New Balance Tokyo Design Studio R_C2, featuring W. David Marx

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To celebrate the launch of the New Balance Tokyo Design Studio's second offering, the R_C2, Notre linked with writer and cultural theorist W. David Marx for a walking tour of some of Tokyo's lesser-known neighborhoods. Marx, who has lived in Tokyo since the early 2000s, characterizes the city as one obsessed with reinvention, which means it can be difficult to get a sense of its history. He's become fixated on exploring the parts of the city that retain some of the character from previous eras. Makes sense, given his research—his most recent book is entitled Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, which tracing a cultural history of modern Japan through its interactions with American fashion. He is currently working on a book outlining an overarching theory of how trends function.

We met up with Marx in Mejiro, at a small kissaten—a classic coffee shop.

"Mejiro is more like it was 30 or 40 years ago," said Marx. "Not much has changed compared to a Shinjuku or Shibuya, where the minute a business fails, they tear it down and build some new chain. Because this area is more no man's land, it makes it more interesting to get a sense of what Tokyo used to be like rather than what it is now in the major areas, where real estate is super expensive."

"From Mejiro, Marx led us through the residentially-oriented Zoshigaya, over to Jiyū Gakuen Myōnichikan—a girl's school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his only buildings in the country—through the dense commuter hub of Ikebukuro. "What this reveals is the degree to which Tokyo is a big city, but it's not a particularly dense city. There's pockets of real metropolitan area, and around them it gets very residential, really quickly," Marx told us. We eventually ended up back at his home in the quiet neighborhood of Kichijoji, near Inokashira Park."

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