phones, the following providers also offer Pocket Wi-Fi devices–

Sakura Mobile

Japan Wireless

SIM Cards

If you need both phone and data services (typically for a smartphone or a cellular-connected tablet), you may want to consider renting a Japanese SIM card. Prepaid SIM cards can be bought at most large electronics stores, such as Bic Camera (Tokyo locations) and Yodobashi Camera (List of Tokyo locations at the bottom of this page),  or through one of the cell phone service providers listed above. The plans are offered in monthly increments, and vary in both cost and duration. You will likely have to change the setup on your phone or activate it from a Japanese phone, so be sure to ask the salesperson to help you set it up.

And there you have it! Now there is no reason for you to be out of touch or for you to stay lost (unintentionally). So fire up that Google Map, check out the Enable website to find someplace cool to go, and then call someone up and have them meet you there! Your (connected) adventure in Japan awaits!

March 4, 2016 0 comment
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Akihabara Electronics FI, Tokyo, Japan

Behind the bright lights and glamour of the main streets of Akihabara are a large number of tiny shops that sell specialty “junk.” These stores usually focus on one type of item,  but many have a thrift-store feel where they offer various random “junk.” Even if you aren’t one of those people who build or repair things, it’s amusing to wade through the Japanese kitsch to see entire stores dedicated to electrical wires or retro electronics or strange little key chain devices that you now suddenly can’t do without. One of my favorite stores was the light bulb shop (near the AKB48 café) that specialized in every kind of light bulb you can imagine.

Akihabara Tokyo Light Store

Light Store 2 Akihabara Tokyo
In this row of Akihabara Electronics junkyard shops, you can also buy used phones and laptops. So if you’re visiting Tokyo and something happens to your phone, a cheaper alternative might be to just visit Akihabara’s back streets and get a used iPhone (stores had a used iPhone 5 16gb priced at ¥17,800).

If you’re the kind of person that builds your own stuff, Akihabara Electronics stores on the backstreet is your best source for equipment. Here you can purchase inexpensive electric and electronic parts in order to repair your older items or to bring your mad-science projects to life. While one store might focus on electric parts, another might focus on light bulbs or radios. In addition to the electronic parts, the stores here seem to focus on various niche markets. I even found a store selling used Nintendo DS for ¥1000! I wonder if it works…and if it doesn’t maybe I can fix it with some of the parts I can buy here!

Nintendo DS Lite Akihabara Tokyo

Finding the back streets is not difficult. Simply follow a side street from the main road (Chuo Dori, away from the JR station) and follow the people into the alleys and between the buildings. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you feel like you’re in a flea market.

Akihabara Back Street Electronics Tokyo
I would recommend coming before night time, because you will need a good amount of time to look through all of the nick-knacks and doodads that crowd every part of Akihabara’s Junkyard Row.

STREET INFORMATION

Location: Akihabara. Take the Electric Town exit from the Akihabara JR station (either side). Cross the Chou Dori and go back a street or two.

Hours: Various. All stores are usually open by noon.

“Why Go?”: Replace your broken phone with a cheap substitute, buy some electronic parts, and discover weird little devices for yourself or to give as a gift.

February 25, 2016 0 comment
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“LINE?” I asked. “The app? They have a store?”

“Yes they do,” the missus replied. She was on it, chatting with several of her cousins. The familiar tone of messages sent and received came fast and furious. She laughed at a sticker emoji that someone sent.

“I don’t get it. It’s a free app, right? You can get stickers, I suppose. But what could they offer that justifies opening a store in Harajuku?”

****

As it turns out, there is a lot more to LINE than just an instant messenger service. The characters featured in the app’s free “stickers” (small bits of artwork that the app’s users can insert into their chats) are so popular that they have spawned their own line of merchandise. On the mobile app, a user can purchase virtual “coins” in order to get premium stickers, themes, and related applications (such as the Disney TsumTsum application, a match-three game which has its own series of mini-cartoons that play on the Disney Channel in Japan). From the application, you can also make international phone calls, call a taxi, or even attach a credit card to the account to make use of LinePay, the app’s new mobile payment service.

