Annika Victoria, YouTuber and expert Australian-living-in-Tokyo, chats to us about making the most of Tokyo-life, and offers her tips on her favourite spots.
WinWin: Hey Annika! Could you describe where you live in Tokyo?
Annika: I live in Western Tokyo — along the JR Chuo line.
Different areas of Tokyo are very much defined by the train lines they surround. I live in a laid-back, relatively quiet part of Tokyo, where there are lots of parks, small jazz bars, cute French-style cafes and 60s-style tiled apartment blocks. But I’m only a short 20 minute train ride from the very busy middle of the city — where I rarely go, unless venturing to Nippori (fabric town) or Okadaya (a multi-level craft store in Shinjuku), because I don’t like big crowds!
I love how SAFE Tokyo is. I can easily go wandering around the streets of Western Tokyo on my own at night, and never feel unsafe. Kids as young as five years old take themselves to school on the train without their parents.
WW: Something tricky about Tokyo life?
A: The language barrier is difficult. I am still learning, so my Japanese language ability is approximately that of a three-year-old — I can understand more than I can speak, which is a frustrating experience.
Many of my interactions are carried out in stilted Japanese with lots of interpretive dance moves to communicate my points!
WW: Your favourite Tokyo neighbourhood?
A: Shimokitazawa (or as the locals call it, Shimokita). It is close to the middle of the city, making it an ideal location to go to if just visiting, and it is full of amazing vintage stores, very trendy people, spoiled dogs that are dressed up and pushed around in prams, and unique cafes and restaurants that you won’t find anywhere else in Tokyo.
Tip: try to go on a weekday, because the weekends are packed!
In fact I love this neighbourhood so much that I even made a vintage-store map and video of my favourite places to thrift!
WW: Favourite places for art/craft/fabric materials?
A: I am enamoured with the craft store Yuzawaya. I could spend days inside a Yuzawaya (which are found all over Japan, but my favourite is the one in Kichijoji), exploring all the different crafts they have available, from sewing to crocheting, to glass-work and paper-quilling. I even made a video about Yuzawaya!
WW: Favourite places for anything vintage?
A: For vintage shopping, my three top neighbourhoods are Shimokitazawa, Koenji and Kichijoji. Koenji has over 30 thrift stores right near the train station, mostly concentrated down “Pal Road” and “Look Street”. Even if I don’t plan on buying anything, the vintage stores in Tokyo are so pretty and detailed — like a store that contains hundreds of Raggedy-Anne dolls and memorabilia, or another that has hundreds of Australian koalas from the 1980s!
WW: Best people watching tip?
A: I love sitting in cafes and in parks to work, write down ideas and edit videos. I find these spaces really calming so I can clear my mind, but they’re also really beautiful. Seeing the sakura (cherry blossom) bloom in March, in a big park near where I live, was a huge source of inspiration for me to design a lot of floral outfits, for instance.
Annika, can you tell us a bit about your YouTube channel?
I originally had a DIY fashion blog called “The Pineneedle Collective” where I uploaded tutorials of how to make basic things like circle skirts. I moved to video because I wanted to more clearly show the steps involved in sewing up a garment. It took off and two years later I was able to make it into my full-time job. I love working on YouTube because I love teaching, being my own boss, and working in a field that allows me to exercise my creative brain daily. The community I have built around my YouTube channel is made up of the most fantastic people; they’re unapologetically passionate, earnest and nerdy in the best possible way. I try to foster an atmosphere that is accepting of each and every person’s differences. We do bi-monthly crafting challenges called “Make Thrift Try”. Recently, for a challenge where “gingham” was the theme, someone in the community made a doll-sized version of me wearing a gingham top, standing with my dog, Ella, who is wearing a gingham scarf!
Check out Annika’s YouTube channel!