In Store: Red brick revival
Once at the heart of Yokohama's bustling port industry,
Akarenga Soko has a new lease of life as an exclusive entertainment and
retail complex. Martin Webb delivers his verdict on the venerable edifice's
Built in 1911, Yokohama Akarenga Soko (Red Brick Warehouse) was an architectural
achievement at a time when there were few substantial brick buildings
in Japan. Just last week, this symbol of pride for what has since become
the number one port in Japan was reborn as a shopping and entertainment
center for the 21st century. Innovative shops, international restaurants,
bars and live venues threw open their doors, offering some of Tokyo's
best opportunities for excitement and indulgence.
Isao Matsuno, creative director of the ambitious project, explains that
he took his inspiration from Akarenga's bustling heyday. "We wanted
a challenge to work towards," he says, "and we decided simply
to try to recapture the vitality of the era in which Akarenga was built."
Shop til you drop
The reinvigoration certainly seems set to achieve its goal. With four
distinct sections, Akarenga boasts enough space and variety to captivate
shoppers and revelers from all over the Tokyo metropolitan area. For that
special someone, the gift zone contains various stores stocking wrap-able
products: Harajuku hats and caps from CA4LA, street-conscious shoes and
bags from art-berg do, and jewelry from Michal Negrin and SWC. For a more
pungent present, head to UK cosmetics store LUSH. The powerful scent of
these ethically sound, handmade products has led such celebrities as Madonna,
Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Leonardo DiCaprio to stock up on body
scrubs, face masks, cleansers and bath products. For product information
in English and shop lists, see www.lush.co.uk.
The remainder of the ground floor provides opportunities
for further indulgence, but rather than olfactory arousal it will be your
taste buds getting a special treat. Adjacent to the gift section are imported
grocery specialist Kaldi Coffee Farm and, for devilish dessert cravings
or steamy summer afternoons, Yokohama Bashimichi Ice, Japan's own premium
ice cream creator. Rounding out the area are the more savory flavors of
Kamakura Ham Kitchen, a delicatessen offering European and Japanese-style
hams of all imaginable varieties. Try taking home their newest nama (prosciutto-style)
Tomioka Shokai ham, which combines traditional taste with melt-in-the-mouth
texture. At the heart of the ground floor are four family-friendly eateries
offering a choice of Hawaiian burgers, French crepes, Chinese cuisine
or yoshoku (Japanese-style Western food.) For a more grown up luncheon,
walk through to the enclave of French sophistication that is Cafe Madu.
A firm favorite among Aoyama loafers, the café offers not only
well-prepared French fare (lunch from ¥1,200), but a selection of
well-priced ethnic homewares. Adding further hues to the multicultural
cuisine rainbow is international restaurant New York Dining, which serves
up its catholic interpretation of Big Apple fusion cuisine.
To burn off some of those calories, tramp up the almost century-old staircase
to the second floor (gliding up by elevator is also an option) and start
searching for stuff to push your residence one step closer to dream home
status. For an injection of the exotic, pick some items imported from
Indonesia, China or Africa at Oriental Acote, an interior store run by
fashion designer dardaredare. Perhaps living in the megalopolis has you
longing for a touch of the rural. If so, Depot 39 will be right down your
lane. The Jiyugaoka store can deliver its country dweller simplicity to
your city pad.
Those aspiring to the elegance of the age of empires should march on into
The Globe. This European antique specialist aims to offer total interior
solutions, stocking everything from furniture to fabric, lampshades to
lacquerware. Continuing with the European theme, but at the opposite end
of the price range is Salut!, which supplies a myriad of Parisian interior
trinkets all at ¥100. Another store targeting bargain hunters is Unico,
a specialist in cute, basic and reasonably priced furniture. Rounding
out the second floor are retro accessory maker Free Style, gift store
Y's Factory and T-shirt boutique Goody Laundry, where you can also pick
up vintage cameras, key holders and other intriguing junk salvaged from
The top floor of Akarenga, housing some tantalizing new dining, drinking
and musical projects, will undoubtedly be the biggest draw for those traveling
from outside Yokohama. Cavernous beer restaurant Beer Next fills one-third
of the top floor and offers diners hearty meals accompanied by a selection
of 30 draft beers in a dynamic, modern setting. Incorporating a live music
area and private party lounge, Beer Next also offers pasta from ¥1,000
and rotisserie roast chicken from ¥1,300, as well as a smooth house
wine at the bar for ¥400 per glass. In the neighboring space café/restaurant
Chano-ma brings its Nakameguro street cred to Yokohama. To the sounds
of loungey beats from the DJ booth, sink into the luxurious seating while
sipping cocktails from ¥600 and filling up on Japanese fusion favorites
like salad onion noodles (¥700) or satsuma kara curry rice (¥850).
Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of this grand old building reborn is
Motion Blue, the latest venture by live jazz landmark Blue Note Japan.
With nouvelle cuisine, the finest of wines and cocktails and a state-of-the-art
acoustic interior, what better environment in which to dig the vibes of
the world's top live music maestros? Blue Note is importing a host of
talent in the opening month: Bluey from Incognito, Larry Carlton, Irma,
Makoto Ozone, Koop and Fertile Ground will all perform between the opening
night on April 12 and May 1. For details see Metropolis listings or visit
With so many scintillating sights, sounds and sensations, Akarenga's latest
incarnation is sure to attract plenty of repeat visitors and finally deliver
the red-brick behemoth a return to its former glory.
Yokohama Akarenga Soko. Open 11am-11pm. 1-1-2 Shinminato, Naka-ku, Yokohama.
Tel: 045-226-1911. Nearest stn. Sakuragicho. 8min walk. From the station
walk over the Kishamichi Promenade and continue with Yokohama World Porters
on the left and Navios hotel on the right for about 500 meters. For information
in Japanese see www.yokohama-akarenga.jp
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531: To a tee
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527: Treasure chests
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523: Arts and crafts movement
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515: Bowled over
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511: East meets nest
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503: The write stuff
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499: Blasts from the past
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495: In the bag
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491: Paper chase
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487: Happy trails
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483: Top hats
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479: Oriental express
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474: Haute haven
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468: New kit on the block
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463: Can buy me love
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452: Perfect timing
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448: House of style
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445: Present perfect
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441: Toy story
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437: Natural selection
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433: Window shopping
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429: Jet, set, go!
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425: Loud and clear
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421: Red brick revival
Once at the heart of Yokohama's bustling port industry, Akarenga Soko has a
new lease of life as an exclusive entertainment and retail complex
417: Eye browse
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409: Go Figure
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405: Puff 'n' Stuff
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