We stopped at Macca’s for brekky first and just had to try the maple syrup infused “waffle” bun McMuffin. Yep, every bit as sickly delicious as it sounds :p

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On the way back to Tokyo we finally caught a great view of Mt. Fuji through what seemed to be a large window at a station along the way…(couldnt believe my timing to catch a shinkansen in the shot as well! :p )

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Harajuku
Yoyoji Park

Not too happy about our other failed attempts at rummaging through a large flea market in Japan, this was our last chance. Weather was good, no forecast for rain, left Osaka early to try and beat the crowd… unfortunately the forecast said nothing about protesters! Not sure what they were on about but they were everywhere along with police and media. Foiled again. The park however was a nice consolation for a walk around and to take in some of the outrageously dressed people, dancers, artists and even a cardboard box town that looked like it was pieced together and built/painted on over many hours throughout the day.

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The park in itself is huge so even though it gets rather busy there’s always a nice quiet spot away from all the action.

Disappointed once again, there was only one thing left to do…. SHOP!

Takeshita Street and surrounds

We’ve covered Harajuku previously and you’d have to be researching the wrong country to have missed any mention of the place in reading up of Tokyo must-see’s so we’ll leave you with the knowledge that nothing much has changed… in the sense that everything changes all the time. They’ve spruced up the building fasades on Takeshita street and the major street that runs adjacent to it. Cat Street has also gotten a face lift and a few different shops have moved in. The best thing, most of our fave sneaker/streetwear stores have all moved together. Undefeated, Kicks Lab, Chapter, La Brea Avenue (and Supreme if you like extra hype with your purchases) are all within spitting distance of each other along with seizure inducing rainbow colour store 6% Dokidoki and Ninja Warrior champion sponsor – Rescue Squad. Also in the area, Nike Harajuku, the massive Harajuku Daiso and the irresistible Kiddyland.

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Shibuya

With Shibuya so close, its worth the walk to discover some new sights and places that you’d miss on the train, and that we did. We grabbed a bite to eat at Teddy’s Bigger Burger, a burger joint from our last destination, Hawaii with a guy serving that could only be classed as “quite the character”, which simply added to the great dining experience and tasty food :-‘9

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Continuing down Meiji Dori sees eye catching landmarks like the Audi Forum “crumpled glass” building, sneaker boutique, Atmos, familiar brands like DC, Burberry and local quirky tee store, Graphix. We also stumbled across a live graffiti art install outside a skate shop and swingin’ rockabilly greaser store, Temmye – Cream Soda on our way to our streetwear faves, KiksTYO and Santastic, then almost got caught in an interview with a lifestyle TV show at the Shibuya crossing.

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While we struck out completely with the markets this time, we at least added a few new “I’ll be back” spots to the list for future visits.

Next up we hit two of the biggest sights in Osaka, Osaka castle and the Umeda Sky building.

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

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

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Pearl Harbour

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Hawaii after beaches and luaus is a more sombre affair and the site of a battle that led to one of the most devastating retaliations in world history.

Not being anything close to history buffs (I haven’t even watched the whole movie in one sitting) we didn’t really know what to expect but like most historic places in America, it has been converted to cater for the masses similar to an amusement park, the main difference being you aren’t allowed to take in anything that can carry things. Any kind of bag (shopping/grocery included), backpack or case (including lenses cases) has to be checked in to the cloak room at a hefty $3 per item (small building off to the right of the main entry gates). Bottles or cans of liquid are also out, so where possible, best to just leave it in the car/hotel.

Once inside, its quickly noticeable that it is far from a joyous place, I don’t mean the mass of screaming kids running around, I mean bottom line, it’s a memorial, a place where people go to honour family members and comrades. Seeing a solider in uniform huddled around his sobbing family and an old veteran facing the ocean with his head bowed quashed my excitement of “checking out cool war stuff” and made me remember where I was. I don’t know how the photojornos from the likes of Nikon Walkley Press Photo awards can do it – detach themselves from an environment of sadness or suffering. Drunken revellers are easy to ignore but I definitely cant bring myself to vulture over such moments or try to share such a moment that wasn’t mine to share, so out of respect, I holstered the camera around these parts of the grounds.

