Japan - a Trip That Did Happen, Months and Months Ago

Porter and I somewhat spontaneously popped to Japan back in November. In an incredible turn of fate, just days after we got back, the editors at the beautiful magazine, Man of the World, called looking for a few extra impressions of Tokyo. I got to contribute a few points and you can read the whole city guide here (or better yet, get a real copy of the mag. It's wonderful).

Miraculously, I've finally managed to cobble together a few extra bits, bobs and peeks into our 18-year Yamazaki, noodle and BBQ laden adventures there and through Kyoto. 

(This gem above was parked next to the main canal that runs through Kyoto. How great are the license plates?).

Recycling, I suppose? This order just would never happen in New York. Ever.

Porter, pretty tall and pretty spiffy in her Madeline-inspired Carven hat that she picked up at Dover Street Market in Ginza.

  The Japanese know how to make many things very well: selvedge denim, French pastries, whiskey...and taxicabs. They're reminiscent of something from Gattaca: boxy, with illuminated rooftop globes and rear view mirrors on the sides of the hood constructed from something most Japanese or American consumers haven’t seen on an automobile since the early ’80s: chrome. The white-gloved drivers don't speak English, but they do place stretchy, spotless, granny-ish, white lace seat covers over the front seats at the beginning of each shift when they presumably scour the entire car as if they’re cleaning up a crime scene.

The fish and veg markets will blow your mind. Dried fish, bleeding fish, swimming fish; pickled veggies, gigantic veggies, exotic veggies.


Me, in semi-absurd hipster glasses from Opening Ceremony (which is absolutely ginormous there. Eight floors! Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are deservedly taking over the world).

Store after store along the Jingumae shopping thoroughfare in Shibyua offers up racks of vintage Levi’s, bomber jackets and Navy gear – or precise replicas that often surpass the original models. Journal Standard’s J.S. Homestead (6-18-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo) offers a mix of both, along with vintage silver and turquoise Navajo jewelry, dead stock plimsolls and the best of likeminded brands like Nigel Cabourn (which also has its own shop in Nakameguro).

After a while, though, the ubiquitous perfect taste in Pendleton blankets, down jackets and American work wear-inspired raw denim, may leave some foreigners hankering for something a bit more rough and, certainly, more local. For this, try to stumble upon one of the many weekend flea markets that pop up in parking lots and temple grounds in and outside of the city. While the wares will vary, seek out the one or two vendors selling scraps of old Japanese indigo dye fabric. They conveniently tend to cut these beautiful patterns into swatches the size of a scarf – and no matter what the print – will look perfect paired with anything from a shawl collared sweater to tweeds to a waxed Barbour Bedale.  Modern copies don’t hold a candle to the originals, which look even better with holes, raw stringy edges and uneven dye patterns.

I thought a drive up the Taconic in late October was impressive. But you haven't experienced autumn leaves until you've seen Kyoto in November. This is the view from the bridge at the Tofukuji temple.

The flea markets are also a goldmine for vintage kimonos. Some are pricey, but you can get incredible hand made ones for under $20. We bought 12. That may have been going too far, but they've already been great for parties.

Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market is the stuff of legend. Tuna the price of gold, excessive carnage, samurai swords. It's all completely awesome.

Here's Port at the Brick, a lovely 1950s whisky bar in Ginza.
Function on display at Shibuya Station.

FOOD on display at Shibuya Station. Anyone even remotely interested in culinary arts and package design should hunker down in the station basement at the Tokyu Food Show hall. It's as close to an exotic, staggeringly beautiful adult version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory that any human could imagine. There are enough French pastries (notably from the Japanese, bakery-only outpost of Paris’ legendary cafe, Les Deux Magots) there to undo an entire vacation of sashimi consumption. Miles of display cases hold gourmet chocolates and mochi bean curd treats shaped into elaborate pieces of art that seem too precious to touch, let alone chew.

Even the playgrounds there are perfect. Noguchi could've designed that slide.

For the life of us, we couldn't understand why someone would want to consume such an itty bitty amount of beer!


  1. What marvelous images of what must have been a great visit to Japan! Love the diversity of scenery, urban and otherwise, as well as the wonderful shots of the fish market and local wares. Many thanks!

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  3. Great photos you have here!


  4. Anonymous says:

    I just had to stop in and let you know why all the indigo remnants you saw were the same width - they haven't been cut like that at all - it is the standard (and only) weaving width in Japan. All traditional garments and larger items like futon covers are made of these approximately 14inch wide pieces sewn together. If you check out the kimonos you bought, you'll see that is true. That they happen to be perfect scarf width is lucky for us all. Great photos - you really captured the feel of the place!

  5. Unknown says:

    I just read an article about your Company via the WSJ. Very inspiring story!