American Wave Exterior
American Wave Exterior

I admit – I was one of those little girls who raided her mum’s closet for outfits and spangle, and I clip-clopped around in her heels. I still enjoy the experience of getting dressed up and I look forward to shopping with the same fervour. Many of us resort to shopping online for a broader choice of goods and sizes that fit. When special occasions like balls, parties and functions arise, let’s be honest, it’s nice to be assured that you will be the only person in that ‘special’ dress’. Ever stood in line next to another lovely lady wearing the same ensemble?!

American Wave Interior
American Wave Interior

If you want something unusual, look no further than American Wave! A few years ago some actor friends from Tokyo introduced me to the shop and I have been hooked ever since. It promises a truly unique shopping experience. Walking through the doors is like stepping into your own secret time machine, with a V.I.P. pass to indulge your inner ‘50s starlet! Row upon row of sumptuous gowns and dresses hang begging for you to try them on, whilst retro-bling winks and sparkles at you enticingly from behind glass display cases. Whether you wish to just leisurely browse, look for little gifts or buy a top-to-toe outfit, indulgent fun is right here on the Highway 58!

American Wave Lilac
American Wave Lilac
American Wave Chris and staff
American Wave Chris and staff

American Wave is owned and run by Chris Towe, from Kentucky. It has a dedicated following, with customers ranging from the fabulously famous to foreign ‘locals’ and tourist shoppers. Chris’s team is made up of helpful, knowledgeable, patient assistants, who can communicate in English. The store is a treasure trove of goodies including: ladies’/men’s clothing, jewellery, shoes, bags, accessories, bric-a-brac and vintage memorabilia from 1900s to ‘almost modern’. All clothing/shoes are vetted for style, quality and condition. Clothing is immaculate, well pressed and cleaned, so there is no need to go to any extra expense before wearing it. The items are lovingly worn rather than simply recycled, and there is something for most budgets.

American Wave Shoes
American Wave Shoes

Chris tries to keep a full range of sizes and the uniqueness of each piece is guaranteed. ‘Like’ them on Facebook and get to know them!

American Dream Jewelry
American Dream Jewelry
American Wave White Tulle
American Wave White Tulle

Sales: Chris knows the social calendar well. The store has sales four times per year, with 25% discount. Customers who mention the store’s Facebook page get an automatic discount of 10%.

Hours: Open from 1.00pm to 9.00pm, 7 days per week.

Directions: The shop is located in Ginowan, Oyama, quite close to MCAS Futenma. It is directly next to the school (‘Oyama Shogakko’), on the opposite side of the 58 from MCAS Futenma.

Driving north from Naha, you pass the Okinawa Actors School and then a little further up there is a large school (set slightly back off of the road) on your left. The shop is directly after this, so be careful not to overshoot!

Parking: There is a car park at the back, which can be entered via a very small side street that runs between the shop and the school. To access the car park slow down as you drive past the school (on your left) and then turn very sharply left, directly as you reach the end of the school’s grounds. The car park is just to your right at the back of the store.

Note: If you are thinking about buying a vintage dress I would recommend that you go prepared with the right lingerie/under-garments. A well-fitting bra, teddy (bodyshaper) or even a corset is a great help to look the right shape in some of the tailored garments, which were designed for underwear that is far more uplifting than our comfy undies nowadays! I arrived in a bikini the first time and believe me it doesn’t work! Don’t be shy – the staff here can give you help getting the look right and they allow you the freedom and space to shop at a pace that suits you.

Mums with strollers and busy toddlers will find that the shop assistants are fantastic, but you may enjoy the novelty of the experience more if you take time to go alone (or with friends) if you can.

Pay: Yen and American Dollars

ビンテージショップ American Wave
〒901-2223 沖縄県宜野湾市大山5-3-9
In English:  5-3-9 Oyama, Ginowan-shi, Japan 〒901-2223

Phone: 098-890-3229



  1. Hi Jen,
    I am so glad that you have shopped there. I hope that you managed to find something that you like!

    As you mentioned, Chris flies back to the US to buy stock and he tries to restock prior to the busy social season. He is a lovely guy, a real perfectionist and he and Hideki San (an English-speaking assistant) have a fantastic foundation in fashion (and music). If Chris knows that there is a particular ‘look’ or designer that you are searching for he will try to bring you something back, if you ask him to. He is always very helpful and Hideki San provides great ‘lessons’ in the history of fashion items, for anyone who gets their eras confused!

    American Wave is a boutique thus it is petite. It is a similar size to many boutiques in Tokyo, London, Australia and other places globally. There are 6 rows of ladies clothing, I believe, and occasionally an extra rack outside. As I mentioned in the article, it isn’t really designed for baby strollers, or toddlers with sticky fingers, although Chris and his crew are very kiddy-friendly. I am sure that they will be happy to assist if mothers need an extra pair of hands/eyes whilst shopping.

    I have never shopped specifically for vintage goods in America so I am unsure how prices compare, but I am sure that it is cheaper. The prices are similar to those on the mainland and I have paid the same/more for goods in London/Australia/Holland. These countries are marginally more expensive than Japan (based upon figures for central Tokyo – not Okinawa). Working on the current GBP to JPY rate I would agree that it is not ‘cheap’, and there are certainly some pricey pieces in the store. Chris likes to collect designer items and many are one-offs.

    Sizes: Chris tries his best to carry a range of sizes and many of the dresses that I had my eye on were way too long/big because I am short/small. I would agree with Jen in that they run smaller than what we see on labels today, as manufacturers keep changing the sizes! There is also a lot of Lycra etc now that wasn’t in production then, which means that we get used to clothes that ‘give’ a lot more. Prêt-à-porter clothing didn’t become available widely available until the 60s/70s and many clothes were made at home prior to this and tailored to the wearer’s exact size. It is best to try things on. Sometimes they look teeny on the hangover but fit well – this happens the other way around too, so be prepared! I think I said in the article…adequate undergarments make a big difference!

    The dresses that you see in the photos above are between a size 6 – 10 UK (approximately a 0-4 American?), but the white one had big clips at the back to keep it on me. The tailoring of a garment needs to be taken into consideration: In 1950 a size 8 was not the same as an 8 is now! The 1950s dresses tend to be very fitted at the waist and measurements are given in centimetres on many labels. The mauve dress had about a 58cm (23″) waist but big bust in comparison – but I should stress that this was one of the teeniest things in the shop!

    I think that Chris keeps a stock of garments that are not on display so there is a possibility that he has something for your size that is not on the rack.

    I didn’t really mention what a great place this is for men’s shopping. I have seen guys leave with an armful of vintage summer shirts, and many mainlanders seem to head straight here. The guys sizes are not all tiny and I am guessing the fit is more uniform, and easier to guess. They have great hats, belts and shoes too, as well as some little trinkety-type things that make original presents for men. My daughter likes the vintage evening bag selection, which are reasonably priced.


  2. I was in here about a year ago and the place is very cool, but by no stretch of the imagination cheap. It is actual vintage items that Chris told me he flies back to the US periodically to shop for and then ships back here to Okinawa. Just before I had been in there I had seen a dress on ModCloth that I really liked, and then saw one in here that was almost exactly like it, only twice the price (vintage-inspired item vs actual vintage), about 150$ vs 300$ (more now b/c the yen rate has changed). From what I saw, the sizes tend to be on the smaller side, and the store is small as well, “row upon row” might be a bit of a stretch of the imagination. But, each item in there is unique, of good quality, and most of the dresses/gowns that I looked at were real gems. If you like quality vintage then this place is definitely worth a visit.


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