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The solemn disposition of this nature aside, the lead attractions – the USS Missouri, the Bowfin submarine and a ferry out to the USS Arizona memorial above the sunken wreck of the battleship of the same name were as expected, very busy, so we decided to forgo the “rides” and just take a semi-peaceful walk around the grounds to view some of the memorials and relics instead.

Travel tip: Tickets for the attractions can be pre booked directly through the National Parks Services

There is a large gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise, from historic photos, medals and models to tacky patriotic fan fare.

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Travel tip: Even if you do the “rides”, you only really need to budget a couple hours here. If you’ve got extra time to kill, you can make the trip over to Ford Island via shuttle bus for the Aviation museum and Missouri battleship memorial. Time it on the right day and you’ll be able to bare witness to one of the many air shows hosted there.

The center opens early at 7pm daily which is handy in planning multiple stops for the day, one of which could be a spot of shopping…

Shopping – Aiea

The pearl (*cough* sorry…) for shopping in this area is the Pearlridge center, second only to Ala Moana in size but its fully undercover and has a monorail (yes that’s right my Hindu friend!) that connects its two halves, sure beats walking!

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Divided into “uptown” and “downtown” sections our choice amongst the stores were Hot Topic, Champs, Footlocker, Footaction, In Soles, In4mation, Journeys and the Sanrio café, but the store we spent the most time in was Razor Concepts/Razor Sports. A combination of sporting memorabilia and clothing on one side and a wide selection of toy, hobby, games and collectibles on the other. Prices were average to good and sale items were plentiful. Large display cases with “not for sale” items also adorned the stores with vintage collectibles and prestige memorabilia such as an autographed pair of Shaquille O’Neal’s monster size 22 Reeboks!

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A couple other spots in the area are Toys n Joys (actual domain has been closed and taken over by another company) – this is the smaller of their stores stocking more paintball guns and Airsoft replicas than anything else and The Hobby Company – tucked away amongst rows of industrial and commercial buildings and businesses this place has a good size selection of scale model kits and other hobby related items.

Aiea is also home to the largest 2 flea market/swap meets on the island, which we will be getting to later.

Shopping – Waipahu

If you’re coming from Honolulu it’s a bit of a hike but its only a short drive from Pearl City. The highlight and pretty much the only sight amongst all the residential housing is the Waikele Premium outlets.

We’ve come across Premium outlets a few times in our travels and they rarely disappoint…mainly because there’s a Nike outlet store 😉 but sadly there wasn’t one here. From research there possibly used to be one but not anymore. That left Adidas, Vans and “Factory brand shoes” to pick up the failed attempt at a bargain for us, you however may have better luck with the other stores on hand.

The plus side is they’re open till 9pm every night except for Sunday so heading there after dark will give you a more relaxed experience as the place is pretty quiet then.

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Over the road at the Waikele Centre there’s a Kmart, Old Navy and Sports Authority and a bunch of places for a bite to eat. Amongst the regular fast food places there’s our first day friends, Chili’s Bar and Grill and a Korean BBQ but it was Genki Sushi with its angry little logo that drew us like moths to a flame. Slotting us in just before closing time gives them an extra thumbs up!

Next up, we get thrifty and hit up the swapmeets.

If you have any questions about our adventures, feel free to hit us up on facebook.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Ward Warehouse map

The Ward Warehouse/Center

Well just as I was about to write this blog I realised I don’t actually have any photos of these next couple shopping stops! A picture is worth a thousands words but not wanting to bore you with a novel of compensation, I’ll cut to the chase and keep this one nice and short.

A (big) block away from the Ala Moana Shopping Center along Ala Moana Blvd is The Ward Warehouse/Center. It boasts quite a selection of stores across a large area (more so, a conglomeration of a few smaller shopping centers) with single level open air and covered sections but the whole time I couldn’t help but to think this -was- the place to be before the Ala Moana Shopping Center came along. It just has that poorer cousin/ghost town feel. None the less, if you got the time its worthy of a look through.

