Kichijoji

In true Japanese fashion of revamping and renewing just about everything every couple years, Kichijoji had copped a bit of a touch up in parts and is in the process in others. Our main reason for coming out this way last time, Skit, had also changed or more precisely, moved a couple blocks away – actually not too long after we were there. Their new store now sports a street shop front and actually looks more like a store than a hoarder’s cluttered apartment! But never fear, Its still wall to wall, floor to ceiling of shrink wrapped sneakers of all kinds from super rare to garden variety and brand new to turning-to-dust just minus the creepy slum factor.

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I struck it lucky last time with a pair of Baltimore AF1’s in mint condition and as it turns out, that same strike of lightning struck again years later for the same pair but $20 cheaper! Perfect timing since the previous pair are on their way out.

Shopping tip: The website is still the best place to start with a mostly up to date inventory of stock and prices for a pre-visit recon mission. You can also check out stock in their other stores to see if its worth the trip out to them.

LA Avenue aka Napsize was another great place for us to stop last time but it too had moved, all the way to Harajuku! So the only other place left that sparked our interest was one that was missed the first time round, PX Megastore. There’s a few reviews online that speak rather highly of the place but unfortunately, to us it seemed a bit junky, kind of like rocking up to a garage sale a day later, its all been picked through, the half decent stuff is gone and you’re left with stuff you could easily do without. Its not a complete loss though, there is a large range of new and (mostly) used brand name street wear including sneakers, G Shocks, endless amounts of Supreme branded items and a huge selection of clothing, a lot of which can be viewed on their website. There’s also racks of clothing and sneaker basket bins at clearance prices at the front.

Prices were very hit and miss, more along the lines of miss which didn’t help, but if you like a rummage sale in a bad-part-of-town discount store feel and are in the market for some vintage street wear then its worth the several blocks walk from the station.  You may however have better luck at one of their other stores.


Nakano

From a tourist’s point of view, Nakano for all points and purposes is just Nakano Broadway mall, which is pretty much all there is at this small station but if you want a toy, electronics, games and anime mecca outside of Aki’ba then this is the perfect stop. In fact, you wouldn’t feel too bad if you had to miss out on the latter after spending a fair portion of the day here.

Travel tip: take the north exit from the station and its just across the awning covered street.

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The first section of the mall is actually Nakano Sun mall, over 200m of branded shops and restaurants in a similar vein to the B grade retailers from your regular Westfield. Uniqlo is there for some well priced basic clothing along with a range of mobile phone and small electronic shops. Continue along till you reach the escalators, this will take you up to level 3 and is where the fun begins!

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So in the vein of Aki’ba its an anime and toy heaven and judging from the number of Mandarake stores it really should’ve just been called the Manadarake centre, seriously there’s more than 12! Some aren’t branded or are focused on only one type of product but the price tags all have the name. So basically if you want any kind of model kit, anime figure, manga book, RC toy or general electronics, you’ll be hard pressed to not find it here. The catch slight however is a fair portion of the items are used or of vintage status which is a blessing and a curse for some (actually if you’re looking for latest and greatest this is probably not the best place to start). There are also a large number of gashapon hoarding stores (basically they collect (possibly by buy, sell, trade) pretty much every gashapon “prize” new and old and individually package them) so if you’re after that chaser you’ve spent forever looking for, more than likely they’ll have it here, usually at a premium. Its better than having to pour money into a machine on a prayer but granted its not nearly as much fun.

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The stores themselves are reminiscent of the multi level bargain market style buildings in China, no real décor or order other than shelves to hold stock, usually floor to ceiling. It took me hours to get to the point but eventually they did start to all blend together, only the odd few with something different to sell (or a big strip of mech-waste bolted to the store front) stood out. But again, if you have the time and love the hunt there’s plenty of treasures to be found.

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Stairs take you to adjacent levels with more of the same with a change in ratio of cutesy clothing shops to toys and vice versa.

There are also little electronic stores that sell bits and pieces of computers and radios etc. and vintage consoles and games. I’m not too sure on how they go with haggling but a couple stores automatically gave discounts for multi buys, one even slipped in an extra game cartridge with a wink and a “shhh”! Nice one! 😀 FYI, Fonzy’s “eeyyy” finger guns have the same “you’re awesome!” translation in Japanese as well 😉

Travel Tip: stores open till around 7 but many begin closing from 5 or 6.

The supermarket on the lower level is a good spot to grab some supplies of fresh fruit and veg and snacks before heading back to the station.

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Part of the haul ;)

Part of the haul ;)

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Inokashira Park, Kichijoji, Tokyo

Kichijoji is not really a major stop on the usual Tokyo itinerary, well unless of course you’re a sneaker nut, as its home to the famed K-Skit store 😉 otherwise, its a rather small (comparatively) “suburb” lying on the Chuo Line off the JR Yamanote line (change at Shinjuku station). Make sure you catch the right train though, “Rapid” (express) services skip the smaller stops, Kichijoji being one of them. Check the sign on the platform, it shows the stops the train will make. If you’re still not sure you are on the right one after you’ve boarded, just check the in-train route map displaying the stops.

