Shopping for Yakutas | Japan | Living in Mexico

Shopping for Yakutas

This morning, we set out to find a shop that specializes in kimonos. We found our way to the spot on the map where it supposedly was located. No sign of it. Was it in the Imperial Hotel building? Nope. Was it in the Imperial Tower? Not there either. I approached a uniformed guard standing in front of a high rise, and asked if he knew where Hayashi Kimono was.

He took my map and frowned at it. He turned it this way and that way. It became immediately apparent he was gonna be no help at all. But he wanted to help. So he studied the map intently. He said things like "Yes. Kimono."

He pointed back the way we'd come. I told him it wasn't there. He pointed around the corner. I told him we'd checked that out also. When he pointed a third direction, I smiled, bowed and thanked him, and set off in that direction even though I knew it was wrong, just to end the agony. 

This is one of the problems of getting around in Tokyo. You can find the general location of your destination, but once there, you can't see it. It must be here somewhere... But exactly where? Or maybe it's way the hell and gone across town. You have no way of knowing.

We stepped into an authentic French bistro for two coffees—$10. I pored over our maps. I looked at the city guide where we'd learned about Hayashi Kimono. It said it was located at 2-1-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku. In the International Arcade.

Wait a minute. I had seen a sign that said "International Arcade." But where?

We retraced our steps. Sure enough, under a railway bridge was a sign: "International Arcade." Right next to a drink vending machine and a soft ice cream place.


The International Arcade.

Now here's this place that's supposed to be a major tourist destination. I had looked along all the narrow streets lined with fancy retail stores. I'd looked in the high rises that lined the boulevards. But I'd walked right by the shabby storefront lurking in the gloom under the bridge.

The International Arcade contains two stores. One sells breathtakingly expensive pearls. The other is Hayashi Kimono. The pearl store staff took one look at us and ignored us. A helpful English-speaking woman scuttled out from behind a pile of happi coats and asked Jean if she could help her. Then it was off to the races. Piles of yakutas came out and were unfolded. Happi coats were tried on. Kimonos and obis were oohed and ahed over. Jean finally turned to me and said that she was "going to be a little while."

I needed to find a bathroom, so I told her I'd be back later and headed off for Mitsukoshi Department Store, the "Harrod's of Tokyo," where I knew there were public facilities. A half-hour later, I returned to discover that I was $480 poorer and Jean was $480 happi-er.


Jean at Hayashi Kimono.

Here, Jean is watching the helpful English-speaking proprietess totting up the damages.