The app’s success has spun off into the “Line Offline” cartoon, which follows the adventures of Moon the Salaryman and other LINE characters (you can watch the first episode in Japanese). The popularity of the characters led to the opening of the LINE Friends stores, which feature character merchandise and even exclusive app stickers that you can only get by visiting the store.

****

The Harajuku LINE Friends store was the first LINE store in Japan, and it’s easy to get to. Once you leave Harajuku station’s Takeshita-Guchi exit, cross the street and wade through the super-kawaii!!! crowds on Takeshita Street. If you manage to get through without getting too much fashion on you, you will make it to the other end of Takeshita where it intersects with Omotesan Street. Use the crosswalk to get to the other side of the street, turn right, and keep walking. In about 250 meters, you will run into Brown and Sally.

Brown the Bear is LINE’s primary mascot. He stands next to the door, with a yellow duck named Sally on his head. There are several other characters related to the LINE app inside the door–Brown and Sally again, as well as Leonard the Frog, Edward the Worm, and Cony the White Rabbit. Stop and take a picture with your favorite!

The upper floor is long and narrow, and features dozens of items emblazoned with the LINE characters. Buttons and stamps are up front, along with the cute school gear for kids to show off to their classmates. On the wall on the right hang sweatshirts of the different characters, and you can pull the hood up to wear froggy eyes or a duck bill. If you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive to give the LINE fan in your life, this floor probably has it.

At the opposite end of the store is a giant stuffed Brown, sitting in FAO Schwarz fashion, ready for pictures. Go ahead and give him a hug. I did, once I made sure no one was looking. Also in this area are a number of framed artworks called “Memories of Brown,” which are apparently scenes from the cartoon. My favorite was the one where Brown, his expression unchanged from his normal small-eyed, unsmiling stare, punches a crab man in the face. I’m sure there’s a great story behind that altercation.

Next to the giant stuffed Brown is a set of stairs leading to the lower level. The downstairs section of the LINE Friends store is a little more upscale–dishes, models, and other fancier merchandise. Fancier prices, too. But even if you’re just window-shopping, you can visit Brown’s Room at the back, featuring the bear relaxing in his chair. On the wall behind him are a number of smaller Browns, each wearing a different outfit. Judging by the reactions of the girls snapping picture after picture, this was the cutest thing ever.

Summary: If you are a fan of all things LINE, this is a must-stop during your trip to Harajuku. If you are a fan of the application, you can stop by the register to collect one of the exclusive virtual stickers that you can only get at the store. Be sure to break them out during your next LINE chat, so everyone knows that yes, you were fashionably there.

Location: Omotesando St., Harajuku

Hours: Weekdays 11 AM to 9 PM; Weekends and Holidays: 10 AM – 9 PM

Website (English): http://fs.line.me/en/#index, or on Facebook (Japanese) at https://www.facebook.com/lfs.harajuku?ref=ts&fref=ts

July 4, 2015 0 comment
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Dessert at Ginza Cozy Corner, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

A bright, sunny Sunday is a rarity in Tokyo during March, and I knew I had to take advantage of the day while it lasted. After a long week of classes, I elected to explore the Ginza district, one of Tokyo’s swankiest and most posh districts. I was well aware of Ginza’s luxury, where every square meter of land in the area’s center is said to be worth ten million yen, or 100,000 USD. However, I was determined to brave the temptations of all the expensive, shiny goods Ginza has to offer.

Sunday was the perfect day to visit Ginza, not only for the weather, but Ginza closes its main thoroughfare, Chuo Dori, to vehicles. Pedestrians can leisurely walk along the clean, wide street while gazing up at the towering skyline. Ginza can get very crowded, especially on weekends. With the main road closed to vehicles, the district no longer feels congested, but comfortable and relaxing.

However, even on an easy Sunday, Ginza can be intimidating at first glance, with its looming skyscrapers and numerous high-end brand name stores. But in Ginza there are a number of unique stores worth visiting during your travels in Tokyo.

Begin by heading out of Ginza Station’s A13 exit. Continue walking straight and turn right at the large Louis Vuitton on the corner. Then you will see a sign for a store called Ito-ya. This is a good place to start a Ginza daytrip, or even half-day trip.

