“It's simple: if you and I both find ourselves here, we need to connect, we need to converse.”
In Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous spiritual code, there is a concept called ‘nakami’. It means the content, the energy – the life, perhaps – contained even in inanimate objects. Nakami is the spirit that makes something authentic; it cannot be faked. Masaru Sakai and his trove of men’s vintage clothing and accessories have it in spades.
A discreet white sign saying simply ‘6’ is all that marks out the stairs that lead to his shop, whose name is pronounced ‘roku’ in Japanese. This is not a place designed to lure the passer-by inside. You need a sharp eye, a stroke of luck, or the recommendation of a friend to even know it exists. Sakai – nicknamed Moose – prefers it that way. He believes fate will guide those who are meant to discover 6.
“I like to surprise people in a good way,” Sakai says. “It’s simple: if you and I both find ourselves here, we need to connect, we need to converse.”
Just as life lacks lustre when it’s predictable, and fashion lacks fun when everyone dresses the same, discovering a unique store creates a spark of excitement. And in a culture so organised by conformity and routine, there is a special pleasure in the unexpected.
Living in New York 15 years ago, passers-by would see Sakai wearing his crazy old kimono, ‘70s Levi’s bellbottoms, and cowboy boots, and they let him know how they felt. Whether a look or a comment, good or bad, there was communication.
Sakai vowed to bring that New York character to Tokyo when he opened his shop 10 years ago in the location it exists in today. He chose a digit for the name of his shop, because numbers are “the same in every language.” A Japanese customer can call his shop ‘Roku’, an American can call it ‘Six’, and a Spaniard can call it ‘Seis’. None of them is wrong.
Inside 6, each carefully chosen vintage piece has not only a story, but also an energy – the nakami that Sakai felt when he saw and knew it belonged in 6: Just as every tree has substance and life, so each item has been on its own unique journey to 6 – the beautifully aged kimonos, the beaded Korean monk vests, the obscure antique Danish boots, and the well-travelled suitcases.
Because of nakami, vintage cannot be replicated. No amount of money spent copying the fabric or the stitch, the shape or the style, can recreate a vintage garment. Each comes from a place and time with different air, soil, and water; and has been imparted over years with the character, the movement and even the scent of the people who have come into contact with it: maker, handler, seller, wearer, user, and Tokyo-vintage-shop owner.
Sakai has been on a 20-year global treasure hunt to bring apparel, accessories, and their accumulated tales to 6. Those who seek out this discreet corner of Naka-Meguro have a chance to meet Sakai and hear those stories. And to add to it a chapter all of their own.
TIPS & RESERVATION INFO
Like many Nakameguro shops, 6 opens late so it’s one for afternoon shopping schedules. Up on the second floor, it only has a discreet white sign at ground level, so keep your eyes peeled. Sakai sometimes takes unscheduled holidays so it’s smart to have a Japanese speaker or your hotel call to check if it’s open when you plan to visit.