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oct 02 2008

Shopping: Get a taste of Tokyo when visiting New York

The Uniqlo store in SoHo, New York City (Courtesy Atsutoms/Flickr)

On your next trip to New York City, consider spending a vicarious day in Tokyo by visiting the following three no-frills Japanese retailers.

Muji (pronounced moo-jeh) carries housewares, office supplies, and some clothing, including the city's best values in stylish slippers. In Japan, there about 300 Muji stores and kiosks, but the New York branches are among the chain's first outposts in the U.S.

Muji's name comes from: Mujirushi Ryohin, which I'm told translates as "brandless quality goods." The stores have a simple design that's very monochromatic, minimalist, and eco-friendly.

You can't leave without checking out:

New York in a Bag ($14) A set of small wooden blocks lets you build a mini-Manhattan.

The Muji Chronotebook ($5) This planner has a non-linear approach to scheduling. With just a clock face to plan your day, the design of each page gives you a little more flexibility for writing long or short notes.

Uniqlo (pronounced U-nee-clo) is a Japanese clothing giant known most recently for their successful launch of the UT (Uniqlo T-shirt) Project, which invited famous designers and artists to create tees for the store. In mid-September, Uniqlo Soho started an innovative project with Wakamuru, a high-tech Japanese robot. Designed by Toshiyuki Kita from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, Wakamaru is in the U.S. to practice English, or so the story goes. (Think Rosie of the Jetsons come to life.) Wakamaru can walk around a given area, make eye contact with you, and chat about various topics, such as which cashmere sweater you might like more. Wakamaru is expected to be in the store until December.

You can't leave without checking out:

Uniqlo's 26ct, 2 ply v-neck cashmere sweaters for men and women, which come in a variety of colors ($99.50)

Selvage denim jeans, available for both men and women with free same-day alterations (typically $79).

Kinokuniya (pronounced ki-no-koo-nee-yah) is a Japanese store that focuses on Japanese books and magazines, including manga and anime, stationery, and some books in English about Japan. This three-story bookstore is a place where you could spend hours browsing. Although Café Zaiya on the third floor might be misleading (it serves miso soup right next to tiramisu), the aisles and aisles of manga and anime will make any tourist-san feel right at home.

You can't leave without checking out:

The stationery section on the bottom floor will fulfill any childhood desires for school supplies. The store also carries every possible color and style of oil and gel based pens ($1.85-$12.95).

DETAILS

Muji

Times Square 620 8th Ave. and W. 40th St. 212/382-2300

Soho 455 Broadway between Grand and Howard Streets 212/334-2002

Hours at both locations: Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-9p.m.; Sundays 11a.m.-8p.m.

JetBlue's new Terminal 5 at J.F.K. airport will also have a Muji. muji.com

Uniqlo

Soho 546 Broadway between Spring and Prince St. 917/237-8800

Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9p.m; Sunday 11a.m.-8p.m. uniqlo.com

Kinokuniya

1073 Ave. of the Americas between 40th and 41st Streets. 212/869-1700 Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9:30p.m.; Sunday 11a.m.-7p.m. kinokuniya.com

—Katie Jakub

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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