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How to Shop New York City Like It’s Tokyo

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Shopping GuideHow to Shop New York City Like It’s Tokyo

While nothing beats the mind-bending experience of a real Japanese shopping trip to Ginza and Harajuku, enough Japan-inspired shops have opened in New York that you can now shop the Big Apple like it's Tokyo. Here, we’ve rounded up the best spots. Get denim, design, vintage, and hell, even plants—no plane ticket required.

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Blue in Green
8 Green St
Raw denim and other highly sought after Japanese fashions from small-scale brands.

SoHo’s Blue in Green, recently re-opened after an expansive renovation, has done more to advance denim-head culture in New York than any other boutique. When Yuji Fukushima and Gordon Heffner founded the shop in 2006, they sold blue jeans Heffner brought back from Japan in suitcases. The store quickly developed a loyal following by carrying obscure small-scale Japanese denim operations like Studio D’Artisan and Samurai. The ethos: by using old-school manufacturing techniques and the finest cotton, they do an American classic better than most Americans. (Blue in Green is still the first—and often the only—point of distribution overseas for almost all the brands they stock.) You’ll also find a full range of Americana-inspired soft goods and outerwear from cult-favorite Kapital, and plenty of non-denim goods from Fullcount & Co. and others. A vintage Union Special chain stitch machine from the 1950s, on hand to hem your new pair of jeans the right way, makes it a true one-stop shop.

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Blue in Green's renovation has enabled an expanded brand list and more non-denim goods.

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R by 45RPM
169 Mercer St
Naturally-made casual-wear from the Japanese experts of quiet luxury.

The first thing you notice upon entering the dim stone and wood 45RPM store is the evocative smell of the pine-y incense they import from Kyoto. You might also catch an employee watering the floor behind you, a Japanese practice that’s meant to clean and cool the floor when it’s hot out. The interior, in short, feels like a shrine to the airy cotton and linen garments 45RPM is known for. Designed by Tokyo-based Yasume Inoue, the edited line of Japanese-spun soft goods features
a range of earthy-colored basics (there’s also a healthy amount of indigo, of course), along with perfectly washed-out denim and printed bandanas you didn’t think you needed. New product arrives from Japan every week, and before putting it out the staff washes and hang dries every piece—from the delicate turtleneck sweaters to the Katazome print button downs—to soften the fabric and help the clothes achieve their characteristic just-so rumple.

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Floor watering and incense makes shopping 45RPM a uniquely satisfying experience.

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Green Fingers
5 Rivington St
Home of dope plants and the perfect vintage gardener-wear to pair them with.

For the last few years, New Yorkers have flocked to Green Fingers to find apartment foliage that’s a little wilder than the starter-pack succulent. Within the stores chaotically beautiful arrangements you’ll find stag horn ferns, air plants, and cacti both large and tiny. (There are plenty of succulents, but in seemingly unique varieties.) Like at the seven Green Fingers in Japan, the plants tend to be a bit scragglier than standard florist fare, and that’s very much by choice—it’s all the work of Green Fingers founder and ‘plant artist’ Satoshi Kawamoto, who makes regular trips to New York from Tokyo to curate the greenery from plant sourced up and down the East Coast. Vintage clothing dealer John Gluckow and Japanese thrift outlet Foremost Vintage fill the back of the store with racks of folksy tees, denim shirts, chore coats, and well-worn leather goods. Collaborative runs with Engineered Garments, Larose Paris, and Quality Mending Co round out the plant store’s menswear bona fides.

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Jungle-like greenery cedes to well-curated vintage in the back of Green Fingers.

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Nalata Nalata
2 Extra Pl
New and noteworthy Japanese industrial design and home goods.

Started by husband-and-wife design duo Stevenson Aung and Angélique Chmielewski in 2012, Nalata Nalata collects an impressive array of beautiful Japanese objects and tells their stories—part of the appeal is where they come from, after all. This journaling largely occurs online (the brick-and-mortar opened a year and a half ago), but in-store the founders are quick to narrate, say, the three-generational-workshop-backstory behind Saito Wood Co., from which they source exquisite molded wood baskets and trays. The couple has cultivated friendships with the small world of independent artisans they work with, which is how they’ve managed to stock one of the best assortments of Hender Scheme’s legendary raw leather products in the states. They’ve also managed to persuade many small operations, like Super Simplicity Studio, makers of perfectly poised glassware, to work with a store overseas for the first time. The store holds regular trunk shows and exhibits highlighting new product—and the people behind them.

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Nalata Nalata stocks wares for cooking, dining, and the bed and bath.

