A fashion analyst living in Tokyo will introduce Tokyo's fashion, food, art, design, nature, etc. from the perspective of locals.

The sanctuary Comme des Garcons Aoyama store and the ramen in the back alley.

Hello. My name is Koji Yamada.

I have been working in the fashion industry in Tokyo for many years, and recently I have been working as a fashion analyst, mainly on my blog.

For my job, I have visited countless fashion-related stores and continue to research regularly and explore new stores.

In this blog, I would like to introduce some of the fashion stores I have found during my research, as well as some of the delicious and reasonably priced restaurants I have visited during my research.

All of the stores mentioned in this article are shared here on Google Maps.


Ramen shop tucked away in a narrow alley in Aoyama

This time, the setting was Aoyama.

On this day, I arrived at the Omotesando subway station at about 11:30 am.

Since I was already hungry, I first went out of the B1 exit of Omotesando station and entered the alley on the left side of the station to get hungry.

The alley is so narrow that one car can barely pass through.

My destination is this Darumaya. The signboard states "Japanese style ramen.

The menu list in the store is quite old.

Take-out is also available.

The austere noren curtain reads "Japanese-style Chinese". As it was around noon on a weekday, the restaurant was crowded with businessmen working in Aoyama. Aoyama is also home to many apparel companies, so there were many customers who looked like them. The couple sitting next to me seemed to be from a men's apparel company, and they were discussing the next season's product development.

As the name suggests, the interior of the restaurant strongly emphasizes Daruma.

There are both table and counter seats, and as I was alone, I was taken to the counter. There are also tables in the back of the restaurant, which cannot be seen from the entrance, so the seating capacity is quite large.

This is the menu given to me in the restaurant.

This time I requested this Kakuni Soba. I was going to have the most basic Daruma Soba, but I was attracted by the Kakuni Soba, which I had not had for a while, so I went for this one.

Daruma can be found throughout the restaurant.

A characteristic of this restaurant's ramen is that the ingredients are served on separate plates. The first thing that arrives is a plate with ingredients such as kakuni and menma (pickled bamboo shoots).

After a short while, the bowl of noodles was ready.

It seems to be the mainstream way to eat it with ingredients in a bowl like this. First, I drank the soup, which was very tasty with a dashi broth that was aptly named "Japanese-style ramen. Just one sip of the soup was enough to make me want to come back again, just the way I like it. The thick noodles also matched the soup very well.

The stewed cubes are juicy and very tasty.


Comme des Garcons Aoyama and Future Systems

After leaving Darumaya with great satisfaction, I headed for today's destination, the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store.  The symbol of Comme des Garcons Aoyama is its curved glass facade.

The Comme des Garcons Aoyama store was first designed in this style in 1999. At that time, this facade was decorated with a blue dot pattern.

The blue Dodd pattern has become an iconic Comme des Garcons pattern, and was used on the cover of the 2012 Comme des Garcons special issue of Pen.

The Comme des Garcons Aoyama store was designed by the British design firm Feature Systems.

Future Systems was a design unit consisting of Jan Kaplitsky and Amanda Levite; the firm was dissolved upon Jan Kaplitsky's death in 2009.

Future Systems' most famous buildings include the Rose Cricket Ground and Selfridges Department Store in England, and the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Italy.

Like the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store, Future Systems' design is characterized by its extensive use of curves. In addition, Future Systems' architecture has the following other characteristics.

Generally, the framework of a building is completed by piling up walls and constructing a frame (structure) with columns and beams. However, in the design world, which is slightly removed from architecture, a monocoque structure system is often used. Think of a crustacean's armor or an eggshell. Future Systems seeks inspiration from these organic forms, and by making full use of the monocoque structure, we challenge ourselves to design free curved surfaces.


My favorite Marni store design.

In addition to Comme des Garcons, there is another fashion brand for which Future Systems has designed a store.

It is Marni.

When I was a college student, I was crazy about Comme des Garcons and other designer brands, and I really liked Marni's cute designs.