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Image courtesy of Happy Haleiwa

Big brand names like Quicksilver, T&C Surf (yep, still alive and kicking over there!), Sports Authority, Famous Footwear and Office Depot are there along with a cinema complex. Happy Haleiwa are there for a selection of kawaii related clothing and gift items. Other collectibles, toys, hobby bits and comics are catered for by Other Realms.

If you managed to get addicted to the Honolulu Cookie Company cookies, breathe a sigh of relief, they have a store here too for that sweet shortbread fix.

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A short drive north on the North Nimitz Hwy is Best Buy, prepare to keel over if you’re looking at a price on an Ethernet cable! Heart attacks aside, the place that sparked our interest here is Armchair Adventurer, sad but fitting name for hobbyists and game players everywhere. Rather unassuming on the outside with its mirrored glass, the store door opens (barely) to pancake rock stack like formations or figures and model kits. Shelves are crammed in a rough order but it seems new stock just ends up piled in front of it. Most of the model kits were military related but there were still a good selection of cars and fictional vehicles/space craft. There’s a corner of plush toys and designer collectibles but the real focus seemed to be on War Hammer and Dungeons and Dragons style games with a whole (clear)area and table set aside for it. (There’s a note on the website saying they are doing a big tidy up and moving some of the towering law suits and expanding into previously unused space)

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Speaking of board/card games, if this is your cup of tea, it wouldn’t hurt for you to drop into nearby Toy Lynx in the Dole Cannery Shopping center. Get there at the right time and you’ll be immersed in one of their regular meet ups. They also have a small selection of Kidrobot and similar collectibles.

Lastly, across the road from the Armchair Adventurer is UIC outlet, one of the few places in Hawaii that stocks a decent selection of Dickies gear. It definitely has a thrift store feel, I’m certain I’ve been in the exact same store but it has “Lifeline” on the sign at the front but thanks to their range its worth a look if you’re after pants or a jacket (or scrubs). The prices aren’t too bad, cheaper in the states of course though. There’s also a small range of New Era knock offs and gawdish plastic “bling” if that tickles your fancy…

We also managed to leg it up to the Premium Outlets at Waikele this same day so keep an eye out for that in the Pearl City shopping review.

Next up, we head to the Honolulu Museum of Arts for the “Tattoo Honolulu” and The History of Board Shorts art exhibits.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Ala Moana Shopping Centre

If shopping is low on your list of priorities but you still want to venture out then Ala Moana is the one stop you should make, if you’re a shopaholic then it’s a good first stop to gauge prices and what’s available. Even better, it opens early and closes late.

The short of it, the place is huge. A mostly open aired multi-storey arrangement is home to nearly 300 stores so you’ll need a good couple hours even if you are moving at a moderate pace. In list form our picks of the bunch would be:

Animation Addict
– A good place to start if you’re after Hello Kitty, Tokidoki or Angry Birds. They also have a good selection of Domo and the more popular items like Pop! Vinyl collectibles and Marvel merch. While most items are readily available just about everywhere, there were a few gems like a limited edtion Hello Kitty x Wish Come True collab bag. You know its scarce when even the staff at the Sanrio store have never seen one before!

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Magic – An alterntive to Animation Addict quite possibly own by the same mob as the stock was very similar
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Pac Sun – Local surf and skate store. Generous mix of designer and run of the mill wear with a few things on sale.
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Crazy shirts
– A Hawaii staple for tees. Its where you go if you want a souvenir shirt that isn’t from an ABC store. Shirts are good quality with a variety of themes, mostly surf/native based however the bump in price ($15-40) may have you heading back to the markets for a 5 for $20 deal.

