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Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
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One day in... Sendagaya

A short walk from Harajuku, Sendagaya is home to cool restaurants and some of Tokyo's most innovative fashion brands. By Darren Gore

By Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Nestled between Harajuku to the south and Shinjuku Gyoen garden to the north, Sendagaya is quietly one of Tokyo’s hippest neighbourhoods. The area has long had strong ties with fashion, architecture and other creative fields, thanks to a host of design studios and fashion showrooms being based here. It’s only in the past few years though that Sendagaya has emerged as an off-duty destination to rival bordering Harajuku, with a host of boutiques, restaurants and galleries popping up that are as cool as you’d expect from the style-fixated crowd that makes a living here.

Let us guide you to ten of the best spots Sendagaya has to offer, from botanics-filled hip café Tas Yard to one of Tokyo’s most audaciously futuristic concept shops, fashion jewellery brand Jam Home Made. Getting to Sendagaya is simple: it’s served by JR Sendagaya Station and Kita-Sando metro station, and is about a 14-minute walk from Harajuku’s Meiji Dori-Omotesando intersection.

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Shops

Jam Home Made

Shopping Sendagaya

This must-see store playfully brings a touch of ‘Black Mirror’ to the experience of shopping for jewellery and accessories. Jam Home Made, a hip brand popular with younger women and men, here gives physical form to the notion of online shopping, thus blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual. Outside, starkly unbranded white vending machines, recessed into the shop’s equally spartan walls, dispense the brand’s bestsellers (including rings) 24 hours a day: potential here for spontaneous proposals, we feel!

Inside is where the online/offline distinction is riffed upon with great imagination: onto the walls are projected moving avatars that visitors to Jam Home Made’s homepage have uploaded. The concept is to make it possible to ‘visit’ the brand’s flagship store regardless of your physical location, but of course there’s no substitute for experiencing this innovative space IRL.

Jam Home Made has been kitting out fashion-forward Japanese designs since the late 1990s, along the way collaborating with the likes of Converse, Stussy and BAPE. Alongside Rolex-inspired watches (around ¥30,000) and leather wallets (from around ¥11,000), the current lineup includes jewellery adorned with household fixtures: a silver necklace featuring a sink plug (!) will set you back ¥37,800.

Playmountain

Shopping Harajuku

If there is one gure, and one company, behind the emergence of Sendagaya as a hip destination to rival larger neighbour Harajuku, it is Shin Nakahara and his Landscape Products interior design firm. As well as designing popular venues across Tokyo, Landscape Products conceived hip Sendagaya eateries Pho 321 Noodle Bar and Tas Yard. Thanks to this Landscape Products-run furniture and interiors store, you can now bring a touch of Nakahara’s contemporary yet natural world-informed aesthetic to your own home.

Playmountain was originally opened to showcase the work of Japanese artisans, and has since grown to also offer its own collection which ranges from ceramic jam pots (¥2,592) to leather sofas, and includes lighting, tableware and home office items. Recommended are the elegantly simple ceramic bowls, as used over at the Pho 321 noodle bar (¥4,860).

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Loopwheeler
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Loopwheeler

Shopping Harajuku

Cult label Loopwheeler is single-mindedly focused on perfecting a deceptively simple garment: the humble sweatshirt. Disappointed with the quality of modern mass production, founder Satoshi Suzuki tracked down an original, decades-old Tsuriami loopwheel knitting machine. The result is a supremely soft and comfortable garment that has garnered a cult following. Moreover, Loopwheeler is a longstanding favourite of fashion industry insiders, regularly collaborating with brands such as Supreme, Nike and Margaret Howell.

Interior design fans too will want to check out this compact flagship store, tucked away on a side street off Meiji-dori: it’s one of the lesser-known projects by design maestro Masamichi Katayama and his Wonderwall agency. Grey tones dominate the cleanly minimal basement space, in homage to the heather grey colour associated with the classic retro sweatshirt. One of those vintage knitting machines meanwhile, from which the label gets its name, slowly turns inside a museum-like display case. Loopwheeler’s unisex sweats and hoodies are not cheap (a basic crew-neck sweatshirt costs around ¥15,000), but they’re proven to last and age beautifully.

Narifuri

Shopping Harajuku

Cycling wear doesn’t get any hipper than that from Japanese label Narifuri. More than the skin-tight lycra that might come to mind, the focus here is on super-stylish men’s clothing that functions superbly for those who like to get around the city by bike. Several different collections will kit you out for everything from office commutes through to chilled-out, freewheeling weekends, and there’s also the Narifuri Active line for those serious about cycling as a sport.

This flagship store is styled as a series of zones, variously resembling a cyclist’s dream city bachelor/bachelorette pad; the office of a hip creative start-up; and of course a fashion boutique. Our picks here include an insulated men’s check shirt with the usual button-front replaced by a zip to keep out the wind (¥25,920), and a bike-friendly polo shirt made in collaboration with iconic British brand Fred Perry. The first floor of the building is home to sister shop Charifuri, dedicated to selling and maintaining high-quality cycles; along with Easy Ride Tokyo, a bike rental service offering rides for ¥1,500 per four hours, or ¥2,500 for the day.

