Eat and shop in Fort Kochi

Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Gallery


Prior to my visit to Fort Kochi, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Yet after I arrived, I felt very at ease and safe. Despite the hot weather, it was pleasant to stroll around and enjoy the Bohemian atmosphere. There are many art galleries/cafes, heritage accommodations, churches and cool shops. My biggest surprise was to see many unique fashion boutiques and concept shops selling handdyed/handprinted clothing and handmade accessories. I think that there are more interesting independent shops here than Central London, and that is not an exaggeration.

Since I arrived very early and wasn’t able to check in yet, I decided to have breakfast at the nearby Kashi Art Gallery. Kashi Art Gallery is located inside a converted old Dutch house, which opened in 1977. Over the years, Kashi Art Gallery and Café has become the hub of Kochi’s contemporary art scene and popular hangout for young locals and tourists. I love the photography exhibition at the small gallery at the front, and I found the cafe very relaxing, which was a good start for ne after a long flight.


Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Café

Kashi Art Café breakfast

Kashi Art Gallery and cafe


Another popular cafe in the area is the Loafers Corner cafe located in a restored 200-year-old Dutch-Portuguese-style building. I visited the cafe later in the afternoon and bagged a seat by the window where I could watch the world go by from above. When I find chilled-out cafes like these during my travels, it does bring me joy… I am not a big fan of fancy and trendy cafes/restaurants; personally I prefer places with character/history/relaxing ambience. Hence, it is no wonder why this cafe is extemely popular with young locals and tourists.


Loafer's Corner cafe

Loafer's Corner cafe  Loafer's Corner cafe

Loafer's Corner cafe

Loafers Corner cafe


The next day I had lunch at the vegan Loving Earth Yoga Cafe, which is a yoga studio, cafe and a social enterprise. This is another expat’s favourites, and I guess it is catered for the health-conscious bunch. It is also spacious and relaxing, and a good place to eat healthy vegan dishes. My only complaint is that many dishes were not available on the day, so the choices were a bit limited.



Loving Earth Yoga Cafe


fort kochi Farmers cafe

fish in banana leaf

Farmers cafe & banana leaf-wrapped fish


After my trip to India last year, I completely fell in love with Indian clothing. In the UK, it is not easy to find contemporary Indian fashion, and even if you do, it is extremely overpriced. Hence I was looking forward to exploring the boutiques in Fort Kochi, and my first stop was Napier Street. Aside from Fab India (one of my favourite mid-range priced shop), there is a pop-up shop called Aambal eco clothing store. The shop has many handdyed and well-designed items that are all sustainable. All the items here are made by independent designers from around India and they are all very unique. Prices are reasonable especially if you compare it with London, so I do recommend a visit to this shop.


Aambal eco clothing store

Aambal eco clothing store

Aambal eco clothing store (Napier Street)


Anchovy is another cool boutique that sells contemporary fashion, accessories, vintage items and many illustration books by my favourite Indian publisher, Tara books.



Anchovy boutique (Vasco da Gama Square, Church Road)


I wanted to buy a book on Indian flowers and plants, so I went to a local book shop called Idiom Book Sellers. The shop sells both new and second-hand books, including Indian literature, history, cookery, and travel etc. I managed to find a few books on Indian plants and flowers, and I bought a small one published by DK to be used as a mini guide during my travels. The book seller was very friendly and agreed to let me take a photo of him.


Idiom Book Sellers

Idiom Book Sellers (1/348, Bastion Street)


There are a few intesting shops on Lilly Street, and one of them is Anokhi, a well-known Indian brand originated from Jaipur selling fashion, textiles, accessories and home furnishings that are handmade by craftsmen. Their designes often feature traditional motifs and techniques, like blockprinting, natural dyeing and embroidery, which are popular with locals and tourists.


Anokhi fort kochi



Further down the street is Kochi Kochi, a nice shop selling clothing and accessories that are hand-blockprinted onto recycled materials. I got to meet and speak to the designer and craftsman, who is keen to keep his designs as sustainable as possible. Yet this does not compromise the quality. I bought a long dress here and was complemented by many when I worn it to a dinner the week after. The staff here are friendly and prices are very reasonable, so it is not to be missed.

Next to Kochi Kochi is Via Kerala Design Shop, a design shop that sells a variety of accessories, products and souvenir made by local designers. At the front of the shop, there is also a small exhibition area showcasing interesting local art and design works.


Via Kerala Design Shop

Via Kerala Design Shop

Via Kerala Design Shop

Kochi Kochi and Via Kerala Design Shop


I didn’t expect to see concept stores in Fort Kochi, but I came across two intriguing upmarket ones while I was wandering around. One of them is Cinnamon Boutique, a modern lifestyle store located inside a converted Dutch bungalow. Designed by Italian architect Andrea Anastasio, there space includes a restaurant and shop selling chic fashion, jewellery and homeware made by Indian designers and artists.


Cinnamon boutique

Cinnamon boutique

Cinnamon boutique

Cinnamon boutique

Cinnamon boutique

Cinnamon boutique (1/658 Ridsdale Road, Parade Ground)


Another one is lcoated in Calvetti near the Boat Jetty called Pepper House. Originally a warehouse for spices, now it has been converted into a cultural centre, which includes a library, a design shop and a coffee shop. It is definitely a very cool-looking venue.


Pepper House

pepper house

Pepper House

Pepper House

Pepper House

Pepper House


Although most cool clothing shops are located in the centre of Fort Kochi, there are many craft and antiques/vintage shops located in Jew Town/Mattancherry. One of the larger ones is called Ethnic Passage, which is a 2-storey shopping gallery that sells handicrafts, home accessories, handmade souvenir (downstairs) and larger vintage furniture upstairs. Personally, I found the shops in Mattancherry more commercial than Fort Cochin, so I didn’y linger too long in this part of town.


ethnic passage

ethnic passage

ethnic passage

Ethnic Passage



Sustainable fashion and textiles – it’s not too late to change.

fashion from nature

fashion from nature  fashion from nature

Fashioned from Nature exhibition at The V & A museum


It is time to face the truth: the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. This is not fake news, it is a fact.

Confession 1: I am guilty of polluting the environment, and I have been doing it for decades without being fully aware of it. I think most of us have. Yet we cannot go on ignoring the consequences of our unintentional actions.

Confession 2: I have always loved fashion, and I even worked in the industry briefly in my 20s. I have bought countless of clothing and accessories at sales without wearing them, and I ended up selling most of my stuff on ebay or donating them to Oxfam.

fashion from nature symposium

fashion from nature

Fashioned from Nature: Designing a Sustainable Future conference at The V & A museum


Last year, I visited the Fashion from nature exhibition at The V & A museum and attended the Fashioned from Nature: Designing a Sustainable Future conference that accompanied the exhibition. Then back in Jan, I visited the Future Fabrics Expo orgainsed by the non-profit organisation, The Sustainable Angle. I figured that in order to be a better consumer/designer/retailer, I’d better educate myself first.

Over the last few years, I made a conscious decision to change the way I consume, and I went about it in several ways:

I unsubscribed myself from newsletters sent by most fashion companies, and I rarely go out to shop for clothing unless it is essential.

