Kita-Kore Kicks

Kita-Kore Kicks

I owe this post entirely to Fashion Hayley and her useful travel tips that she has wonderfully passed over on her Tokyo-focused blog.  Without the help of Hayley, I would have gone under the silly assumption that the shops in Harajuku in Tokyo were the height of independent spirited creative expression because I am essentially playing tourist here and unashamedly doing so.  I'm well aware that the shopping areas that are viewed as homogenised, commercialised and overcrowded in the eyes of knowledgeble locals are all of course a vivid novelty to Tokyo-newbie me who went once a decade ago.  Kita-Kore in Koenji, a few stops away from Shinjuku is probably all a bit old hat to Tokyoites.  I don't want to feel like I'm writing a post that is the equivalent of me writing about Camden Town in London going "Hey so there's this area called CAMDEN… it's like well punk!"  Hopefully it's a peek into something ever so slightly out-of-the-way.  If you're all Koenji know-it-alls then just bear with me and sympathise with my Tokyo inexperience.

Down a path near the Koenji station, that has an odd combination of sexy gir bars, a tonkatsu place served by an old lady who always wears roses in her hair and a branch of Tesco's (one of only two in Tokyo!) is a ramshackled building that you may or may not walk pass depending on whether the front, street-facing store Hayatochiri is open or not.  It joins four other stores that form the shop collective Kita-Kore, a far far cry from the sheeny shiny malls of Shibuya and Harajuku.  When people use the word DIY aesthetic to describe the shops/designers in Kita-Kore, I'm not sure they realise the ACTUAL amount of DIY that has gone into this place…. roofs that need to go over the corrugated iron framework to prevent rain from getting in, laying down floors and other general bish-bash-boshing around that probably wouldn't be allowed to happen in cities with strict building regulations but in this little street, anything can go and the result is something that I think feels like something to be treasured as an experience.  That's just my fresh eyes of course.

I'll be separating out my bundle of purchases that I came away with post Kita-Kore but here's the rundown of the special five…


Hayatochiri was our first step into the Kita-Kore world and it's filled with studs, a certain sect of Japanese childhood kitsch, manga covered walls and a mix of reworked vintage and self-made fantasy pieces.  It was like a curiosity shop where something would jump out at you and make you squeal "Wow…this is so effing cool!" in that wide-eyed teenaged way.  Perhaps that's the Japanophile in me that secretes the most part of my family (my youngest sister is learning Japanese from J-pop and chat rooms…).  Beyond the Japonica, there were some pretty awesome vintage pieces that were not there to be identified by genre but were just simply awesome pieces in their own right.  The custom pieces included studded masks and caps as well as patchworked shoes, backpacks and pieces that were remade in a way that doesn't feel cheesy. 






Always good to see my childhood heroine Arale pop up…



As you can see from the bulging bag, I scored as did Phil of Streetpeeper (who is our de facto Tokyo guide) … all shall be revealed in Kita-Kore-Goods that will need to be done in London…


Up the rickety pastel-painted stairs, past an uneven roof top that has a luminous lilac sofa and we're into Southpaw by Nincompoop Capacity.  The name of course doesn't mean a whole lot but this titchy space houses an amalgamation of Nincompoop Capacity the label which currently is doing a line of brightly coloured loopy knits, vintage bits and bobs all in pretty pastels and with a slightly leaning towards lingerie and 'sweet' Lolita style and a customised vintage line called Cathy that mixes an aged aesthetic with pretty trimmings on clothes that a 3 year-old girly girl might wear.  That might sound a little odd but pieces like lace-trimmed pyjama tops and knitted shorts all have potential for those that don't want to look like a human version of Care Bears.   






Scuffed up creepers of course are always guaranteed to make me happy…



Back round the side of the building and we're into the third shop and there's an Alice in Wonderland-esque pocket watch that intended to swallow up a HUGE chunk of our time as we ended up spending a couple of hours in the latter of Kita-Kore's wondrous collective…


Garter was where I fared best in terms of shopping.  If this was in Dalston Kingsland Road, it would be a picked over and ransacked in an instant because of its selection of comparatively reasonably priced.  I came out jumping like an idiot because a score like a Jean Paul Gaultier Junior jacket for ¬£30 or a Moschino jacket for ¬£100 was wholly unexpected in a city where vintage can be sold at a premium (I keep hearing tales of Japanese vintage buyers clearing out vintage shops in America to bring back to Japan…).  Vintage Thierry Mugler, Montana, Versace, Moschino were all present alongside some contemporary labels like Romance was Born.  The proof is in the huge bag that I hauled out of Garter…







