How to Stay in Tokyo for Free: Part 5 – Where to Shop in Tokyo
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My boyfriend and I recently flew from Austin to Japan for ~$200 round trip in Business Class. And for 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy hotels), I spent ~$450!
Japan is a beautiful country with LOTS to see and do, from high-rise skyscrapers to old temples to hot springs. I loved Tokyo for its energetic neighborhoods, shopping, and delicious restaurants.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time! In this series, I’ll go into detail about where I stayed in Tokyo, what to do, and some of my favorite restaurants, and show you how you can do it, too!
How to Stay in Tokyo for Free Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Our $200 Business Class Flights to Japan
- Part 3 – Grand Hyatt Tokyo Hotel Review
- Part 4 – What to Do in Tokyo
- Part 5 – Where to Shop in Tokyo
- Part 6 – Why Tokyo is the Culinary Capital of the World
- Part 7 – Day Trip From Tokyo – Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa Review
- Part 8 – Day Trip From Tokyo – What to Do in Hakone
- Part 9 – Day Trip From Tokyo – Where to Eat in Hakone
Where to Shop in Tokyo
Do Research BEFORE Your Trip
Tokyo has some great places to shop, but it can be a bit overwhelming! To help strategize your shopping must-sees, I recommend doing some research before your trip.
Traditional guidebooks like Lonely Planet and Fodor’s provided some general shopping recommendations, but I much preferred the detail in other books. My favorites were the travel guides written by Marceline Smith, like her Planning for Japan Guide. You can purchase them on Etsy for $2 to $7.
It’s packed with useful information, like where to find the themed restaurants and cafes (owl cafe, anyone?), arts and craft stores, book stores, and clothing stores!
I also got a lot of use out of her Tokyo Shopping Guide.
The guide is organized around her favorite shops, specific to each Tokyo neighborhood, making it very convenient to hit the ones you want.
She even recommends places to check out in other large Japanese cities like Osaka and Kyoto!
I ran out of time and barely had a chance to visit all the shops on my “must-see” list. So if you can plan to spend at least 7 days in Tokyo, I highly recommend it!
My Favorite Shopping Spots in Tokyo
1. Tokyu HandsTokyu Hands is one of my favorite places in Tokyo. It is a perfect place for unique souvenirs & gifts, like quality Godzilla statues and toys, old Japanese model cars, and lots of kawaii (cute stuff) paper crafts!
My boyfriend picked up a few model cars for his brother and his dad. And we also bought some Studio Ghibli puzzles and gifts.
In Shibuya, you can even find some truly unique gifts, like a crochet hat for that special cat in your life!
2. Shops in Harajuku
Harajuku is a popular (albeit busy!) district in Tokyo. And I enjoyed checking out the shops there, just to see what was for sale.
In my experience, it’s for a younger crowd. But if you do go, make sure you try a crepe. You might have to endure some long lines, but it’s worth it!
There are lots of super girly clothes, that would definitely be cute on the right person!
Lush specializes in bath salts, oils, shampoos, and more! I loved going there, and picked up several bath bombs.
My favorites were the multi-colored and sparkly ones, which make for fun and relaxing baths!
The employees will happily do a demonstration with any bath bomb you’re interested in, so you can see the explosion of colors and feel the silky soft water.
4. Shops in Shimokitizawa
Shimokita, for short, is an artsy part of town that reminds me of Brooklyn or Austin with its hipster vibe. There are vintage clothing stores, handmade craft markets, and second-hand shops. It was so fun exploring this little area, and I loved how less busy it was than Shibuya.
If you plan to visit this popular spot during your trip to Japan, check out this guide to the Best Vintage Shops in Shimokitizawa. And be sure to visit Ocean BLVD.
Soon after you get off the subway and start walking around Shimokita, you’ll see this funky store. And it won’t disappoint!
I popped in and got my first and only piece of clothing that I got in Japan, a vintage sky blue T-shirt with birds on it.
There was also a display of tiny cubbies, and it was so fun looking inside the cute decorated boxes.
I think I spent ~30 minutes looking in all of the individual cubby holes!
5. Shops With Kawaii
I’ve loved kawaii (kawaii means cute stuff in Japanese) since I was a little girl. When I was ~8 years old, my dad used to take me to a stationery shop in the mall. I loved getting the Sanrio note cards and stickers, with characters like Hello Kitty and Pochacco.
Japan, and especially Tokyo, is the mecca of all things kawaii. You’ll see it everywhere!
I still enjoy seeing cute stuff, and sometimes write handwritten letters on fun “kawaii” stationery. Sure, you can easily email or text your friends, but nothing replaces getting a handwritten letter in the mail!
If you want to get some kawaii for yourself or your kids, head to Kiddy Land. It has one of the largest selections of kawaii around…there are 3 to 4 floors full of it!
Conveniently, there are multiple Kiddy Land locations around town.
I could have easily spent a couple of hours looking at everything. And ended up buying some stationery and stickers for myself, and some future baby things, like the softest whale pillow! I couldn’t resist all the kawaii baby and kid stuff I planned on saving for years to come.
If you are REALLY into Sanrio characters, then consider going to Sanrio Puroland. It’s like Disneyland but with Sanrio characters.
I wanted to go, but didn’t have time. So, I’m saving it for a return trip, maybe someday when I have kids!
In Tokyo, there’s a chain called Donguri, where you can buy all things Studio Ghibli. And if you’re a super fan, consider going to the Studio Ghibli Museum.
Shipping Luggage Within Japan
If you plan on visiting several cities in Japan and accumulate gifts and souvenirs during your trip, it could be worth storing your luggage or shipping it to your final destination.
My first stop in mainland Japan was Tokyo. And from there, we went to 3 more cities.
Because we flew into Tokyo and out of Osaka, I thought it would be convenient to send some luggage to Osaka. It cost just ~$130 and saved us the trouble of lugging around a couple of heavy suitcase all over Japan that we wouldn’t use.
I applaud people who can travel with just a backpack, but I’m not one of them!
If you’re interested in shopping in Japan, I suggest making a plan ahead of time, and narrowing down your must-see spots. Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many amazing stores!
Consider a visit to Tokyu Hands for unique gifts, the Harajuku district for some fun, and the area of Shimokita if you’re looking for a more vintage and artsy area of the city.
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