If I see fashion items I like in the shops or online, I would not buy immediately. I would wait a few weeks and if I love it THAT much, then I would check again to see if it is still available. Most of the time, the item would either be sold out or I have completely forgotten about it.

I always check the fabrics and materials. If you think cotton is good, think again. Cotton production actually requires huge quantities of land, water, fertilisers and pesticides, and has a negative impact on the environment. Organic cotton is a more eco-friendly option.

After I started to learn about natural dyeing, I became more aware of the negative impact that synthetic dyes have on the environment. Although natural dyed items requires a lot of water and are more expensive to produce, they are much preferable to the synthetic ones.

Go vintage… I rummaged around my wardrobe and found many hardly-worn items bought years ago that still look good today. Mixing old with new is what I like to do these days.

Mend or upcycle your clothing – I think it can be fun and creative. I have already put a pile of old cotton t-shirts aside to be dyed naturally. I can’t wait to redesign them!

Sell unwanted clothing and accessories online – I have been doing it for years and have sold many items that I no longer wear on ebay and other websites. If the item has sat in the wardrobe untouched for over 2 years, then it’s time to review it.

Buy good quality and timeless pieces that would not look outdated in 10 or even 20 years’ time. Luckily, I have never really been into fast fashion, so I have items from 10 to 15 years ago that I can still wear without cringing about them.

Buy from sustainable fashion brands that actually care about the environment and workers.

Last but not least – simply buy less.


future fabric expo

future fabric expo 19

future fabric expo 19

future fabric expo 19

future fabric expo 19


In the last few years, there are many interesting sustainable fashion brands that offer consumers alternative options, and even the big fast fashion brands are making changes or introducing new eco lines. Aside from pioneers like Stella McCartney, People Tree, Komodo and Patagonia, there are others like Bethany Williams, Aiayu, Ecoalf, Beaumont Organic, Thought, Armedangels, Lowie, Bibico, PIC style, Vildnis, EKO, G-Star Raw, King of Indigo, Lemuel MC and Veja… to name a few.


Bethany williams  aiayu

future fabric expo 19


You can also learn more about the issues and secrets of the fashion world through the following documentaries:

The true cost directed by Andrew Morgan.

Riverblue directed by David McIlvride and Roger Williams.

Dirty white gold directed by Lee Borromeo.

China Blue, Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town trilogy and Bitter seeds are part of the Globalization trilogy directed by Micha Peled

The Machinists directed by Hannan Majid and Richard York

Machines directed by Rahul Jain

The next black on the future of fashion (free to watch)

Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion

Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashions Dirty Secrets


It is never to late to change our buying habits, and if we all become more aware of what and how we consume, it will inevitably bring about changes and have a more positive impact on our planet.


Eat, drink & shop in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

Kala Ghoda

Kala Ghoda


Since I stayed not for from the Kala Ghoda district in Fort, I spent much of my time exploring this area, where many cool shops and interesting eateries are located.

One of the coolest shops in the area is Kultre Shop with a focus on contemporary Indian graphic design. The shop serves as a platform for leading and upcoming artists, graphic designers and illustrators from India and around the world; enabling their work to be more accessible through the sales of affordable prints, stationery, homeware, t-shirts and books. When you walk into the shop, you are likely to be attracted by the colourful, modern and graphical prints on the walls and items on the shelves. The shop has two branches in Mumbai, and also sells online via their website (they ship worldwide).

Address: 9 Examiner Press, 115 Nagindas Master Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort.


kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

Kulture Shop in Kala Ghoda


Not far from Kulture Shop is Filter, another curated design shop that sells a range of products from stationery to prints, t-shirts, books and homeware etc.

Address: 43, VB Gandhi Marg, behind Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, Fort.


filter mumbai

filter mumbai



For more traditional and handcrafted items, the Artisans’ Art Gallery and Shop is the best place to go to. The shop and gallery was founded in 2011 by Radhi Parekh, a designer and art promoter who comes from a family that has a long-standing association with local textiles.

The shop sells a range of high-quality handmade textile items and jewellery. Although the prices are not cheap, the quality is much better than what you would find at the markets.

At the time of my visit, there was an Urushi Japanese lacquerware exhibition by Japanese artist Yukiko Yagi and Meguri Ichida showing at the gallery, which was a pleasant surprise.

Address: 52-56 V B Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.


Kala Ghoda

artisans gallery mumbai

artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery mumbai  artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery mumbai


artisans gallery mumbai

Urushi Japanese lacquerware exhibition and Indian textiles at the Artisans’ art galley and shop


Nicobar is the younger and more affordable sub-brand of the city’s iconic sustainable apparel and homeware brand Good Earth (see below). Their minimal and organic clothing is comfortable, versatile, contemporary, and particularly suitable for travelling.

The shop is divided into the cloithing section and home section. The home section sells a range of home furnishings, homeware and ceramics that would not look out of place in most modern homes.

Address: #IO Ropewalk Lane, above Kala Ghoda Cafe








Obataimu is a cool conceptual clothing and design shop that is inspired by Japan and India. Influenced by both cultures, the founder Noorie Sadarangani likes to experiment and treats her retail business like an art project. When you step into the shop, you would notice that wood is the predominate material here, and at the back, there is a glass partition that enable visitors to see the workshop where the tailors/ artisans work (all dressed in white). All the clothing on display is not for sale, instead every piece is made to order to reduce wastage. The clothes here focus on innovative materials, traditional craftsmanship and sustainability, so what more can you ask for?

Address: B. Bharucha Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.



The shop front of Obataimu


Before my trip to India, I was unaware of the contemporary apparel scene in India, therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful shops in Mumbai that sell handmade, sustainable, classic and affordable clothing and accessories. One of them is Cord Studio. The focus here is craftsmanship and nostalgia; you can find well-made leather bags and accessories, and clothing that is practical and contemporary.

Address: 21 Ropewalk street, Kala Ghoda, Fort. (Opp. Nicobar and Kala Ghoda cafe)


Cord studio

Cord studio

Cord studio


Even though I am not a tea person, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to lovely San-cha tea boutique. The two girls/staff were very friendly and knowledgable and made me two different cups of tea to try. The brand was founded by tea master, Sanjay Kapur in 1981, and they sell over 75 varieties of tea from green to white, black, oolong, and blended ones like masala chai. I bought some masala chai for myself and several friends, and I like it very much. Although I have not been converted to a regular tea drinker, it is nice to enjoy something different occasionally .


San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique


Kala Ghoda art Rampart Gallery

Kala Ghoda art Rampart Gallery

Art on the street: Rampart Gallery


Yazdani bakery and cafe

Yazdani bakery and cafe is well-known for its brun maska



Ice cream at Bombay Street Treat


I don’t usually visit a cafe/restaurant twice on a single trip, but I did return to Kala Ghoda Cafe a few days after my first visit. This relaxing venue is a cafe, bakery, wine bar and gallery. The cosy cafe part is housed inside an early 20th century barn with plenty of skylight coming through from the roof. I had a simple lunch here one afternoon, and I really liked the laidback vibe and atmosphere.

