Coastal town Kamakura in Japan has more recently become known for innovative concept openings and elevated independent boutiques.
Kamakura, a historic former capital an hour’s train ride from Tokyo offers an unlikely but hugely popular combination of Kyoto-esque temples (it’s home to the famous Daibutsu “big buddha” as well as the serene bamboo garden of Hōkoku-ji) and Venice Beach-style surf culture, but has more recently become known for its innovative concept openings and elevated independent boutiques.
Opened last month (30 March 2015) in Kamakura, Pacific Drive-In is a “concept diner” that playfully attempts to recreate the decor and atmosphere of a drive-in Hawaiian eatery. Thanks to the work of a roll call of respected young creatives, the operation has an overarching air of not-too-serious cool, avoiding the feel of a seaside tourist-trap. Overseeing the project is Transit General Office, the “property production” company behind a string of hip Tokyo venues including Sign (Daikanyama), Kurkku (Harajuku) and Diesel’s Glorious Chain Cafe (Shibuya), which called on the services of Tripster for the interior, with Makoto Toda of fashion giant Beams designing the staff uniform. Background music and film projections selected by Tokyo dance music firm Pepe California bolster the ocean-side vibe, while graphics by cult illustrator Face (aka Koji Oka) appear on food packaging and tote bag merchandise alike. With customers able to eat Hawaiian-style fare on the adjacent beach, Pacific Drive-In is of course highly contrived with even the smallest detail obsessed over, but it’s an opening that couldn’t be more at home in this location: a masterclass in tailoring a premises to suit its location.
Recommended by Monocle magazine as one of the world’s most idyllic places to retire to, Kamakura has long combined the traditional with laidback beach culture, but on the retail front has more recently become known for independent lifestyle/clothing shops offering a mix of the refined and charmingly weathered. To recommend but two: 4 Cups & Desserts for women’s apparel from Orcival and Sacra plus a selection of interior and kitchen goods; and Krone for vintage and modern Scandinavian furniture and homewares. For dining and drinking meanwhile don’t miss 28bal, which brings oden (a traditional, stew-like dish) into a setting best described as old Japan meets contemporary Brooklyn.
And the action isn’t entirely confined to Kamakura. The Shonan area a few miles west along the coast welcomed the opening of the Klein Dytham-designed Shonan T-Site last December, a second outpost of the stunning T-Site complex in Tokyo’s Daikanyama, with the retail lineup tweaked a little to suit the seaside setting. Back in Tokyo the hip set’s attraction to the coast is feeding back into the stores: hotly-tipped men’s brand Kaptain Sunshine is heavily informed by designer (and keen surfer) Shinsuke Kojima living down there, while surf and motorbike-rooted label Deus Ex Machina’s Harajuku flagship, complete with in-house surfboard-shaping workshop, has been doing brisk business since opening at the tail end of last year. – Darren Gore