Lego store – Doesn’t matter where we are in the world, if there’s a Lego store close by, we’re stopping in! This one had a nice bunch of dioramas built around different themes, the half size R2D2 and very large Star Wars star destroyer in the window were quite impressive. An instant souvenir was the minifig’ and Lego tag “I <3 Hawaii" keyring, shame these weren't available in other cities we've been to. [caption id="attachment_2882" align="alignnone" width="550"]Lego Store Lego Store[/caption]

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And of course you cant go past the American shopping mall staples – Champs, Footlocker, Hot Topic, Lids, Vans, Journeys, local surf/ski store Local Motion and cutesy overload is never too far away with Sanrio which seems to have signed a deal with the whole state as it and its associated local related merchandise is everywhere, they’re even in ABC stores! Just try to hold back a “nawwww” when you see a brown Hello Kitty in a grass skirt, its impossible! @~@

Pit stop time, roll out the pretzels! Unfortunately without a Wetzel‘s in sight we had to settle for Pretzelmaker. Not quite the same but tasty nonetheless (and still a damn sight better than anything on the streets of NYC! Yes, I realise using anything “from the streets of NYC” as a benchmark is a lazy and bias comparison :p)

One of the best things about Ala Moana is, it is central to a lot of other shops and eating spots, even better if you’re on foot, they’re all near each other and all buses lead to “Rome”.

Head out towards Nordstrom and you’ll come across three of Hawaii’s premium streetwear and sneaker boutique stores Kicks Hawaii, Noteworthy and Fitted all within a short distance of each other.

Kicks Hawaii (or KICKS HI – I know, sounds like a chorus line in Can can mode) – Is your one stop shop for sneakers and streetwear, very much in the vein of Kicks Tokyo, Undefeated and Dave’s Quality Meats. Prices are what you’d expect from such places but with limited edition prints and stock that wasn’t available on the website its a worthy tax for the “souvenir for someone who hates souvenirs”. I even spotted an unreleased ACG sneaker behind the counter which looked like a Terra Humara with “Powerlines”. Speaking to the owner it turns out we were both fans of rugged ACG’s but being a sample he quickly rejected my request to buy it :p Not being released for at least another six months didn’t help my case either!

They also regularly come by plenty of Quickstrikes so if you’re in the area for more than a week, it might be worth a return visit. You can keep up to date with their blog here.

Noteworthy – Is quite the illusive store if you’re on the same block as the store. It’s actually on the second level with access up an old flight of stairs behind the shop fronts, which you can only really see if you’re on the other side of the road. These guys are more along the lines of higher end street fashion. If you’ve ever had a penchant for $100 flannies, pants with the bottoms rolled past your ankles or have ever been referred to as a hipster then this is the place for you. Prices were well in the “you’re kiddin’ right?” range but they did have plenty of items heavily reduced on sale to help minimise that instant buyers’ remorse feeling.

Noteworthy

Noteworthy



Fitted
– Very much like Lids but swap the run of the mill colours and teams for limited edition colours and exclusive branded designs along with their in house branding. Staff were very friendly and helpful, they even went to the extent of cracking open new, yet to be released stock a couple months early for me. Easy decision then 😉
Fitted

Fitted

Crooks and Castles is also in the area, a couple doors down from Noteworthy in all of its clinic white glory but very same-same stock. We recommend sticking to online dealers like Karmaloop where this brand is always on sale.

A couple other mentions in the area are Walmart – come on, you’re in the ‘States, its pretty much a tourist attraction even if its just for “The people of Walmart“. It’s also a good stop if you’re after some cheap clothing/beach wear basics.

Morning glory
is just across the road, yep, the one and the same that used to be in almost every shopping centre around Brisbane and the original cutesy Asian toy and knick knack chain. If you’re after plushes or stationary along these lines then it doesn’t disappoint – a huge range of items from little phone trinkets right up to bean bag sized Totoros.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

..And with that, we’ll hit the pause button on this epic day of deep tissue retail therapy and insert a day volcano hunting at the biggest island in Hawaii’s chain of island, aptly called… The Big Island.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

04.17.2013

Celebrations have been in full swing all around the world (yet to see any locally tho! ): ) for Nike’s irrepressible technology, second to only the Air bag itself, the Max Air bag cushioning system clocks up a quarter century milestone this year. Being a bit of a sucker for things that make us feel like we’re walking on clouds, we thought we’d dig into the archives for some of our favourite Air Max photos. As you can see we’re rather partial to one particular model 😉

Happy Birthday Aero Maximus!