I came back to try the wine bar at the back one night because I didn’t want proper dinner. I ordered a fish tikka and a green salad (although I was told not to eat anything raw in India, I took the risk here, and I was totally fine afterwards), and I reckon the fish tikka here was the best I have EVER tasted! I even tried the local Indian rose, which was surprisingly refreshing and very drinkable. I really recommend a visit to this cafe and wine bar if you are in the neighbourhood.

Address: Bharthania Building, A Block, 10, Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort.


Kala Ghoda Cafe  Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe


I decided to try the popular vegetarian Burmese restaurant Burma Burma after reading many positive reviews online. I visited Burma two years ago, but I have not had the cuisine since.

The interior of the restaurant is sleek and modern, with a bar that serves very interesting mocktails. I had a set menu that included several classic dishes which were all very tasty, and together with the mocktail, the bill came to less than £10 – I (as a Londoner) would consider that a bargain.

Address: Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane Opposite Mumbai University Fort, Kala Ghoda


burma burma

burma burma

Burma Burma


Arguably Mumbai’s most famous seafood restaurant, Trishna’s restaurant front looks quite intimidating with a seated guard by the door. I decided to brave it and walk in with one aim: to eat their famous crabs!

To my surprise, the decor inside is simple and unassuming. The waiter was eager to get me to try their famous butter garlic crab and so I did. It did not disappoint – the crab was rich and delicious (and I probably gained 2 lbs after eating it). The meal was the most expensive one I had in Mumbai, but it was worth it as that was the only Indian crab I got to try throughout my month-long trip!

Address: 7, Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.


Trishna mumbai

Butter garlic crab at Trishna


Not far from Kala Ghoda, there is a charming and nostalgic restaurant that stands out for its ambience and history, and it is a MUST if you want to experience ‘old Bombay’.

Britannia & Co. is a third generation Irani restaurant and one of the last remaining Parsi cafes in south Mumbai. The popular Dishoom chain in London was modelled after these once magnificent cafes.

Opened in 1923, Britannia’s Zoroastrian/Iranian proprietor, Boman Kohinoor, is now 96 years old, and yet he still visits the cafe regularly. It was lovely to see him greeting his regular customers and being photographed by them. The cafe was originally set up by his father, and he has been working here since he was 16. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the painting of Queen Elizabeth II next to a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, both hanging beneath a gilt-framed picture of Zarathustra, the Zoroastrian prophet worshipped by the Parsis.






The most iconic dish is the Berry Pulav, a recipe that the owner’s late wife brought back with her from Iran. The barberries used in the pulav that give it its distinct flavour are imported from Iran. I ordered a paneer berry pulav, and when the plate arrived, the paneer was nowhere to be seen. Then as I started to mix the rice, I realised that the paneer and sauce was at the bottom of the plate – it would have been embarassing if I had called the waiter over to ask him about the paneer! I have never tried this dish before, and I found it very tasty and comforting; I guess it is probably regarded as a Parsi comfort food.

It is sad to see that only a few of these Parsi cafes are left in the city, and I sincerely hope that this cafe will still be around when I visit Mumbai again. There may be numerous modern and fancy restaurants in the city, but none can match the personal, historic and nostalgic cafe like this.

Address: Britannia and Co., Wakefield House, 11, Sprott Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort. (this restaurant only opens for lunch except Sats and closes on Suns)




Britannia and Co.


Elsewhere in Cobala, I visited Good Earth, a luxurious apparel and home furnishing shop founded by Anita Lal 24 years ago. The brand bridged the gap between craft and luxury, emphasising on craftsmanship and sustainability. The apparel and craft items here are more old school, traditional and pricey, which differs considerably from its sub-brand Nicobar.

Address: 2 Reay House, Apollo Bandar, Colaba


good earth

Good Earth


Not far from Good Earth, I stumbled upon Clove The Store, which is a new luxury fashion and homeware brand. Its founder is Samyukta Nair, who resides in both Mumbai and London, also runs a sleepwear brand called Dandelion, and the Jamavar Women’s Club in London. The clothing and home furnishings on sale here are unique, well-made, and contemporary. The female staff was also very friendly and helpful, which made me feel very welcoming.

Address: 2, Churchill Chambers, Allana Road, Colaba.


Clove The Store

Clove The Store


I returned to Mumbai for one night before leaving India, and I chose to stay in Khar West, which was closer to the airport. It is a relaxing residential neighbourhood, and apparently home to many Bollywood celebrities and business industrialists. Tucked away in the Chuim Village is a small DIY paper craft shop called Sky Goodies. I had to ring the door bell to be let in, but once inside, you would be surrounded by many colourful and delightful paper objects. Founded by two designers Misha and Amit Gudibanda, they drew inspiration from paper and hand-painted art, and started to create DIY paper kits. There are various themes to choose from, and you can make stationery, home decorations, calendars and paper animals etc. I think their designs are unique, fun, and affordable, so I bought a few as souvenir to give to friends, and they were all very impressed (and surprised) when they received the kits. You can also order online via their website or from their shop on Etsy.

Address: Ground Floor, Bungalow no 29, Chuim Village Rd, Khar West


sky goodies  sky goodies

sky goodies

sky goodies

Sky goodies shop


After visiting Sky goodies, I came across KCRoasters (Koinonia Coffee Roasters), which specialises in artisanal Indian coffee. The cafe is compact but stylish, with a laidback vibe, which kinda makes you forget that you are in Mumbai. I had a cold brew (as it was a very hot day), which was balanced and strong as I like it.

Address: 6, Chuim Village Rd, Khar, Chuim Village


KC Roasters

KC Roasters

KC Roasters


On the last day of my trip, I got to catch with my busy local actress friend (who never seems to get a day off work). She asked me what I wanted to have for lunch, and I told her that I was craving for salads (after having Indian food daily for 3 weeks)! She suggested the Bombay Salad Co. in Bandra, and it was exactly what my body needed. I broke the raw food rule again, but luckily, I was perfectly fine afterwards. There are many salads, juices and sandwiches to choose from, and everything we had was fresh and tasty. Looking around, I noticed that the cafe was full of health-conscious looking ladies, so I guess this is a popular spot for ladies who lunch.

Address: Shop No, 1, 16th Rd, near Mini Punjab Hotel, Bandra West.


Bombay Salad Co.

Bombay Salad Co.

Bombay Salad Co.




The art of shibori at Bunzaburo in Kyoto


Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten’s flagship store in Kyoto


When I was going through my pile of leaflets/ business cards that I picked up from my previous trips to Kyoto, one particular leaflet caught my attention. It was from Bunzaburo, a tie-dyed/ shibori (the term means “to squeeze or wring”)  company in Kyoto. Oddly enough, I couldn’t recollect much from my previous visit, so I decided to pay another visit to its shop while I was in Kyoto.

Opened in Kyoto in 1915 by Bunzaburo Katayama, Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten specialised in the manufacturing of high-end kimono silk fabric with shibori tie-dye decorations, especially Kyo Kanoko Shibori (tiny dotted pattern that resembles a young deer’s back). Although Shibori is often associated with Arimatsu in Nagoya (which I will write about in the forthcoming entry), the Kyo Kanoko Shibori technique was created in Kyoto and has been handed down without cessation for over 1,000 years by a number of craftsmen.