Ito-ya is a large store that sells writing goods, including writing utensils in a wide range of colors and patterns, postcards, greeting cards and envelopes, notebooks, and charming stationary. Ito-ya is a full five floors, with each floor selling goods in a variety of designs, from more basic and conventional, to more personal and decorative. Some themed writing accessories can also be found. Disney-themed notebooks sporting Mickey Mouse and the ever-popular Frozen lined the shelves, as well as a small section of merchandise with designs and characters from the Swedish book series Moomin, which is popular in Japan. Ito-ya also sells wa bungu, or traditional Japanese stationary. This is a definitely a great place to stop on a Ginza excursion.

Ginza is host to a number of high rise department stores, each more extravagant than the next. These department stores sell a great deal of clothing and accessories, while various cafes and restaurants can be found inside them, as well. Ginza department stores are so large, that they often take up an entire block and a full day’s worth of exploration is more or less required for them. Matsuya and Mitsukoshi are just two of the many department stores Ginza has to offer. Both department stores are almost like miniature city districts in one large building. The Matsuya building has its own restaurant city for those who want to dine in style. Mitsukoshi has an array of cafes and coffee shops right on the ground floor. Exploring the department stores is a good way to experience the lavish Ginza reputation.

Alongside Ginza’s colossal department stores and clothing shops are numerous cafes and bakeries. Ginza Cozy Corner is a small bakery selling decorative and delicious confections, sweets, and pastries. The cakes and baked goods are all visually appealing. The abundance of sweets, including chocolates, truffles, and whole cakes, behind a large glass case tempts you to indulge. In addition to pastries and baked goods, a wide variety of ice creams can be purchased, both by the pint and as quick treats. And Ginza Cozy Corner also has a café up the stairs. The menu includes parfaits, pasta dishes, and cakes by the slice. Stop by this store before leaving Ginza to bring back some sweets, and perhaps have some dessert.

By now, I bet you’re getting hungry. And do you know what’s great in Ginza? Sushi! Let Voyagin help you secure a reservation at Sushi Ginza Kyubey and enjoy your lunch in style!

What? You’ve already been to Sushi Ginza Kyubey? Well you haven’t had the full sushi experience in Ginza until you go to Sushi-ya Ginza. And Voyagin can help you get a reservation there, too!

Ginza isn’t limited to only upscale and expensive shopping. There are options for shopping on an affordable budget. Amongst the brand name fashion at sky high prices are cheaper but no less trendy and high quality clothing stores. GU is a store selling all sorts of fashionable pieces that can be worn throughout the seasons, and in a variety of combinations and for various occasions, whether it’s fashion for the office or for a casual, comfortable look. The store carries five floors women’s, men’s, and even children’s clothing. GU also sells shoes, and also provides shoe repair on the bottom level.

Another affordable store to visit is Ginza’s Uniqlo, a great place to find fashionable basics. Similarly, Uniqlo offers men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and accessories at great prices. If you aren’t looking for distinct statement pieces from high-end brands, check out Uniqlo for simple, everyday wear in excellent quality. Mixing and matching pieces can create up-to-date looks without the menacing price tag.

Clothing and fashion accessories aren’t the only things to shop for in Ginza. A wonderful toy store called Hakuhinkan Toy Park sits near the end of Chuo Dori, near Shinbashi Station. This is an excellent place to see unique Japanese toys, souvenirs, and knickknacks, and especially if you’re traveling with kids and family.

Heard throughout the store are all the strange yet endearing noises made by the vast collection of toys and games. It’s a colorful, cute, and mesmerizing toy wonderland. The entire Hakuhinkan Toy Park is eight floors and a basement. The 8th floor is a theatre, while the basement is a fashion doll park. Different toys, games, figurines, and other related items are sold on each floor. Toys include plush toys, figurines, trading cars, video games, puzzles, and battery powered robots. A small section on the first floor sells quirky home goods, such as cookbooks and night lights.

