In Store: Window shopping

Stephen Cotterill indulges his yen and peers into the retail oasis that is Glassarea Aoyama.

Nestled just off Kotto Dori in Aoyama, Glassarea is a chic commercial niche offering a glimpse of what the average shopping experience would be if everyone on the planet won the lottery. Open since April 10, this elegant glass and metal mini-complex is the latest offering to spring from Tokyu Corporation's restructuring strategy and houses select fashion and interior boutiques, two restaurants and a suitably intimidating hair salon. But even if you're not feeling flush with cash, Glassarea offers a pleasant diversion with its paved walkways, inviting wooden benches, and traditional wares from Fukui Prefecture.



Ladies apparel retailer Optitude has chosen its Glassarea outlet to be its flagship store. In line with the retailer's concept of "optimism and aptitude" (hence the name), the new store has an urbane feel and is geared to the young salaried woman-about-town. Optitude's own line is definitely for the sophisticate, with camisoles for ¥15,000 and up and a summer dress fetching ¥25,000 or above. There are a few stylish trinkets placed among the nouveau flower arrangements, such as Mime and Marge jewelry around the ¥5,000 mark, but generally the prices are discreetly hidden with petite handbags starting at around ¥36,000. The second floor is mainly reserved for classy imports such as John Smedley and Mr. and Mrs. Mcleod targeting the dot-com office crowd. Massimo Rebecchi gets a fair bit of hanger space with Alpha sleeveless tops from ¥15,000.

Open 11am-8pm daily. Tel: 03-5468-2651.

Casadecor Scena

As the name suggests, Casadecor Scena has a vaguely Spanish sensibility and would add a splash of Mediterranean color to any Hiroo living room. As well as giving floor space to chic imports such as an electric-orange sofa from Park Avenue and wicked wire lamp stands by Foscarni at prices around ¥200,000, Casadecor also makes room for reasonably priced tableware and household accessories. A Tiamo mug from Leonardo, for example, would set you back ¥3,500, while Liden Leaves aromatherapy oils and balms containing real fruit and flowers average ¥2,500 per 500ml bottle. The store also offers pick 'n' mix, self-assemble Progetto Multisystem units for the living room and kitchen by Euromobile. A little bit pricier than your run-of-the-mill DIY chipboard ensembles, a full set of shelves and desk in the Dimension line could easily break the million yen mark. Kitchen units, meanwhile, are strictly for those on diplomat packages.

Open 10:30am-7:30pm daily. Tel: 03-5468-3630.


Shunko Arisotei Aoyama
Next to Aoyama 291 is another bastion of Fukui Prefecture culture. Shunko Arisotei is a high-end izakaya hailing from the eastern Echizen district of Fukui, which is renowned for fish and crab caught fresh from the Sea of Japan. The 62-seat restaurant was established in collaboration with a local Echizen hotel and has a traditional Japanese aesthetic coupled with the comfort of Western-style dining furniture. The evening menu reflects the region's specialties with offerings such as sea bream sashimi, dressed female crab and wakasa beef, which you cook at your table on a heated stone. Entrees are priced around the ¥2,000, so, with a couple of drinks thrown in, an evening meal would average around ¥5,000 per person. There are 30 varieties of wine, sake and beer to choose from, including Fukui home-brewed Bon Nihonshu at ¥1,000 for an ichigo bottle. The lunchtime (11:30am-3pm) set menu offers pretty good value with a selection of grilled fish with trimmings for ¥1,300. The soba dishes priced at ¥500 are worth a try, particularly as the Echizen soba farmer that supplies the restaurant recently received an award for excellence from the Ministry for Agriculture. Must be the country air down there.

Open 11:30am-2:30pm and 5-11:30pm Mon-Fri; 11:30am-2:30pm and 5-11pm Sat, Sun and hols. Tel: 03-5466-5820.


Minami Aoyama 291

Established by the Fukui Prefectural Government, Minami Aoyama 291 offers a selection of the best products the region has to offer. Although a majority of the store showcases traditional craftsmanship such as ceramics, lacquerware, sake and handmade paper, there is also a large display of spectacles and sunglasses. Fukui happens to be the biggest producer of eyeglass frames in Japan, accounting for 85 percent of domestic production, and prices range from ¥8,000 to ¥100,000 and above for state-of-the-art eyewear. The second floor has a business center and an oddly named U-turn center, which appears to be for smoking. There's also a massive 200-square-meter space available for events, wedding receptions and the like. The area can be hired out for anything from ¥14,400 for half the space for a couple of hours to ¥93,000 for the whole area, including kitchen, for the whole day. If you happen to be from Fukui Prefecture, it's a third of the price.

Open 10am-8pm Wed-Mon, closed Tue. Tel: 03-5778-0291.


You Xian
This Cantonese restaurant is part of the Orion dining experience, which also brought us Aux Bacchanales, among others. You Xian has a sister eatery in Hong Kong and tries with some success to remain true to its roots. The menu is certainly authentic, offering dozens of varieties of Chinese tea in the ¥500-900 range, dim sum, noodles, rice and soups, all reasonably priced. Whole vacuumed-packed pig heads and piglets hang in the window for that extra touch of authenticity; fortunately, they are off limits to diners. But you can buy tea and desserts to takeaway. Specialties of the house include barbequed pork strips, and the roast duck does a fair impression of the Peking variety. On Saturdays and Sundays the small open terrace and interior get filled pretty quickly, despite the fact that the grand opening was only on April 26. Reservations are recommended.

Open 11:30am-10:30pm daily. Tel: 03-5468-0340.



This swish hair salon dominates the second floor above You Xian, offering cuts for ¥7,000 and perms for ¥13,000 or more. They don't have a set price list as such, which may suggest the sky's the limit, but you can sit down with a "hair specialist" for a lengthy consultation before they actually start specializing. Boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and an array of cacti and fresh plants, Difino will at the very least leave you feeling fresh and prepped for the next stop in your shopping adventure.

Open 11am-9pm Mon, Wed-Fri; 11am-8pm Sat; 10am-6pm Sun and hols; closed Tue and every third Wed. Tel: 03-5468-3361.



Milan-based Izumi Ogino has enjoyed respectable success by tapping the high-end fashion market in Japan with her Anteprima outlet in Ginza and another in Ikebukuro. Her mini-empire is expanding, and the stylish and minimalist store at Glassarea, which opened April 12, is the latest addition. Leather handbags averaging around ¥50,000 are the best sellers, closely followed by delicate shoes and sandals in a similar price range. More extravagant attire for those special occasions, such as a white leather dress, could easily set you back ¥250,000 or so. A recent tie up with japan's Itochu Corp. means that Anteprima outlets will also be stocking jewelry, watches and optical wear from spring/summer this year. As the Ginza store rakes in the cash, the Glassarea store is serving primarily as a showroom. According to sales staff, the new fall/winter collection will soon be on the shelves and a sales push with discounts of up to 30 percent will kick off in the second or third week of July.

Open 11am-8pm daily. Tel: 03-5468-3547.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tokyu Corporation, Stephen Cotterill

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