It goes without saying that buying quality in Japan is going to cost you (though one can argue that the service and shopping experience make the price tag somewhat easier to justify), what many may not appreciate until they make their own maiden voyage onto the streets of Aoyama or into the Mecca of men’s wear known as Isetan Men’s is the sheer variety of goods available. Anything from the most frequently quoted brands by aspiring rappers, to goods made by the little boutique in Florence that even Italians don’t know about can be found no more than two blocks apart in Tokyo. In the BEAMS boutiques, you can find made-in-China house brand suits with excellent quality on one rack, while the next rack is filled with the suits by the best RTW makers from the likes of Attolini, Sartoria Partenopea, Castangia, Oxxford Clothes, and many more. You can walk out the same store buying a suit for US$500 or US$5000, the choice is yours. But for anyone taller than 5’11”, shopping in Japan is mostly a look but no touch affair.
For RTW garments, typically the biggest size a retailer carries is a European or Japanese 50, this is equivalent to a US38, or sometimes if the maker is feeling a bit generous with his scissors, a US40. On rare occasions you can find sizes bigger than US40. In [my] experience, BEAMS’ house brand suits sometimes come in a size that reasonably equates to a US40. Strasburgo in Aoyama would stock up to EU54 on certain imported brands such as Kiton and La Vera Sartoria Napoletana. United Arrows’ excellent house brand machine made suits are available in the equivalent of US40, but still feels a bit short in the body and narrow in the sleeves. Shoes are even worse. While the average American foot is about a US9.5 or UK9, this is about the biggest size most stores carry, and its often out of stock. A UK8 will have a fine time picking from the candy store that is the shoe-crazed Tokyo. And finally, remember to pack enough change of shirts when coming to Tokyo because buying a shirt that will fit the non-Japanese physique is most definitely a losing cause.
So yes, Tokyo shopping can wonderful—as long as you make money like a senior Japanese executive, having spending habits like a J-pop rock star, and most importantly, built like an average Japanese man. Assuming you fit these criteria, then stay tuned for Part II where we’ll take you through the streets of Harajuku, Shibuya, and Aoyama to sample the finest in men’s wear.
“A dry Martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet." "Oui, monsieur." "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, a half measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until its ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”—James Bond - Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate rememberance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”—Ernest Hemingway