Star Speak, By Koel Purie: Shopping In Tokyo

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Star Speak is an ongoing series of columns, penned by celebrities we are used to seeing on these pages. This is their space to write about their take on fashion, the fraternity and whatever else catches their fancy.

Actor, television show host, columnist and now the newly appointed Brand Ambassador for Japan Tourism, Koel Purie is our guest columnist this week. It’s only fitting that she talk us through her favorite shopping spots around Tokyo and spill some insider secrets. We don’t know about you but we sure are taking notes and paying close attention. Read on! And when done, you can follow Koel on Twitter here and find her on Instagram here.


Shopping In Tokyo

Did I tell you I have the best job in the world? The Japanese government has hired me as an ambassador to promote tourism. Instead of listing out all the tourist attractions (and there are more than you can imagine), I’m going to give you the best reason to book your flight to Tokyo – shopping. You’re about to read my carefully collated and personally experienced shopping spots. Feel fortunate, this is classified stuff.

Tokyo is like Delhi – nothing opens before 10.30 -11am and when you’re in a once in a lifetime place such as this your day has got to start earlier than that. So, get your sleepy butt to Shibuya (it’s the busiest crossing in the world). Park yourself and your yummy latte at a window seat on the 2nd floor of the Tsutaya/Starbucks (beautiful library-cum-bookshop-cum-café) and marvel at the discipline and orderly pace that 2,500 people cross every time the signal changes. Then walk or jump in a cab to Harajuku Takeshita street – this is home to all the whacky, tacky, young, cos play, Japanese fashion. It’s cheap and teenagey but if you have a good eye it can be heaven for a few statement pieces. It is here all the crazily dressed blonde gothic Lolitas known as “Harajuku girls” find their stash. Walking through Harajuku is also a great study of what’s trending in the world of cool in Japan. I went for a themed birthday bash to Moscow last year and the insane costumes I grabbed from here, outdid everyone else.

After getting your fill of nonsense must-haves, walk down Jingumae street heading towards Omotesando. This is the high-end chic lane (a la Knightsbridge), full of stylish shops, cafes and restaurants. Don’t forget to look at the modern architecture of the buildings. Go into the Comme de garçons store, Prada, Issey Miyake and Hugo Boss just to check out the cool layout. If you don’t want the world brands, then veer off right onto Cat street which has lovely little boutiques where you can pick up a quaint, delicately crocheted dress or a military jacket that fits just right or red faux fur flatforms. Back on the main road Settimissimo is an unassuming basement shop with delightful clothes, accessories, bags, shoes. I went a bit nuts in this shop, greedily ‘overshopping’ and have since worn on repeat everything I bought from there. Walk on further and enter GYRE building to find the Moma design shop with super funky things. In the basement of this building is the famed cupcake bakery from NYC, Magnolia Bakery. On the same side of the street is Oriental Bazaar – a 3 storey one stop shop for all Japanese souvenir goodies; from Sake sets and tea pots to kimonos to origami earrings to Japanese doll book marks to paintings, antiques, wind chimes to furniture and elaborate Japanese screens and gorgeous goodies you didn’t even know existed. Great place to pick up gifts and stuff for back home. Pass The Baton on the other side of the street is a vintage shop of wondrous little accessories, clothes and curios. Winged wheel has divine handmade stationary. Stop and have a break at the Aoyama flower market tea house for a coffee or wine and then onwards.

My top favourite place for Japanese styled clothes is the Lumine shopping centres in Shinjuku – they have about 3 or 4 (although I discovered a new one yesterday) next to each other ranging in price bracket. Each of these Lumines has 7 to 8 floors of unadulterated fashion and accessories. I’m salivating as I’m writing this. It’s an open plan layout of the funkiest stand-alone boutiques featuring little known Japanese designers. Everything is asymmetrical or with upside down pockets or buttons at the back. I challenge you to find a plain white shirt. The colours are usually subtle and the material used is generally expensive natural fabrics. How such loose, unfitted, retro clothes can look so slick and elegant is beyond me. Japan style never goes out of fashion. You will want everything from the high waisted, wide legged culottes to the suede jumpsuit but only a few golden items will hang on you the way they are meant to – we just don’t have the Japanese bodies. We’re all curves, hips and busts and they are all straight lines, narrow and petite. A word of caution – just because it fits don’t buy it, the wide legged pants don’t work as skinny leggings no matter how much you want them. Oh and most things only come in one size, so unless you are blessed with Japanese bone structure- one size definitely does not fit all.

Of course, you can’t give Ginza a miss. This is the district of big department stores – Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi (both these have a great mix of international brands and are like the Selfridges and Harrods of Tokyo). For more local Japanese brands I would go to Esetan (best food hall) and Marui (written 0101). There are also tons of boutiques dotted around. Few typically Japanese stores that locals love are – Muji, Uniqlo, Gu, Bic Camera (for all imaginable electronics). These are everywhere and the prices will make you jump up with joy.

