Category Archive for Art + Design

Shibuya Parco mall guide: Best Tokyo shops & attractions for anime, manga! Pokemon Center, Nintendo Mario stores.

giant mewtwo parco shibuya pokemon center incubation chamber

Let’s continue our Tokyo travels…. with a guide to the new Shibuya Parco department store complex! Shibuya’s old Parco mall has been fully revamped, and now has a number of anime and manga attractions — including MewTwo floating at the mouth of the Pokemon Center on the 6th floor.

parco restaurants shibuya instagram locations neon lights food hall

Read on for a tour of the new Shibuya Parco including floor guides with photos of Pikachu and Super Mario, the neon-lit food hall, and kawaii / Lolita stores like Angelic Pretty. (All photos by Joey Wong)

eater tohoku japan food article journalist

And I wanted to share a freelance writing win… I’m published by Eater! I wrote a comprehensive food & travel guide to Tōhoku, Japan, with photography by Joey Wong. My Eater piece introduces Tohoku, Japan’s Capital of Sake, Wagyu, and Sea Pineapples.

eater japanese food guide tokyo michelin star restaurants

If you love sake & seafood, I hope you’ll enjoy my travel writing debut on Eater about my foodie trip to Tohoku, Japan. “A few hours from Tokyo by bullet train, the rugged northern region features Miyazaki-worthy landscapes, a coastline chock full of seafood, and some of the country’s most stunning cherry blossoms.”

pikachu tokyo pokemom center parco shibuya

Now, back to Pikachu and his brethren. Shibuya has gone through a number of reconstructions over the past years, especially around the station. The Parco department store was always one of my favorite spots in the area to see artsy and pop culture boutiques.

street fighter statue chara capcom store parco

The re-opened Parco is bigger and badder than ever, especially on the sixth floor — which is dedicated to all things manga, anime, and gaming. I was greeted by a statue of Ryu from Street Fighter, at the Capcom store. (Anyone play the video game on Super Nintendo growing up? I did!)

nintendo store mario statue tokyo shibuya parco

There’s also an immense Nintendo Shop at Parco. Outside on the patio, you can pose with an 8-bit Super Mario and a question block! (Anyone been to the new Nintendo World theme park in LA or Osaka, or seen the Super Mario movie?)

heavy metal japanese lucky cat maneki neko

Parco’s 6th floor has about a dozen design shops. In addition to fan favorites like Yoshi, you’ll find indie figures and accessories — like these heavy metal versions of traditional Japanese lucky cats (maneki neko), daruma dolls, tanuki and more. (Note the pentagram on the cat’s collar.)

pokemom stores tokyo rare collectibles merch

I was tempted to take home so many cuties here…

funny japanese mushroom plush toy parco

Do you remember when I did a German TV show in Tokyo with “Mr Peen?” Looks like I found his chibi version at Parco. (Incidentally, the Kanamara Matsuri penis festival just took place; it’s a Shinto tradition in Kawasaki.)

parco anime manga store guide shops 6th floor

“P size wa?” So many fab figurines, plushies, home goods, fashion and more to peruse at Parco.

pokemon center mewtwo statue parco mall tokyo shibuya

The star of the show is undoubtedly Mewtwo, the psychic pocket monster. He’s prepping for battle in an incubation chamber at the entrance of the Parco Pokemon Center.

japan halloween pikachu pokemon toys

The Pokemon shop is one of the biggest, and has seasonal limited-edition items such as Halloween Pikachus.

Pokémon Center Shibuya parco

Parco’s Pokemon Center has a sci-fi design and lights that made me feel I was in a spaceship full of Pokemon.

pokemom store parco department store

Fans can purchase pretty much any item imaginable, from snacks to toys and decor. I’m into the Pika-Pika pumpkin candy bucket on the right.

gengar toy purple pokemon fans

My hair matches with Gengar, the purple ghost / poison Pokemon with a sinister smile.

pokemon museum tokyo figurines

Gotta catch em all… Which is your favorite Pokemon?

mewtwo in incubation chamber life size

If you can’t make to this store, there are Pokemon Centers all over Japan — including at Character Street in Tokyo Station (here are pics).

one jump anime store tokyo

In the old days, Japanese boutiques banned people from taking photos inside. Times have changed, and you’re now free to snap away — and there are lots of Instagrammable displays like this one at the Shonen Jump store.

tokyo anime manga shopping boutiques

If you’re interested in Jpop and youth culture, check out Shibuya 109 department store nearby as well (it’s focused on young, trendy women’s fashion, and has a Sanrio shop and purikura).

cute japan fox toy

There’s much more to see at Parco than just the 6th floor. Give yourself at least 1-2 hours to wander the entire complex, as there is plenty of Japanese design inspiration.