Unfortunately, like many of the traditional arts and crafts in Japan, the kimono industry is under threat in this and age, and many producers have to either adapt or face closure. At Bunzaburo, “Tradition exists in innovations” is the motto of their third generation president, Kazuo Katayama. For over 100 years, they have continued to innovate and merge traditional techniques with new designs; one of their design concept is “Wearable Art” – using bold designs to create a fusion of fashion and art. And in 1991, they won the Best Design Award in the Made in Kyoto Award (appointed by Kyoto Prefecture) for their creation, Aimu – a glass plate which allows a thin piece of Japanese indigo-dyed hemp fabric to be sandwiched in the middle.

When you step into their shop housed inside a traditional Japanese house through the shibori noren, you would be surrounded by beautiful and elegant shibori lighting and accessories. I literally felt a sense of exhilaration as soon I walked in.


img_9502-min  img_9511-min




Having previously learnt some basic shibori techniques, I understand how time-consuming it is to create these work, though this may not be the case for the shop’s visitors. Hence, in order for customers to understand the processes, they have an area displaying and explaining various shibori techniques, which I think is fantastic.

When the friendly shop assistant came over for a chat, she was extremely thrilled when I told her that I will be doing a workshop on indigo dyeing and shibori. She started explaining their products to me, including a new range of leather handbags and shoes that feature shibori patterns (and she kindly modeled the shoes for me). I could sense the pride she felt for her company’s products, and she was more than happy to give me their brochures to take home.

The shop offers a wide range of fashion items and accessories including wearable bracelets and rings, which are affordable and great as gifts. If you are interested in shibori, then this shop is a ‘must’ stop in Kyoto.




img_9506-min  img_9512-min



221 Hashibenkeicho Takoyakusidori Karasuma Nishiiru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto


Kaikado tea caddies shop & cafe in Kyoto

Since I only had four days in kyoto (including a day out at Miho museum with my friend), I didn’t manage to fit much shopping in. Hence I targeted a few shops either close to where I was staying or near a sight I wanted to visit. One of the shops that was high on my agenda was a small tea caddy shop near my lodging in the Kawarmachi district.

Kaikado is a traditional tea caddies maker established in 1875, which makes them the oldest handmade tin tea caddies maker in the world. And it all started from the tin plates imported from Cornwall of all places!





Using imported tin from England, the company’s founder, Kiyosuke kaikado, designed the first generation of tin tea caddy. His aim was to provide a well-designed, functional tea caddy capable of storing the type of tea leaves commonly sold by tea dealers and merchants. His successors later added copper and brass to their collection, developed a two-tiered design, whilst still maintaining the traditional techniques and basic shapes. Their iconic Chazutsu (the standard Kaikado Tea Canister) involves a 130-step fabrication process, and are still being produced and used across Japan including the Japanese Imperial household.


img_9151-min  img_9150-min


img_9148-min  img_9153-min


Their small shop near the canal is easy to miss, and I had to walk back and forth a few times to check the number. Also, I wasn’t sure if it was opened either, and I hesitated a while before entering inside. Once inside, I felt as if I had walked into a craftsman’s workshop and mini museum… there are tools on display and lots of beautiful tea caddies everywhere, including labels that indicate how long it takes for the colours of the metals to change. It is the changes of metal colours that make these caddies so unique. Since the philosophy of wabi sabi is deeply ingrained in the Japanese culture and aesthetics, it enables them to appreciate the beauty of rustic objects, imperfection, and embrace the state of impermanence. Hence, these tea caddies are not just about good design and craftsmanship, they also embody the essence of the wabi sabi philosophy and aesthetics.



dsc_0314-min  dsc_0313-min


Located not far from the shop is their spacious cafe housed inside a restored 90-year-old listed building that used to be a garage and administration office. Opened in 2016, the cafe was designed by Thomas Lykke from Danish design and architecture studio, OeO. The tea caddies are displayed on shelves and behind the glass cabinet, and they blend extremely well with the Nordic/Japanese style decor.

The simple menu offers snacks, cakes, as well as coffee from Japanese roaster Nakagawa Wani Coffee, black teas from Postcard tea London, and green tea from Rishouen tea Uji. I had their Ice matcha latte and it was very good. Prices here are not cheap, but I liked the relaxing ambience and decor, and best of all, it wasn’t packed with tourists even during the peak tourist season. Believe me, tranquility is worth the extra two hundred yen!


dsc_0316-min  img_9159-min


Kakaido shop: 84-1 Umeminatocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto

Kakaido cafe: 352 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shimogyoku, Kyoto


Tomigaya: All you need is a dog in Tokyo!


Tomigaya dog  Tomigaya dog

Dogs in strollers


When you think of dog-loving cities, most likely you are going to think of Paris, but on the other side of the world, Tokyo is now the ‘Paris of the East’ (in terms of their obessions with their pets or dogs).

Tomigaya is an area in Shibuya, located on the southwest of Yoyogi park, that has become a ‘hip’ place for locals and foreigners alike. Perhaps it is due to its low-key neighbourhood feel, and its interesting mix of independent shops and eateries, but it certainly feels less commerical and touristy than Harajuku, which is on the southeast side of the park. And you know the area must be cool when there is a Monocle shop here!

Walking around the area on a Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that dogs have literally become the new LV bags in Tokyo (there was a time when the LV monogram bag was carried by 90% of the women here)! Some of them were even being pushed around in strollers like babies, which I thought was quite bizarre to say the least.


Tomigaya cheese stand  Tomigaya dogs

Tomigaya dog  Tomigaya dog

Tomigaya dog

Tomigaya dog  Tomigaya dog


According to Nikkei, the market for pet products and services is growing robustly in Japan even as the number of pets falls. Over the eight years through March 2016, the market for pet products and services in Japan grew nearly 10% to 1.47 trillion yen ($13.2 billion), according to Yano Research Institute in Tokyo.

In a country where the population is aging rapidly, and birth rate falling to a record low, perhaps it is not surprising to see people here turning their focus onto pets or animals. After all, dog is man’s best friend, and you can affirm this belief in Tokyo.





dorian gray Kamiyamacho  Kamiyamacho


Kamiyamacho  Kamiyamacho


monocle tokyo

Tomigaya Norwegian Icons  Tomigaya Norwegian Icons

The eclectic mix of independent shops here include Monocle and Norwegian Icons (bottom row)


Aside from dog-spotting and the Monocle shop, you can find a variety of shops here including Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers (which I have written about previously) and Norwegian Icons that is dedicated to mid-century (1940 to 1975) Norwegian designs and furniture. I often think that Scandinavian and Japanese furniture designs share a great deal in common, hence I believe that Norwegian designs would not look out of place in a Tokyo home.


camelback tokyo

camelback coffee  camelback sandwich

fuglen tokyo

shibuya cheese stand



This area is also full of cool cafes and eateries, and Camelback sandwich & expresso is probably the most popular takeout counter here. There are only a few benches outside, and usually there is a long queue here (mostly foreigners), so be prepared to wait for some artisanal sandwich and coffee. Hayato Naruse is a trained sushi chef, and his signature sushi-style tamagoyaki omelet sandwichi is the bestseller here. Was it worth the 20-minute wait? Yes, it was delicious and so was the coffee.

