Shopping in Japan

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Tokyo

    Mitsukoshi

    Mitsukoshi's venerable Nihombashi branch was Japan’s first department store. It's a grand affair with an entrance guarded by bronze lions and a magnificent statue of Magokoro, the goddess of sincerity, rising up from the centre of the ground floor. For the full effect, arrive at 10am for the bells and bows that accompany each day’s opening. Check out the floor dedicated to the art of the kimono or peruse the morsels in the incredible depachika (department-store food floor).

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Ebisu, Meguro & Around

    Okura

    Okura specialises in clothing and accessories dyed with indigo, which has a long tradition in Japan. There are contemporary T-shirts and hoodies and also items that riff on older silhouettes, like the trailing sleeves of a kimono. The natural fabrics are sturdy and/or sumptuous (unfortunately priced accordingly). Note: there’s no sign out the front, but the two-storey, plaster and tile building is distinct.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Ginza & Tsukiji

    Muji

    You could hear the collective swoon of all devotees of functional design when this huge Muji flagship opened in 2019. Floors two through five carry the brand's signature clothing, accessories and homewares – simply elegant and utterly affordable. Muji is also particularly great for travel goods. There are Muji all over Tokyo, including a branch in Coredo Muromachi.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Kōrakuen & Akihabara

    2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan

    This ace arcade under the JR tracks (its name refers to the distance from Tokyo Station) offers an eclectic range of stores selling Japanese-made goods – everything from pottery and leatherwork to cute aliens, a nod to Akihabara from a mall that is more akin to Kyoto than Electric Town. The best for colourful crafts is Nippon Hyakkuten (日本百貨店; http://nippon-dept.jp). Also look for customisable wood cases for your digital life at Hacoa (ハコ ア); dainty kaleidoscopes at Sōshin Kaleidoscopes (創心万華鏡); hand-printed tenugui (towels) from Osaka-based Nijiyura (にじゆら); fab sneakers and shoes from Springle Move; and figurines at Studio Uamou (スタジオ ウアモウ), showcasing the cartoonish creations of designer Takagi Ayako. The latter shares space with the cafe Boo. There's also Cafe Asan, known for its made-to-order souffles.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Tokyo

    Same to Esa

    Same (pronounced sah-mé; 'shark') is the super secret flagship store (with limited edition merch) for cult Japanese streetwear brand Lonely. So secret, in fact, they won't reveal their address, instead dropping hints on social media. So how'd we get the scoop? The 'lonely' connection! The brand's look is graphic-heavy, neo-Shōwa (Japan's mid-20th century period) with some self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek Japonisme at play. It share a space with Esa ('feed', as in pet food), which carries original pieces by renowned Japanese costume designer, Ebata Koshirō, who's dressed everyone from Lady Gaga to, uh, Nicholas Cage. So, finding the shop: it's in the Kita-Kore building, itself a destination (there are some other cool shops here). It looks set to be condemned (you'll know it when you see it). Go around the side to the courtyard entrance for the Garter Gallery and up the stairs to the wooden doors that look like they belong to a Shintō shrine.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Downtown Kyoto

    Aritsugu

    While you’re in Nishiki Market, have a look at this store – it has some of the best kitchen knives in the world. Choose your knife – all-rounder, sushi, vegetable – and the staff will show you how to care for it before sharpening and boxing it up. You can also have your name engraved in English or Japanese. Knives start at around ¥10,000. Founded in 1560, Aritsugu was originally involved in the production of swords and the blacksmith skills have been passed down over the years through generation after generation. It also carries a selection of excellent and unique Japanese kitchenware and whetstones for knife sharpening.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Shimabara Peninsula

    Inohara Kanamono-ten

    Dating from the 1850s and a registered cultural property, this busy, rustic blade shop is filled with incredible knives, hatchets, swords and even ninja shuriken (throwing stars), plus just about anything you might need for a Japanese kitchen – daikon (radish) graters, bamboo strainers, bentō boxes and more. An enthusiastic owner helps you make sense of it all. There's also a cafe, offering good Japanese curry (¥1000), sōmen (noodles; ¥680), dango (rice dumplings) and shaved ice (from ¥400), all made with fresh Shimabara water and using hand-sharpened blades.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Shibuya & Shimo-Kitazawa

    Tokyu Hands

    This DIY and zakka (miscellaneous things) store is a Tokyo landmark, loved by locals and tourists alike. It has eight fascinating floors of everything you didn’t know you needed – reflexology slippers, bee-venom face masks and cartoon-character-shaped rice-ball moulds, for example. Most stuff is inexpensive, making it perfect for souvenir and gift hunting. Warning: you could lose hours in here. There's another branch in Shinjuku that is usually less crowded and easier to navigate (but is less iconic than the Shibuya store).