shibuya parco art paintings exhibitions

You’ll come across paintings amidst the industrial architecture, and windows with neon views of Shibuya below.

shibuya parco restaurants cafes

Parco’s outdoor patio walk is spectacular. A great place for people-watching, or hanging out with a coffee or glass of wine.

astroboy store statue shibuya

Parco’s stores and art exhibits are constantly changing, so rather than giving a specific floor / shop guide, I encourage you to wander around and see what’s new. When I was there, I saw this Astroboy statue and a photo area with an idol-type girl.

japan rare bearbrick toys

Parco has plenty of stores for street / urban fashion and goods. I came across a clan of Bearbricks.

bear brick store parco bearbrick figure

These Bearbrick collectibles are designed in collaboration with leading street artists.

pastel kawaii dragon toy

I enjoyed seeing “indie” critters at Parco, rather than the most famous mascots like Hello Kitty. Love the construction and design of this pastel horned fella.

angelic pretty boutique tokyo japan

You can also shop for sweet Lolita fashion at Parco’s Angelic Pretty.

shibuya angelic pretty store dresses

The brand continues to be all about candy pastel sweetness.

angelic pretty tokyo stores parco mall

Most of the Gothic and Sweet Lolita boutiques are in Harajuku, particularly in LaForet dept store (photos to come). However, you can find some frilled dresses and other alternative fashion in Parco.

angelic pretty lolita dress print

Angelic Pretty’s Loli prints are often on the kitsch-bizarre side… like these animal detergent bottles, of all things!

sweet lolita store angelic pretty

I started this blog when Lolita style was thriving in Japan. It isn’t worn by people here as much these days, and many of the labels closed — but Angelic Pretty remains at Parco.

parco food basement restaurants

Make sure you stop by the Parco basement levels, as there’s a gigantic food / restaurant area! As with everything in Parco now, the neon design is on point.

tokyo eat bugs restaurants weird insects food

Here’s a restaurant called Bugs Cafe that serves creepy crawlies like tarantulas and crickets. There’s also a drag queen Campy Bar here (but Yukiro says it isn’t very good, so I can’t recommend it!). I did enjoy the vegan izakaya Masaka with friends.

japanese satanic condoms satan devil oni red mask

I stumbled across this horned (horny?) oni in Parco’s lower levels as well.

shibuya tokyo night photography streets people walking crosswalk

What do you think of the new Parco design? I’ll certainly come back to see the latest art and cuteness when I return to Tokyo.

But for now… I’m escaping the rain, and heading to somewhere warm and LGBTQ+ friendly. Check out my Instagram @LaCarmina to see where in the world I’m heading.

All photos Joey Wong — check out more of his Shibuya shots in this post. And please take a moment to read our Eater’s Guide to Tohoku, Japan!


Tokyo Station Character Street store guide! Kawaii cute mascot shops: Rilakkuma, Miffy, Sumikko Gurashi, Ghibli.

Rilakkuma mural japanese bear tokyo

Japan is the land of the cute (kawaii)… and if you want to see all your favorite mascots in one spot, then Tokyo Station Character Street is the place to be! 

Located in (obviously) Tokyo Station, Japan’s “First Avenue” underground shopping area contains about about 30 stores dedicated to kawaii characters like Rilakkuma (above), Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Kirby…

tokyo station character street limited edition toys

… and my personal favorite, Miffy the bunny. She’s dressed in a train conductor uniform because you can find limited edition themed goods here, along with every cute-faced plush toy imaginable.

Follow along for my Tokyo Character Street shopping guide, which includes a photo-packed tour of the cutest anime, manga and kawaii stores. (All images by Joey Wong.)

tokyo station hotel outside fashion blogger

To get to First Ave Tokyo Station, simply head to Tokyo Station in Marunouchi. It’s one of the capital city’s biggest transit hubs, as you can take the shinkansen (bullet train) as well as multiple subway lines.

I’m standing in front of the Tokyo Station Hotel. The underground is large, so look for the signs leading to a basement shopping area called Character Street, or First Avenue Tokyo Station.

iwate morioka sobachi character soba mascot

But first, a tax-free shopping tip! Bring your passport if you’re a traveler, and you can get a tax refund on anything you buy here.

First, head to the red-and-white Tax Free Booth on the ground floor of Tokyo Station. (Look for signs, or ask someone if you can’t find it). Show the staff your passport, and they’ll staple in a form that shows you’re an “alien” and therefore do not need to pay tax.

Now, you can shop til you drop for big-eyed cuties. After you’ve spent all your yen, head back to the tax-free booth to show them your receipts, and you’ll get the tax refunded to you.

kamen rider store tokyo station japan robot anime

Last fall, I was in Japan on a business visa to report on Tohoku’s food culture. In Japan, it seems every city, company or movement has a cute mascot: I got the Sobachi soba-bowl dangle in Morioka!

