A Visit to Kochi – Puku, Vintage, and Café Creole

Shortly after joining the Heddels team, I spent 5 weeks in Japan, studying and traveling. In this 3-part miniseries, I’ll be sharing my experiences in Kochi, Kojima, and Toyko, recommending clothing stores, vintage boutiques, food & drink experiences, and more. 

July has hit Tokyo. That means it’s sweating while standing (in the shade) Tokyo, freakishly close to 105 degrees Tokyo, melting my Dr. Marten’s on the concrete Tokyo. I think I’ve had enough Tokyo for the time being. 

A visit to Japan’s overlooked region of Shikoku has always been on my bucket list. While I had a few weeks’ break from some work in Tokyo, a trip to Kochi City and nearby Kojima would help me escape the crowds and climate of the capital. On a semi-whim, I booked a budget flight from Narita to Kochi city with a friend.

Kochi City isn’t exactly a fashion mecca. Hell, it’s not any sort of mecca. It’s the least visited prefecture in Shikoku, the least visited main island of Japan. I didn’t come here for the bustling fashion scene or the dazzling neon lights. I came for the Katsuo sashimi, countryside charm, and beer from the Hirome market. So what greeted me in Kochi was a pleasant surprise. 

Puku Kochi


Image via @westoveralls on Instagram

I was strolling around Kochi downtown’s famous Sunday market when I noticed a pair of Westoveralls displayed in front of a narrow shopfront. So of course I had to duck in. 

I was greeted by two friendly and chic sisters who own the quiet boutique Puku, a small yet not cramped shopfront. I gave them each a smile, and quickly asked if I should try a pair of Westoveralls in a size 31. I’ve been looking for a pair of these for a while, I said. As the taller one of the sisters handed me the pair, they asked me where I traveled from. ‘Tokyo’, I replied. They glanced at each other, then back to me, and giggled. “You came to Kochi from Tokyo to look for Westoveralls?” Hmm, I guess that does make me a bit strange.

Westoveralls is a young denim and apparel label based in Japan, founded only in 2017. If you know of Westoveralls, it’s most likely from the semi-viral Youtube shopping series. Westoverall’s slogan is “西から昇ったそれは東へ降りてきた / It rises in the west, and sets in the east.” Westoveralls takes cues from Old West imagery, but applies design and practical elements for today’s consumer.

Take the example of how Onuki-san, the effortlessly cool designer behind Westoveralls (and over half a dozen more labels), approaches the silhouette of the Westoverall jeans. While some brands are dedicated to the robotic reproduction of original American silhouettes of decades past, Onuki-san is dedicated to a detail-oriented, innovative yet tasteful spin on traditional silhouettes.


Image via Dresswell.jp

The blend of old and new is Onuki-san’s forté. The Talon zippers are a nod to Westoverall’s vintage predecessors, but the clean and minimal waist design is an innovative indicator of the modern. The font of the “WEST’S” text around the inner waist pays homage to the old typography used by Levi’s, but the elastic waistband itself is an experimental and utilitarian design cue that prevents indigo rubbing off on tucked-in shirts. 

In the raw denim world, emphasis is placed on the past. And sure, in a time of SHEIN and TEMU, the reproduction of good old things is a refreshing change of pace. It’s the very reason that drew me into this niche. But for every good old thing being reproduced, one less good new thing is being crafted. Even in a niche like raw denim, innovation is needed. 

On top of Westoveralls, Puku stocks other independent labels like Decka Socks and Todayful. Puku curates a blend of apparel and jewelry.

Backstage Kochi


Image via @vintagehour_bf on Instagram

Patiently manned by Masakatsu-san behind the counter, Backstage is another vintage store in the middle of Kochi’s central shotengai (shopping street) district. Backstage stocks true vintage. Pre-caretags vintage, redline Big E vintage, running man Champion vintage. Not the eBay so-called “vintage” from 2015. 

Selepie Kochi


Image via selepie.com

A pair of jorts were high on my wishlist for this trip. Do I really like the look of jorts or was I influenced by the Blokecore influencers? Did I wear the jorts with a 2000s Celtics Nakamura shirt? That’s all beside the point. The point is, it’s hot and I need a pair of shorts. 

Located in Kochi’s central shotengai shopping district, Selepie thrift store has reasonable prices, good jorts, and friendly staff. And as a bonus, you get a shoutout on their Instagram if you buy something!

Beams Kochi


Image via homemate-research-apparel.com

When I was writing this article, I tried to avoid mentioning big chain stores. I traveled to an overlooked region of Japan to wander around the overlooked shops and boutiques, not to look at all the same big-brand stores available in Tokyo. 

Beams, with 150+ stores spread across Japan, is hardly the type of store I had in mind. But Beams holds a special place in my heart. I used to live near a big outlet mall with, a Beams outlet, and it was a destination of countless weekends. 


Interior of the first Beams location in Harajuku. Image via fashionpost.jp

Founded in 1976 as “American Life Shop Beams,” the boutique (more accurately, the “select shop”) began in the fashion-forward Harajuku district selling imported clothes from America’s West Coast. Today, Beams boasts national-wide and international stores carrying everything from Nike to labels you can barely find on Google and everything in between. They also stock products from their countless sublabels. Beams relies on buyers and a team of tastemakers. And I have to admit, I like the tastes that are being made. Each store has a slightly (or very) different range and personality. Beams together with Ships and United Arrows make up the “Big Three” of Japanese select shops.

Beams Kochi, guided by manager Kaneko-san, was a lot more spacious than many of the beams I’ve visited. I suppose real estate down in Kochi isn’t as sparse as central Tokyo. 

Café Creole


Image via Karu

My friend and I stumbled across Sato-san’s Kissaten-style cafe on our way to Kochi station. I had just finished reading Craig Mod’s newsletter on Jazz Kissa cafes, 

Lifting up the bamboo blinds that cover the front door, a hidden world is slowly revealed. The dim lighting reminds me of a Hollywood bar scene. All the money that Sato-san saves on electricity, he must spend on records and magazines. Shelves filled with rows and rows of records surround the walls of the Cafe. On the floor, stacks and stacks of magazines as tall as my stomach cramp the entrance. 

Listening to obscure Jazz and drinking Sato-san’s filter coffee feels like I’m in a Wong Kar-wai film. Maybe a beautiful and mysterious lady wearing shades darker than my coffee will come and sit next to me? I glance to my left. Nope. Still just my mate Nathan. 


Image via Karu

Sato-san spends equal time brewing filter coffee, hand-picking the next record to play, and smoking a cigarette by the shop door. 

Hailing from Tokyo, Sato-san has owned and operated Café Creole for nearly two decades. He tells me he came to Kochi on holiday decades back, and fell in love with the city and its people. I wonder what type of people he met on that fateful trip, people charismatic enough to persuade him to move out of Tokyo and open up a coffee shop. 

No. It’s not accurate to call this a coffee shop. Sato-san is more of a Jazz record collector who happens to know how to brew coffee. Coffee strong enough to wake up a whale. For two days. At least. If Kochi City was a movie, Sato-san would no doubt be the main protagonist. 


Image via Karu