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Teatora

Shopping Harajuku

Japanese label Teatora is fast winning fans for sleek menswear that balances aesthetics, comfort and innovative functionality designed for 21st century urban living. The brand states that its creations are designed with today’s nomadic freelance creatives in mind. Teatora’s ‘Device Jacket’ (¥64,000) is a blazer-like piece that conceals plentiful storage for tech gadgets, while the ‘Souvenir Hunter’ (¥72,000) is a warm, lightweight and ultra-strong coat that can transform into a hanging personal storage closet.

The majority of the clothes are in a sober black, and product names such as the ‘Keyboard Shirt’ hint that Teatora is playing with the Japanese salaryman stereotype. This Sendagaya flagship store is more industrial-space-turned-photographic-studio than corporate office, flooded with light and with clothes hanging from a series of black steel frames that combine to create almost an optical illusion of repetition.

Eat & Drink

Tas Yard

Restaurants Sendagaya

This combined café and botanical shop, designed and run by the influential Landscape Products, is like the unofficial club house of Sendagaya’s fashion and creative scenes. The natural wood-rich interior is one for lovers of the earthy, Kinfolk magazine-style aesthetic, and Tas Yard pays great attention to ingredients used in its simple, healthy curry, pasta and rice-based dishes. Vegetables are sourced from Kagoshima on Kyushu island while mustard comes from even further afield: it’s supplied by Seattle-based artisans Mustard & Co.

Desserts include such delights as an American cherry tiramisu, with drinks such as the spice apple lemonade being made from scratch on the premises. On warmer days, Tas Yard’s lush terrace is one of Sendagaya’s best spots to kick back and indulge in some people-watching, fresh drip coffee or all-natural soft drink in hand.

Enjoy! East

Shopping Harajuku

Enjoy! East is a contemporary, healthy eating-focused update on the Japanese shokudo model: an unfussy and eminently affordable canteen serving ‘at home’-style Japanese dishes, and traditionally catering to hungry workers both at lunchtime and after-hours. In keeping with its neighbours, Enjoy! East’s interior is on the minimal side, with warmth added by plentiful use of natural wood, and there’s a small terrace which is shielded from passing foot traffic (and Tokyo’s blazing summer sun) by a high wooden fence.

Lunchtime (a conveniently lengthy 11am to 3pm) is dedicated to a daily washoku (‘Japanese food’) buffet, where for just ¥1,050 you can fill your plate (just the once) with your choice from a wide selection of filling staples such as chicken breast tatsutaage (coated with soy sauce then deep-fried), nimono (dashi broth-simmered) recipes, tofu dishes and potato salads. Salad options are plentiful, and you can refill with rice (choose brown genmai or the super-healthy jurokkoku variety mixed with 16 grains) and miso soup until you’re sufficiently sated. Dinner meanwhile consists of the same kind of fare, served as set meals and a la carte, and with an additional emphasis on accompanying sake.

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Pho 321 Noodle Bar

Restaurants Harajuku

This organic pho noodle joint is yet another venture from hip Sendagaya design office Landscape Products. With traditional Vietnamese dish served in a pared-down yet well-designed space, you might call this the pho experience, elevated. That said, prices here are reasonable: both pho and bun soup noodles (pho are flat white rice noodles; bun cylindrical, spaghetti-like rice noodles) are priced from ¥830 for a small bowl (medium size from ¥980).

The menu is as minimal as the interior itself, with three varieties each of pho and bun, plus a small handful of side dishes including chicken rice and coriander salad. Speaking of coriander, the love-it-or-hate-it leaf is served in abundance alongside your order, and like all the ingredients here it’s organic and artificial additive-free. A small drinks menu includes seasonal herb teas and Vietnam’s 333 beer, and takeout boxes are available. Pho 321’s staff also put real thought into the background music; expect to hear anything from Joni Mitchell to the latest hip-hop.

See & Do

Laundry graphics gallery

Art Harajuku

Anybody with an interest in Japanese graphic design and illustration will want to check out this small gallery. The space was opened by award-winning, locally-based designer Yasuharu Kanedai, with the aim of providing a forum where his fellow design pros could educate and inspire each other, but there is plenty of scope here for the casual visitor to enjoy, too.

Slope Gallery

Shopping Sendagaya

This bijou art gallery, with a pleasant courtyard where visitors are welcome to sit and chill out, is run by Sendagaya-based art book publisher Bueno Books. Artists exhibited are often those who have worked with the publishing house, making for an eclectic roster that ranges from illustrator Esow, who humorously depicts both Japanese tradition and everyday life, to Swiss photographer Yves Suter. Bueno Books also has a strong focus on surf culture, as seen in the selection of books offered for sale here.

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