Worried that your neck is too short? Have no fear, the neck stretcher is here:
Try using it for a few weeks. The results are astounding:
I received an email from the HR department this morning to announce the beginning of Cool Biz. This means that male employees can forego neckties for the next three months, while office air conditioners are turned up to 28°C to reduce running costs (and ultimately help the environment).
Cool Biz is a fantastic idea: it means fewer sweaty old men on the streets and a considerable reduction in the amount of CO2 that power stations pump out. It also has the knock-on effect of producing more than a few comedy moments as bamboozled salarymen adjust to the brave new world of dressing in a smart-casual manner. Their plight is worsened by the prime minister, who is legally obliged to dress like an extra from Magnum, P.I. all summer long:
Of course, not all salarymen dress like aliens trying to blend into a middle-class American family circa 1985. A quick peruse of magazine racks in local bookshops reveals a bewildering variety of style-related magazines for the modern gent.
Middle-aged chaps who are looking to add a bit of edge to their look should turn to Leon. The key phrase here is choiwaru oyaji, which (sort of) translates as “bad-but-cool old guy”. Put simply, Leon is for forty- and fifty-something lady-killing dandies who want to look like they’ve just stepped out of a Milanese cafe. Check out those white jeans! Gaze in dumbstruck awe at those medallions!
Slightly younger fellows should take a gander at Men’s Ex, which has considerably fewer photos of George Clooney wannabies with twenty-something women. It’s fairly conservative in its recommendations, leaning more towards classic business attire and the preppy look than its Italian-inspired rival.
There is also a phenomenal number of one-off magazines – called mooks (magazine+book=mook) – which cover all kinds of style-related issues. Men’s Ex recently produced a guide to looking after and tailoring clothes which is proving very popular in this current economic climate of belt-tightening. Its article on how to properly clean leather shoes came in very handy after I got caught in a nasty downpour:
Another big-selling mook is this one on shirts. It contains all you need to know about the humble dress shirt and tie, including a dizzying array of ways to tie neckties…
… and a handy guide for coordinating shirts with ties and suits:
If you’re expecting well-written, thought provoking articles on a par with GQ or Esquire in these magazines then you’re in for a shock. The line between advertising and editorial is virtually nonexistent. In fact they are, pretty much, 200-page advertorials. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, per se: they do have some very interesting content, and some sections – especially those on maintenance – go into absolutely staggering detail.
Fresh seafood is, as you would expect, easy to come by in Japan. In fact, pre-packed prawns are sometimes so fresh that you might end up debating whether to put them in a frying pan or an aquarium:
(Postscript: Unfortunately Terry et al didn’t live long, happy lives. They were simply too delish for their own good.)
Having lived in Tokyo for over five years I should really know all there is to know about the place. But I don’t, and the place I probably know the least about is Akihabara. This once shabby district, which is five minutes from Tokyo station, has a global reputation for being the ultimate otaku paradise. While on the campaign trail former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso, a self-confessed manga geek, famously said ‘Tadaima!’ (‘I’m home!’) upon arriving in the area.
Akiba, as it’s also known, has become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years. A number of travel agents now offer guided tours that take in the delights of maid cafes, anime stores, used computer game markets and monster tentacle porn tryouts (probably). If, however, the thought of a tour bus full of other people (bleurgh!) is too much for you, White Rabbit Press’s Tokyo Realtime series might be right up your street.
Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara consists of a CD, a map and a glossy little photo booklet. The CD contains an audio tour of Akihabara. To start the tour, find your way to the starting point on the map, hit “play” on your iPod/iPhone/iWhatever and away you go.
Bonus points are awarded for the map: it’s plastic, so you don’t have to worry about it disintegrating into a soggy mess on rainy days.
The audio tour includes interviews with well-known otaku, such as Danny Choo (also known as the Tokyo Stormtrooper) and Morikawa Kaichiro. Morikawa, an expert on Akihabara, is a professor at Meiji University and the author of several books, including “Learning from Akihabara”.
