Shopping in Tokyo
If it is for sale anywhere in the world, you can probably buy it in Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the fashion and cosmetic centers in the Eastern world. Items to look for include electronics, funky fashions, antique furniture and kimono, as well as specialty items like Hello Kitty goods, anime and comics and their associated paraphernalia. Tokyo has some of the largest electronic industries in the world, such as Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba etc.
Cash payment is the norm. Most Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign cards, but post office, 7-Eleven and Citibank ones do and usually have English menus as well (more recently, Mitsubishi-UFJ has opened its ATMs to UnionPay and Discover card users, while Mitsui-Sumitomo allows the use of UnionPay cards for a ¥75 surcharge regardless of time of day). Although credit cards are more and more widely accepted, they are far less widespread than in most other developed countries. The crime rate is very low, so don't be afraid of carrying around wads of cash as the Japanese do. The average Japanese citizen will carry a month's worth of expenses on them (around ¥40,000 give or take). See Buy underJapan. for general caveats regarding electronics and media compatibility.
There are numerous convenience stores throughout Tokyo, which are open around the clock and sell not only food and magazines, but also daily necessities such as underwear and toiletries. Supermarkets are usually open until 22:00, while drugstores and department stores usually close at 21:00.
Anime and manga
Akihabara, Tokyo's Electric Town, is now also the unquestioned center of its otakucommunity, and the stores along Chuo-dori are packed to the rafters with anime(animation) and manga (comics). Another popular district for all things manga/anime is the Nakano ward and its Broadway Shopping arkade. Check out the mandarake shop for loads of used and rare mangas.
In recent years there has been an "otaku boom" in Akihabara. A lot of attention in particular was paid to the town thanks to the popular Japanese drama "Densha Otoko", a (true) love story about an otaku who saves a woman from a molester on a train and their subsequent courtship.
Akihabara was previously known for its many live performances and cosplayers, some of which had drawn negative attention due to extremist performers. These have become increasingly scarce following the Akihabara massacre in 2008, although girls in various maid costumes can still be seen standing along the streets handing out advertisement fliers to passers by for Maid Cafes.
Serious collectors should head for the Antique Mall in Ginza or the Antique Marketin Omotesando, which despite the rustic names are collections of small very specialist shops (samurai armor, ukiyo-e prints, etc.) with head-spinning prices. Mere mortals can venture over to Nishi-Ogikubo, where you can pick up scrolls of calligraphy and such for a few thousand yen.
The Antique Festival (全国古民具骨董祭り) [www] is held over the weekend about 5-6 times a year at the Tokyo Ryutsu Center, on the Tokyo Monorail line, and is well worth a visit.
Jinbocho is to used books what Akihabara is to electronics. It's clustered around the Jinbocho subway stop. The Blue Parrot is another shop located at Takadanobaba on the Yamanote line, just two stops north of Shinjuku.
Cameras and electronics
Ever since Sony and Nikon became synonymous with high-tech quality, Tokyo has been a favored place for buying electronics and cameras. Though the lines have blurred since the PC revolution, each has its traditional territory and stores: Akihabara has the electronics stores, including a large number of duty-free shops specializing in export models, and Shinjuku has the camera stores. Unfortunately, local model electronics are not cheap, but the export models are similar to what you'll pay back home. you can sometimes find cheap local models if you avoid big shops and check smaller retailers. It's also surprisingly difficult to find certain things e.g. games machines.
Shibuya and neighboring Harajuku are the best-known shopping areas for funky, youthful clothes and accessories. Note that, almost without exception, clothes are sized for the petite Japanese frame.
Department stores and exclusive boutiques stock every fashion label imaginable, but for global labels prices in Tokyo are typically higher than anywhere else in the world. The famous Ginza and Ikebukuro's giant Seibu and Tobu department stores (the largest in the world) are good hunting grounds. Recently, Roppongi Hills has emerged as a popular area for high-end shopping, with many major global brands. Other department stores in Tokyo are Mitsukoshi, Sogo, Marui (OIOI), and Takashimaya. Mitsukoshi is Japan's biggest department store chain. Its anchor store is in Nihonbashi. Marui Men store in Shinjuku has eight floors of high-end fashion for men only.
The district for this is Kappabashi Street near Asakusa, also known as “Kitchen Town.” The street is lined with stores selling all kinds of kitchen wares — this is where the restaurants of Tokyo get their supplies. It's also a great place to find cheap Japanese ceramics, not to mention plastic food!
Ochanomizu is to the guitar what Jinbocho is to used books. There, you’ll find what must be the world’s densest collection of guitar shops. Plenty of other musical instruments (though not traditional Japanese ones) are also available.
For touristy Japanese knickknacks, the best places to shop are Nakamise in Asakusa and the Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando, which stock all the kitschy things like kanji-emblazoned T-shirts, foreigner-sized kimonos, ninja outfits for kids and ersatz samurai swords that can be surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere. Both also have a selection of serious antiques for the connoisseur, but see also Antiques above.
Bustling open-air bazaars in the Asian style are rare in Tokyo, except for Ueno's Ameyoko, a legacy of the postwar occupation. Yanaka Ginza in the Shitamachi Taito district, a very nice example of a neighborhood shopping street, makes for an interesting afternoon browse.
There are often small flea and antique markets in operation on the weekend at major (and minor) shrines in and around Tokyo.