In October of 2013, I boarded a flight at JFK and 12 hours later I arrived in Tokyo, Japan. The trip was part vacation and part fashion inspiration. Japan, particularly Tokyo, is well-known for its quirky sense of style and has historically been on the cutting edge of fashion. I wanted to see the style playground of the likes of Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, and get inspiration for my fashion line. I booked a room via airbnb.com in the trendy neighborhood of Shibuya because I wanted to be walking distance from boutiques, clubs, and the subway. I will be honest, one of the first things that I did when I arrived in Tokyo had nothing to do with fashion. I've been called a cat lady once or twice and was delighted to find out that a cat cafe was a 5 minute walk from where I was staying. I went to two cat cafes during my time in Tokyo but my favorite was the Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku. I was fond of it because it had two floors and a few dozen interesting breeds of cats.
One of the many great things about Tokyo is the free Tokyo tour guides. My awesome tour guide, Yukino, took me to historic and contemporary Tokyo sites including Tsukiji Fish Market, Yodobashi Akiba (the largest electronics store in Tokyo), a maid cafe (the Hooters of Japan), and Sensō-ji (a Buddhist Temple). We ended up meeting again a few days later at Shinjuku subway station (the busiest in Tokyo) and then walking a few blocks to an Italian restaurant. She also took me to an upscale mall and helped me to pick out gifts that didn't scream, "I'm a tourist who visited Japan." Instead I bought items that actual Tokyoites would have in their homes.
Like most metropolises, Tokyo is home to a robust creative class. Before my trip, I sent some inquiries to the fan clubs of my favorite Japanese hip hop artists (hip hop is really popular in Japan) and got a response from DJ Honda's people that he was performing as H Factor at an outdoor Jazz Fest. Luckily, DJ Honda posted a photo on his Facebook page of the stage where he was performing. I was able to show the photo to staff (I speak no Japanese) and they guided me to the location. It was a great show and I loved the amalgamation of jazz and hip hop. Now I see why many American hip hop artists are fond of Japan. I've been all over the world and Tokyo is my absolute favorite city and I hope to return soon.
What really struck me about Tokyo was that despite its size and population density, it was very clean; even the subway bathrooms were spotless and smelled like potpourri. The subway seats had cushions with no stains and it is considered rude to talk on the phone on public transportation. Also, theft is almost non existent and people are surprised when they lose something like a wallet or purse and it is not returned. That's a lifestyle I can definitely live with!
So back to fashion...Harajuku is another hip part of the city and I took a short subway ride to Yoyogi Park, which is adjacent to Harajuku. Yoyogi Park is famous for cosplayers of the human sort, but that day I stumbled upon cosplayers of the canine sort (see photo, which is my favorite of all the photos I took in Tokyo). So cute!! Next, I walked to Takeshita Street, which is lined with boutiques and bought my friend a quirky shirt with sleeves cut into interesting geometric shapes. I even saw a t-shirt that had "Appalachian Culture" written across the front. Not surprisingly, I couldn't find anything that fit me but I'm excited at the thought of incorporating what I saw during my whirlwind trip into Exclusively Kristen clothes. My creativity is endless...maybe next I'll make cosplay outfits for women with big boobs.