I bought a cardigan yesterday.
I’m very happy with it. I think it’s hand-made, the fabrics are high-quality, the design is exactly what I was looking for and the fit is perfect to boot. That doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post, though. The main reason I’m writing about the cardigan is because there’s a little story that goes with the purchase.
I’ve been meaning to buy a long cardigan for a while now. After a day of fruitless searching, on top of literally being told that I wouldn’t be able to find what I’m after in Australia, I figured I should go hit up Harajuku while I’m still in Japan. For those who don’t know, Harajuku is a district of Shibuya (near Tokyo) and according to Wikipedia, accurately “known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion”. What this means is there are lots of clothes stores and cute girls with kneesocks on. And meme hats.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t really find much. The main street (Takeshita Doori) was full of shops for girls and possibly guys with questionable hobbies, as well as the odd sweets store. This wasn’t anything outside of what I expected, but I was hoping to find a small establishment that may have housed what I wanted. At this point, all hope had not been lost and I soldiered on further from the station, through Takeshita Doori and continued my search. However, apart from curiously named clothing stores, there still wasn’t much of interest.
Somewhat disappointed, I went back down the main street back towards the Station and decided to go to Shinjuku instead. While I was walking back, I was pleasantly surprised to find a mannequin on the side of the street wearing a cardigan similar to what I had in mind. Curious, I looked around, but there didn’t seem to be a shop accompanying the dear fellow. While scratching my head and scanning the area, I noticed a seedy, dilapidated staircase going down, of all directions, and after not enough deliberation, I decided I may as well go down and have a look.
At the very beginning of my descent, a boisterous old woman appeared in the doorway and ushered me in with a voice that seemed too loud to have come out of a pensioner’s mouth. Unsure of whether or not she worked there (as the majority of the store attendants are sticker girls and other similarly young-aged people to cater to the target audience), I tenuously set foot into the cramped store with quite literally less than two square metres of unoccupied floor space.
Upon entering, I was bombarded with a torrent of questions as if I were being interrogated for possession of firearms. I managed to tell her that I was after the cardigan that was out front while she was asking for my age, nationality, education status and plans for the near future, and she continued to blabber in a way unfitting of someone whose demographic dictates they be quiet and deaf while pulling a few cardigans from nowhere and unceremoniously throwing them onto a hanger I didn’t even realize was next to me.
While trying them on, she told me that she designed and made the clothes herself, based off of J-Pop idols’ clothes, and proceeded to show me ancient, laminated printouts of music videos. Being rather fond of the clothes she had me try on, I asked for the prices. In Japan, it’s rude to directly give a price, so she pulled out a calculator and started punching in some numbers. While she was inputting the value, I began to worry, as she didn’t stop putting in zeroes, and when she finished, she pointed the screen towards me and showed me a price something like ¥32,800, at which point I was ready to take off the cardigan and leave. Thankfully, with one hand at the sleeve, I was told that the price I was just shown would be what I’d have to pay if I wanted to buy the authentic one, but the one she made would be mine for a somewhat more reasonable price of around ¥15,000. This was still outside of my budget, though, so I was a little hesitant. One of the other cardigans, which was actually closer to what I was hoping for, turned out to be ¥10,000 – a little on the high end, but not a price I was unwilling to pay. While weighing my choices, I was faced with an unexpected development.
Through the same doorway I came in, a cute girl that looked about my age, maybe a little younger, entered the store. For the sake of clarity, let’s call her Chink-chan; the reasoning will be given in due time. As she came in, the old lady seemed to completely forget about me and begun conversing with her as well, asking about her gender enough times to make me wonder whether or not she was Professor Oak™. Standing awkwardly in the middle of their verbal rally, I managed to gather that Chink-chan seemed to be related to the store somehow – submitting designs or doing seamstress work and the like. I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do, so I stepped around Chink-chan to let her finish talking to the storekeeper, at which point the latter must’ve remembered about my existence as she suddenly brought me up and said “Hey, can you believe this guy isn’t Japanese?”
Chink-chan replied saying “Umm… I’m not Japanese either…”, to which the old lady responded matter-of-factly with “Yeah, you’re Chinese” (hence Chink-chan). This was both surprising and disappointing, because from the way she looked, dressed, spoke and acted, she could’ve easily fooled me. As the shopkeeper relayed to Chink-chan that I was a student from Australia and slipped in a comment to tell me I should go to Todai, I turned back to the barely visible mirror and continued to ponder the potential purchase.
As I did so, the old lady went off somewhere out of sight and Chink-chan just stood next to me, staring at the floor, so I asked her what she thought of the cardigan I had on. She told me she thought it looked good, though probably only out of formality as opposed to sincerity. Being aware of this, I still felt somewhat obligated to make the purchase since she was affiliated with the store somehow, and this was probably the deciding factor that tipped the scales towards the “cave” end (though I probably would’ve bought it anyway). The storekeeper returned shortly after, so I paid for the cardigan while agreeing with something she said about the consumption tax, gave my pleasantries and left the store.
Happy with my purchase and unhappy with my remaining funds, I left the store and went off to an arcade to play Tekken to pass the time until I was supposed to meet up with a friend that evening. In hindsight though, I should’ve hung around and talked with Chink-chan a little more, maybe invited her out to one of the plentiful cafes in the area. I still had hours left until the appointed time, not to mention I got completely dumpstered in Tekken (I actually lost every match ;_;). I’m a little sour I let the opportunity to complete the Amagami challenge slip through my fingers, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Maybe I’ll head back to the store and ask the shopkeeper for Chink-chan’s number.