Strolling the leafy lanes of the atmospheric quarter of Yanaka is like stepping back in time. Dotted with historic temples and traditional low-rise wooden houses, this laidback area is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhoods, dating back to the Edo period (1603-1867). It’s also one of the few areas of the city to survive World War Two bombing relatively intact and as a result has a vintage vibe.
One of three neighbourhoods, along with Sendagi and Nezu, that comprise an area collectively referred to as ‘Yanesan’ – from Ya (Yanaka), Ne (Nezu), and Sen (Sendagi) – Yanaka is becoming increasingly cool. Tokyo’s hipsters are taking over tiny retro bars, untouched since the 1950s and 60s, and opening funky boutiques and shops.
It’s here, on the border between Yanaka and Nezu, that we stumbled across Akihiko Nakamura’s small atelier, SanUnKaiGetu, which, Akihiko tells us, translates to ‘Mountain, Cloud, Sea, Moon’.
A former computer engineer who studied English literature at university, 50 year-old soft-spoken Akihiko says he gave up computing (“because it was boring”) to pursue something more creative, and threw in a sales job two years ago to open his atelier because he wanted to work for himself.
A Hawaiian grandfather and his grandmother’s antique kimono collection – many over 100 years old – were the inspiration for his collection of his and her Aloha shirts, original artwork and accessories made from vintage kimonos.
Akihiko hasn’t forgotten his tech background completely. He has an online store if you’re not going to Tokyo anytime soon, and one of his coolest products is a vibrant kimono-covered iPad case!
2-37-1, 1F Nezu, Bunkyou-ku