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Tokyo

    Coredo Muromachi

    More like a purpose-built town than a mall, Coredo Muromachi is spread over three buildings and a terrace complex. It's stylish and upscale, focused more on homewares and food than clothes: there are branches of many famous artisan shops and gourmet purveyors here – . Highlights: 200-year-old knife maker Kiya (木屋; ground fl, Bldg 1); Imoyakinjō (いもや金城; ground fl, Bldg 2), for its crisp, sweet potato fries; and Nippon Hyakkaten (ground fl, Terrace Bldg), which sells crafts from all over Japan.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Shibuya & Shimo-Kitazawa

    Shibuya Parco

    Shibuya Parco has been a trendsetter for decades and now, after a renovation finished in 2019, it is back in top form. There are global brands, but also Japanese ones, both internationally known (Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, etc) and less so (like Toga and Anrealage). You could pound the pavement in search of boutiques, or just come here. It's great for food too: the basement food court has Delifucious and a branch of trendy ramen shop Mensho Tokyo.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Asakusa & Sumida River

    Babaghuri

    German fashion designer Jurgen Lehl (1944–2014) lived in Japan for decades while building the fashion house Babaghuri, known for its use of natural material and dyes and artsy meets earthy aesthetic. This ivy-covered shop, down an unremarkable side street, is the brand’s Tokyo flagship, stocking the full range of singular clothing, accessories and homewares. Department stores Isetan and Matsuya also carry Babaghuri, but not the whole collection.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Downtown Kyoto

    Zōhiko

    Zōhiko is the best place in Kyoto to buy one of Japan's most beguiling art-and-craft forms: lacquerware. If you aren't familiar with just how beautiful these products can be, you owe it to yourself to make the pilgrimage to Zōhiko. You'll find a great selection of cups, bowls, trays and various kinds of boxes. If you want a gift or souvenir that really makes an impression, this is a great choice. Prices can get into the tens of thousands of yen but it also has some more affordable items from around ¥2500.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Shinjuku & Northwest Tokyo

    Isetan

    Isetan is Tokyo's most fashion-forward department store. Head to the 2nd-floor Tokyo Closet and 3rd-floor Re-Style boutiques in the main building, and the 2nd floor of the men's building to discover new Japanese brands that haven't (yet) hit the big time. Other reasons to visit: the homewares from contemporary artisans (5th floor) and the excellent depachika (basement gourmet food hall). Bonus: there's a rooftop garden where you can sit and eat all the goodies you've amassed in the food hall.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Kōrakuen & Akihabara

    Y. & Sons

    Bespoke tailor Y. & Sons creates contemporary kimono that are 100% iki (chic and urbane), tied low on the hips (a style typically worn by men) and designed to look good over a t-shirt and paired with leather trainers. Prices start at ¥50,000 and go up depending on the material (sashes extra). They take two weeks to complete; international shipping is available. Y. & Sons also sells beautiful deer hide and woven vine bags, geta sandals and other accessories.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Ebisu, Meguro & Around

    Kapital

    Cult brand Kapital is hard to pin down, but perhaps a deconstructed mash-up of the American West and the centuries-old Japanese aesthetic of boro (tatty-chic) comes close. Almost no two items are alike, and the textiles (particularly the shawls and socks) are gorgeous. The shop itself is like an art installation, and the facade is always changing (just look for something that stands out). The staff, not snobby at all, can point you towards the other two shops nearby.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Ueno & Yanesen

    Art Sanctuary Allan West

    Long-time Yanaka resident Allan West, a graduate of Japan's prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts, paints gorgeous screens and scrolls in the classical Japanese styles, making his paints from scratch, just as local artists have done for centuries. Small votive-shaped paintings start at ¥5000; the screens are, uh, a lot more. Non-buyers are welcome to stop in to see the works. Look for the dark wood, post and beam facade and sliding doors.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Asakusa & Sumida River

    Kama-asa

    A Japanese knife is not only a highly practical and prized piece of kitchenware, it can also be extremely beautiful in its design. Admire an excellent range at this upmarket store that has been in business since 1908. There are English- and French-speaking staff on hand, and there's a good range of other kitchen implements, including steel pans. If you can wait for a week, they can engrave your name or choice of words onto a knife for free.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Tokyo

    Mandarake Complex

    This is the original Mandarake, the go-to store for all things manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation). Once a small, secondhand comic-book store, Mandarake now has some 30 shops just inside the Nakano Broadway shopping centre. Each specialises in something different, be it books, cel art or figurines. The biggest shop, Honkan, is on the 3rd floor. On the 4th floor, Mandarake Henya, is a shrine (literally) to classic toys.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Southern Higashiyama

    Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu

    This company has been making its canvas bags for over 110 years and the store is often crammed with those in the know picking up a skillfully crafted Kyoto product. Originally designed as ‘tool’ bags for workers to carry sake bottles, milk and ice blocks, the current designs still reflect this idea. Choose from a range of styles and colours. This is the one and only store that sells these bags making it the perfect souvenir.

  • Top ChoiceShopping in Ginza & Tsukiji

    Akomeya

    Rice ('kome') is at the heart of Japanese cuisine. This stylish store sells not only many types of the grain but also products made from it (such as sake), plus all the classic Japanese pantry items (from artisan producers) and a choice collection of kitchen, home and bath items. There's also an in-house restaurant, and another branch in Shinjuku.