At the time of writing I have yet to properly put the guide through its paces, but as I’ve got some time off work next week I might cast my inhibitions aside, don my tourist hat, string a camera round my neck and get stuck in.
You can buy Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara here. Tokyo Realtime: Kabukicho is also available, though unfortunately it doesn’t contain any interviews with Nigerian bouncers, Russian hostesses or love-hotel owners. It does, however, have an interview with a rope-bondage artist.
Jil Sander and Uniqlo clearly know when they’re on to a good thing: from tomorrow (23rd December) those of you living in Japan will be able to get your paws on items from the +J Spring/Summer 2010 collection. The UK gets the collection on the 7th January, with the US following a week later on the 14th.
Official press release:
The season introduces fresh perspectives on volume, teamed with perfect harmony in fibre, colour, optics, and touch. Experimentation is essential, but subtle, leading to new interplays of material and motion.
Leaving sporty stereotypes behind, +J endorses functional elegance, dynamic textiles, and distinctive shapes. Softly articulated, silhouettes give free reign to movement and ease. Fabrics are straightforward, expertly woven, alluringly sculptured, neat and subtle. Initiating marriages of convenience between structure and fluidity, delicacy and determination, coupling strong characters for the common good.
The collection quietly bridges the emotional and the formal, femininity and masculinity, experience and evolution. Luxury lies in inspiration and discreet perfectionism, applied to truly modern tailoring. Environmental concerns move to the heart of research, engaging in clothing that is both responsible and innovative.
Clarity and Lightness
Opting for the precision of airy colours, white and pure ivory feature as the radiant centre of energy and confidence. Pastel hues, pearly reflections, and chalked out acids create luminous lightness. Waterproof textiles become more feminine, made of ultra-fine cotton, tech-satins and sumptuous wools with an overwhelming impression of liquidity.
Prices (for Japan):
Outerwear, Coats & Jackets 4,990円 ～ 14,900円
Bottoms 3,990円 ～ 5,990円
Shirts 3,990円 ～ 4,990円
Cut & Sewn 1,990円 ～ 4,990円
Knitwear 2,990円 ～ 9,900円
If you’re looking for a well-crafted Italian suit, new shirt for work or a nice tie or two then Beams is the place for you. The January sales provide a good opportunity to pick up items at half price, as well.
Not quite as highfalutin as Beams, with much of their stuff coming in at a lower price point. Ships is a great place for casual items, especially classic American workwear -plaid shirts, etc – and British country gear (by country gear I mean wax jackets and so on, not Land Rovers, clay pigeons and field spaniels).
Buying the Basics
The best bet for everyday staples like socks and underwear. Uniqlo has seasonal collaborations with well-known designers – most recently Jil Sander – but don’t expect the quality to be up there with the best. Their HeatTech line of thermal clothing has received wide acclaim and is proving incredibly popular with the frozen masses.
Narita Express Specials
Got a bit of a wait before your shinkansen or Narita Express departs from Tokyo station? Feel a bit peckish? The following places should see you through:
5F Oazo Building, Marunochi. Open 11.00am – 11.00pm
Curry and udon, together? An unlikely combination, you may think, but they make perfect partners. In fact, the chefs at Konaya have pretty much created the impossible – an edible Pot Noodle! Perfect for cold winter days, and very handily located one floor above Maruzen’s foreign books section.
5F Marunouchi Building. Open 11.00am – 11.00pm
Need a good restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, or just fancy splashing out? The woman (or man) in your life will most definitely appreciate dinner in either of these fine establishments:
6F Shin-Marunochi Building. Open 11.00am – 11.00pm
Australian chef Luke Mangan’s Tokyo restaurant never fails to disappoint. A fantastic selection of Japanese-inspired delights that use the freshest ingredients available. The oval-shaped seating helps to create an intimate atmosphere, and the staff are always courteous.
