Tokyo: Shopping For Visitors
Image by Jlascar under Creative Commons License.

Japan, Tokyo Guide (D): Tokyo: Shopping For Visitors

It's hard to imagine any other city in the world competing with Tokyo for sheer quantity of shopping possibilities.

For foreign visitors, particularly those that love to shop, Tokyo should come with a health warning as it's liable to induce dangerous levels of excitement. Fortunately, with this guide, visitors will be shopping like savvy locals in no time, and will be leaving the city with heads full of memories and bags full of souvenirs.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Attractions Map

Guide Name: Tokyo: Shopping For Visitors
Guide Location: Japan » Tokyo
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (D))
# of Destinations: 19
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Loft, Shibuya   Tokyu Hands, Shibuya   109, Shibuya   Don Quijote, Shinjuku   Mandarake, Nakano   Takeshita Dori, Harajuku   Roppongi Hills, Roppongi   Book Off, Nishi-gotanda   Itoya, Ginza   Natsuno, Ginza   Tokyo Character Street, Tokyo Station   Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara   Yamashiroya, Ueno   Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi   Nakamise Dori, Asakusa   Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa   Oriental Bazaar, Omotesando   Tokyo Souvenir Shop Town, Tokyo Tower   Japan Sword, Toranomon  
Author: Thomas Shuttleworth
Author Bio: Tom Shuttleworth is a British born freelance writer based in Tokyo, Japan. After graduating with a degree in Philosophy, he did about the only thing one can do with such a qualification, traveled the world. Numerous trips over five continents eventually brought him to Japan where he has been based for the last five years. He now, tentatively, calls Tokyo home and has published numerous articles covering 'expat' life in the world's largest urban area.
1
Loft, Shibuya

1) Loft, Shibuya

Friends who have made repeated visits to Tokyo haven't been able to control their giddy excitement at the prospect of spending some time in this huge store. Shibuya's Loft has 8 floors of finer versions of almost everything you could want in life, but don't actually need. Yes, it's a place of avarice and gluttony but it's great fun. And addictive!

The basement floor houses an extensive range of stationary, from the quirky to the classy, as well as a great collection...
2
Tokyu Hands, Shibuya

2) Tokyu Hands, Shibuya

On the Tokyu Hands homepage the brand proclaims itself to be the place where “when you visit, you find what you want”. Well, if what you want is something to do with hobbies, crafts, D.I.Y and household, if you can't find it in the gargantuan Shibuya branch, it probably doesn't exist!

The store is divided into twenty-five sections that fill up three interconnected towers over eight floors. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. Finding ones way through the veritable...
3
109, Shibuya

3) 109, Shibuya

Anyone in Japan who hasn't spent their life toiling away in rice fields will have heard of Shibuya's 109. This iconic department store is a leader in Japanese fashion, sometimes used by national J-pop stars for their wardrobes.

109 came to prominence in the 90's when it became a center for gyaru (girl) subculture, which saw young women, mostly in their late teens/early twenties, dressing in dangerously short mini-skirts and terrifying heels, whilst covering themselves in heavy...
4
Don Quijote, Shinjuku

4) Don Quijote, Shinjuku

Shinjuku's Don Quijote is mad. Well, quite frankly, all the Don Quijote stores in Tokyo are a bit weird but the Shinjuku store's lunacy quota is exacerbated by it's location on the cusp of Kabukicho, the city's largest 'entertainment' district. Consequently the store operates as a sort of frontier post, balancing mass market consumerism with a taste of the underground and seedy.

Ultimately, the root of Don Quijote's madness is the bizarre miss-match of items...
Image by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kakidai under Creative Commons License.
5
Mandarake, Nakano

5) Mandarake, Nakano

Fans of manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) should need no introduction to Mandarake, but just in case, this store is the undisputed heavyweight, neigh the  center of worship for Japan’s massive army of otaku (manga/anime fanatics).  

Located in the Nakano Broadway Shopping Mall, just east of Shinjuku, Mandarake started out in 1987 selling used manga.  It now occupies over a dozen stores on the 3rd and 4th floors of the mall and commands respect the world over.  

...
6
Takeshita Dori, Harajuku

6) Takeshita Dori, Harajuku

Takeshita Dori is not of this world. This narrow, 200 m long street takes shoppers and oglers on a mad, hallucinogenic trip through an ethereal world of kitsch, cute, fetish and the, quite frankly, odd. It is one of the most unique Japanese experiences to be had anywhere and must be one of the most bizarre shopping streets in the world.

This is where those famed Harajuku girls (and some guys) come to shop for their Tim Burton inspired, burlesque maid outfits and all the accessories, wigs and...
7
Roppongi Hills, Roppongi

7) Roppongi Hills, Roppongi

Tokyoites love Roppongi Hills and you will, too. It compresses everything one could want from a city experience into a neat, hassle free, half-day package. Centering around the monolithic 54 story Mori Tower, you’ve got fine shopping, fine dining, fine arts and fine views. To be honest, most of the shopping here can be found in other parts of the city or even in your own country, but you’ve come for the overall experience. You’ve come to treat yourself to something nice and then chat about...
Image by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:TigrouMeow under Creative Commons License.
8
Book Off, Nishi-gotanda

8) Book Off, Nishi-gotanda

It might seem brazen to assume that people still buy books (of the paper kind) but judging by the collection housed in this branch of Book Off, people still like the feel of a paper-back. Or maybe they’re just trying to off-load them! Either way, this store has possibly the best collection of used English language books in the city. It’s an important resource for readers, as brand new books command seriously off putting prices in Tokyo, and no collection of the latter can match this Book Off...
9
Itoya, Ginza

9) Itoya, Ginza

Those with a fetish for stationary will find nine-floors of desk-based finery to fawn over in this Ginza store.

