Shopping Trips To Japan Provide Unique Inventory For New I Go Tokyo Store In North Chattanooga

Thursday, October 1, 2020 - by Joseph Dycus
- photo by Joseph Dycus
The “I Go Tokyo” boutique opened their a book section on Wednesday afternoon, with a collection of Japanese novels and other such tomes now available for the public. Store owner Margaret Armour has owned and operated the store, but it was not until recently that the enthusiastic traveler decided to add a book section to the boutique on Manufacturers Road. 

”Recently, my friend Mari moved back to Japan and left a lot of books, and another group decided they’d donate them to my store so people can enjoy them,” Ms.
Armour said. “It got a little out of control. So we have adult and children’s books.” 

But aside from books, I Go Tokyo also carries a bevy of uniquely Japanese items, including but not limited to shirts, plates and bowls, trinket, memorabilia, and other assorted items. In order to find these thing, Ms. Armour and her friend Etsuko Lammon actually go to the country to find merchandise for the store.   

“We have a variety of things all imported from Japan, where I go two to three times a year with my brand manager Etsuko. We go and shop and have a great time, and we try to find unique products that we may not have here in America. Because of that, I probably have 15 to 20 items where I’m the only person in America to carry them.” 

Ms. Lammon and Armour both highlighted how diverse their inventory is. Ms. Lammon said, “I think people are looking for something unique. We have a lot of interesting things that make people say “I never thought of that before,” from something silly to things more practical and high-quality." 

Milling around the store was UTC student Paul Haeneye, a criminal justice major who has an intense interest in the Japanese culture and language. He could be seen conversing with several of the Japanese customers around the store, and said I Go Tokyo is a place to practice his speaking skills. 

“I’ve become more confident,” Mr. Haeneye said. “No amount of studying a language can prepare you for when you have to speak it in real life. But when you come here and make friends, you get to improve and I’ve become a lot better at the language.”

Ms. Armour said many of their customers hail from Japanese families, where one of the household members work at one of several Japanese companies in the area. She said pre-COVID, there were over 100 such families in the Chattanooga and North Georgia area. 

“One member of the family comes to America, and usually the rest of the family comes with them,” Ms. Armour said. Those families, along with locals like Paul, have created a solid customer base for I Go Tokyo.

- photo by Joseph Dycus

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