In Japan, shopping is a big deal. The sheer number and variety of shops in this consumer capital is, honestly, astounding. Often, I will mistakenly take the wrong exit from a familiar train station, and end up in a mall I had no idea existed. Just when I think I've got to grips with our local shopping street, I discover there are 5 more floors of shops in each building, not to mention 3 basement levels. At first it can seem overwhelming, so if you're visiting Tokyo and want to shop, it's a good idea to do some research first! I have by no means explored everything, but here is a list of my favourite shops in Tokyo so far...
1. Darwin Room
Shimo-kitazawa is a cool, relaxed neighbourhood in Tokyo, and has many independent shops. The plant-covered Darwin Room is intriguing both inside and out. Part shop and part museum, this tiny space is a natural historians dream, stuffed full of fascinating objects, books and exhibits. They even have a few seats, where you can relax with a coffee and admire the surroundings.
2. New York Joe Exchange
Located at the other end of Shimo-kitazawa is New York Joe Exchange, a thrift store where you can buy, or sell, clothes. There's loads of reuse stores in this area, but this one is inside an old traditional sento (a Japanese bathhouse), complete with beautiful tiles, and is particularly cheap!
Shelves stacked high with pencils, in every colour you can imagine. Delightful rows of sketchbooks, in size order. Trays filled with a rainbow of watercolour pans and ink bottles. Things you never knew you needed, like pencil caps and beautiful, giant calligraphy brushes. I could spend hours and hours in this art supply store. There are many branches in Tokyo, but the Shinjuku branch is the biggest (and busiest!).
4. 100 Yen Shops
Everyone's heard of these pound/dollar store type shops, found all over Japan. Unlike a pound shop in the UK, however, 100 yen stores are filled with genuinely excellent products! Pretty ceramics, cute souvenirs, stationery, craft and beauty goods. I've bought loads of useful, (and not-so-useful) items for our apartment here. There are a few different chains, the most popular are Daiso and Seria.
5. Tokyu Hands
Tokyu Hands and it's rival-corporation-owned equivalent, Loft, are 'creative life stores'. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but they sell cool stuff! The stationary floor is famous, but my favourite department is the DIY/craft floor, with it's huge range of raw materials, tools and supplies. Last time I returned to the UK, I was accompanied by a suitcase filled with exotic wood, glossy acrylic and sheets of copper...
6. Don Quijote
Often known as Donki, this discount shop is... an assault. Noisy, hot, busy, and cramped; if you feel claustrophobic, it's not for you. However it sells some of the most confusing, hilarious items you'll ever see. Christmas tree shaped gimp mask? Check. Powder to turn your bath into jelly? Check. As well as hilarious tat, they also stock genuinely good things, like cheap Kodak Instax film in a range of colours, a million flavours of Kit Kats, and extensive amounts of Gudetama merch. Oh, and some are open until 5am, if not 24 hours. Drunken, post-karaoke shopping spree, you say?
7. Mount Zine
Inside an unassuming, traditional wooden Japanese shop in Meguro is Mount, a zine library, shop and art gallery. Twice a year they have an open call for makers and artists to submit their zines, and everything is for sale. Go along, buy some super zines and get inspired to make your own!
8. Pass The Baton
In a basement on the busy Omotesando shopping street is Pass The Baton, a reuse shop with a twist. Alongside every pre-owned item for sale is a tag, with a story or a little about it's former owner. Apparently there are items owned by famous people, if you know enough about Japanese popular culture to appreciate that! There are some really interesting antiques, jewellery, clothes and even some up-cycled and handmade items. Worth a browse for unique souvenirs!
9. Mooosh Squishy Shop
When visiting Harajuku, make sure to step off of Takeshita Street and visit Mooosh, a shop selling squishy things. Yep, a shop filled with soft, squishy, scented characters and floppy fake bread and fruit! They also have a ball pit like area, filled with squishy strawberries, perfect for taking some cute photos.
Do you have any favourite shops in Japan, or are there any that are on your wish list to visit? Please let me know!