Last month, it was announced that Chinese insurance company Anbang Insurance Group (安邦保险集團 /安邦保險集團) purchased luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria New York for a 1.95 billion USD, the largest ever paid for a hotel and the largest single-asset transaction in New York this year. Did they seal the deal over WeChat?
The seller, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. will operate the hotel under its current name for the next 100 years. The new owner plans a “major renovation to restore the property to its historic grandeur”.
The US government, who has accused the Chinese government of spying (and been accused themselves), has espionage concerns over the sale. It’s not just that Anbang’s founder and chairman Wu Xiaohui (吴小辉 / 吴小辉) is Deng Xiaoping’s grandson and its directors include Xiaolu Chen (陈小鲁 / 陳小魯) whose father, Chen Yi (陈毅 / 陳毅), was one of the Ten Marshals of the People’s Liberation Army, former Mayor of Shanghai, and former Foreign Minister and Zhu Yunlai (朱云来 / 朱雲來), son of former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji (朱镕基 / 朱鎔基). The Waldorf Astoria is the home of the US Ambassador to the United Nations and hosts leaders and diplomats from around the world. Of course the Chinese know this. Deng Xiaoping himself stayed and met with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the hotel in 1974.
The acquisition of the property is part of a trend of Chinese real estate investment in United States that sees Chinese nationals as the top foreign buyers of property in the United States by value:
“According to the National Realtors Association (NAR) survey, the Chinese spent $22 billion on U.S. housing in the 12 months through March — 72 percent more than they spent the year before. Among foreign buyers, Canadians ranked highest in the share of transactions, at 19 percent, but the Chinese bought by far the most expensive homes, with a median price of over half a million dollars. That’s compared to the $213,000 spent by the average Canadian buyer of U.S. real estate, $141,000 spent by the average Mexican, and about $200,000 spent by the average American.”
In 44 states, they are in the top 5 of all foreign buyers. The boom in foreign real estate investment is due in part to growing wealth, government restrictions back home to tamp down corruption and property speculation, a desire to diversify investments, and a belief in the stability foreign investments. According to The Wall Street Journal,
“Real-estate agents typically divide buyers into four distinct groups: the super-wealthy buying properties upward of $15 million for personal use; those buying homes for a few million dollars, also for personal use; those purchasing investment properties, usually in the $1 million to $2 million range, to lease out; and those buying in bulk, as a commercial strategy.”
A Chinese woman is reported to have bought a 6.5 million USD apartment in the shadow-casting ultra-luxury tower One57 for her two-year old daughter.
In New York City, high-profile properties in which Chinese have taken a significant stake include 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, the General Motors Building (home of the Fifth Avenue Apple Store), and Park Avenue Plaza. Chinese developers, who have learned to manage large projects from experience at home, are involved with ground-up construction of properties such as a luxury condo buildings in Williamsburg at 429 Kent Avenue (with listings on China’s leading Chinese real estate site fang.com) and in Midtown Manhattan at 610 Lexington Avenue. The Greenland Group Co. will own a 70% part of the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park), a controversial development project in Brooklyn that began with the Barclays Center.
Queens, where you may have noticed a lot of Chinese people live, has also seen significant Chinese real estate investment.
Queens rapper Awkwafina has titles guaranteed to make the entire Upper East Side cringe. With songs like “My Vag,” “Yellow Ranger,” “NYC Bitche$” and “Queef,” she tackles sexuality, race and negative stereotypes.
She’s still relatively unknown, but not for long. Her music videos have big numbers on YouTube both because they’re badass and because they’re hilarious. Her satire is like the X-rated version of The Daily Show, and you’ll find yourself laughing and memorizing the lyrics all in one go. Her first album dropped this month, and with a slew of live performances lined up, Awkwafina is on the verge of hitting it big.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless you absolutely dread shopping. If you’re having trouble finding the right gift, this guide will give you ideas for unique gifts and products made with Japanese craftsmanship and ingenuity.
Traditional Japanese Gifts/Kimono
- Kimono House
131 Thompson Street (between Houston and Prince Streets)
Kimono House is a full-service store specializing in kimono, obi, yukata, and haori (jackets) in a wide range of styles and prices and designs for men, women, and children.