Right across from Hakuhinkan Toy Park is Carne Station, an excellent way to end the day in Ginza. Carne Station is an all-you-can-eat yakiniku (grilled meat) buffet. Here, you pay one price, and are allowed to eat from the large, varied helpings of meats, seafood, vegetables, and side dishes. At your table, there is a small grill, and you can cook as much as you’d like from the assorted buffet. If you’re squeamish around raw meat, and possibly fire, then this place might not suit you. But it’s quite a worthwhile experience to cook your own meat over a hot grill, and it’s especially fun with a large group of friends and family. Many tourists were seated at large tables, sharing different meats, seafood, and sides. Couples came on dates, and some were even grilling hefty plates of meat alone.

For the rest of the day, I tried very hard to ignore all the receipts from items I had purchased. It was like those price tags would disappear if I pretended they didn’t exist. But there was clearly more to Ginza than just an expensive shopping spree. Amid the luxury brands are some must-visit spots that can make a Ginza trip more rewarding. Definitely check out other smaller stores along Chuo Dori and Ginza’s various quaint side streets.

Feeling hungry? Check out two of Tokyo’s fun themed restaurants while in Ginza: Alice in Wonderland and Vampire Café.

If you’d like experience more of Japan’s wonderful department stores, visit our article Shopping Tour of Shinjuku’s East End Department Stores.

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Zoe Mackey is a native New Yorker and college student currently studying in Tokyo. Her greatest inspirations are street fashion, lazy Sundays, and science fiction. You’ll more than likely find her taking amateur photos and looking for the best food in Tokyo. You can email her at z.isamac@gmail.com.

April 18, 2015 0 comment
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Wa Space Exterior, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

The 4% iron mix is important. When fired, the clay piece will take on a gorgeous black and gold color, becoming a suitably striking plate upon which to serve sushi or other delicacies. Nearby is another of the artist’s works, a bowl with a similar mixture of clay and copper. This one changed color to a mellow light green when it was fired.

Clay artist and potter Kei Kawachi shows me several of his other pieces. The glossy ones are fired and glazed, he explains. The others pieces are matted, suitable for everyday dishware. In fact, that’s how he uses it; he shows me pictures of plates he has made, laden with his wife’s cooking. Beautiful and practical, as can only be expected from the man whose mugs have been declared “superior tools for everyday living” by the Foundation of Craft Centre Japan.

Pottery at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

Nearby, yuzen artist Itsuko Kasahara’s creations are on display. Yuzen is the art of dyeing designs into kimonos, but she is not showing kimonos today. Rather, the bolts of cloth are delicately inked with traditional designs, as yuzen artists have done for centuries. Kasahara prefers flowers and other pastoral scenery, but does not limit herself to them–one of her other major pieces depicts scenes from The Tale of Genji, a Japanese folk tale.

Yuzen and pottery are just a few of the many things that are promoted by Wa Space. Since their opening in 2012, they have hosted events ranging from sumi-e (ink wash paintings) and DIY/recycle artists at their space in Akasaka, to bazaars at the Tokyo American Club. Wa Space’s staff has traveled all over Japan, searching for traditional craftsmen in order to feature their unique creations at their gallery. “It’s all about developing relationships,” says Matthew Ketchum, the Wa Space’s PR representative. “Most of these craftsmen don’t want to work with you if they don’t know you. So we go out into the rest of the country and meet people, make friends, and hopefully they’ll introduce us to other artists.”

Artisan goods at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

Although they do sell decorative items, most of the pieces available from the Wa Space are of a practical nature. “Modern simplicity that can be readily integrated into your life,” is their motto, and it is reflected in their product selection. Matthew shows me a number of designs, ranging from the simple practicality of a clay sake set to intricately ground and layered kiriko drinking glasses. A nearby section features hand-dyed noren from Studio Garaya of Tochigi prefecture; a glance in the other direction reveals the soft glow of the chochin lanterns from Suzumo, far from their origins in Mito City in the Ibaraki prefecture.

But adhering to principles of modesty and simplicity doesn’t mean that the present and future are ignored in favor of the past. Another display contains the works of an artist who makes decorative cases for iPhones and iPads, and yet another shows travel coffee mugs designed for our on-the-go modern lifestyle. The inclusion of these modern pieces may give an observer pause, but it fits Wa Space’s philosophy of understated beauty matched with practical use. If you use an object in your daily life, shouldn’t it be elegant as well as functional?