If you prefer to sit down while you eat and drink, you can visit the nearby Fuglen, a coffee shop and bar with vintage decor that is originally from Oslo, and now a huge hit in Tokyo.

Shibuya Cheese Stand is another popular eatery here where you can taste freshly made cheese like mozzarella and ricotta made in Hokkaido, the northmost island famous for its diary produce.


so books  so books

So books


The best thing about Tokyo is that often you would stumble upon some unique/wonderful shops while rambling in different neighbourhoods. And this was how I came across So books, located on a quiet street not far from Yoyogi Hachiman station. It is a small bookshop that specialises in rare photography books (new and secondhand), with also some art, design and craft books. The friendly owner Ikuo Ogasawara speaks very good English, and he was surprised to learn that I had simply stumbled upon the shop. I bought a few books that were easy to carry – I would have bought more if I didn’t have to travel further on. Luckily, the owner told me that they have an online shop and ship internationally (not many Japanese shops like to ship overseas), so it is great news for photgraphy book fans out there.


hinine note  hinine note

hinine note

hinine note

Hinine note


Hinine note was the shop that I was seeking in the area after reading about it before my trip. It took a bit of effort to find it (with the help of google map), but it paid off. This is a stationery shop where you can customise and create your own notebooks. You can choose the size you want, the paper style, cover designs and binding methods. There is a wide selection of designs/colours to choose from, and everything is made on the spot. Not only you can enjoy using your one-of-a-kind notebook, it would help to reduce waste too. Love it.






I think this is an interesting neighbourhood that is not just full of trendy and established shops (which I tend to avoid), and I definitely would want to return and explore further.


Design & craft shopping in Myanmar

inle heritage shop

Inle heritage shop, Inle Lake


When I was in Myanmar, I was genuinely surprised by its diverse craft industry. Aside from traditional crafts, we were quite delighted to have come across some contemporary craft/design brands as well. My favourite shop of the trip was an accidental find in Inle Lake… We had hired a boat and helmsman for the day, and he kept taking us to the touristy factories despite us asking him not to. Luckily, the beautiful architecture of Inle heritage captured my attention and so we demanded him to stop and let us explore; and we eventually spent hours there because of its tranquil and relaxing setting.


inle heritage

inle heritage shop

inle heritage

Inle heritage

Inle Heritage’s architecture, restaurant and U Saung’s room


While we were there, we found out that Inle Heritage is a not-for-profit organisation that preserves the cultural and natural wealth of the Inle region. Built from reclaimed wood and modelled on the former home of Inle Heritage’s founder, Inthar Heritage House contains a traditional restaurant, an area that hosts exhibitions of local artists’ works, recreation of U Saung’s room, a gift shop, and a cat village. The compound also houses a boutique hotel comprises six bungalows, a vocational centre, and an organic garden.


inle heritage shop

inle heritage shop

inle heritage shop  inle heritage shop


The gift shop sells many wonderful and well-curated locally made products, souvenir and fashion. The revenue from the shop is split between the craft producer and funding Inle Heritage’s work. Although the products here are more expensive than the ones on sale at the markets, the quality is higher and more unique.


inle lake market

inle lake market  burmese textiles

A souvenir and food market in Inle lake


In Yangon, there are two shops that also focus on locally made crafts and designs: Hla Day and Pomelo. Hla Day (1st Floor, 81 Pansodan Street) is a social enterprise that works with 40 producer groups including Myanmar artisans, disadvantaged groups and small local businesses to design, develop and sell quality handmade products. Every product is sourced and made locally and using local materials. Sustainability and supporting the local communities is important the organisation’s ethos.


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hla days

hla days

hla days

Hla Day


Pomelo89 Thein Phyu Street) is another fair trade shop that offers quality and contemporary hand-made products. They work with local disadvantaged groups to produce and sell designed crafts in order to support their families and scale up their businesses.


pomelo yangon

pomelo yangon  pomelo yangon

pomelo yangon


Pomelo shop


Another good place to buy locally made crafts and products is the Bogyoke Aung San Market. With more than 2000 shops, it is best to do a bit of research and locate the shops you are interested in before heading there, otherwise, it is easy to get lost in the maze-like market.


Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market   Bogyoke Aung San Market


Bogyoke Aung San Market


If you are coffee drinker, then make sure you drop by the Mooney Moon coffee shop (Rm-210, West Wing) in between your shopping. The coffee is very good here, and you can even buy some beans to bring back home. Alternatively, there is a quieter and friendly shop upstairs called Coffee Melody that offers good organic coffee as well.







Yangoods (No.89 Front wing) is an accessories and souvenir brand known for its nostalgic sepia portraits and images of old Burma. Their style somewhat reminds me of vintage Bollywood posters. At the shop, you can find stationery, clocks, bags and home furnishings etc, but the prices here are higher than other local souvenir shops. The shop also has two other shop locations that can be found on their website.


yo ya may

yo ya may


ya ya ma  chin chili

chin chili

Yo Ya May & Chin Chili


On the first floor of the market (facing the main road), there are two Ethnographic textiles shops that specialise in traditional chin textiles. Yo Ya May (1st fl, front block, Bogyoke Aung San Market) is a wonderful shop that sells colourful woven cushion covers, wall hangings, purses, and bags etc. The prices are reasonable and the staff are friendly. Further down is a smaller shop called Chin Chili, which sells similar products.

Dacco (13/F, Upper Front) is another traditional handicraft shop that sells high quality handmade products like plastic baskets, textiles, jewellery, sandals, candles and clothing. The shop also has a flagship store at Room 5, No.12 Parami Road, 10 Quarter, Mayangone Township.




Japanese-designed wooden crafts that are made in Myanmar


Interestingly, there is a shop on the 1st floor that sells crafted wood designs that are similar to the products that we sell from Japan. It turns out that these products are produced by a non-profit Japanese organisation called Asia Crafts link. All their products are designed in Japan but made in Myanmar using local materials, craftsmen and skills. The products are much cheaper than the Japanese made ones (I am being honest here) without compromising on the quality, hence I couldn’t resist making some items here.


river gallery

river gallery

river gallery  river gallery

Art works and products by contemporary artists from Myanmar are on sale at River Gallery (Chindwin Chambers, 33/35, 37th and 38th Street)


burmese coffee  burmese souvenir

burmese souvenir

burmese souvenir  burmese souvenir

burmese souvenir

burmese souvenir  burmese basket

burmese silver jewellery  burmese souvenir

Souvenir from Myanmar


Other interesting shops and brands in Myanmar:

Amazing Grace (26/A Maggin St, Corner of Min Ye Kyaw Swar St., Ward 14, Yangon) – a local social enterprise making handmade jewellery and other fashion accessories using environmentally sustainable and ethical methods.

Helping Hands (92b Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda St, Yangon) – a social business restoring old, Burmese, teak furniture. Employing over 50 people, skilled artisans work along side ex-street children, training them in the art and skill of furniture restoration.

Paloma Ya Ya – an ethical clothing brand inspired by Myanmar and its neighbouring countries. All items are made with handwoven fabrics and natural fibres in Myanmar.