Professionals and collectors can get their teeth into an extensive range of writing implements including a collection of ‘money is no object’ pens, safely locked-up in a glass case. Japanophiles, too, will rejoice at the range of calligraphy utensils to choose from.

If you’re looking for gifts with a touch of Japanese class you should check out Itoya’s range of washi,...
Image by Colin McMillen from Stationer Ito-Ya in Ginza, Chuo, under Creative Commons License.
10
Natsuno, Ginza

10) Natsuno, Ginza

Come here for chopsticks. This diminutive store has all its wall space covered in them. They have around 2,500 sets for sale, some of which fetch prices over 100,000 yen (about US$1000), and look like they might have been designed for an Emperor. If that’s out of your price range then you can find plenty of choice at around the 2,000 yen mark.

Of course, you could just pop into a 100 yen shop and pick up a set for that price, but the chopsticks in Natsuno are of the one of a kind variety...
11
Tokyo Character Street, Tokyo Station

11) Tokyo Character Street, Tokyo Station

Travelling with kids? Need to pick up something for nephews and nieces back home? Make a stop at Tokyo Character Street. You probably won't have to go out of your way to get here as it's in the basement of Tokyo station, one of the cities main transport hubs, and itself one of the most impressive buildings in Tokyo.

Located on the first basement floor, Tokyo Character Street is a thoroughfare of 14 shiny (newish) stores that sell just that, characters. Characters from the...
12
Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara

12) Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara

Branches of this chain electronics store can be found throughout Tokyo. There are two reasons for choosing this location in particular. One is that it acts as a great entry/exit point for shopping in Akihabara, a district specializing in electronics. The other is that it's massive. In fact, so huge is this store that it seems to exert it's own gravitational pull, drawing in an international crowd of feverish tech-heads straight from the train station.

Even with nine large floors the...
Image by Rs1421 under Creative Commons License.
13
Yamashiroya, Ueno

13) Yamashiroya, Ueno

If your living space back home is beginning to look like that of Steve Carell’s character in The 40 Year Old Virgin, i.e shelves, mantelpieces, and stands loaded up with ‘cult’ plastic figures and toys, then a visit to Yamashiroya in Ueno will, temporarily at least, be everything you’ve ever wanted. Until you want more.

The store’s narrow, and potentially annoying, staircase takes enthusiasts up through seven floors of toys, characters, and collectibles. Space is tight throughout...
Image by Stéfan under Creative Commons License.
14
Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi

14) Mitsukoshi, Nihonbashi

Make no mistake about it, Mitsukoshi is posh. From the regal lions that guard it’s main entrance (presumably eyeing up the riff raff) to the rooftop garden and it’s manicured bonsai trees, it’s at pains to remind shoppers that it’s a cut above the rest. It’s hardly necessary though, as the brands that are housed here and the prices that come with them are reminder enough. From Burberry to Bvlgari, Armani to Ferragamo, Mitsukoshi is armed to the teeth with credit-card sapping items....
15
Nakamise Dori, Asakusa

15) Nakamise Dori, Asakusa

Nakamise Dori forms the main approach to one of the most revered and popular temples in Tokyo, Sensoji. This is the heart of Asakusa, the once upon a time ‘good time city’ for rowdy traders, merchants and mysterious travelers. Although the entertainment has moved on to parts more salubrious the area still maintains an atmosphere of old school trading, craft and tradition, best sampled on Nakamise Dori, one of the oldest shopping areas in the city.

The narrow street runs for about 250 m...
16
Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

16) Kappabashi Dori, Asakusa

Tokyo is often at the top of 'best food city in the world' lists, with the city being home to tens of thousands of restaurants. All of which need supplies. Kappabashi Dori is where their owners come to get them.

Located in Asakusa to the East, Kappabashi has been in business since about 1912. Today, the 800 m long street packs in over 170 stores, all jammed to the rafters with every conceivable item one might need to operate a restaurant.

Japanese Jamie Olivers aside,...
Image by User:Kentin under Creative Commons License.
17
Oriental Bazaar, Omotesando

17) Oriental Bazaar, Omotesando

You can't miss Oriental Bazaar. The store front is a garish red temple replica that looks like it belongs in Disneyland rather than on exclusive Omotesando Dori. Still, it's enough to attract a steady stream of souvenir hunters through it's doors.

The key word here is 'accessibility'. For Oriental Bazaar is well known, easy to find, and has information in English and staff who speak it well. Ultimately, though, it's about having every kind of...
18
Tokyo Souvenir Shop Town, Tokyo Tower

18) Tokyo Souvenir Shop Town, Tokyo Tower

Iconic Tokyo Tower may have lost it's job in radio communications to Tokyo Sky Tree, but it remains a much loved landmark. It is, however, very tacky and it knows so. As such it shamelessly flogs off a gluttony of plastic, fake, nonsensical and, quite frankly, joyous tat.

So you've been warned, visiting wanna be shoguns and Haiku scribbling Zen thinkers would do well to give Tokyo Tower a wide birth. This is a shopping experience for the visitor who wants to squeal in delight,...
Image by Parag.naik under Creative Commons License.
19
Japan Sword, Toranomon

19) Japan Sword, Toranomon

What could be more Japanese than you're own samurai katana (sword)? World renowned for their sharp blades (we've all seen that scene from The Bodyguard), and their exquisite iron work, these impossibly cool shaped swords have an almost mythical status in the West. But with most things in life, if you've got the money, you can make it happen. And at Japan Sword in Ginza, visitors with deep pockets can get their hands on perhaps the ultimate souvenir from Japan.

Japan Sword is...

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