Pen Magazine Makes YouTube Show on Vintage Clothes

“Tokyo Furugi Biyori” is featured on the cover of Pen magazine’s July issue.

Pen, a twice-a-month culture and lifestyle magazine for men, is popular among both men and women seeking a sophisticated lifestyle. The magazine, launched in 1998, is published by CCC Media House Co., which is affiliated with the business group operating Tsutaya Books stores and Tsutaya video rental shops. Recent features include veteran singer Yosui Inoue in the April 15 issue, noodle dishes for summer in the Aug. 3 issue, and 21st-century photography in the Aug. 17 issue. Fashion-related features, while they may bring in a lot of advertising revenue, are carried only a few times per year, as they don’t seem very popular among readers.

In December last year, Pen magazine started a YouTube program on secondhand clothes, which is called “Tokyo Furugi Biyori” (Perfect day for vintage clothes in Tokyo).

Since the start of the 2010s, many magazines have been published in both paper and digital editions. Also, there are now established avenues for spreading their content on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These days, magazines have started streaming on YouTube as well.

There is a persistent opinion that TV, fixated on ratings and pursuing the widest possible viewership, spreads itself too thin to maintain substance or interest, and also that it does not speak truth to power — including the power of sponsors. Recently, more and more people are turning to YouTube. Some YouTubers earn millions per year, while YouTube is also becoming a last resort for journalists whose extreme remarks bar them from major media and entertainers who have been similarly deprived of opportunities to appear on TV.

The fact that magazines are increasing their YouTube presence amid such circumstances means that they are trying to close the distance between themselves and their readers by becoming more entertainment-orientated. While print and most online media use written words and still images to convey content, YouTube uses sounds and moving pictures, which are more accessible to many people. Magazine features on YouTube include the editor explaining a news story or chatting with a much-talked-about person. In a nutshell, you could say it’s about magazines becoming like TV shows. Yet successful examples are rare, in my humble opinion. Better to leave it to a specialist, it seems.

Considering all this, it is noteworthy that “Tokyo Furugi Biyori” is gaining popularity. The show is presented by actor Ken Mitsuishi, 59, visiting vintage clothing shops in Tokyo and choosing what to buy in consultation with the shops’ managers. This format has been favorably received. Each video is about 20 minutes long and new ones are posted fairly regularly, with the first episode going up in December last year, and the ensuing episodes appearing in February, April, July and October this year. According to the magazine, the program is popular with people of all ages, from young people to the middle-aged and the elderly.

Ken Mitsuishi browses a vintage clothing shop in “Tokyo Furugi Biyori.”

The format of a middle-aged man walking on the street and then entering a shop reminds one of the hit TV series “Kodoku no Gurume” (Solitary Gourmet) that stars Yutaka Matsushige, although “Tokyo Furugi Biyori” is less a fictional narrative than a documentary of sorts. Mitsuishi is an acclaimed actor in supporting roles, who can play a comical character with a bit of pathos. He is a perfect fit for the show. He is the kind of person who has something to say not only about fashion but on various other topics, such as records, furniture and cars. The character he plays in “Tokyo Furugi Biyori” seems to be tailor-made for him and little different from his everyday personality.

It is also very clever that the program focuses on secondhand clothes. Heightened interest in sustainability has been invigorating brick-and-mortar recycling shops and smartphone apps for online flea-markets, such as Mercari.

Vintage clothes have been consistently popular among young people. At the same time, in this aging society, it is important for the fashion industry to boost consumption by middle-aged and elderly people. You could say “Tokyo Furugi Biyori” is responding well to this demand. I have a feeling that there are quite a few not-so-young men who watch this show and think, “Shall I play with fashion, too?” or “Shall I become a fashionable old man?” Such tacit encouragement is a tactic the fashion industry is not good at when developing a new market. The middle-aged or elderly, who keep a tight hold on their purse strings, don’t know what to spend their money on.

TV was quick to notice “Tokyo Furugi Biyori,” and the BS Fuji satellite TV channel has aired the first three episodes in one day, plus one special episode in advance. The show’s latest episode is scheduled to be posted on YouTube in March next year.

Miura is the editorial adviser of WWD Japan.