Everything you need and want is in this city. The best of Japan and the world can be found here: from traditional goods to luxury brands, essentials to quirky novelty items, limited editions to mass market goods. The categories and choices are endless, and between your shopping legs and Tokyo’s innumerable shops, it’s most likely you who’s going to give out first.
Shop until you drop: The challenge to any shopper in Tokyo is to know where to find what you want. Or at the very least, have an idea of it. This is especially true for tourists who are only spending a few days in the city. Good thing, the major shopping districts are sightseeing destinations as well. So to help you manage your time, we’ve rounded up the shopping attractions in Tokyo’s most popular tourist areas. Ready your cash and credit cards because splurging is inevitable!
Once you step out of Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit, you will be met by a scramble of people and a dizzying barrage of billboards and shop signs. Welcome to Shibuya, Tokyo’s liveliest shopping neighborhood.
Fashion boutiques & department stores: Shibuya 109, Center Gai
Perhaps Shibuya’s vibrancy can be attributed to its target market, the youth. This district is most known for being the city’s teen fashion capital and at the heart of it is Shibuya 109. From the famous Shibuya crossing, you can easily spot this iconic building, which is dedicated entirely to a young female’s fashion needs. Floors upon floors of shoes, clothes, costumes, accessories, and beauty products can be found here.
Aside from Shibuya 109, you can also find several other departments stores, boutiques, 100 Yen discount shops, and independent stores scattered all over Shibuya’s labyrinth of shopping streets and alleyways. Your main access point is most likely Center Gai at the base of Tsutaya Building – the one with a Starbucks Café overlooking the intersection. From there, just follow your curiosity and turn as you like.
Shibuya 109: http://www.shibuya109.jp/en/
Easily, you can spot familiar international brands like Forever 21 and H&M, and local favorites like ABC Mart. The inner roads showcase smaller shops while the main thoroughfares house bigger malls like Seibu Shibuya and Parco.
Seibu Shibuya: http://www.sogo-seibu.jp.e.ld.hp.transer.com/foreign/en/shibuya/
Parco Shibuya: http://www.parco.co.jp/customer/shibuya/part-3.php
Tokyu Hands Flagship Store
Taking a break from fashion, spend some time getting lost in Tokyu Hands’ flagship store located along Inokashira Street. For those not familiar with it, Tokyu Hands’ is an amazing one stop shop for hobbies, home improvement, and lifestyle products. There are a lot of unique items here – from functional ones that you thought never existed but now desperately need to quirky must-haves just for the sake of. Tokyu Hands have branches all over Japan, but since Shibuya is the first and largest store, it is supposed to be the best. You can also stop by at the café if you need to take a breather from all that walking and shopping around Shibuya.
Tokyu Hands: https://shibuya.tokyu-hands.co.jp/en/
A trip to Harajuku is always interesting with its fashionably kawaii and eccentric charm. The kind of fashion you can find here may or may not be too over the top for your own style, but there’s always a cute and unique trinket to bring home from one of its shops.
Right across JR Harajuku Station is the entrance to Takeshita Dori, this neighborhood’s main retail artery. This narrow street is crammed with boutiques catering to edgier styles interspersed with equally fashionable cafés and dessert shops. There are a number of shops that sell accessories and novelty items, and if you’re the type to go crazy over Japan’s popular 100-yen stores, you can find Central Tokyo’s largest one here – Daiso Harajuku. Vintage lovers will also find their soulmates at Takeshita Dori and its smaller alleyways as the area is also home to a lot of second-hand shops.
The end of Takeshita Dori leads to Meiji Avenue where Laforet Harajuku is located. This building houses a department store that specializes in Harajuku’s brand of fashion and a multi-purpose hall for fashion-related events.
