How to Stay in Tokyo for Free: Part 5 – Where to Shop in Tokyo

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Emily:   Have you always wanted to visit Japan?  You can get there for a fraction of the cost with a few credit card sign-up bonuses!

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.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
I’ll Show You the Best Spots to Find Unique Gifts for Friends and Loved Ones Back Home

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:

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.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
For Under $10, the Information You’ll Find in Marceline Smith’s Planning for Japan Guide on Etsy Is Invaluable

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.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
These Particular Guides Are Convenient Because You Can Instantly Download Them From Etsy

The guide is organized around her favorite shops, specific to each Tokyo neighborhood, making it very convenient to hit the ones you want.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
The Shops Are Grouped According to the Neighborhood They’re in

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 Hands

Tokyu 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!
How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
I Love Finding Special Gifts Abroad

My boyfriend picked up a few model cars for his brother and his dad.  And we also bought some Studio Ghibli puzzles and gifts.

Studio Ghibli is similar to Disney in Japan!  If you’re not familiar with Studio Ghibli films, then check out Howl’s Flying Castle or Spirited Away.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
Everyone Loves a Good Puzzle

In Shibuya, you can even find some truly unique gifts, like a crochet hat for that special cat in your life!

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
Winter’s Chill Is No Match for These Cats With Hats!

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!

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
I Passed on This Cute, Fuzzy Tiger Backpack, but Kinda Wish I’d Gotten It!

There are lots of super girly clothes, that would definitely be cute on the right person!

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
It’s Hard to Resist an Adorable Pair of Shoes

3.   Lush

Lush specializes in bath salts, oils, shampoos, and more!  I loved going there, and picked up several bath bombs.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
Lush Is a Popular Handmade Cosmetics Store With a Location in Shibuya

My favorites were the multi-colored and sparkly ones, which make for fun and relaxing baths!

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
It’s Fun Visiting the Store Because You Can Actually Test Lots of the Products

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.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
I Picked up a Neat Vintage T-Shirt at Ocean BLVD

There was also a display of tiny cubbies, and it was so fun looking inside the cute decorated boxes.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
You’ll Find Trinkets Like Jewelry, Key Chains, and More

I think I spent ~30 minutes looking in all of the individual cubby holes!

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
The Japanese Love All Things Tiny and Eclectic

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.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
One Could Easily Get Lost Amongst All the Kawaii in Kiddy Land

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!

6.   Donguri

In Japan, Studio Ghibli is the equivalent of Disney, and they consistently put out great films.  If you haven’t seen any of them, I highly recommend Princess Mononoke or Castles in the Sky.

How To Stay In Tokyo For Free Part 5 Where To Shop In Tokyo
Donguri Is a Chain of Stores Dedicated to Studio Ghibli Merchandise

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!

You can read more about my experience shipping luggage within Japan here.

Bottom Line

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.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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