by WENDY YANAGIHARA
Tokyo shopping has it all: high-end and offbeat fashion, traditional crafts, vintage wares, all manner of only-in-Japan souvenirs, and that gadget you didn't know existed but now desperately want.
Whether you prefer department-store browsing or rummaging for secondhand treasures, read on to discover which Tokyo neighbourhood meets your shopping needs.
Akihabara: the new otaku hub
Tokyo's traditional hub for electronics, these can still be found in the Akihabara Electric Town district. It's also known as a centre for otaku (geeks) and their penchant for anime, manga and J-Pop.
Among the stores catering to the otaku crowd is the huge Mandarake Complex. There's also the under-the-train-tracks crafts bazaar 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan; and Jimbōchō, with more than 170 bookstores.
Shinjuku: something for everyone
Shopping here can be a overwhelming. Once you step out of the train station, the lights and noise make the whole neighbourhood seem like a bustling casino, but there are great shops amid the chaos.
Here you'll find Isetan, one of Tokyo’s most revered department stores; the 'variety' store Don Quijote; and Disk Union, where music lovers can browse the eight storeys of secondhand vinyl and CDs.
Harajuku & Aoyama: believe the hype
Home to youthful shopping strip Takeshita-dōri and stylish boulevard Omote-sandō. High fashion rules the Aoyama end of Omote-sandō, while the hipsters of Harajuku layer haute couture with vintage.
Ura-Hara is where you'll find eccentric shops and secondhand stores. Get started at Laforet, 6% Doki Doki and Sou-Sou for clothes; Gallery Kawano for vintage kimono; or RagTag for pre-loved fashion.
Shimo-Kitazawa: vintage and vinyl
Southwest of Shibuya is the small neighbourhood of Shimo-Kitazawa (aka Shimokita), a favourite haunt of students and arty types, with quirky shops, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall bars.
Discover Tokyo's highest concentration of vintage-clothing stores – Haight & Ashbury is among the best. Shimokita is good for record stores and the stalls at the Shimokita Garage Department.
Shibuya: hip haunts
Shibuya is a fountain of teen trendiness. If you’re over 30 you might feel old, but just amuse yourself in the madness. Music shops and cheap, outrageous apparel abound, as do hip kids.
Check out the youth-focused fashion at Shibuya 109, underground designers at Candy, and don't miss browsing the floors of homewares, gadgets and accessories at Tokyu Hands.
Daikanyama & Naka-Meguro: books, boutiques and bohemian
Near Ebisu, Daikanyama is a residential enclave of cafes and boutiques, with fashion and accessories specialists such as Okura.
Bibliophiles should head to Daikanyama T-Site. Naka-Meguro, a stroll away, is Daikanyama's more bohemian neighbour and is home to secondhand stores and hidden lounge bars.
Kōenji and Kichijōji: kooky bits
Kōenji is a bastion of counterculture with lots of secondhand shops. Don't miss the collection of fashion stores inside the Kita-Kore Building and vintage goods at easy-to-miss Sokkyō.
Travel further west on the Chūō line to hit Kichijōji, which is a popular place to trawl for homewares. Start with the boho objets at Outbound and the antique ceramics at Puku Puku.
Kuramae: original arts
Once a drab warehouse district along the Sumida-gawa (Sumida River), Kuramae has been refashioned as the place for young artisans to set up shop.
Check out Camera for leather goods; Maito for clothes coloured with traditional dyes; and Kakimori, where you can design a notebook and ink colour.
Ginza: glitz and glam
Ginza is home to the city's posh boutiques and gleaming department stores, such as the classic Mitsukoshi and avant-garde Dover Street Market Ginza. There’s also the high-fashion mall, Ginza Six.
Find fine crafts at Takumi, gourmet food items at Akoymeya and nine floors of stationery and art supplies at Itōya. Shopping options stretch from high-fashion glam to down-to-earth crafts.
Asakusa: laid back, souvenir strolling
Now decidedly relaxed, the Asakusa neighbourhood was once the heart of Edo’s low city, home to artisans and merchants.
Its small lanes and winding alleyways are still full of surprises, including the vintage curios at Tokyo Hotarudo and the beautiful noren (shopfront curtains) for sale at Bengara.
For straight-forward gift shopping, Nakamise-dōri (leading up to temple Sensō-ji) is good for souvenir trinkets – try the back streets for better-quality stuff.
Marugoto Nippon has a good collection of arts and crafts boutiques, while the long stretch of Kappabashi-dōri also yields uniquely Japanese curiosities in its little culinary-supply shops.
More and more stores offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over ¥5000. Bring your passport and look for the tax-free stickers in the window. See also enjoy.taxfree.jp.
Carry some cash with you: traditional and smaller stores may not accept credit cards.
Though bargaining is the norm in most of Asia, in Japan it’s not done, except at flea markets and the occasional electronics store.