Laforet Harajuku: http://www.laforet.ne.jp/en/
Omotesando Avenue: Omotesando Hills, luxury boutiques, and architecture
Dubbed as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysée, Omotesando Avenue breathes luxury with its elegant Zelkova trees and upmarket ambiance. This is a street dedicated to branded fashion where big names in the international fashion industry like Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have established shop. Similarly, malls such as Omotesando Hills and Tokyu Plaza carry posh brands in apparel and other lifestyle categories.
The selection in Omotesando may not rival Ginza’s. However, what makes this avenue stand out and worth visiting is the stunning architecture and interior design of its shops and malls. Particularly noteworthy are Tokyu Plaza’s kaleidoscope-like escalator entrance, Coach’s herringbone-patterned glass exteriors, and Omotesando Hills’ contoured design that follows the street’s natural slope. Buying or not, a walk along this thoroughfare is a pleasurable experience. It’s just a few minutes on foot from Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori, and if you follow the road, you would’ve reached Shibuya without even noticing it.
Ginza is Tokyo at its most international and most glamorous. Retail therapy doesn’t come cheap here, but at the very least, navigating it is easy-peasy. Most of the action is along Chuo-dori, a 1-km shopping street, and as an added treat, this central avenue is exclusive to pedestrians on weekend afternoons and public holidays.
World-class premium shopping and dining is Ginza’s specialty. Flagship stores of many international designer labels have found their homes here along with the big brands of the local scene. In short, the best of Japan and the best of the world are contained in this one city block.
The district’s landmark department store is Mitsukoshi located at the main junction where Chuo Dori intersects with Harumi Dori. Its “Ginza Terrace” on the 9th floor of the building is a nice place to unwind if you want to take a breather, while gastronomic finds are the highlights of its basement floors that serve as Depachika or food halls. Across Mitsukoshi is another department store called Ginza Wako whose antique clock tower had become the symbol of Ginza. If you are looking for fine jewelry, porcelain, and crystal, include this building in your itinerary.
Mitsukoshi Ginza: http://mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/ginza/foreign_customer/index.html
Ginza Wako: http://www.wako.co.jp/en/
Besides fashion, Ginza also boasts of specialty shops. Hakuhinkan is Japan’s most loved toy store. Takumi is the expert for elegant folk crafts. Itoya is 9 floors worth of stationery and art supplies. Specialty shops could also mean artisanal shops of different items from traditional Japanese desserts called Wagashi to handmade chopsticks. Whatever your interests are, might as well check if there’s a specialty shop in Ginza for it.
Generations-old department stores and specialty shops
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the five main roads to and from Tokyo converged at Nihonbashi and because of this, it became Tokyo’s leading commercial district at the time. The remnants of these high times can still be witnessed in Nihonbashi to this day with the area being home to Japan’s central bank – Bank of Japan, and its oldest department store Mitsukoshi; established in 1904 but with roots as a kimono shop that dates back to 1673. It is housed in a building registered as an Important Cultural Property by the local government. Takashiyama’s Nihonbashi branch is another noteworthy commercial establishment. Opened in 1933, it exhibits the same classic store elegance of its neighbor Mitsukoshi.
Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi: http://mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/nihombashi/index.html
Takashiyama Nihonbashi: https://www.takashimaya.co.jp/tokyo/store_information/
Nihonbashi should make your list of Tokyo shopping stops if you are particularly interested in traditional crafts, art, and other cultural items. Head to Mitsukoshi for a great selection of kimono and artworks. Within the vicinity, you will also find many generations-old specialty shops. To name a few, there’s Yamamotoyama for green tea and traditional sweets; Zohiko for lacquerware; Ubukeya for cutting tools; and Haibara for washi paper.
Upmarket shopping with design and modern art
When it comes to shopping in Roppongi, only two places come to mind: Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. Both are mixed use commercial developments that bring together retail shops, residential apartments, office spaces, entertainment, art and public use facilities in one area. The profile is upmarket, a bit toned-down version of Ginza shopping.