Pillows at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

In a time of big city lights and electronic distractions, the Wa Space finds a place for those objects whose refinement allows them to fit in any era. Whether you are looking for graceful decorative art for your home or for an elegantly functional souvenir of your trip, the Wa Space can help. And even after you return home, you can look back at their website, and see who they have met since you left. Wabi Sabi style is a bottomless pool—much beauty remains to be created and be discovered. And if it comes from Japan, you can be sure that the Wa Space will eventually find it.

 

Pottery at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

Glasses at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

 

Handmade goods at Wa Space, Akasaka, Tokyo

Artist Kei Kawachi (Japanese)
FB: https://www.facebook.com/kei.kawachi
http://kawachikei.jimdo.com

Itsuko Kalahari’s
Website: http://itsuko.sakura.ne.jp

Wa Space Location Information

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Online Store

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Akasaka Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line) (click on the Google Map for directions)

Hours of Operation: By appointment only. Make appointments via this link.

“Why Go?”: Traditional gifts and home furnishings created by Japanese craftsmen!

For more shopping options in Tokyo, follow one of the links below–

April 11, 2015 0 comment
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With great food, clean beaches and a large variety of both indoor and outdoor activities like the Spocha amusement center and the Oedo Edo-style onsen theme park, Odaiba is a popular spot for families and couples alike.Even getting to Odaiba can be fun. First, there is the unmanned Yurikamome Line which gives you an up-close view of Rainbow Bridge as you pass over the clean waters of Tokyo Bay. For a more leisurely approach, the Tokyo Water Bus is an option that lets you visit both the famous Sensoji Temple in Asakusa (plus nearby Skytree) and Odaiba on the same ticket. For more information on things to do in Odaiba, visit our articles 36 Hours in Tokyo and Odaiba: Tokyo’s Shopping, Amusement and Relaxation Paradise.

Edited by Daniel Foster
Music By Ean Cruz
Footage by Krystal Klumpp

March 16, 2015 0 comment
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When I first started looking around for used bookstores in Tokyo, a number of people told me about Caravan Books in Ikebukuro. But alas, by the time I got around to visiting, it had closed. The owner had moved his business online.

When I received this assignment, I went looking for Caravan’s online store, now known as Infinity Books. A Google search turned up–a bookstore in Tokyo? One I hadn’t been to or even knew about? What madness is this?

At Shinagawa station I transferred from the JR lines to the Keikyu Main Line Rapid Limited Express, heading towards Nishi-Magome. At the next stop (Sengakuji), I switched to the Toei Asakusa line (light red circle) going towards Oshiage (Skytree). I got off at Honjo-Azumbashi station and departed from the A1 exit.

At the A1 exit, a person can turn around and look directly at the Skytree itself. I am not that person. Putting the Skytree to my back, I walked along the sidewalk, passing under a light blue walking bridge that spanned the road. Looking right as I walked, I spotted the gigantic golden turd with which someone decided to mar Asakusa’s skyline. I continued walking until I found the small black sign announcing the presence of Infinity Books and Cafè.

Infinity Books is roomy and cozy, if a little on the dark side. The books are only split between fiction and non-fiction–you’ll find sci-fi novels right next to historical romances and murder mysteries. It sounds like a strange way to organize, but I liked it. You may not find the exact book you want, but you’ll find something. And when you find that something, take it to the back of the shop. There are a few tables that are better lit, as well as…a bar?

Yes indeed. Nick Ward, the owner and proprietor, ran a bar (The Fiddler, in Takadanobaba) prior to opening Infinity Books. He keeps Yebisu on tap, the perfect complement for the thinking drinker’s new book. He also ran Caravan Books back in the days before he moved his operation online. “The costs were enormous. The problem was that I was doing the same thing I’m doing now–six days a week, watching a computer screen, waiting for an order to come in. Only there was no one to talk to, no new people coming around. My wife finally told me to get all of the books out of the house, so I opened this place.” As of this writing, Infinity Books has been open for nine months.

Like Good Day, Infinity can’t survive by on-site bookselling alone. Nick gives English lessons and frequently holds events (such as the acoustic jams every second Saturday of the month). He also maintains Infinity’s online presence through Amazon and the store’s web page. Infinity Books takes trades, depending on whether or not Nick wants them; shelf space is limited. If he likes what you bring, Nick offers store credit (around 35% of the resale value) or cash (around 15%).

