Need to get your "chop sockey" stuff? Look no further....
Tired of wasting your yen on last-minute gifts at duty free? Martin Webb comes to the rescue with original and exotic omiyage sure to impress the folks back home.
Japan's ancient warrior culture is what first attracts many to the Land of the Rising Sun. But owning a piece of this menacing past is a privilege that could cost you an arm and a leg-unless you know where to look. Tokyo has a number of shops specializing in antique swords and high-quality replicas, in addition to intricately ornamented katana parts: menuki (pommel), tsuba (hilt) and fuchigashira (grip charm). Standard sword-shopping procedure involves sitting at a low table while the master shows off his prized wares. If he takes a shine to you, he may even let you handle some of the impressive implements. Antique swords tend to start around ¥600,000, replicas from about ¥50,000. Lacquered samurai armor and scowling masks also make for good buys.
A good first stop on any katana quest, this venerable shop has knowledgeable English-speaking staff
Open 9am-6pm. 3-8-1 Toranomon, Minto-ku. Tel: 03-3434-4321. Nearest stn: Toranomon, exit A1. www.japansword.co.jp
Situated on Ginza's best street for Japanese crafts, Token Shibata features fine replicas such as a twin sword set, complete with saya (scabbards). Stands are also available for a reasonable ¥39,900.
Open 10am-6:30pm. 5-6-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3573-2801. Nearest stn: Ginza exit A1, turn left past Hanae Mori onto Suzuran Street.
Tucked under the Hanae Mori Building on Omotesando, Sokendo sells sword replicas and parts, some up to 400 years old. Its main store in Harajuku also holds occasional exhibitions; the latest runs until Sept 23.
Open 11am-8pm. B1 Hanae Mori Bldg, 3-6-1 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3499-4898. Nearest stn: Omotesando, exit A1.
Main store: Open 10am-7pm. Sokendo Bldg, 6-28-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3499-8040. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae, exit A4, behind Levi's.
Robes to riches
Getting your hands on a custom-made kimono is an expensive and time-consuming process for which shoppers are advised to head to Ginza, Asakusa or Akasaka. For tourists with limited time or residents on a budget, however, there are some clever alternatives. Simply head to one of the many antique apparel stores dotted around town, whice sell everything from cotton yukata to intricate bridal kimono. There are also several shops specializing in antique fabrics. With a bit of imagination, you can turn these beautiful hand-dyed cloths into drapes, wall hangings, cushion covers or fashion items.
This cheerful store is sure to appeal to any Japanophile. Friendly female staff are on hand to advise shoppers on what to buy and how to wear it.
Open 11am-8pm. International Arcade, 2-1-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3501-4012. Nearest stn: Ginza, exit C1, under train tracks, behind Imperial Hotel.
A bustling basement bazaar of vintage clothes, Chicago has a special section devoted to antique Japanese apparel. Vintage kimono start from ¥4,800, juban (liner) from ¥2,900, obi from ¥1,500, and tomesode (short-sleeve kimono) from ¥5,800.
Open 11am-8pm. B1F Olympia Annex Bldg, 6-31-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3409-5017. Nearest stn: Meiji Jingumae, exit A4.
This simple store is filled with antique Japanese fabrics. Sift through the piles and racks of kimono, obi and haori (overcoat), noren (curtains), festival banners, and flags.
Open 11am-8pm Thu-Tue. 102 Flats Omotesando, 4-4-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3470-3305. Nearest stn: Omotesando exit A2, turn right at McDonald's, across from Royal Host.
A beautiful kimono hung on an oversized Japanese-style hanger makes a beautiful wall covering, but for a more contemporary feel, your friends and family are sure to love images from Japan's vibrant popular culture. Step into yesteryear with a visit to Asakusa's Maruberudo, which boasts a treasure trove of posters bearing the likenesses of obscure '60s soap stars. Or plunder the wealth of manga history at Shibuya's Mandarake, the largest manga retailer in the universe. Here you'll find scores of original manga cells, postures and costumes, in addition to some of the most dedicated salespeople around (purchase goods worth ¥1,000 or more and you may win a chance to take part in one of their costumed stage shows).
Flick through the thousands of thumbnail photos of Japanese singers, actors and actresses from the glorious past of Japan's geinokai (celebrity world) and have your favorites blown up to poster size.
Open 11am-7pm. 1-30-6 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3844-1445. Nearest stn: Asakusa.
A manga maniac's paradise, this comic dungeon store stocks all manner of pre-owned manga from the '60s up through last week. Figures, trading cards, original cells from the production stage, costumes, posters and plastic models are also for sale here.
Open noon-8pm. B2F Shibuya Beam Bldg, 31-2 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3477-0777. Nearest stn: Shibuya, across from Tokyu Hands' Inokashira Street entrance. www.mandarake.co.jp/english/index.html
If it's street cred you're looking for, look no further than the back streets of Tokyo. DJ/Pepsi spokesman Nigo's A Bathing Ape is still king of the swingers in this neck of the woods, spawning everything from ladies' brand Bapy to hip shoe store Footsoldier. Hot on Bape's heels are a number of original hip hop labels like Balance, Swagger, A.G. and Bounty Hunter, all of which are fast becoming highly collectible too. Expect to be mobbed by envious street-fashion freaks if you manage to get any items from these hype Tokyo brands back home.
A Busy Workshop
Graphic designs on white T-shirts are the staple here, but silky stadium jackets, baseball hats and belts and key fobs are also big sellers. The Minami-Aoyama store houses the Bape Gallery on the second floor.
Open 11am-8pm. 5-5-8 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3407-2145. Nearest stn: Omotesando exit A5, next to Miu Miu.
Bape Harajuku: Open 11am-8pm. 4-28-22 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae. Tel: 03-5474-0204.
The latest addition to the Bathing Ape stable, Bapy is targeted at the "busy working lady"-meaning sweet young things in their late teens or early twenties. Three narrow floors carry cute clothing, accessories, bath products and grocery bags.
Open 11am-8pm. 3-6-5 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5766-9177. Nearest stn: Omotesando exit A1, behind Gucci.
A conveyer belt sends the latest footwear from the Bape posse around this stark black store. Revival, retro styles in dozens of colors under the "Bape Sta" label make almost every shoe a rare object.
Open 11am-8pm. 1F Kinoshita Bldg, 3-7 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5784-1660. Nearest stn: Daikanyama, on Hachiman Street, opposite Silas & Maria.
New and used gear from A Bathing Ape, Under Cover, Soph, W taps, Head Porter, Bounty Hunter, Balance Wear Design and other Japanese street brands, including rare collectible items, stickers and accessories are here with, of course, hundreds of T-shirts.
Open noon-8pm. 175-ban-kan Bldg. 1-7-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5770-5186. Nearest stn: Harajuku, Takeshita exit, on Takeshita Street, past 7-Eleven.