There’s something fascinating about Ueno’s Ameyoko in Tokyo. You’d never imagine that such an off-centered location was the mecca of amekaji. Because it really is a journey to go all the way up there, especially when you’re used to having all the shops at a 15 minute train ride maximum.
But if you want to get denim, not vintage, you don’t have much choice: you have to go to Ameyoko. There’s one shop there that we particularly love: Hinoya. You might have heard about them through their various collaborations, such as the recent H0705SP with Momotaro Jeans.
Well this year they’re turning 65 years old, and they’ve prepared numerous exciting collaborations made in Japan to celebrate. Since Hinoya is a place that denim heads ought to know and add to their Japanese denim pilgrimage, we caught up with the head of Product Planning and Development, Mr. Osamu Taniguchi, who told us about Hinoya’s history and their plans for their anniversary.
From Geta sandals to jeans
Hinoya didn’t start with denim. In fact, they weren’t even based in Tokyo. The shop opened in Niigata and was producing, amongst other things, Japanese traditional sandals or Geta. They then moved to Asakusa, a highly touristic location in Tokyo, in 1949, to finally settle in Ueno in 1955.
Back then, Hinoya would sell drinks and foods, such as Imagawayaki cakes. And at some point military surplus started selling really well, so Hinoya started focusing on clothes. They would sell military surplus and import brands, and eventually some Japanese brands started making replica goods, like Toyo Enterprise, so the retailer expanded their catalog and slowly became known as the jeans shop of Ueno.
And they succeeded, as the numerous collaborations they’ve worked on demonstrate. They carry most of the top denim brands, although rather than focusing on quantity by carrying as many brands as possible, they decided to focus on a more narrow set of brands, and build a solid, long term relationship with them as well as with the customers.
Basically, we don’t carry items because they sell. Our motto is to provide the customers with good products, and build a long term relationship with them. […] It’s our policy.
Talking about assortment, Hinoya is mostly known for three different categories, which vary depending on the season. Naturally, there’s the jeans section, available all year round, with brands like Burgus+, Levi’s, Sugar Cane, Warehouse, Momotaro Jeans, Iron Heart, Pure Blue Japan, etc. In the Summer they focus on Aloha Shirts, while in the Winter they’re all about jackets (A-2, B-3, B-15 and many more from Buzz Rickson’s).
More details about the 65th anniversary
What’s interesting is that they don’t necessarily have a set plan for anniversaries. Osamu even told us that he wasn’t sure whether they had done anything for their 60th anniversary…
This year we want to make collaboration models with the makers with whom we’ve built a strong relationship, and exceed our customers’ expectations. And if it helps spread our name then that will encourage us to do more in 5 or 10 years. In terms of timing, we’re thinking Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, that is to say around Golden Week and then September/October. We’ll be able to say more later but we’ll probably end up collaborating with 6 or 7 different makers, divided in half per season. We’ll be making denim, T-shirts, bags and other accessories. […] These exclusive pieces will be sold at our Hinoya stores only, and they will be available for purchase from outside of Japan via our online shop.
So make sure that you keep checking up on Heddels because we’ll be talking more about their upcoming collaborations as they develop and solidify. Meanwhile, make sure to drop by and say hi to their friendly and (very) knowledgeable staff here: Tokyo-to Taito-ku 6-10-14. And if you’re not planning to visit Japan anytime soon, you can still buy from them on Rakuten.
All photos by Yuri Matsuoka.