As the district is known to be an art destination, you may find art-related items and souvenirs for sale in one of its galleries. The famous Art Triangle Roppongi consisting of The National Art Center, The Suntory Museum of Art, and The Mori Art Museum will surely have items to interest any art fan in their respective museum shops. On the other hand, Axis Design near Roppongi Hills caters to lovers of interior design. Home and office wares plus a variety of lifestyle pieces are sold in this six-story building, which is practically a shrine for contemporary craftsmanship.
Axis Design: http://www.axisinc.co.jp/english/
Designed mainly for tourists, Tokyo’s man-made island Odaiba has a lot of shopping-cum-entertainment complexes like Diver City, Decks, Aquacity, and Palette Town.
Expect some theme-based shopping and attractions in these malls. For instance, you can shop for Gundam-related toys at Diver City whose main crowd pleaser is its life-sized Gundam robot. Close by, Decks Tokyo Beach known for its indoor theme parks including the Tokyo Joypolis dedicates an entire floor to showcase how kids of yesteryears have fun. Daiba Itchome Shotengai on the 4th level of Decks Seaside Mall is a nice place to shop for retro pop culture souvenirs and quirks. There’s a lot of fun and impulse buying to be had here.
For those aiming for some refinement, Venus Fort at Palette Town is a shopping mall with the elegant ambiance of a European city. Here you can enjoy a wide array of fashion boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and a few outlet shops.
Akihabara is for the aficionados. If your obsession is anything electronics, games, or Otaku-related, then this district is your own piece of heaven.
Akihabara Electric Town
Japanese technology is among the best in the world and when it comes to consumer electronics, you will find yourself overwhelmed with choices at Akihabara Electric Town. The big electronics stores to watch out for are the likes of Yodobashi, Labi, Sofmap, Akky Duty Free, Ishimaru, and Laox. The majority of these big retailers are located along Chuo Dori and can be accessed from the Electric Town exit of Akihabara Station.
However, if you wander around Electric Town’s back streets, you will also discover smaller shops that may give you better bargains. Aside from the regular items, some stores also have on hand secondhand phones and gadgets plus unique finds. Scouting for analog stuff or some old-school parts? You might just get lucky.
Yodobashi Camera: http://www.yodobashi.com (Japanese only)
Labi: http://www.yamadalabi.com/akihabara/ (Japanese only)
Sofmap: https://www.sofmap.com (Japanese only)
Akky Duty Free: http://akky-jp.com/eg/shop02
Manga and Anime shopping for Otaku
Akihabara is also the place where the best of game, manga, and anime worlds lies at your fingertips. Life imitating art and geeking out are widely embraced here. Hence, the presence of themed cafés, costume shops, and a slew of events inspired by any one of those fictional worlds.
For a crash course on Otaku culture, one of the best places to go is Mandarake. This 8-floor complex houses impressive line-ups of manga titles, artworks, cosplay and character goods, video and card games, action figures, and a whole lot of collectibles.
Unique souvenirs in Tokyo Solamachi
Above, there’s the magnificent view of the city. Below, there’s a lot of shopping to be had, especially if you’re on the lookout for souvenirs.
Tokyo Solomachi sits at the base of the popular tourist spot Tokyo Skytree. There are more than 300 shops to get lost in and amazing dining options. Its 4th level is where you could find a lot of interesting stores. To start, there’s Nippon-ichi that sells specialty goods from around the country. Kyukyodo, a Kyoto-based store founded in 1663, specializes in calligraphy supplies and Japanese paper products. For something samurai-themed, there’s Sengokudama.
Popular character shops also abound, where you can source new items to add to your collection of Hello Kitty, Studio Ghibli, and Medicom memorabilia. Limited editions that feature the Tokyo Skytree are offered in many of the shops. Do take note that these are store exclusives you won’t find anywhere else.
From cute, we then go to tasty. The food section is on the second floor, which means edible souvenirs! Niki No Kashi is a snack shop of every flavor. Morozoff is a chocolatier from Kobe with an 85-year history. Elsewhere on the ground floor, there’s the super popular dessert souvenir Tokyo Banana.
