Shopping in Tokyo: 10 Tokyo Shopping Tips for the Best Experience!

10 Tips for Shopping in Tokyo, According to Locals and Frequent Travellers

Shopaholic or not, you’re surely going to need these!

Aside from being a dream travel destination, many tourists also love shopping in Tokyo. As depicted in many famous animes and Japanese movies, the capital of Japan is an absolute shopping paradise. From fashion deals and kawaii stationeries to groceries and electronics, this bustling city has it all! If you’re travelling here for the first time, do take note of these Tokyo shopping tips that will be useful for your trip. 

Also read: 10 Family-Friendly Airbnb Apartments in Tokyo

Best Tokyo shopping tips for first-time travellers

1. Bring your passport everywhere

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Who doesn’t like tax-free shopping? In Japan, especially Tokyo, certain shops such as department stores, shopping malls, and other duty-free shops offer tax-free shopping. Tax-free shopping means that tourists will be exempted from 8% to 10% of consumption taxes for select items. 

To get this tax exemption, you need to present your passport when you purchase something. Do note that it has to be your actual passport, not any copies. With that, you’ll just need to pay the amount with tax deducted. Otherwise, just visit the tax deduction counter for a tax refund, which is usually located within the store (remember to do this right after you shop!). 

2. Know that shopping in Tokyo is not cheap

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One has to accept the fact that shopping in Tokyo — or Japan in general — is going to be expensive. The living cost here is much higher than that in the United States, particularly in metropolitan areas like Tokyo. Whether it’s food or fashion items, the prices will not be lower than in other countries. (Then again, most of the stuff here are hard to find elsewhere, so we say, it’s worth it!) 

Cheap shopping in Tokyo is rare, and almost a myth, if you will. Therefore, if shopping is one of your plans when you travel to Tokyo, remember to extend your budget.

Also read: 10 Essential Tips for Exploring Tokyo on a Budget

3. Prepare some cash with you

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In most parts of Japan, cash is still a preferred method of payment. Some smaller shops and restaurants accept cash only. Thus, we recommend bringing enough yen with you while you shop, along with a debit card or credit card, just in case. If you’re short on cash during your trip, there are still ATMs available in convenience stores or banks. However, you might have to spend extra on tax and service charge.

4. Best to wear comfortable shoes

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Tokyo is a pedestrian-friendly city. You might need to take the subway or bus to reach some locations, but once you’ve arrived, walking is necessary to fully explore the place; whether it’s a shopping mall, tourist attraction, or just a neighbourhood with boutiques. Hence, it is best to wear comfortable shoes, like sneakers and covered flats, when you’re shopping in Tokyo so your legs and feet won’t easily get hurt. 

5. Avoid bargaining unless you’re in a market

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One of the Tokyo shopping tips to take note of is that bargaining is not a thing here. Whether you’re in a high-end shop or a small store, bargaining and haggling are generally not a custom. Therefore, it is best to avoid this and accept the price as marked. Although, in some markets or privately owned shops, the sellers might be willing to make a good deal.

Also read: 10 Best Thrift Stores and Vintage Shops in Japan

6. Finding the perfect size might be challenging

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When shopping in Tokyo as a foreigner, you may be surprised that the sizes in Tokyo clothing stores are normally smaller than those in Europe and the United States. You may want to consider getting a clothing item that is around one to two sizes bigger than your usual one. 

For instance, getting L-size clothing if you normally fit in an M-size one. For females who are looking for larger sizes, do check out the men’s section, especially in vintage stores. You’ll be impressed by the many choices the men’s section has to offer!

7. Don’t miss out on basement-level food markets!

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On the hunt for yummy food that you can bring home or simply hungry after all that shopping? You’ll find some great food deals at the depachika, which are markets located at the basement level. They sell tons of food items, from ready-to-eat bentos to top-quality and fresh ingredients, making it a haven for foodie travellers! 

What’s more, there will usually be promotions and discounts when you visit approximately one to two hours prior to closing. The dephachika in Tokyo normally close at 8pm or 9pm, so you might want to have just a light snack while waiting for dinner!

8. Get your language translation app or calculator ready

If you’re travelling and shopping in Tokyo for the first time and are unfamiliar with the Japanese language, we recommend having a translation app on your phone at all times. This will help you to avoid misunderstandings and ease up the communication between you and the seller. 

Another one of the important Tokyo shopping tips is to get your calculator or currency converter ready whenever you want to buy something. This will allow you to know exactly how much you are going to spend on an item, so you can decide whether it is worth purchasing or not. It also helps to prevent overspending.

9. Make sure you have enough space to bring back what you bought

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Bringing an extra check-in suitcase or a hand-carry is always a good idea, especially if your plane ticket comes with an allowance for two pieces of luggage. If you’re planning to do a lot of shopping in Tokyo, make sure you have enough space and bags to bring back what you bought. You can either bring an extra or leave some space in your bags when packing for your trip beforehand. 

10. Know what you want and where to shop

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Before travelling to Tokyo, why not do some research on what you want to buy and make a shopping list? Knowing what you want and where to shop in advance will save you plenty of time wandering around and contemplating. Here are some Tokyo shopping tips about things to expect from each shopping district

Shinjuku is one of the city’s largest shopping and entertainment districts. Here, you’ll find tons of famous department stores, boutiques, a variety of dining options, and cute cafes. If you’re looking for stylish youth-oriented fashion items and adorable souvenirs to bring home, head to Shibuya or Harajuku. These two areas are also home to many well-known vintage stores in Tokyo.

For those who want to shop for high-end fashion, Ginza is the place to go. This upmarket shopping district features both Japanese and international fashion brands. Ikebukuro and Akihabara, on the other hand, are two significant districts known for being electronics centres with many big retailers. The latter is also a paradise for otakus, with its many anime and manga stores. If you appreciate otaku culture, then don’t miss out!

Also read: Off the Beaten Path in Tokyo: 16 Best Things to Do That Are Under the Tourist Radar

Now that you have learnt about the Tokyo shopping tips to take note of, it’s time to plan your trip soon! And if you’re a first-time traveller, we guarantee you that you’ll definitely love shopping in Tokyo enough to travel there again.

Featured image credit: Jezael Melgoza | Unsplash

Facebook image credit (right): Rafael Hoyos Weht | Unsplash

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.