Be prepared to be overwhelmed when you enter Tokyo Station Character Street. There are cute boutiques as far as the eye can see, themed after Moomin, Nintendo, Domo, and much more. Here is one dedicated to Kamen Rider, the creation of manga artist, Shotaro Ishinomori (he has a space-like anime museum in Ishinomaki.)

cute japanese mascots stores character kawaii

The stores are constantly changing, so chances are you’ll run into adorable creatures that are unfamiliar to you. (We did our best to photograph as many as we could for you).

tokyo character street store guide floor shops map

For example, I think these are kawaii-fied versions of We Bare Bears, but I’m not certain (correct me if I’m wrong.)

First Avenue Tokyo Station character street merchandise

The giant plushes and cushions are tempting, but there are also smaller items like keychains if you need to save space in your suitcase.

gachapon store ガシャポン gashapon toy vending machines

Character St / First Ave also has a room full of gashapon machines (I spot Anpanman at the end). Put a coin into the vending machine, and you’ll get a random prize.

tokyo station studio ghibli store museum

Studio Ghibli remains one of Japan’s most beloved franchises. Hayao Miyazaki’s Cat-Bus and other imaginative characters greet visitors to the store.

totoro plush stuffed toys ghibli memorabilia store japan

How can you resist giving Totoro and friends a squeeze?

no face figurine collectible toy

I was delighted to see No Face from Spirited Away, which is my favorite anime film. Go see it if you haven’t; it’s currently on Netflix along with other Miyazaki masterpieces.

peanuts snoopy charlie brown halloween japanese

Not all of the mascot shops are Japanese. Case in point: Snoopy Town, which had Halloween-themed items at the time.

guide to character street tokyo train station

One section of Tokyo Station Character Street contains displays from most of the shops. On the right: Koupen-chan, a baby penguin with a wand.

sumikko gurashi characters cafe food

Sumikko Gurashi has many fans worldwide. Tokyo Station opened a new theme cafe, which serves Sumikkogurashi sweets and savory dishes decorated to look like these funny faces.

miffy the bunny store tokyo japan

Of course, I knelt before my favorite :x – Miffy!

daruma miffy toy japanese rabbit

Although Miffy looks like a Japanese icon (even taking on the form of a daruma), she was invented by Dutch artist Dick Bruna in 1955 — two decades before the birth of Hello Kitty.

dick bruna artist store japan

Dick Bruna’s minimalist character designs remain as impactful today — just look at how he conveys expressive puppies, lions and elephants with a few strokes and circles.

miffy nijntje tokyo japan store

Tokyo Station’s Miffy Style store has only-in-Japan designs like calendars, stationery, bags, sweets, baby items, accessories like umbrellas…

rare limited edition miffy toys plushes

And rows of plush Miffies. (Soon, I’ll take you inside the Miffy Cafe in Yokohama too.)

ghost miffy halloween kawaii japan

Love how the bunny put a sheet over her head to become a ghost. I’m such a Miffy fan that I’ve been to her attractions worldwide, including her Nijntje museum in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

miffy design japan japanese character mascot

I also have an older post about visiting Tokyo Character Street here, so you can see how the shopping district and stores have evolved. (My Miffy gel nail art is by Glam Nail Studio in Richmond, Vancouver BC.)

sailor moon sanrio character collaboration

Many of the shops have cross-overs. Sailor Moon and Sanrio did a collaboration.

tokyo character street  hello kitty store

Of course, there’s a Sanrio shop with goods featuring Pekkle the duck, My Melody, Pompompurin, Pochacco and others.

map guide character street first ave tokyo station

There are photo areas and collectibles for magic girls, anime, and manga as well. (My bag is from Maison de Fleur, a Japanese accessories label.)

magic girls anime tokyo characters

Such a wide variety of character designs and fandoms, all in one underground shopping area.

doraemon store tokyo station

Doraemon the robot cat is waiting for you. Big eyes and roundness are the signatures of Japanese kawaii.

First Avenue Tokyo Station tax free shopping

Not surprisingly, the Pokemon Store was one of the busiest.

pokemon center tokyo station store pikachu

Pikachu and all your favorite pocket monsters are on the shelves.

pokemon shopping guide tokyo shop

Got to catch them all! It’s easy to spend a lot of yen at Tokyo Station’s character street, so don’t forget about my tax-free tip at the start of this story.

japan 666 satanist freemason satanic satanists japanese

I’ll end with this funny shot… only in Japan, you’ll find someone with a 666 Freemason t-shirt hanging out among the kawaii stores!

tokyo train station hotel architecture building

Have you explored the Tokyo Station area? For more, check out my Tokyo Character Street images from a few years ago to see the differences.