Ecute redefines Tokyo shopping

Discover a new Japan with 31 shops at Tokyo Station

Ecute redefines Tokyo shopping

Ask anyone who has spent some time in Tokyo about the advantages of being in the city, and one of the first things they will mention is the convenience. So convenient, in fact, that one can get practically all they need from inside the train station, where many busy commuters spent a good deal of time.

The ekinaka (inside the station) commercial spaces carved out in train stations allow commuters the chance to shop and eat without even having to leave the ticket gates. In the past, small kiosks and soba shops were the norm, but these days the range of shops on offer is expanding to the point that everything from bookstores to large clothing chains such as Uniqlo can be found within minutes of stepping off the platform.

In this ekinaka retail world, a new variety of shopping space has once again made its debut. Ecute Tokyo opened its doors on March 28 within the ticket gates of Tokyo Station’s South Court area. Ecute ascribes to a theme of ‘Nippon Re-standard’, bringing together 31 stores offering top quality Japanese products suited to a contemporary lifestyle; a sampling of shops show the scope of the space’s theme, bringing together the traditional notion of ekinaka shopping with the decidedly modern.

Food is something that is standard offering at ekinaka, however Ecute shops put a twist on their edibles. Tokyo Anpan Mameichizu specializes in the particularly Japanese anpan, a sort of bun filled with sweet bean paste. Anpan, however, isn’t the only item on offer here; a variety of new treats based on red bean paste (an) and bread (pan), (an-butter stick, brioche anpan and azuki colon) also take centre stage.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more savoury, Omusubi Yuian, sells omusubi (rice balls), a classic Japanese fast food. These aren’t just any omusubi, however, as the shop’s rice master thoroughly supervises the preparation of the rice – from its polished form, to its washing and cooking – to ensure the ultimate in omusubi.

Much like many of other ekinaka shopping malls, one can, of course get the usual selection of sandwiches and bento, as well as Western and Japanese sweets – all perfect snacks to eat in the station or on the shinkansen. It’s also a great place to pick up food to take home as a gift for friends and family.

What sets the Tokyo station shopping apart from run-of-the-mill ekinaka is the attention to detail and design through their Japanese-centred theme. The most distinctive and modern take on Japanese styles in Ecute are Yu-Nakagawa Nihon-ichi and Tokyo Labo, which both sell all sorts of accessories, interior and lifestyle items. Yu-Nakagawa is a brand produced by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, a company which has roots that go as far back as 1716, when it first opened as a wholesale merchant of Nara-made sarashi cloth. As well as selling practical, everyday items made from hand-woven and hand-spun linen, the shop has also developed special products in collaboration with manufacturers across Japan, in keeping with its Nihon-ichi (Japanese market) concept.

Check out their Kyoto-kiyomizu ware Fuji-chawan bowl: if you turn it over, it becomes a ceramic objet d’art resembling the most iconic of Japanese motifs, Mt Fuji. Design gimmicks aside, it’s also a fine piece of Kiyomizu ware produced from a 230-year-old tradition of Kyoto pottery. The bold straight lines of the piece, as opposed to the usual rounded bowls – and its hand-painted colouring – enhance the impression of Mt Fuji it aims to produce. This playful approach is appealing even to those who are unfamiliar with Kiyomizu ware, or those who have no interest in its porcelain techniques. This redefinition of the traditional notions of Japanese products is exactly what Ecute’s ‘Nippon Re-standard’ theme is all about.

The goods on offer at Tokyo Labo are similarly themed, adding modern flavours to the traditional. Suteteko were originally a kind of popular Meiji Period underwear for men, worn underneath traditional clothing like kimono or hakama – perfectly suited to the hot, humid Japanese summers.

Today they are a thing of the past, but at a new spotlight has once more been directed at the old suteteko, and they are being brought back to life with colourful designs. If you take a glance at what they have produced – with their stripes, checks and flower patterns – they look like normal pairs of street wear shorts. Yet the fabric from which they are made is a traditional Japanese cotton crêpe, which is said to quickly absorb and diffuse moisture while never losing its smooth, dry feel. Touch the fabric and you’ll see that it’s fine and airy – and also amazingly elastic, the natural stretch produced by unique weaving techniques. These shorts would even be completely comfortable under other clothing, or great for wearing around the house.

These are only a sampling of the unique, concept-driven shops and items produced through unique Japanese techniques offered by Ecute that are changing the way we look at ekinaka shopping. If you find yourself passing through Tokyo Station, we’d definitely recommend making some time to check it out.

Ecute Tokyo
Location: JR Tokyo Station South Court
Address: 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo

Yu Nakagawa

By Kyoko Kitamura
Translated by Virginia Okno
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.



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