Inifinity has a rotating cast of characters, most of whom have followed the Yorkshireman from Caravan Books and The Fiddler. In my short time there, I met a pair of Canadian acoustic musicians, a Korean woman who sings classical Japanese songs, and an Irishman who teaches at a nearby university. However, I didn’t meet the ghost. Nick swears that she (it’s a woman, according to the people who have seen her) stomps around the store at night and throws things. Occasionally, she goes upstairs to the apartment building above the shop. “People there have seen her,” he says. He keeps a glass of beer over the bar for her, in case she gets thirsty. So far, she hasn’t drunk it. Maybe she doesn’t like Yebisu.

Nick and I chatted for a few hours about everything under the sun. Don’t be afraid to visit; he likes meeting and talking to new people. Even weirdos, which was a good thing for me.

“So Nick,” I started in on him. “Do you think Hitler had to fight a lot of time travelers?”

“What?”

“You know. You read books about people inventing time travel, and the first thing they think about doing is going back and killing Hitler. Deadpool just did a whole thing on it. It was in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. It even has a TV Tropes page dedicated to the idea. What do you think?”

“I think that Harry Turtledove’s stuff is over in the fiction area.” He nodded at my pint glass. “How many of those have you had?”

WHAT I BOUGHT: Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner; I’m constantly giving this book away. I also bought W.E.B. Griffin’s The Hunters, which looked to be something along the lines of Clancy’s Rainbow Six, which I enjoyed. Also, a few beers (800 yen/pint).

WEBSITE: http://www.infinitybooksjapan.com, or keep up with them at their Facebook page.
Open Tuesday-Saturday 1100-2300, Sundays 1100-1800. Closed Mondays.

February 11, 2015 0 comment
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Don’t do what I did. I left Tokyo station at the North exit, crossed the street, and started walking around. It took me an hour to find Maruzen in this fashion. It was at this point that I began thinking that Google Maps wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Do this instead. Inside Tokyo station, go towards the North exit. Instead of leaving the station at the exit, instead turn as if you are going to the Subway Tozai Line (blue circle). Walk until you see Mr. Minit; it should be on your right.

Across from Mr. Minit is a sketchy-looking exit. It is unmarked; there is no indication as to where it might lead. Strange for orderly Japan, right? Well, if you go up through this exit, it puts you right at the front door of Maruzen. As soon as you leave the station, crane your neck and look straight up. You will see the big M logo.

maruzen tokyo

Maruzen is a big box store, though their English section is smaller than Kinokuniya’s in Shinjuku. The fourth floor is where the foreign books are located (in addition to English, there are a number of German and French books). The escalator puts you right in front of that eternal bookstore fixture, the cafè. Turn right to get to the good stuff.

The new releases are right up front, and a fiction section was behind that. Both had a good selection. Going in deeper, I found an extensive children’s section, including a number of Golden Books that I knew from when I was just a ‘lil reader. I pulled one off the shelf–Lightning McQueen is having an adventure of some sort. So much for the classics. Still, they had The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, which certainly counts in their favor.

Of special interest to English teachers and the parents of young children will be the large section with Oxford Graded Readers and Penguin Active Reading books, to help your kid/student with their vocabulary and reading skills. Another thing that caught my eye was the large collection of Oxford Very Short Intros. These books (currently around 400 different volumes are in print) take topics such as Descartes, AIDS, American History, Fractals, etc. and distill the topic to around 150 pages of easy-to-understand reading. If you want to learn something new but don’t know where to start, these books are great entry points.

After an extensive nonfiction section, the rest of the fourth floor of the Maruzen is taken up with various frip-frappery with only vague connections to books. I could understand the stationery and the pens (even the 10,000 yen pens), but purses? Ties? It just threw off my groove.

WHAT I BOUGHT: The Oxford Very Short Intro to Prehistory.

WEBSITE: http://www.marunouchi.com/e/shop/detail/2015.
Open daily 0900-2100.

Can’t get enough of bookstores? Visit Derek’s comprehensive review of Tokyo’s best bookstores, both big and small.

February 7, 2015 0 comment
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