An afternoon in Ginza

December 1, 2006

Today I continued my search for a winter coat. Things have become a little more urgent recently, given that a) it is now officially winter here (although every other day is not too cold) and b) I warm-washed a quite toasty jumper that I have had for sixteen years yesterday and now it is two sizes too small.

On Wednesday I went out to a place called Makuhari to look in a number of factory outlets, but no luck. There was either nothing in my size, or nothing with the length that I need (to keep out the Siberian winds) or nothing in the style that I liked.

It was actually an interesting journey, out to the western part of Tokyo by train. The line goes out by the bay. For kilometre after kilometre along the waterfront are storehouses, boats, freeways with container-carrying trucks and apartment blocks. It was only on this trip that I realized the size of Tokyo – as a city, it is massive. The reason why where I live is so popular on the weekend with the locals, is because it is the only stretch of waterfront where Tokyoites can go for a dip. The rest of the coast around this massive city has been concreted over and dedicated to merchandise trade.

So, after lunch I took myself out to Ginza, Tokyo’s shopping mecca. I had been warned that it would be expensive, but I was determined, not so much to buy today, but at least to see the full range of goods that were on sale. In particular, my mission was to visit the menswear departments of three large department stores: Matsuzakya, Mitsukoshi and Matsuya.

061201 Matsuzakaya

Matsuzakaya (‘pine-tree-hillside-store’) is probably the most elegant and refined of the three. All three are like David Jones Elizabeth St., but Matsuzakaya pushes the ‘glass and marble’ thing to the furthest degree. The menswear department is full of small sections representing different tailors and fashion houses, where gentlemen can have their clothes tailor-made. I found a nice waterproof cotton coat here, with removable lining. Correct length, a bit exy (around $550 – but I’m on a good scholarship, remember!) but BEIGE. I think I already have too much BEIGE. I can be recognized at a hundred paces on a Treasury ‘Cazh Friday’ by my BEIGE pants.

So I resisted the heavy pressure from the salesman and decided to continue my search elsewhere. On the way out, I noticed a promotion for Chanel Number 5, starring our own Nicole, so I decided to take a snap to share with you:

061201 Nicole

Well, I almost didn’t make it out alive. A middle-aged Japanese man hurried up to me and, making the Japanese ‘crossed wrists’ sign (put your right arm across your body, pointing out and to the left – then put your left wrist on top of your right wrist – then shake it all about) he said, in what can only be called a severe tone: ‘You do not take pictures in this department store.’ I swear, he said ‘this’ in underlined bold.


I felt like I was ten years old again – flashbacks of me as a choirboy being told off by one of the Archbishop’s self-righteous flunkies for breaking some unwritten law in the Cathedral grounds. I almost wet myself.

I was so rattled that I didn’t even think to take a picture of him once I was outside the building. That would have really cheesed him off!

Anyway, next stop was Mitsukoshi (‘no-translation-available’).

061201 Mitsukoshi

This store had many more people in it. And despite the bronze lions on either side of the front entrance indicating otherwise, the staff were (appeared? I didn’t try the camera trick again) more relaxed. But – no coat. The stock seemed aimed at a younger, more ‘edgy’, more ‘Myers-y’ crowd. Lots of zippers and studs instead of buttons. OK, let’s try Matsuya (‘pine-tree-store’):

061201 Matsuya

I was more comfortable here. And I found something that I quite liked – nice colour and pattern, right length, buttons all the way up to keep out the cold. But pure cashmere – you can imagine the price! I could have a coat made to order for less than that! In Australia, anyway.

So: I couldn’t find a woollen coat anywhere, let alone a suitable one. I’ll have to look elsewhere on the weekend. But I’m running out of department stores. And this time I’ll drag one of my female colleagues with me – I’m probably not the sort of man who should be left to rely on his own judgment when it comes to clothes (e.g. the beige pants).

What I would like you to know is that Ginza is a very pleasant part of town. Even the tar on the road is done in an off-grey finish, making it pleasing ot the eye. The pavement is made of beige (again!) stone. There are trees along the sides of the pavement, and the sidestreets have a ‘Berlin-Paris’ atmosphere to them.

061201 Ginza1 061201 Ginza2061201 Ginza3



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