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Nepenthes New York
307 W 38th St
The mothership of Japanese style and New York craftsmanship.

Nepenthes New York is the American outpost of the wildly influential portfolio of brands under the Nepenthes umbrella. This includes, most notably, Daiki Suzuki’s New York-based Engineered Garments (its factory is on the same block) and Tokyo-based Needles. The store carries the widest selection of each line to be found in the US, and the real score is the weirder pieces their wholesale accounts shy away from, like EG’s Americana-wizard velvet black tie garb. Even if that’s not up your alley, it’s hard not to leave with something; Nepenthes is also one of the only places to get brand exclusives, like custom chopped-and-sewn vintage rock ‘n’ roll tees from Rebuild by Needles and the sneaks born of an insanely popular EG collaboration with Vans. Upstairs, you’ll find a space that features a rotating collaborative exhibit with everyone from Japanese photographer Yoshiyuki Matsumura to the speaker company Sonos. But the real treat is observing the people; Nepenthes is the rare store in which everyone you encounter has greater style than the last —whether one of the attentive staff members or the devoted fashion cognoscenti clientele.

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Engineered Garments and Needles hang on the first floor, bags and shoes on the second.

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Sri Threads
18 Eckford St
A museum-worthy gallery of rare and funky antique Japanese textiles.

This unassuming Greenpoint space is home to one of the most exceptional collections of Japanese folk textiles outside of Asia. Though the majority of the feudal-era kimonos and quilts sold at Sri are meant to be displayed rather than worn, the appointment-only gallery is the source of many a designer mood board. Its run by former art curator Stephen Szczepanek, who has been collecting and dealing late-19th to mid-20th century Japanese textiles and clothing for the last 15 years after he realized these kinds of prosaic cultural artifacts were undervalued in the western market. The big draw is his assortment of beautifully shabby patchwork boro quilts kimonos, which have an undeniable soulful and inventive quality to them—likely why boro-like garments have popped up on runways and in stores around the world in the last few years. But Sri’s wares are the real deal; you’ll also find unique discharge-printed Katazome panels, and even crazy, crunchy textiles made with banana fiber from Okinawa.

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One of several gorgeous antique Japanese wall hangings at Sri.

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BUAISOU Brooklyn Studio
117 Grattan St, Brooklyn
A DIY dye house for creating your own indigo wonders.

The charming American outpost of a Tokushima, Japan-based indigo farm, BUAISOU is one of the only places in the world you can hand-dye your own (white) clothes using natural indigo. Indigo stuff is everywhere these days, but most of it is dyed with cheap and plentiful synthetic pigment. To achieve the true depth of indigo you have to go natural, and at BUAISOU you can make an appointment to dip-dye your white tees, shirts, sneaks, and even worn out jeans—the natural stuff, it turns out, doesn’t bleed like your industrial-dyed jeans. Where once every Japanese village had an indigo vat, BUAISOU, founded in 2012 by Kenta Watanabe and Kakuo Kaji, is one of only a handful of indigo farms left in Japan that grows indigo and turns it into sukumo, the inky byproduct of a process in which indigo leaves are broken down in a vat into soluble dye. The studio's vat is where the dip-dye magic occurs, though as it relies on a living fermentation process it can be a bit temperamental. When the vat is dyeing an appropriate shade, BUAISOU Brooklyn churns out sublimely blue bandanas, tees, and even mugs you can buy if you don’t have any white tees to bring yourself.

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Bandanas dyed in the indigo vat, right, are hung to dry.

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Front General Store
143 Front St, Brooklyn
Vintage Americana and European workwear alongside archival high fashion finds.

Japanese expats Hiro Yonekawa and Hide Sagawa opened a showroom above the current Front General Store space six years ago, where they dealt rare vintage finds to stores and designers. They still do, but now many of their best vintage finds have moved to the storefront. You’ll find the finest selection of vintage Levi’s 501s and 505s anywhere (FGS purchased about 5,000 pairs from a dealer upstate in February), including a rack of stupendous ca. 1960’s-1970s’s made-in-America selvedge Levi’s. Throw in several stacks of vintage Harley tees and FGS is still one of the best places to score vintage Americana in the city, but the owners look to Europe and Japan itself for a large part of their sourcing as well. There’s a rack dedicated to vintage Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamomoto, and a healthy selection of French work wear garments (including a few jackets from the late 19th-century). And if you’re looking for wardrobe staples with a better backstory than most, you can pick up plenty of deadstock Hanes tees and Ray-Ban shades to go with your well-worn jeans.

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Ancient French workwear jackets are displayed above part of the vintage Levi's selection.

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