Hyde park is an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of central London, very much like NYC’s Central park, a little unassuming from the street with a basic tree line but as soon as you step into it the traffic noise is all but muted to a distant ocean waves-like wash. A bit further in and its gone altogether and you’re left with the tranquil sounds of nature. One of the major features, other than the deck chairs 😉 is the waterways and lake. There are plenty of ducks and swans looking for a feed and paddle boats to go exploring. Other wildlife in the park like birds and squirrels are very tamed almost to the point you can hand feed them, not that we were silly enough to tempt fate and risk a scratch or bite.

As mentioned, deck chairs are available (for a fee) but there are plenty of free benches and a whole lot of lush grass to soak up the atmosphere and any sunshine that may be lurking between clouds.

Photo tip: there are plenty of gardens in the park with a variety of flowers, ornaments and water features. A mid range zoom macro lens would be the way to go or a dedicated macro for close up flower work.

On the southern end of the park, crossing over to Brompton Rd. you will come across a line of higher end stores which pave a path to one of London’s most famous centers for pompus-ity, Harrods. If you’re like us and can’t fathom or afford thousands of dollars (pounds) for a purse or a single piece of clothing then have a quick wander, admire the intricate architecture on the walls and ceilings then get out before security labels you as a homeless bum and tries to usher you out… you heathen. If however you’re after some exotic llama cheese or feel like paying 30 quid for a small box of early grey then this is the place for you. Don’t forget your £17BP enviro shopping bag to carry it all home in!

Jokes and insane prices aside, the food court area on the lower level would be the most interesting for most people. There’s a lot of gourmet items, some prepped ready to cook while others are ready to eat there and a wide selection of wines, condiments, deli produce and sweets.

Piccadilly Circus

If you’ve ever seen a movie with a scene in central London then more than likely you’ve seen Piccadilly Circus, well at least the giant TDK and Sanyo* sign. Adjacent memorial fountain is also a popular landmark which is located outside one of the few notable shops in this area, Lillywhites.

Lillywhites is a sports store and some what an institution especially in this location since it has been here since 1925. There’s 6 levels of sporting goods with a wide range of brands and styles, a lot at very reasonable prices and much of that on special. Being in this location of course attracts the tourist crowd so it gets rather cramped and a bit frantic at just about all hours of the day. If you find the last pair of sneakers in your size and the box is available, grab them and hold on to them even if you’re not 100% sure, otherwise prepare to feel the cold hard sting of regret moments later when they will be gone.

* – After about 25 years of this exact sign occupying this space, news is Sanyo wont be renewing its contract. By the time you read this it will more than likely read “Hyundai”.

Phototip: try and get there both during the day and at night for some vastly contrasting shots.

Well that about wraps it up for London. Next we don the beret, curly moustache, cigarette and baguette, board the Eurostar and head over land to Paris!

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

With a little time to spare we caught the black line from Chalk Farm to Old Street (just make sure you get the one going through Kings Cross, not Euston) to make a stop at an “in the know” sneaker collector spot Kazmatazz.  Walking past, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was just one of those discount .99p stores with items stacked along its front window but on further inspection of the unpacked boxes and seemingly random grouping display, you’ll see a method to the madness with a lot of unique pieces of clothing and sneakers.  A lot of items weren’t in multiple sizes or colours and quite a few I had never seen in the States let alone London or at all, another very good sign.  On the down side, you would have to trust his taste and selection to really benefit from the “uniqueness” as some colourways and styles were questionable to say the least.

Kazmattazz

Watching, who I assume was the owner, stand firm against a middle age guy trying to haggle 60%+ off a pair of jeans was amusing to say the least.  While firm with this guy, he was only to friendly to have a chat and point out new arrival stock to me.  Chat a bit more and if you know what you’re talking about he may suggest you to have a look at the “good stuff out back/behind the counter”.  From the quick look I had before he went back to Mr. Lowballer, it seems he may have access to a Tier 0/1 account and possibly a collector’s collection from the colourways and models I saw.  Either way, stock was very limited, no idea on sizes but it would be one of those places where frequent visits would be required on the off chance you nab something you’ve been chasing.