…as seen here…


…this palm tree print jacket came out with me and went straight over my similarly-coloured outfit consisting of a Christopher Kane t-shirt and an Antipodium dress…



Up the stairs and we got to ilil, owned by Rachel, our English speaking Kita-Kore guide who was kind enough to explain why this heck was this idiotic looking blogger was taking hundreds of snaps to the other shops.  Rachel hails from the UK originally but has lived in Tokyo for yonks and is currently craving Monster Munch and Ribena.  Grass is greener and all of that.  She too, shares a love of studs but uses them in different ways when it comes to her leather or denim jackets painted and adorned in a way that feels more artisinal than customisation for the sake of customisation.  Again, throw in few bits of vintage and a few pieces by local label Banzai, in partiucular a tiger backed jacket that ROARS at you with its plushness as well as a near-complete set of Japanese i-D (I think it existed for about a year in the early 90s…) and I'd gladly spend another hour or two here.  I have to thank her for being impromtu translator as well as talking us through all things Kita-Kore!









Finally we were down in the comparativley sparse Dog which incidentally has a more jam-packed store in Harajuku that I'll head over to soon.  Dog have just had their floor redone in a crazy black maze formation covered by clear perspex.  The store houses feels more like an art installation as strange found objects mingle with Kei Kagami shoes (that feel practically like a museum artefact in themselves…) and a few select customised vintage pieces. 




In lieu of my recent Buffalo-post, I had to get a snap of these Vans and Reebok trainers that have had their soles considerably raised in a similar fashion to the way they raise them at the East Village Shoe place in New York


The final piece to bid this mammoth post adieu had to be this customised quilted jacket that fakes a Chanel in a way where possibly the faux might be preferable to the real…? 




Somehow Kite-Kore has breathed new life into the term 'DIY aesthetic' by going at it with gusto and a truly 'come what may' attitude.  There's nothing contrived about all the shops and despite the rehashings of aesthetics that might ostensibly be 'done' or 'over' to some of us, I never at one point felt like I was nodding my head to something I've seen before.  Like I said, the Japanese/Tokyo context may be the key ingredient but perhaps that's no bad thing.  I've not fully explored EVERYTHING in Tokyo (is that even possible?) of course and speak as an overly enthusiastic outsider but I came away on a Kita-Kore high!

Note: The area Koenji has other stores too to explore but we got there a little late alas.  It's a safe bet to go on the weekends after 2pm ish to ensure shops are open (the late openings are made up for 10pm closing times!).  Hayley's Google Maps here is a MUST for Koenji exploration…

Double Note: You can also read more about an extremely cool retail/creative exchange exhibition between Kita-Kore of Tokyo, the girls of No Discount from Melbourne and Primitive in London (I've still yet to go… but I WILL WILL WILL) here, exposing the postive sort of style-roaming that the world is doing…


Leave a comment
  1. SeaofGirasoles

    2011-05-23 at 6:14 PM

    how interesting! thnx for sharing,love photo with watches


    2011-05-23 at 6:27 PM

    I think it’s true what they say about Japanese buyers clearing out vintage shops. I love how they work on the upcylcing clothes trend. It’s really interesting and different.

  3. Lucy

    2011-05-23 at 6:34 PM

    Go to Daikanyama! The clothes are amazing and very high end / high quality. You will like. You can probably find more platform hi tops in the area too, they are pretty much everywhere XD

  4. heatherheartsfashion

    2011-05-23 at 6:35 PM

    woww what cool stuff! i hope you post all the stuff you got! i want to go to tokyo sooo badly

  5. Online Fashion Boutique

    2011-05-23 at 6:35 PM

    Very cool pictures! Love the Garter Boutique amazing clothing!
    As always your blog is very unique!

  6. Ioana Liliana

    2011-05-23 at 6:54 PM

    There are no words for the amazingness of this post!

  7. Mila

    2011-05-23 at 8:13 PM

    Such a cute store! Love your dress!


    2011-05-23 at 9:52 PM

    those shops actually look like the most incredible things in the world!!!!

  9. Sarah

    2011-05-24 at 12:02 AM

    Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing. I love your outfit in the photos too.