Design & stationery shopping in Western Tokyo

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d47 design travel store and Tomio Koyama Gallery at Hikarie



d47 design travel store (Hikarie 8F 2-21-1 Shibuya) – Muji is now an international brand that many non-Japanese are familiar with, but in Japan, d & department Project is the fastest-growing household and lifestyle brand in recent years. Established in 2000 by the famous graphic designer Kenmei Nagaoka, it started as an self-initiated project on connecting cities in Japan under the name of ‘design’. The shop name stands for ‘dream design department store’, and their shops sell a wide range of new and recycled furniture and everyday objects that are timeless and functional.

At this store, it offers a collection of traditional Japanese wares, tools, handicrafts, regional specialties and gourmet ingredients sourced from the 47 prefectures of Japan. If you are looking for souvenir with a difference to bring home, then this store is the place to visit.


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Top two rows: Postalco; Bottom: Flying books


Postalco (1-6-3 3FL Dogenzaka Shibuya) Founded in New York in 2000 by Mike and Yuri Ableson, the company has since moved to Tokyo, where it creates highly practical and understated stationary and leather goods. Located on the 2nd floor of an inconspicuous building, the quaint shop in Shibuya is not easy to find. Once inside, it is hard not to be drawn towards the appealing leather products and stationery, prices are not cheap but quality and timelessness of the products are the main draws here.

Flying Books (1-6-3 2FL Dogenzaka Shibuya) – Under Postalco within the same building is a cafe and bookshop that stocks an international selection of new and used books and magazines on music, art, design, philosophy and world religions etc.



Shibuya Publishing booksellers


Since I was staying near Shibuya, I was keen to explore the area, particularly on after hours shopping. As a supporter of independent booksellers, I was thrilled when I discovered Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers (17-3 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya), an independent bookshop and publisher that opens from noon until midnight. The shop was designed by architect Hiroshi Nakamura, and there is a illusory mirror-like window that allows customers to see the office behind. This unconventional bookshop is not interested in selling bestsellers, instead it carefully curates a selection of new and used books and magazines on topics like food, culture, art, design, photography and lifestyle. Besides books, the shop also sells an interesting selection of stationery, jewellery and lifestyle products. Being able to linger and browse in a bookshop at 11pm was a luxury that I seldom experience outside of Asia, so I truly cherished my time spent here.


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Daikanyama T-site 


My after hours shopping continued the following evening at Daikanyama T-site (17-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku), Tokyo’s most talked-about lifestyle bookstore in recent years. Design by Klein Dytham Architecture, whose design won the World Architecture Festival, it is considered to be a dream bookstore for many. Tsutaya‘s complex comprises of three interlinked two-story buildings with a convenient store, a cafe, a lounge inside and several restaurants outside. I was particularly dazzled by its vast magazine selection, I am not sure if I had ever seen so many magazines at one place before! It is easy to spend hours here, and luckily, the store is open from 7am until 2am, so do enjoy the midnight shopping experience here!



Pass the BatonPass the Baton Pass the BatonPass the Baton MOMA STORE TokyoPLAY BOX comme des garcons

Top, 2nd & 3rd left: Pass the Baton; 3rd right: MOMA design store; Bottom: Comme des Garcons’ Play Box at Gyre


I have previously written about shops in Omotesando, so I will not repeat the list again. I will only add two shops to the list, and one of them is Pass the baton (Omotesando Hills West Bldg 2F, 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku), a contemporary recycle/consignment store that sells not only fashion but also antiques, furniture and crafts. Designed by well-known interior designer Kasamichi Katayama of Wonderwall, the basement shop feels more like a vintage museum, and it even has a small gallery at the back. Don’t expect bargain charity shop prices here, but the quality and selections are a cut above the rest. Many items include a photograph of the previous owner and a personal anecdote from them about each item. Emotive storytelling is an effective communication tool, and the success of this shop proves exactly that.





Quico (5-16-15 Jingumae, Shibuya) – inside a white building designed by architect Kazunari Sakamoto is a split-level store filled with a well-curated collection of homewares, textiles, fashion, shoes and furniture from around the world. The store also has an exhibition space upstairs.


rocca maursa balloonstokyo souvenirtokyo souvenir tokyo souvenir

It excites me to see the products we carry in stores… Top left: Rocca games; Top right: Marusa balloons; 2nd & 3rd rows: stationery and books that I bought on this trip


Design & stationery shopping in Eastern/Central Tokyo

My final two Tokyo entries are on shopping, so I hope this will delight a few readers. I have written another entry under the same title 2 years ago, so this is an update/addition to the previous blog entry (click here to read). This entry will focus on Eastern and Central Tokyo:



On this trip, I visited a few new design shopping destinations, and my first stop was the up-and-coming Kuramae neighbourhood, which was featured in Monocle magazine last year.

Unlike the touristy Asakusa nearby, Kuramae is laid-back and relatively quiet. Kuramae means front of the warehouse, and the area was full of rice granaries for the Tokguawa Government during the Edo period. These days, specialist shops, artisan workshops and cafes are scattered around the area, so expect to spend some time wandering and discovering interesting finds.


kakimori kakimorikakimrikakimori

Kakimori in Kuramae


Kakimori (4-20-12 Kuramae) – As a mega fan of stationery, Kakimori was partly why I wanted to visit this area. This small shop offers a vast array of stationery with a focus on pens, fountain pens and made-to-order (on-site) notebooks. On the day of my visit (which was a weekday), the shop was full of stationery enthusiasts. It is always comforting to see these independent specialist shops thriving in this day and age. Stationery is like comfort food, one can never have too many pens nor notebooks, right? There is a short video on this shop made for Monocle and you can watch by clicking here.


maito tokyomaito tokyo maito tokyoleather bag shop kuramaeYuwaeru Shouka M+ Tokyo

Top two rows: Maito; 3rd row: a leather workshop & showroom; Bottom left: Yuwaeru Shouka; Bottom right: M+ (Mpiu)


A few shops down the street is Maito (4-14-12 Kuramae), a family-run hand-dye specialist that uses only natural materials and dyes. Aside from fashion, accessories, the shop also sells artisan ceramics and similar lifestyle items.

M+ / M Piu ( 3-4-5 Kuramae) – There are many hand-crafted leather workshops/showroom in this area, but this one stands out for its original design, high quality Italian leather and exquisite craftsmanship. The craftsman/owner Yuichiro Murakami used to work as an architect before learning leather craft in Italy, so function and form play important roles in his creations.

Yuwaeru Shouka (2-14-14 Kuramae) – This is an organic food store with an attached restaurant, where you can enjoy a healthy and very reasonable priced set lunch (with a few options) in a relaxing and unpretentious setting.


toy shop kuramaetoy shop kuramae toy shop kuramae

Quaint toy shops in the area


Aside from the specialist shops, I was particularly intrigued by the quaint toy shops in the area. I have not seen these types of toy shops in other areas of Tokyo. It was only later that I found out about this area’s nick name: ‘toy town’, where you can still find many wholesale toy shops and offices of larger toy companies.




Kanda Manseibashi mAAch ecutemAAch ecute mAAch ecute mAAch ecute mAAch ecutemAAch ecute mAAch ecute

mAAch ecute Kanda Manseibashi Bridge


Akihabara is an area often associated with electrical goods, otaku subcullture (anime and manga) and maid cafes. Yet this area has been going through some transformations in recent years, and one major development project was the conversion of Kanda’s disused Manseibashi station (since 1943) into Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi (1-25-4 Kanda-Sudacho), a commercial complex with restaurants, cafés, and design-focus retailers.