24F The Peninsula Tokyo. Open 11.30am – 10.00pm
Peter’s private lift in the lobby area of the Peninsula Hotel whisks you to the 24th floor in seconds, and when the doors open you might forgive yourself for thinking that you’ve been transported to the starship Enterprise. At night the dark, shiny surfaces and low lighting give this restaurant an otherworldly feel. The dinner menu offers a great selection of set courses to choose from, and – considering that wine is included – at very reasonable prices.
View Four of the Best: Restaurants in Marunouchi in a larger map
Japan, like any other country, has an abundant supply of products for the follically challenged male. Do you find yourself weeping in the shower at the sight of your beloved hair flowing down the plughole? Have you been desperately trying to glue your pubes to your head with Pritt Stick? If you answered “Yes! My God man, yes!” to either of these then you might want give the following options a whirl:
Essentially a can of hair-coloured spray that dyes your scalp and thickens your remaining strands, thereby miraculously giving the appearance of more hair. The biggest downside to this one is that a bout of exercise will leave trails of brown-coloured sweat soaking into your shirt collar. Plus you also need a fair amount of hair remaining, otherwise you run the risk of people mistaking your head for a conker.
Hair restoring lotion
This miracle of modern science usually comes in a special applicator-head bottle thingy (ie, you massage your head with end bit). Apparently, it treats the root cause of the problem (ho ho!) by encouraging hair follicles to grow. Too much application can, however, lead to a rather sore scalp and the unfortunate office nickname of “Cherry Head”.
This is my favourite, purely because the TV adverts have people with enormously long bits of fake hair stuck to their foreheads, arms, and other entirely random places. They spend much of the advert yanking at it while pulling an “Oooh look, it’s soo strong!” expression at the camera. In short, great for bungee jumping fanatics.
Live in a wind tunnel? Watch a lot of tennis? Then you, my slap-headed friend, need a glue-on wig. This is for the man who has lost enough up top to justify physically sticking a Yorkshire terrier-sized hairpiece to his dome. I, for one, would like to see what this particular option looks like after a day of 30-degree heat and 100% humidity.
The hair transplant
If it’s good enough for Mel Gibson then it’s good enough for the common man. Quite expensive, though, and a poor job can leave you with a strange pattern where the hair was implanted. In some circles this option has earned the nickname “The Chucky”, for obvious reasons.
Some men will forego the above options and sweep the last remaining tendrils of hair over the top of the head in a, err, sweeping motion. This look has been falling out of favour in recent years, probably because women are sick of spending their weekends with a wispy-haired pillock:
As for me? Well, when the time comes to shave-it or save-it I’m going to stick with creosote and Kiwi shoe polish.
The LOHAS movement is a big deal in Tokyo, especially among the young, well-heeled Nakameguro set. Although it seems that many people view it more as a fashion statement than a “lifestyle of health and sustainability”, plenty of companies have realised that serious money can be made by going organic. Thankfully, this also includes breweries:
The verdict: A little bit on the bitter side but worth a try. However, for this kind of money (about ¥300 a can) I think I’ll stick to Suntory’s Premium Malts.
Every few months Uniqlo introduces a new range of clothes in conjunction with famous design types. One of this season’s collaborations is with Gilded Age, whose clothing is “inspired by the craftsmanship of the Gilded Age and assembled from artisanal fabrics.”
Blimey. Well, a bit of Googling reveals that the Gilded Age (1878-1889) was shaped by America’s greatest industrialists – men like John D. Rockerfeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. These chaps created the modern industrial economy and helped America’s manufacturing capacity dwarf the likes of Britain, Germany and France.
What does this mean for the clothes, then? The Uniqlo collection utilises natural, earthy colours and light, comfortable fabrics, with jackets boasting a deconstructed smart-yet-casual cut that would normally cost you a lot more than ¥5,900. The only problem is finding a store that hasn’t already sold out!
More: The Designers’ Invitation Project at uniqlo.com (in English)