Where to shop in Tokyo

Whether you're looking for the kitsch and kawaii or cutting-edge electronics, Tokyo is a treasure trove for dedicated shoppers, piled high with the weird and wonderful as well as all the major brands. Find out where to shop here – wallets at the ready!
Crowds pass below colorful signs in Akihabara - the historic electronics district
Crowds pass below colorful signs in Akihabara - the historic electronics district. Photo: Shutterstock

Tokyo is one of the world’s premier shopping destinations. The options are immense, from centuries-old emporiums selling traditional crafts and prestigious department stores to cheerful novelty shops where everything is ¥100. Here are our top tips for where to go to making shopping in Tokyo a fabulous experience.

In a city where a good deal of status is attached to brand names, being seen with the right designer-label bag defines the shopper. Even if you don’t know the brand, you can pretty much be assured of quality, a principle of Japanese manufacturing applied to everything from integrated circuits to the glaze on an earthenware pot. The Japanese take great pride in their work, a legacy of the old craft and trade guilds and the country’s artisan traditions.

In Japan ‘the customer is always right’ becomes ‘the customer is God’. Service here is an art; the wrapping, decorating and packaging of goods is all done with remarkable speed and dexterity, and staff will invariably be super-polite.

Although there are some exceptions, prices in Tokyo are generally fixed and non-negotiable. Shops accepting overseas credit cards remain relatively rare, although you shouldn’t have a problem in the main department stores. Large department stores and increasing numbers of retailers targeting the tourism boom are usually happy to refund the 8 percent consumption tax to foreign customers who purchase goods over ¥10,000, but you will have to produce your passport.

1. Department stores and malls

Department stores such as Isetan, Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya are regarded as institutions and like to think of themselves more as cultural centres than just marketplaces. You can find almost any product in these full-service stores and, if the weather is fine, you may be able to relax in the rooftop playground, beer garden or golf range, whole more sophisticated pleasures are provided by in-house art galleries. At the other extreme, Don Quixote has become a powerhouse by pioneering the discount department store for Japan’s deflation era.

As a note, the morning ritual (usually at 10am) when a department store opens its doors is well worth attending. Uniformed staff, immaculately turned out, stand at the main entrance and at the top of the escalators, bowing to each customer in turn.

One big change to Tokyo’s shopping and leisure scene has been the emergence of state-of-the-art living complexes where visitors can be provided with everything they need for an entire day. Developments such as Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, with their striking architecture and cultural facilities, have become destinations in their own right quite apart from the shopping opportunities they provide.

Even smaller malls such as the chic Ando Tadao-designed Omotesando Hills  and Venus Fort in Odaiba are worth checking out, the latter having an artificial sky that cycles through dawn-to-dusk lighting effects.

Busy Harajuku main zebra crossing with Tokyu Plaza shopping mall in the background. Photo: ShutterstockThe busy Harajuku zebra crossing in front of Tokyu Plaza shopping mall. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Electronics

For electronics and hi-tech devices Akihabara, a couple of stops south of Ueno on the Yamanote line, offers many competitively priced stores such as Laox, which stocks duty-free overseas models, and Yodobashi Camera. You can also pick up good deals at Bic Camera, with its main store in Yurakucho opposite the Tokyo International Forum and other branches in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya.

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3. Fashion

For high-end fashion and designer labels, head to Marunouchi and Ginza, where you will also find flagship home branches of worldwide retail successes such as Uniqlo and Muji.

Japanese designers rule in Aoyama and the eclectic youth-orientated stores of Harajuku, as well as in nearby Shibuya. Also well worth a browse are the trendy boutiques of Daikanyama and Naka-Meguro, both a train or subway stop away from Shibuya and Ebisu respectively.

Another dressing-up option is the so-called ‘Fashion Building’. Tokyo has hundreds of these multi-floored malls that rent space to different boutiques to showcase their latest collections; they include places like La Foret in Harajuku and Shibuya’s 109 Building. 

Japanese man and woman tradition dress Traditional Japanese dress for sale in Tokyo. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Traditional crafts

If you are in the market for traditional crafts, then head to Asakusa. While here you can also explore the wide range of kitchen and tableware available in nearby Kappabashi. Rounding out this northeastern Tokyo retail experience is Ueno, where the Ameya Yokocho market area is good for cheap food, cosmetics, clothing and toys. Also good for craft souvenirs are Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku and Ito-ya in Ginza.


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