  10. wholesale clothing

    2011-05-24 at 1:11 AM

    such a great photos, what I love the most is the Japanese slipper. 🙂

  11. Fashion Hayley

    2011-05-24 at 3:14 AM

    I’m so happy you went and loved it as much as I thought you would. It’s just unlike anything else in the world in terms of the clothing but also the ramshackle building that is constantly evolving. I’m sure you’ll like Daikanyama too as another commentor said, but Koenji has a vibrancy that the more sterile fashion areas are just missing. Also how lovely is Rachel? Yay for Kitekore on your blog, I’m so happy but now I’m desperate to go back asap! xxx

  12. Lactose Intoler-Art

    2011-05-24 at 3:45 AM

    I LOVE Kitakore! I agree with Hayley..There is something different in Koenji vibe-wise, especially in comparison to Daikanyama and other slightly higher-end areas. That’s the amazing thing about Tokyo..There are not only hundreds of different districts, but lots of different FASHION districts, catering to so many different tastes and styles. I think what keeps Koenji great is there is just more of a laid-back feel, and it hasn’t become as commercialized as Harajuku. I really miss Tokyo and can’t wait to go back! Did they still have the studded tabi boots? -Street fashion illustrations

  13. Sophie

    2011-05-24 at 7:21 AM

    Great post! I am learning Japanese at school and I will be going out there in two years. I will bear this advice in mind. It all sounds great xx

  14. Rebecca

    2011-05-24 at 8:12 AM

    EEE, I’m so so so glad you’ve experienced the little bubble (ooh, a pun!) of DIY joy that is Kita Kore! Koenji is such a wonderful vibrant place to be.
    On that note, if you’re after vintage I’d also suggest heading over to Shimokitazawa – it’s riddled with vintage shops, one of my favourites being Haight & Ashbury (with a giant woolly tree – what’s not to love?). Shibuya, as well as having the amazing 109 dept store (a must-see even if it’s not your style), has some great vintage shops too: Grimoire and Grimoire Almadel, Hypnotique, Nude Trump, Virgin Mary and Wagado, and Fake Tokyo which houses Candy and Sister and is pretty fantastic.
    Oh, and if you’re off to Dog in Harajuku, cross over the road and pop in to Berberjin – they have the most amazing punk studded jackets. Just tucked into Omotesando Hills is the amazing Pass the Baton – I think you’d really like it in there, and it’s a great concept.
    Okay. I think I’ve let off some steam now, haha. Shameless plug for our Japanese fashion website: If there’s anything we can do to help you out in Tokyo, we’d be delighted!

  15. RIY_KA

    2011-05-24 at 10:29 AM

    what a feast for the eyes, so many little details…I love that the DIY is not tacky, maybe its just the context,ie all the shops are fuckn cool!!

  16. Jael Paris

    2011-05-24 at 12:05 PM

    I totally wandered Harajuku like a tourist. Trouble is, little in Japan seemed to fit me. Not sure knowing about this would have helped. 🙁

  17. monia

    2011-05-24 at 12:08 PM

    I love the gold jewelry!!Monia

  18. PetchiieZ

    2011-05-25 at 3:35 AM

    What a wonderful day!
    Love ur print mixed look so much! x

  19. Coral Garrett

    2011-05-25 at 10:12 AM

    Nice selection of pics! great post

  20. lisa

    2011-05-25 at 12:33 PM

    Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing. I love your outfit in the photos too. hp compaq 6710b battery

  21. Marianne Mackintosh

    2011-05-26 at 8:06 AM

    ahh!! those creepers. love, and basically everything else that store is a gold mine.

  22. Winnie

    2011-05-27 at 5:57 PM

    So love these posts. This makes me want to go to Japan more than ever…can’t wait to see all the goodies you ended up buying from your trip!

  23. shabnam

    2011-05-31 at 8:19 AM

    Love all those colorful collection!!!!

  24. pearl

    2011-06-22 at 8:50 PM

    classic and great

  25. Roel

    2012-10-03 at 9:06 PM

    Wow, that’s so cool! I didn’t know about Koenji, but I’ll surely going to pay a visit to it in couple of weeks when I leave again for Tokyo. It reminds me of Berlin a bit, that city also has certain places where these super creative artsy stores just pop up. Really inspiring, thanks!

  26. Akane

    2016-10-13 at 1:54 PM

    Can’t believe I missed this amazing vintage shop in Tokyo.
    Definitely, will go and have a look this weekend. 😀

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