Where to shop and dine
All the world’s a donburi rice bowl at this recently opened casual eatery, perfectly located for brunch after exiting Kashiwa Station en route to Urakashi. Each day sees a different global cuisine interpreted as a donburi topping (Thai when we dropped by), with these and other dishes served alongside salad made with fresh veggies delivered every morning from a Kashiwa farm. Lunch and dinner can both be enjoyed up on a spacious astroturfed roof terrace, overlooking the train station’s platform and bedecked with hipster-approved Edison light bulbs.
Gleeful is an Urakashi focal point, as one of the neighbourhood’s largest venues housing both vintage clothing and furniture stores as well as a popular cafe. Across all three, the aesthetic is the kind of retro Americana that is perennially popular in Japan regardless of year or season. Clothing-wise that means a selection (for both men and women) encompassing everything from pre-war workwear to 1970s and ’80s outdoors gear, while the patina-aged furnishings date back as far as a century. The Gleeful Cafe and Bar meanwhile offers true American-style sandwiches, i.e. stacked sky-high and served with fries.
In a spruce, apartment-like space dotted with objets d’art, modern classic furniture and the odd floodlight pulled from a film set, this menswear boutique offers mostly domestic labels, with some noteworthy emerging names in the mix. Amongst these, Stein’s current collection pays homage to French interior decorator/architect Pierre Guariche with minimalist graphic tees and oversized lightweight trench coats, while Essay’s signature ‘balloon shirts’ puff up behind the wearer, parachute-style.
Shunichi Anjo wears his commitment to the farm-to-table idea pretty boldly. Nora Farm, the name of an organic agricultural collective he belongs to, is tattooed across his left- and right-hand knuckles respectively, and the same dedication is evident in his restaurant Table Beet. This expansive, dimly lit space has a playful rustic vibe while the lunch and dinner menus feature produce grown by Anjo and his staff – we highly recommend the lamb hamburg steak in gingembre sauce. Original herb cocktails, such as the rosemary vodka we sampled that was at once revitalising and intoxicating, hit the spot after an afternoon deep diving into Urakashi.
iii3 is the most directional of Urakashi’s select shops, catering to both men and women. The stark white space has the air of a commercial art gallery, and it boasts a label roster that is like an a-to-z of cult Japanese labels, including Dulcamara, whose ‘destroyed’ genderless pieces suggest a dystopian near future. Better known outside Japan, Hender Scheme made its name with natural leather renditions of classic sneaker silhouettes – and iii3 carries the brand’s more conceptual creations, such as vacuum-packed socks masquerading as condoms.
Predating Urakashi’s new crop of select shops, menswear specialist Herbie dates back two decades, and in 2019 is filled with sought-after Japanese labels that draw inspiration from the great outdoors. Apparel from Tokyo’s Mountain Research combines camping-friendly functionality with Marxist and anarchist slogans, while Southern Field Industries’ bags are crafted out in the Saitama countryside. In keeping with this angle, the shop has set up a few park benches in its front courtyard for customers to rest and relax.
Countering Urakashi’s heavy menswear skew is this ladies’ boutique presenting an elegantly feminine edit of both Japanese and international labels du jour. Owner-buyer Aya Maeda possesses a judicious eye for contemporary style, bringing together pieces ranging from the pared-down basics of fabric-fixated Tokyo label Auralee to Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s angular and vividly coloured footwear. Other highlights include cult Parisian label CristaSeya and Japanese-Mexican bag brand Charrita.
This sister shop to The Life is located on Kashiwa’s main street, which you’ll come across when returning from the Urakashi quarter and heading towards Kashiwa Station. Ideally placed then for post-shopping dinner, this laidback bistro-style restaurant is another spot that makes great use of fare from surrounding farms. Original dishes exhibit a sense of playfulness: anago (saltwater conger eel) and chips is a playful take on a Brit staple, while craft beer becomes a curry ingredient.
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