Steeped in tradition and bargains galore, Asakusa offers the best downtown shopping experience. Here, old-world charm meets pop culture, and for outsiders looking in, it’s an overwhelming introduction to the rich culture of Japan.
Nakamise Dori: 300 meters of souvenir stores
Nakamise Dori is the long and narrow street that leads to Sensoji Temple from the Kaminarimon Gate. The distance is about 300 meters and along it are numerous stalls that catch the attention of every souvenir-hunting traveler. There are your usual trinkets – keychains, magnets, pens, etc., mixed in with traditional items like masks, lanterns, and various temple items. Within the vicinity are similar shopping streets that offer items like confectionery, ceramics, washi paper, and many other keepsakes.
Kappabashi Dori: World’s largest kitchen ware shopping street
Besides traditional crafts and souvenirs, Asakusa is Tokyo’s kitchenware republic with Kappabashi Dori’s extensive selection of anything about kitchens except for the actual food. Shop for knives, ceramics, earthenware, kitchen utensils, furniture, equipment, and other implements from traditional to high-tech ones in this kilometer-long retail street run by kitchen experts. For the casual shoppers, food sample souvenirs like keychains are very popular.
The hive that is Shinjuku is the most confusing to navigate but has the most to offer in terms of having scale and range of products sold in a single area. Above and underground, Shinjuku will spoil you with choices. If in case you can’t go around Tokyo and had to pick just one stop for your shopping needs, this should be it.
Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world, caters to millions of passengers in a day. No wonder businesses flock to this area to get a piece of that supersized market. The station itself is flanked by several department stores with Odakyu, Keio, Mylord, Lumine, Takashimaya Times Square, and Isetan as the major ones. Some of these malls have direct access to the station while the rest are a short walk away.
Mylord: http://www.shinjuku-mylord.com (Japanese only)
Takashimaya Times Square: http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/shinjuku/store_information/
Isetan Shinjuku: http://isetan.mistore.jp/store/shinjuku/foreign_customer/index.html
As characteristic of malls, these places aim to have everything you need in one building while different brands compete for prominence. For tourists, what stands out the most is the Depachika or the food hall section located in the basement. It contains the most amazing array of edible treats served fresh or good to pack as souvenir items. It is almost always crowded and nearing the mall’s closing hours, you can score good deals from price markdowns offered by many stalls.
Other Store Formats
Around the station, you’ll find more retailers waiting for you to come in. Japan’s iconic 100-yen shops and drugstores litter the smaller alleys while on the main roads, megastores like Yodabashi, Bicqlo – the hybrid store collaboration of Bic Camera and Uniqlo, Kinokuniya Bookstore, Disk Union – 7 levels worth of vinyl records and other audio gems, Sekaido arts and crafts store, and the popular variety store chain Don Quijote dominate. As an added tip, this Don Quijote branch in Shinjuku is open 24 hours, just perfect for your last minute shopping spree.
Kinokuniya Bookstore: https://www.kinokuniya.co.jp/contents/en/
Disk Union: http://diskunion.net/st/shop/e_index.html
Sekaido: http://www.sekaido.co.jp (Japanese only)
Don Quijote: http://www.donki.com/en/
12. Nakameguro and Daikanyama
Independent shops, vintage finds, café hangouts
If everything we’ve mentioned up to this point is too mainstream for you, might we suggest that you take a little detour to the suburbs. Nakameguro and Daikanyama are residential enclaves filled with independent shops run by local designers, quaint cafés, vintage shops, and other hideaways. Hipster is the popular term used these days for such places. In any case, if unique finds are your thing, you’ll find these corners very delightful. Both neighborhoods are just a few minutes by train from Shibuya, and if you happen to love the neighborhood shopping vibe here, you might also want to check similar suburban hangouts of Shimokitazawa, Kichijoji, and Koenji.
Daikanyama T-Site: http://real.tsite.jp/daikanyama/english/index.html
Thumbnail image is from Flickr