Like everything else here, shopping in Tokyo can be rather Zen or Disneyland on steroids and as an outsider you will never know which one you’re going to get where. The shop staff can either be invisible and yet read your mind, bringing you exactly what you want even before you’ve decided. The gentle politeness can put you in a meditative shopping trance. But just like that the moment can be broken with a shrill shop assistant welcoming on a loop apparently, no one. This eerily happy performance of nonstop greeting – “Irasshaimase and Gozaimasu” on repeat will drive you mad and you will want to run out screaming but not before stuffing the culprits mouth shut. Let’s hope you get the invisible assistant assisting you. If you are a determined shopper than I suggest carry large heavy duty headphones with blasting techno so nothing can interfere with you and retail magic.

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    • Exactly. Sorry for being harsh, there is nothing “collated”or “classified” about this, if your article has starbucks, hugo boss, prada, magnolia and moma then it’s not uniquely Tokyo. Also most other info is commonly available as Ella says. Yes, we now know the author is a globe trotter , Knightsbridge, Moscow, NY , Delhi and of course Tokyo)

  1. I’m usually amazed how people go crazy when any white person chooses to dress up in clothes of another culture or sport even a small ornament (like a bindi or beaded braids) and the whole world goes crazy accusing them of cultural appropriation. Yet, here we have an Indian celebrity dressed in the revered Japanese geisha costume and no one will say a word. I still remember the huge controversy about Katy Perry in geisha getup at the AMAs in 2013 and the Hindu Group offended by Selena Gomez wearing a bindi. It’s pure hypocrisy if you ask me, when we are offended by white people using our culture while we too appropriate other people’s culture.

    • Oh man, please don’t import all the PC nonsense like “cultural appropriation” and other meaningless American concepts. Most of the outrage about Selena Gomez’s bindi was generated in the US and some of the PC police in India hopped onto the bandwagon. Most Indians don’t care about it and even feel proud that it has gained popularity.
      As a Japanophile, I enjoyed this article despite its poor quality. And since India never colonised Japan, I don’t think it is offensive for Purie to wear Japanese clothes.

      • Cultural appropriation is not crap.
        I feel like these issues only become relevant to you when it hits close to home.
        YES, this IS cultural appropriation. And I’m amazed something like this was allowed on this website. There is no reason to do a JAP face when there are Japanese models willing to model for these photo shoots (Karli Kloss and whoever the writer of this piece is, please take note).

        • The Japanese tourism industry rents out kimonos and you can walk around in it day long. Same goes for many other countries, it is no different from Kashmir ki Kali type costumes for lical tourists. Hardly cultural appropriation. There is so much wrong with this piece, the kimono wearing is the least of it.

  2. I honestly wish someone would take the time to proofread the piece. It is otherwise interesting but the grammar and typos at places are appalling.

  3. I absolutely loved this. I abandoned the previous celebrity post barely 4 lines in. Maybe cause I tend more towards travel than fashion. In my mind’s eye, I was in Japan.

  4. PnP do a great job on this blog and provides mere mortals like me to educate ourselves on latest Indian fashion trends. Of late HHC is becoming more like a page 3 portal than retaining its original intent: fashion critique. It seems like HHC is focused more on pleasing the Bollywood and high society types than being the funny, witty and smart blog it once was.

    Not sure if Koel Purie received the incorrect memo on what she was supposed to write for HHC. This piece is more suited for the comments section on TripAdvisor or travelocity.

  5. Carefully curated! It is one big Japan cliche cluster f…k. Guess surnames can take you everywhere.

    With this HHC jumps the shark.

  6. Easily the most irrelevant and badly written “Star Speak” so far. I usually look forward to the columns, but this just seems like a Japan tourism and not a good one at that.

  7. Dear P&P,
    This is utterly irrelevant to the context of your blog , are you venturing out to another direction ?

    Let me further spill out my doubts.
    What are Ms. Koel credential to be chosen as Japan tourism Brand Ambassador ?
    Whats her field ?
    And by any means, Someone think that she is introducing Tokyo in to readers in unique way , let me tell you this description that she wrote would be same as many south east asian cities (KL,Jakarta, S’Pore) which changing just street names?

    Neither she has writing capabilities where she is bringing out Tokyo’s idiosyncrasies in any manner ?
    I feel Koel must have negotiated as hard to be Japan tourism Ambassador as she might have pleaded to P&P to write here as well.
    P&P , we old readers ought to see this ‘Star speak’ going up only ! This was Downgrade , in many ways than one .

  8. What a bore of a column, was like a giant syllabus about Japan and I stopped after the first 4 lines. The writer could not even get me past the critical intro para.
    The star speak column started well and I looked forward to this month’s, and I get this? YIIKOS. If this is the tone it would take going forward…then sayonara!!

  9. This was probably the most boring “celebrity” article I have read on HHC. Not sure what the writer means by “curated” and “collated” – since almost all the places and experiences mentioned here can be found in other Asian cities, as well as in other travel pieces. Harajuku, Takeshimaya, Starbucks – REALLY? And the golden words of wisdom – one size does not fit all. YA THINK?

    PnP – let the celebrities take a break, and you please continue with your blog as it is.

  10. A fan of this website only because it is a fashion blog, if you guys lose focus and deviate from fashion , then I’m afraid you are going to lose readership. A blog on where to shop in Japan, seriously? I don’t know how is this even relevant. If any of us has plans to visit Japan, this is not going to help anyway, you know.. I for one, am really disappointed. Always looked forward to star speak… now I’m not going to bother.


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