Getting off at Kichijoji station is a far cry from the bustle of Shibuya, which also matches the slightly more laid back feel of the suburb. Its CBD area is quite a bit smaller, but in saying that it still measurable to Brisbane’s own CBD, complete with pedestrian mall. However one thing Brisbane is missing, is a lake surrounded by cherry blossoms!

Inokashira Park, Kichijoji, Tokyo

Inokashira Park is a couple hundred metres walk from the station and is completed with numerous walking paths, foot bridges, temple and my personal favourite, water craft for hire in the form of paddle boats and row boats. 600Y gets you 30min of water time in a paddler (less for a row boat, those of you above 170cm might want to consider the row boat as the paddlers cater more for children and the fibreglass seats aren’t particularly well contoured), which is more than enough time to leisurely work your way round the northern half of the lake and to take in the surroundings re: paddle beneath the blossoms trees arching into the water. Try and get there before 10am, as the lake can quickly get cluttered with traffic making it difficult to dodge those trying to grasp the concept of oars and inertia.

The park itself seems quite popular with the locals for picnickers and artists alike, even more so during Sakura season. It also has a small zoo, museum and temple if you can pull yourself away from the blankets of blossoms.

Heading back up one of the main thoroughfares, after 11am, many of the little shops, cafes and street vendors will start to open. There is also a Starbucks for those missing a “taste of home” and a couple sneaker shops with prices up to 1-2000Y cheaper for similar items in the more built up areas. But save your Yen because we’re heading to K-Skit. A block from the main street and about two from the station it is tucked away in a smaller lane on the 3rd floor but there’s a large sign on the footpath, clearly visible if you’re coming from the station side.

The store is wall to wall, floor to ceiling of sneakers all neatly shrink wrapped and focuses mostly on pre-owned Nikes. Condition ranges from beaters and models that are so old they’re literally falling apart to owned but never worn and brand new. Variety is almost endless, it’s a certainty that you will see a colourway or model that you’ve never seen before. The shelves are sorted by brand/model with a high concentration on Air Force series, Dunks and Jordans. Shoes with multiple tags show the sizes available and their cost. Popular sizes (sz 9-11) on the rarer models are usually more.

Weaving through the narrow aisles you will see sections for other brands like Adidas, Reebok and Timberland along with glass cases for the antique sneakers and the super rares. Staff are friendly and are happy to let you try shoes on, there’s just no where to sit while you do it! I picked up a pair of 2007 Nike Air Force 1 Baltimore 410 “Is Mr. shoe in?” limited editions for only 9000Y (~$100US). Not bad when you consider Footlocker AU hocks current garden varieties for $120-160AU!

It’s a good idea to hit up their website a couple weeks before you arrive to get an idea of what’s in stock. New stock and their “price down” section is updated daily with complete transparency of condition eg. “cracks in upper”, “yellowing of midsole” along with clear detailed photos of the tell tale wear areas such as the sole and inside heal, nothing like the sneaker forums or ebay where “worn about 3 times” really means “worn about 3 years”.

If you’re big on vintage clothing there are several shops in the surrounding block, like Ragtag. Otherwise you can venture north under the train line to LA Avenue. Kind of like the baby brother of K-Skit but with a bit of clothing and a few accessories like G-Shock watches. Of course I couldn’t let a 1995 Guassman in mint condition and original box go begging for only 4500Y 😉

Another block north and you’ll find a 2 level Nike store, an Adidas store, a bunch of little restaurants, cafes, tea houses and burger bars along with the aforementioned mall which houses another Yodobashi Camera store.

Shinjuku

Another big station in another very built up area. The highlights here are camera stores, Yodobashi, Bic, Map, all with in a couple blocks of the station or in the station itself and a few large department stores with the focus towards young women (especially the stores inside the station). The main reason why we stopped here is for the Tokyo Metro buildings, about 600m west of the station towards Shinjuku central park. Two towers with a free observation deck on the 45th floor and opened till 11pm most nights (check the daily times on their site, certain days each month, one building is closed while the other is open), unfortunately on the day we were there, visibility was very poor, down to a few hundred meters at times. It looked like a mixture of low cloud, fog, haze and the usual smog, so it was scratched from the itinerary, still comes recommended as one of the best and cheapest views of Tokyo.

South east of these buildings is Shinjuku Gyoen, a much larger park with feature gardens, recreational paths and water features, another ideal place for Hanami (blossom viewing).

Also while in Shinjuku, look south once you’ve cleared the sky scrapers and you will see the Docomo building, one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings.

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

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