However, Marni did not offer men's wear at that time, and I managed to spend a lot of money to buy a leather shoulder bag that I could use myself.

In fact, when I researched Future Systems to write this article, I learned for the first time that Future Systems was responsible for Marni's store design.

In other words, I now know the connection between my two favorite brands, Comme des Garcons and Marni. When I learned of this connection, I was so surprised that I could hardly speak.

I still love Maruni's store design as much today as I did then. I think they are innovative but never fade away, and have a timeless appeal.


Current Comme des Garcons Aoyama Store

Now, let's return to the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store.

The glass facade of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store photographed this time is transparent.

The facade was changed from dot pattern to transparent when the store was renovated in 2012.

The current design of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store often incorporates designs by artists who are developing collaborative products that season.

Currently, the design is by American artist Christian Marclay, who is collaborating on the Comme des Garcons Shirts for the Spring/Summer 2022 collection.

Here is a selection of Comme des Garcons Shirt Disco Christian Marclay products. It is still available in stores.


Sanctuary Comme des Garcons Aoyama store

Now I can visit this Comme des Garcons Aoyama store in less than an hour from my house.

I first visited Comme des Garcons Aoyama store about 20 years ago when I was a college student.

At the time, I was obsessed with fashion and Comme des Garcons.

At first, I enjoyed buying and wearing Comme des Garcons clothes, but before I knew it, I had a strong admiration for Rei Kawakubo and wanted to become a fashion designer.

I even thought about dropping out of the university I was attending and enrolling in a fashion college, but I think it was around this time that I decided to enroll in a fashion college after graduating from university, based on the advice of those around me that it would be better to graduate from university.

Living in Kobe, I mainly bought Comme des Garcons clothes at department stores and fashion buildings such as Umeda Hankyu and Kobe BAL.

The Comme des Garcons Osaka and Kyoto stores had not yet opened, and the only street-level Comme des Garcons store in Japan was the Aoyama store.

Even overseas, the only street stores at that time were in Paris and New York.

Furthermore, the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store is located near the offices of Comme des Garcons Aoyama store, where designers such as Rei Kawakubo work.

These strong feelings of longing for the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store were the very essence of a sacred place for me.


Stores told to us by residents of the sanctuary.

Then we visited the sanctuary, the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store.

In order to buy as many Comme des Garcons clothes as possible, I traveled from Kobe to Tokyo by night bus. I researched cheap accommodations and stayed at an accommodation for sailors in Sakuragicho, Yokohama.

In the end, however, I did not shop at the Aoyama store.

I didn't end up shopping at the Aoyama store because I had already bought the items I wanted to get that season at my favorite stores in Kobe and Osaka.

I savored the serene atmosphere of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store, talked with the staff, and left the store.

I think it was in the morning when I visited the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store.

I asked the staff member I spoke with at that time for a recommendation for lunch in the vicinity of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store, and he told me about Darumaya, the restaurant I visited this time.

It is a taste that should remain in my lifelong memory as a restaurant that was taught to me at the time by the staff of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store, a resident of the sanctuary.

...I would like to say that, but to be honest, I am not sure if the ramen I ate this time tasted the same as it did 20 years ago.

The atmosphere inside Darumaya is also at a level that I may or may not remember.

Well, this is what I remember from 20 years ago lol.


Comme des Garcons Ltd.

Now, the Sumitomo Minami Aoyama Building is located along Kotto-dori Avenue, a few minutes' walk from the Comme des Garcons Aoyama store.

It looks like an ordinary office building, but it is not. Yes, the aforementioned Comme des Garcons Inc. offices are located in the Sumitomo Minami-Aoyama Building.

I haven't visited this building in a few years, but I remember that there used to be an entrance to Comme des Garcons Ltd. on the side of the building. I don't think there was a sign like this before....

Incidentally, the Comme des Garcons, Ltd. office was frequently featured in an NHK special broadcast in 2002. This program is still my bible. If you have even the slightest interest, please watch it.