N3331 CafémAAch ecute mAAch ecute

 N3331 Café


Aside from cool design outlets, one of the main attractions at mAAch ecute is N3331 Café, located between the rail tracks above the arcade. This cafe is ideal for trainspotters, and there were trains passing by constantly while I was there. Admittedly, my lunch set was not at all up to scratch, but I guess people come here for the experience rather than for the food. I think it would even cooler to come for a drink in the evening and watch the world/trains go by!


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3331 Arts Chiyoda


3331 Arts Chiyoda (6-11-14 Sotokanda) – Opened in 2010, 3331 Arts Chiyoda is an art and creative space that occupies the site of the old Rensei Junior High School. It offers a residency program open to artists, curators and creative practitioners internationally. On the ground floor, there is a cafe, a design/craft shop, and an art gallery space with regular special exhibitions curated by the organisation. On other floors, there are various galleries and exhibition space featuring resident artists from all the over the world. On the day of my visit, only a few rooms were opened… not sure if it was the ‘wrong’ day to visit, but it was surprisingly quiet and I ended my tour sooner than expected.


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2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan


A few blocks north of 3331 Arts Chiyoda is an artisan institution: 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan (5-9-23 Ueno). This shopping arcade situated under the JR tracks offers an eclectic range of stores selling Japanese-made crafts and designs. There are several notable shops here if you are looking for quality souvenir to bring home: Nippon Hyakkuten (a Japanese design/craft department store), Hacoa (selling contemporary wooden stationery and lifestyle products), Hinomoto Hanpu (selling handmade and water-resistant canvas bags) and Nijiyura (selling hand-dye textiles, tenugui and scarves etc).


Tokyo Station


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Kitte – a shopping complex converted from the post office building in Marunouchi


Although I am not a fan of traditional shopping malls, I was curious to visit Kitte (2-7-2 Marunouchi), the newly constructed Japan Post Tower which incorporates parts of the 1933 Tokyo Central Post Office building opposite the restored Tokyo station. Opened in 2013, this 7-floor shopping complex houses 100 tenants, offering an array of restaurants and shops that focus on Japanese aesthetics and manufacturing.

After spending an hour here, I felt that most of the shops here are akin and lack distinctive character. The initial feel-good factor worn off and I was eager to leave. The issue is not with the products, but like most other shopping malls or complexes, the place feels rather soulless. Aside from the facade, there is no trace of the old post office remain inside except for some old photographs being exhibited in a retro dark wood room that overlooks Tokyo Station. Disappointing.




Coredo Muromachi Coredo MuromachiCoredo MuromachiCoredo Muromachicoredo kayanoya kayanoyaCoredo Muromachi

Coredo Muromachi in Nihobashi – 3rd row: Kayanoya’s store designed Kengo Kuma


Nihobashi is one of Tokyo’s most historical and prosperous districts. The area has been undergoing redevelopment in recent years, and the latest addition to this area is the Coredo Muromachi complex, consists of three skyscrapers inspired by the Edo Period heritage of the merchant district. The shops here specialise in traditional crafts or local foods from across Japan; I applaud Mitsui group’s endeavour in creating an appealing Edo-style shopping complex targeting at 40+, but I found the layout confusing and it was difficult to navigate from one building to another.

Unlike most other shopping complexes, there is a strong emphasis on fusing traditional Japanese heritage with contemporary design. This is conspicuous in the buildings’ interior furnishings like the floor and wall tiles, which are inspired by traditional Japanese motifs and kimono design.

The shop that is not to be missed is the Fukuoka-based soy sauce company Kayanoyas new flagship store designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The interior of the shop was inspired by Kuma‘s visit to the company’s production warehouse in Kyushu. Traditional soy sauce-making barrels hang from the shop’s ceiling and special wooden trays/koji buta used in the manufacturing process act as display shelves. Like other food shops in Japan, customers are encouraged to taste and sample their sauces, condiments and other natural produce at the counter.


Mitsukoshi NihonbashiMitsukoshi Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi NihonbashiMitsukoshi Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi NihonbashiTakashimaya Nihonbashi Takashimaya Nihonbashi

First to third rows: Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store; Last row: Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store


Nihonbashi is the home to Japan’s oldest surviving department store chain, Mitsukoshi, which dating back to 1673. The Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main store was opened in 1935, and it is considered to be the “Harrods of Japan”. Wandering around this art deco store can be an exhilarating experience, especially when you encounter the 4-storey tall wood-carved statue of goddess ‘Magokoro’ in the central hall. This statue was the creation of master craftsman Gengen Sato who spent more than 10 years in completing it. This store is undoubtedly one of the most stunning department stores that I have ever visited, and it reminds us of the heyday of department stores.

If you appreciate art deco design, then it is necessary to visit the nearby Takashimaya Department Store opened since 1933. This was the first department store to be designated as an important Japanese cultural property in 2009. I especially love the art deco interiors, furnishings and lifts/elevators (always accompanied by smiley attendants). The food section in the basement is also very popular amongst the locals.


Saruya nihonbashiSaruyaSaruya

Top right: Haibara; Others: Saruya toothpick store


There are two notable traditional specialist shops in Nihonbashi, and one of them is Haibara (2-7-1-chome Nihombashi), a washi paper specialist store founded since 1806. If you love washi paper, then this shop will not disappoint, because you can find a variety of traditional washi writing paper, tapes, envelopes, wrapping paper and other paper objects here.

I have been wanting to visit Saruya (1-12-5 Nihonbashi Muromachi) for some time, because it has been producing toothpicks by hand since 1704. Since our company name is related to this product, I felt obliged to pay this store a visit. Most of the toothpicks here are made by hand from lindera umbellata, and some would come in miniature wooden cases with traditional motifs/characters/ names. In some cases, each toothpick is wrapped in a piece of paper with a ‘love fortune’ poem written on it.

I don’t know if Westerners would consider giving toothpicks as presents, but I think they are unusual and functional. Hence, I decided to buy a box to give to my parents back home!


To be continued…

Shopping in Lisbon

lisbon shop

Window of a wine shop in Lisbon


Shopping in Lisbon is fun because there are many independent shops including vintage and traditional shops that are disappearing fast in London. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to shop, but I did manage to visit a few ‘essential’ shopping destinations and stumbled across some intriguing shops during my short stay.


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Embaixada  (Praça do Príncipe Real, 26, Príncipe Real) One of the newest and most exciting shopping destinations in Lisbon is this design/lifestyle concept store that opened in 2013. Located in a 19th century Moorish palace, Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha, it is hard not to be awestruck as you enter into this stunning building. The building accommodates retail spaces for more than 15 Portuguese brands over two floors, offering fashion, design, crafts, as well as an indoor and outdoor restaurant, bar and art exhibition space.


