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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.

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