Unfortunately with thoughts of overweight luggage looming, we left empty handed and headed down Bishopgate.  Getting towards the business districts, it was eerily quiet on a weekend but a nice walk to see some stark contrasts of modern skyscrapers amongst period architecture.  To cut across to Brick Lane, by pure chance we wandered down Brushfield St where we stumbled across the Old Spitalfield markets.  While not huge, it still had quite a few rows of stalls, “classier” or more elegant styled arts and crafts, jewellery and hand crafted clothing sat amongst the market staples of novelty tees and souvenirs.

Arriving at Brick Lane was like walking into a music festival.  Normally its full of expats and backpackers looking for the cheapest curry deals but come the weekend they’re looking for the cheapest of… just about anything else.  The food stores still have their “hey buddy” “come have a look” staff on the street but towards the northern end, Dray Walk is where the random street vendors and market stalls start cropping up. The bulk of the stalls lie in the Old Truman Brewery building with the majority being at the cheaper low end of the market range.  The selection of food definitely makes up for it, its just a matter of finding somewhere to sit (or stand) to eat it!

The surrounding lanes is where things look up a bit with a few nice boutique stores and Casio G Shock East store (pretty much identical stock to their West store).  Prior research also revealed another sneaker spot called “Gloria’s” at shop 6 Dray Walk but I’ll be darned if we could find it!  Quite possibly no longer existing or just wasn’t open on the day hiding behind one of the many vandalised rolla-doors.


Travel tip: We took the scenic (re: long) route down to Whitechapel station (Aldgate East is closer) but we did come across another JD Sports store which was perfect to grab a couple last minute items to fill the few spaces left in the suitcase.  Moral of the story – JD Sports stores are everywhere so even if you miss one or change your mind there isn’t one too far away.

That’s just about it for our London visit, we wind down next with a spot of tranquility at Hyde park.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Imagine every market you’ve ever been to… all at once, and you’ll be coming close to what Camden is like, but first, getting there.

The busiest days are on the weekend with most of the shops open, because of this and the influx of around 100,000 people every weekend (and the dire need of an upgrade to the station) Camden Town station is “exit only” for most of it. Check the posted signs or London Underground website before hand for in and out times so you don’t end up trying to push your way against the current and REALLY look like a tourist 😉

Rest assured, not all is lost if you cant make it out on a weekend, a fair percentage of the fixed stores are open during the week and will be much more suitable for those that aren’t fond of crowds.

Exiting the station on to Camden High St. you get a plethora of sneakers with JD Sports, Footlocker and Offspring. These are all decent sized stores with plenty of stock, variety and sales. If you’re going to buy up big straight out the gate, consider asking the store to hold your purchases to collect later otherwise you will quickly lose patience and strength trying to get a couple armfuls through the bustling crowd.

Heading north, take your selection of Converse and Dr. Martin stores along with kitsch punk, rockabilly, vintage clothing (Punkyfish, Rokit Vintage), leather goods and a secondhand music and video store.

The Camden markets themselves start just after the river crossing with Camden Lock and The Stables traditionally being THE markets but there are smaller groups of stalls in surrounding lanes and streets. In general its a mixture of fixed stores, large warehouse style areas and temporary pop up stalls that cover all manner of arts, crafts, fashion, food, brick a brac, novelties and souvenirs. There’s really no good place to start or any kind of system to get you round the place with so many things to see (and taste), its more a matter of taking your time and going with the flow (literally most of the time). If things get a little too hectic for you, there’s plenty of nice spots along the water-way to take a breather.

Stand outs were the smaller designer stalls with unique tees (these are the ones that don’t have the same designs as the last 10 stalls you just walked past!) and the cute vintage style dresses. There is a couple places stocking a few toys but the only place worth a mention is a small stall in the Stables hosted by some old dude. Pretty much all vintage items, most rather worn or in boxes that have seen better days. A few Star Wars and He-man items but you will have to get your fingers dirty to really find something amongst the cluttered shelves.

Finally, no visit to the Camden markets would be complete with out visiting Cyberdog. Quite possibly your worse nightmare if your kid brings you here and you have very little knowledge or experience with the dance music scene but for everyone else its pretty much like being at a rave. From the entrance with the giant “people of the future” statues you are bombarded with strobe lights and a barrage of hard style and hard trance. Its very dimly lit apart from neon lights and all manner of glow in the dark and flashing novelties like coloured contacts and light up face “neurons”. The rest covers everything you’ll need for a night of laser reaching with the staples of phat pants and light up tees to full space suits and girls outfits which shakily stumble the line of “cute raver chick” and Fortitude Valley hooker. There is also a good selection of DJ gear (CDJ’s, mixers, headphones etc).

