December 5, 2006

Iiwi: Japan's Most Incredible Baby & Dog Store

iiwi Baby & Dog original newborn romper

It's exactly the kind of serendipitous experience you hope for on a trip: you stumble across an utterly unique, mindblowing store that's obviously the product of passionate, discerning and very entertaining people.

The kid and I were on our way to the other Muji store in Kyoto, when I saw a cool-looking romper displayed on the street, with a slightly mod, modded iron-on design on the front. It was sort of a hand-drawn version of the traditional Japanese congratulations cards that new parents receive, but it had a kid's Adidas perched in front, and the store's name was iiwi Baby & Dog. Yep, baby & dog.

Turns out iiwi is on the back of the ground floor of a narrow mall, under Mune no Taniko [Chest Taniko, whose logo is a giant rack. Didn't make it up there this trip.] It's a small but incredible collection of handmade and vintage kid's clothing, with some classics like Appaman thrown in. Rompers with iiwi's original designs run about 5,000 yen. There are racks of vintage [i.e., 10-20 years ago] clothes like the Love American-Style wraparound skirt I bought for the kid. And yes, there's a dog section in the back, which integrates surprisingly well with the baby section. Think about it--but not too long--and it makes sense. [Iiwi is a Hawaiian bird, btw; the owners have a thing for Hawaii.]

iiwi Baby & Dog store, Kyoto

But the most stunning thing about the store is the store itself. The walls are papered with vintage ads, album covers, and childrens' drawings. The artist Shinya Yamamoto has covered the display wall and cases in the entrance with a Basquiat-inspired mural. The vitrines--and every flat shelf and ledge--are filled with the owners' vintage character toy collections, from Snoopy to Ultraman to Kubrick to Keith Haring's toys. There are vintage muppets everywhere, and a giant Cookie Monster throne of some sort that the kid was too intimidated to get near.

baby-sized vintage Air Jordan collection 1/3

Obviously, the pinnacle of the collection is the set of vintage Air Jordans in baby and kid sizes. They all belonged to the store owners' kid, and it doesn't look like they were allowed out of the house much. The shoes run from infant-sized up to a 6-yo's special edition pair from the Nagano Winter Olympics. None is for sale.

Iiwi has no website, and they don't sell to other stores. The only way to buy their stuff is to visit the shop. Fortunately, it's located on one of the main shopping thoroughfares of central Kyoto, so if you're in town, a little effort means you won't miss it.

iiwi Baby & Dog, PureMall Walk 1F, Shijou Kawara-machi, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 075-255-0310
There are more photos in the daddytypes flickr pool [flickr]


There is a store in LA called Puppies and Babies, FYI.

Greg, I think you're only doing the Kansai "thing" this time in Japan, but next time you're out Tokyo way and feel like riding the Hanzomon line to pretty much its western end, there's a pile of stores like this at the outlet mall in Minami Machida. We used to live ten minutes away by car and spent occasional (pre-parental) weekend days there sipping Starbucks and shopping at the Gap while marveling at the purse dog-and-kid-toting throngs.

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