- Kimono Lovers Brooklyn
This online store offers kimono, haori (jackets), and obi (sashes) at affordable prices.
464 Broome Street (between Green and Mercer Streets)
Kiteya features a blend of traditional craftworks and contemporary design. You’ll find exotic kimono and delicate accessories, elegant paper, and children’s clothing in this expansive shop.
23 W. 19th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
This tiny Chelsea shop is packed with an assortment of beautiful goods from Japan: Stationery, toys, ukiyo-e prints, even kimono. Kyotoya also has a wide selection of teapots as well as tea.
Arts and Antiques
- About Glamour
107A N. 3rd Street – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
A multi-retail space selling vintage clothing, antiques, and Japaense stationery, About Glamour also serves as an art gallery.
97 3rd Avenue (between 12th and 13th Streets)
Makari is a Japanese antiques store that also serves as a gallery showcasing the work of Japanese artists. In addition to art, Makari offers tableware, lacquerware, and ceramics.
306 Water Street – DUMBO, Brooklyn
You’ll find a full range of beautiful and elegant Japanese goods at Shibui.
- Japanese Culinary Center
711 3rd Avenue (entrance at 45th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
You don’t have to be a culinary professional to shop at Japanese Culinary Center, an excellent place to find tableware, knives, and kitchen supplies.
57 Warren Street (between W. Broadway and Church Street)
Korin has serious knives for the serious chef. You can also find a variety of kitchen utensils and beautiful tableware.
620 8th Avenue at 40th Street
16 W. 19th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
455 Broadway (between Grand and Howard Streets)
Japan’s famous “no brand” store has four locations here in New York. You can find MUJI in Times Square, Chelsea, Soho, and – if you’re really procrastinating – at JFK before your flight to your parents’ house for Christmas. MUJI’s concept is all about simplicity and functionality; it doesn’t quibble with the fru-fru stuff. Unpretentious clothing, clean and balanced storage solutions, well designed kitchen gadgets, and basic electronics are sold here, making it the perfect place for the practical person on your gift list. Since MUJI is dedicated to efficiency and eco-friendliness, you can feel good about making green gift choices during this holiday season.
- Sara Japanese Pottery
950 Lexington Avenue (between 69th and 70th Streets)
Find Japanese dinnerware, glassware, and accessories in ceramics, glass, bamboo, textiles, and lacquer made by both Japanese and American artists at Sara, an Upper East Side establishment that Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s calls his “favorite pottery source in New York.”
- A Bathing Ape
91 Greene Street (between Prince and Spring Streets)
A Bathing Ape, run by popular Japanese DJ Nigo, is a clothing store that focuses on casual comfort.
203 W. 125th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
First opened in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood, Atmos sells all kinds of sneakers and other footwear in Harlem.
- Blue in Green
8 Greene Street (between Canal and Grand Streets)
Men’s clothing store Blue in Green specializes in Japanese denim.
- Entrepreneur New York
29 Kenmare Street (between Mott and Elizabeth Streets)
For the person on your gift list who is into streetwear, Entrepreneur New York provides a mix of fashion from American and Japanese underground cultures.
- Habu Textiles
135 W. 29th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Suite 804
Named after the poisonous snake from Okinawa, Habu Textiles is a yarn and fabric store that sells patterns for people who can actually make their own clothing.
- Kamakura Shirts
400 Madison Avenue (between 47th and 48th Streets)
A purveyor of made-to-measure men’s shirts, Kamakura Shirts is a place for the consummate professional on your list. JapanCulture•NYC attended the store’s first anniversary party and learned first-hand about the owners’ commitment to quality and customer service.
307 W. 38th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Named after a tropical pitcher plant, Nepenthes carries Engineered Garments and other top quality clothing for men and women.
- Seigo Neckwear
1248 Madison Avenue (between 89th and 90th Streets)
762 Third Avenue (at 47th Street)
Once you’ve purchased shirts Kamakura Shirts, why not buy Japanese-style ties to go with them?Seigo Neckwear has unique designs made of 100% pure silk woven in Kyoto and hand-blocked silk-screened ties produced in Niigata.
- Self Edge
157 Orchard Street (between Rivington and Stanton Streets)
Self Edge is another denim store that carries the best Japanese brands.