The biggest set back is the pricing, which goes from “whoa!” to “ok, lets get outta here”. Also keep your camera holstered, the staff may look like they’re “best night eva”-ing but be aware of the ones that are already on to their “Terrible Tuesday” (plus there’s “no photo” signs at the entrance and around the store).

From my research there is also supposed to be a “good” sneaker store right near Cyberdog but with very little recent online presence I’d dare say it has since closed as it was no where to be seen.

Since the Camden Town station was exit only, we took a short walk to Chalk Farm Station which was stark quiet in contrast and an easy boarding to head out to our next stop, Shoreditch.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

Size?

Soho part #2

On the way to Covent Garden we decided to make a quick stop back at Carnaby, this time when the shops were actually open! Little did we know, it was the day of a monthly moped/scooter meet up, right in the middle of it. There was literally over a 100 “bikers” all revving their engines filling the small alleyways with leaded fumes and the sound of a bunch of angry mosquitoes, quite the spectacle for all the senses. We took refuge in Size? but the damage was already done, this and several other store along the way were already full of exhaust fumes, yummy. Size? did have a good selection of sneakers, some I didn’t see making the rounds online till a month or 2 later. They also had a few items on sale, always a good sign. Some clothing downstairs, most unworthy of the exuberant price tags but again there was a welcomed clearance rack of hoodies and tees.

Down to the southern bordering lane of Carnaby, Brewer st., resides the New Era flagship store which surprisingly stocked a wide range of Yankees caps in just about every colour possible but disappointingly few other teams or colours over their two levels. Couple doors down is easily one of my favourite toy stores in London, Playlounge. These guys have been going at it for years and their wide selection shows this. Like my other fave stores, they don’t just stock only the obvious stuff like Kidrobot, there’s plenty of obscure stuff and local pieces like The Bubblegum Adventures of Periwinkle series. However, saddened once again with not being able to make the big (in size) purchases I dragged my feet out to Covent Garden, stopping at Sports Direct along the way. Oh, there’s also the Vintage Magazine store, which wouldn’t be out of place in West Hollywood with a lot of movie and TV memorabilia, celebrity related stuff, cool vintage posters and of course magazines.

New Era

Playlounge

Vintage Magazines

Covent Garden

We stopped in at Foot Patrol, kind of London’s answer to Undftd. The name gets around thanks to some of their collabo’s but in general their range of sneakers and clothing is pretty small with a strong leaning towards “dressier” styles and higher end items. It would of course be the place to be if there was a quickstrike drop or a new limited release.

Foot Patrol

Foot Patrol

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet megastore popped up a few blocks later and a megastore it was. Very much like Melbourne’s Minotaur, it’s a geek haven for all things comics, anime, collectibles, pop culture, cult tv and associated merch. What it lacks in quirkiness and uniqueness against Playlounge it makes up for in sheer bulk. Prices were average RRP, some a little higher compared to the States not at all helped by the exchange rate but there was a good selection of sale items.

In the same area you have the London Kidrobot store one or two London exclusives, namely the printed tees. Couple doors down is Adidas Originals and Volcom, there’s also the “West” G Shock store, nothing you cant get online (and for cheaper) but it was cool to see rows of the watches all lined up.

Neal Street is the main drag of Covent Garden and is home to a string of shoe and clothing stores. Sole, Offspring, Size? and Focus are just some of them, all have varying degrees of stock, pricing and variety. All are small to average sized stores so it wont take long to pop your head in to all of them. Round the corner in Neal’s Yard is Slam City Skates, one of London’s oldest and most prolific skate stores. They have a good selection of skate related products at regular prices, just don’t tell the kids off for loitering round the entrance, more than likely they work there 😉

G-Shock West

G-Shock West

Next, we go market crazy at Camden and Shoreditch.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

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