Tokyo's Hidden Secrets 1

Hidden in the back streets of Tokyo lie secret treasures that even Tokyoites themselves barely know. Funky galleries, shops and event spaces showcasing up-and-coming Japanese creators and their works. This week, TokyoMade, enthusiastic supporters of independent Japan-based design and creation, take you on a tour to discover them.

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Tokyo, a city of bright lights, human traffic and ever changing scenery is known for it’s penchant for latching on to trends. With the recent emergence of foreign super stores such as H&M, Forever 21 and Top Shop one might be forgiven for thinking Tokyoites are easily swayed by mass production and mega marketing.

While this is partially true, it is reassuring to know that behind the super sleek high rises exists a thriving independent fashion and design scene supported by some prominent Tokyo names, galleries and spaces.

mememachine gallery
Independent Tokyo Style — spaces all over the city are home to independent design, you just have to know where to look.

Let us guide you off the heavily beaten track and into the thriving independent culture of Tokyo. This post is part one of a two part tour to some of Tokyo’s creative hot spots.


mememachine gallery — colorful exhibitions and collaborations.

In the back streets of Shibuya, away from the bustling traffic of the crossing you will find the art boutique and gallery known as mememachinegallery. The front of the Shibuya space is set up as a well stocked shop filled with intriguingly unique wares.

Run by Tokyo-based design team mememachine, the gallery and boutique house a wide range of Japan’s independent creator’s stock. From t-shirt designs and fashion creations to photographic books and vinyl toys, over 60 independent labels are on display and for sale. Behind the shop front is a small gallery space that is usually filled with colorful exhibitions and collaborations.

This week the mememachinegallery will host the Tokyo Made Market, a guerrilla style shop featuring the works of many Tokyo Made creators.

mememachinegallery #104 15-10 Uguisudani Shibuya-ku Tokyo


CLASKA — a much loved multi-function and cultural space on Meguro Street.

Built in 1969, formerly known as New Meguro, CLASKA is a Meguro Street land mark. In 2004, CLASKA became a renovation project housing multi-function and cultural spaces, including a hotel, restaurant & bar, gallery & shop and rental studio. Today CLASKA is a strong supporter of independent culture and design in Japan.

Regular innovative exhibitions are open to the public including DO, a design and culture store and gallery combined. Many contemporary Japanese designs can be viewed and purchased in the 3rd floor space. Ongoing displays in the DO gallery give an insight into everyday Japan with a focus on literature, film, home wares, paintings, architecture, fashion, comics and technology.

CLASKA 1-3-18 Chuo-cho Meguro-ku Tokyo, 152-0001 Japan

The Ghetto

The Ghetto
The Ghetto — once a Love Hotel, now a hang out for independent designers, street artists, skaters and art lovers.

Once a love hotel in the back streets of Hyakunin-cho, The Ghetto has been renamed and given a street art make over. The interior was gutted, leaving just a few hints of it’s history. The exterior is clad in brightly colored graffiti created by some of Japan’s most respected street artists, who are also known to hang out at The Ghetto from time to time.

On the first floor where the beds and baths once stood now exists an indoor skateboard ramp and cafe called Hell’s Kitchen. Upstairs is home to a cluster of independent stores stocking apparel and accessories from Japanese and foreign designers. The upstairs gallery also houses a variety of independent art works, films and displays often with special screenings or store collaborations. A treasure amongst the winding back streets, not far from Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district.

The Ghetto 1-1-10 Hyakunin-chou Shinjuku-ku Tokyo

Continue at Part 2!

Deanne Tonking & Masao Tamaoki About the Author

Deanne Tonking and Masao Tamaoki connect with independent designers all over Japan to find unique art, handmade treasures and innovative design. They share their stylish discoveries on TokyoMade, offering style conscious shoppers rarely attainable creations.

Recent articles by Deanne Tonking:

Comment (日本語もOK)

haha a love hotel turned over into a design hang out~ nice XD

Jul 8, 2009 (4531 days ago)

@ANJJ: It has remained a place of creativity. ;-)

Kjeld Duits
Jul 8, 2009 (4530 days ago)

please do more of these (updated) :D!

Jul 2, 2011 (3807 days ago)

hey not sure if you can help but i have a london based fashion label that i would love to be selling in japan ….. i just dont know where to start with finding a good agent over there? can you help in anyway with this question?

Aug 25, 2011 (3752 days ago)

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