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Top: Real slow retail concept store; Bottom: Lisbon lovers


On the same street further down the street, there is another smaller concept store Real slow retail concept store which also offers fashion and lifestyle products with a small cafe inside. Next to it is Lisbon Lovers, a shop that sells Lisbon-related souvenir that is more design-focused than the average tacky ones.
Alfama shoppingalfama craft shopAlfama barber shop Alfama

Shops and barber in Alfama


Meanwhile, Lisbon’s most emblematic and historical quarter, Alfama also offers some interesting crafts, traditional and quirkier souvenir shops including A Arte da Terra (Rua Augusto Rosa, 40).


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2nd left: Luvaria Ulisse; the rest: CHIcoracao


A few shoos up the hill, there is a wonderful woollen shop CHIcoracao (Rua Augusto Rosa 22-24), which has restored looms from the 60’s and the 70’s to produce their own range of high quality woollen blankets and fashion lines. The prices here are reasonable, and if I had the room in my small case, I certainly would have purchased one of their soft and locally made blanket home!


In Chaido, Luvaria Ulisse (Rua do Carmo, 87A, Chaido) is a contestantfor the title of “world’s smallest shop”. This tiny (4 square metre to be exact) art deco glove shop was founded in 1925 and can fit only about two or three people at a time. The shop manufactures all the gloves they sell, and it is the only specialist glove shop in Portugal. If you want to invest in a pair of high quality and stylish gloves that will last, then this is the place to visit.


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Top: Bertrand Livraria; Bottom: Fabula Urbis


Wandering the streets of Lisbon, I came across many bookstores including specialists and vintage ones. This, I think says a lot about the culture of Lisbon and its people.

Interestingly, the oldest bookshop in the world is in fact in Lisbon, and it even has a Guinness World Records certificate on a wall at the entrance to prove it. Bertrand Livraria (Rua Garrett 73 -75, Chiado) was founded in 1732, but it was destroyed after the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and moved to its present-day premises on Rua Garrett in 1773. This original branch has beautiful wood-paneled walls and a wide assortment of all types of books, including some English-language books at the back, offering translated Portuguese literature from names like Nobel Prize author José Saramago or Fernando Pessoa.


Fabula Urbis (Rua de Augusto Rosa, 27) in Alfama is a small gem that sells books and CDs that revolves around Lisbon, past and present. The subjects offered cover poetry, novels, history, politics, art, photography, crafts, textiles, fashion, theatre, cinema, opera, music, astronomy, archaeology, gastronomy, and travel etc.

Situated above the bookshop is a room designed with a stage and piano. It is used for evening recitals and exhibitions of paintings or photography. It is certainly more than just an ordinary book shop.


Palavra de Viajante (Rua de São Bento, 30) is a bookstore that is dedicated to travel. Aside from guide books and travel-related books, they also sell maps, games and notebooks. There is also a pleasant cafe that serves coffee, cakes and simple lunches.


A Vida Portuguesa Lisbon artes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelier artes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelieracontorcionista manifesto acontorcionista manifestoIMG_3229-compressed IMG_3227-compressed

Top left: Notebooks at A Vida Portuguesa; Others: Artes e Letras Atelier and purchases from the shop


A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, Chiado) is probably one of the most famous Portuguese shops thanks to its retro and quaint Portuguese packaging and products. The first Lisbon shop was launched in 2007, and since then it has even branched out to Porto (I love the interior and fittings of their Porto branch). The brand has established partnerships with many traditional Portuguese brands, and so all the products found here are quintessentially Portuguese. You will find bathroom essentials, homeware, food, toys and stationery including Viarcro pencils and Emílio Braga notebooks here.

I was on tram 28 passing through São Bento one day when I saw a shop that looks like a letterpress workshop. On the next day, I endeavoured to find the shop by following the tram route. I was quite thrilled when I eventually found it, and even more so when I stepped inside.


Artes e Letras Atelier (Rua dos Poiais de São Bento, 90) is indeed a letterpress workshop and shop that sells letterpress cards, prints and self-published art/ illustration books, with a small exhibition area at the back. I often feel extremely excited when I find gems like this in different cities, because usually they are not listed in guide books. Chatting to the owner, I found out that she is responsible for the designs of the cards and prints sold at the shop, and occasionally she will also print booklets and posters for other designers or small studios.

There are many quirky and unusual art and illustration books that are produced and published by local artists and designers. I felt almost like a kid in a candy store. With limited cash in my wallet (probably to my benefit that they don’t accept credit cards), I decided to purchase a letterpress postcard and an ‘erotic’ themed illustration book called “Acontorcionista manifesto” (see above). This shop is a must if you love letterpress and all printed matters!


Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys

Casa Pélys


Like I mentioned earlier, there are many cool vintage shops in Lisbon and many of them are not listed in the guide books. One of them is Casa Pélys in Campo de Ourique. As soon as I walked into the shop, I felt like I was transported back in time… seeing the retro tiles on the floor, vintage children’s books, toys and homeware brought a smile to my face. The shop was once owned by a photographer Mr Pélys, hence you can still see the remnant of the signage Foto Pelys on the shop front. Now the new owner is a former bookseller who has turned the ground floor and basement into a mini flea market where one can rummage around for as long as one wishes.


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Vintage and antiques shops on Rua de São Bento


Rua de São Bento is home to many antiques and vintage shops, including The World of Vintage (Rua de São Bento 291) which specialises in 1950s – 1970s vintage furniture and objects.


Conserveira de LisboaConserveira de Lisboa Conserveira de LisboaLoja das ConservasLoja das Conservas portuguese sardinesParceria das Conservas – Mercado de Campo de Ouriquesardines sardines

Top 2 rows: Conserveira de Lisboa; 3rd & 4th left: Loja das Conservas; 5th row: Parceria das Conservas at Mercado de Campo de Ourique


One of the most popular souvenir to bring home from Portugal is undoubtedly canned sardines! And there is an array of brands, flavours and packaging to choose from. But the top favourite shop and brand is Conserveira de Lisboa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 34, Baixa), which is recommended in almost every guidebook. Opened in 1930, the interior of this 80-year old shop has hardly changed for decades. The main attraction is the original wooden counter, selves and an old cash register. The retro packaging is also loved by tourists and locals alike, thus making canned fish a popular souvenir to bring home.


If you want to find out more about canned fish and its history, then you must pay a visit to Loja das Conservas (Rua do Arsenal, 130)/ National Association of Manufacturers of Canned Fish. Here, you can find a wide range of well-known Portuguese canned fish brands and the history of these canning factories. And aside from the famous sardine, you can also find tuna, eel, Ray’s bream, mackerel and horse mackerel. If you are stuck on what to pick, you can always ask for recommendations (which I did) from the shop assistants. Don’t underestimate the allure of canned fish, and make sure you have enough baggage allowance because you may end up buying more than you intended after a visit to this shop!

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring back a bottle of Portuguese wine or port back home! Portuguese wine must be one of the most underrated in the world! Personally, I love Portuguese wine and I am surprised by the limited choices available in the UK. Wine is relatively cheap to buy and drink in Portugal, and one of the best places to taste and buy Portuguese wine is at Viniportugal at Terreiro do Paço. Visitors can purchase a rechargable Enocard for the price of € 2, which will give access to tasting 2 to 4 wines from a selection of 12 wines from different regions of the country. It is a good starting point if you want to learn more about Portuguese wine.