666 5th Avenue (at 53rd Street)
31 W. 34th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
546 Broadway (between Prince and Spring Streets)
If you want funky-cool clothing for the fashion-conscious loved one on your list, head to UNIQLO. From outerwear to underwear, UNIQLO has everything you might need in bright, solid colors and comfortable material. The company is partnered with manufacturers to create stylish casual wear at affordable prices.
321 Bleecker Street (between Christopher and Grove Streets)
Run by Japanese designer Kanako Morino Mirenda, Yamak is a charming boutique selling chic women’s clothing and accessories.
Books, Anime, and Manga
1073 Avenue of the Americas (between 40th and 41st Streets)
If the bookworms on your list like books about Japan, Kinokuniya has you covered. Kinokuniya is THE bookstore of Japan, stocking books about Japanese culture, pop culture, history, aesthetics – you name it. In addition to books, they have CDs by Japanese musicians, DVDs of Japanese popular movies and anime, and unique gift items. Design shop Waza is located on the second floor.
- Book Off
49 W. 45th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Book Off buys and sells secondhand books and CDs. There is a wide range of titles (Japanese and English) that fit any budget.
- Forbidden Planet
832 Broadway (between 12th and 13th Streets)
The place to go for manga and anime, Forbidden Planet has a ton of toys, too.
- Image Anime
242 W. 30th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
With a wide assortment of action figures and model kits, Image Anime prides itself on being the “ultimate source for Japanese anime collectibles.”
- Midtown Comics
200 W. 40th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), 2nd Floor
459 Lexington Avenue (at 45th Street)
64 Fulton Street (at Gold Street)
FAO Schwarz – 767 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)
Midtown Comics carries a selection of manga, anime, and Japanese action figures.
Gadgets and Games
- AC Gears
69 E. 8th Street (between University Place and Greene Street)
A great place to go for the gadget geek. AC Gears has the latest electronic gizmos from Japan, including headphones and watches.
126 Prince Street (between Greene and Wooster Streets)
Kidrobot is a producer and retailer of designer toys, importing items from Japan, Hong Kong, and Europe.
- My Plastic Heart
210 Forsyth Street (between Houston and Stanton Streets)
Shop My Plastic Heart for designer toys such as kaiju and Japanese vinyl.
- Nintendo World Store
10 Rockefeller Plaza (between 48th and 49th Streets)
The place to go for Nintendo games, accessories, clothing, and toys, Nintendo World Store also has a section dedicated Pokémon. If you want a break from shopping, stop buy and play games.
233 W. 42nd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
Sanrio’s Times Square boutique features the cutest toys and accessories from its line of adorable characters, most notably Hello Kitty.
- Toy Tokyo
91 2nd Avenue (between 5th and 6th Streets)
Many of Toy Tokyo’s products are from Japan and Hong Kong, but they sell domestic items as well.
- Toy Qube
37-06 Prince Street, Flushing, Queens
Another store that boasts toys and other items from Japan and Hong Kong, Toy Qube’s Queens location offers an alternative to fighting the crowds in the city.
155 Plymouth Street – DUMBO, Brooklyn
Limelight Marketplace – 47 W. 20th Street (at 6th Avenue)
Zakka is a specialty store for Japanese design books, toys, and shirts by Japanese artists.
- Minamoto Kitchoan
509 Madison Avenue (between 52nd and 53rd Streets)
For luxurious wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionery, head to Minamoto Kitchoan.
- Roycé Chocolates
509 Madison Avenue (between 52nd and 53rd Streets)
Hailing from Sapporo in Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan, Roycé, the inventors of the potatochip chocolate, has milky, melt-in-your-mouth products sure to please the sweet tooth on your Christmas list.
If you don’t want to fight the crowds, here are two online dealers of Japanese products:
Handbags and accessories designed and made by Yukiko Sato
- Wuhao New York
Site for Japanese tenugui, Japan’s most versatile cloth
Check out this link:
It looks like Japanese brand COMME des GARÇONS is staying busy this month and takes New York City by storm. Not only are they opening their multi-brand Dover Street Market concept store on December 21, today the brand also announced the re-opening of its COMME des GARÇONS flagship store in NYC. The store stays at its previous location at 520 W22nd Street.
Check out this link: