Shopping

Tokyoites love their shopping, and on any given day you’ll see thousands of people milling about the various department stores, shopping streets and areas. Virtually everything you can dream of is available, from traditional antique ceramics to the most cutting-edge fashion.

Prices can be much steeper than in many other countries, and commodities such as shoes and clothing can be shockingly expensive. Brand items can cost up to 60% more due to import taxes, but domestic brands only carry a 5% consumption tax. However, there are often sales, discounts and one-off deals to be had. Bi-annual sales, usually held around New Year and again in the summer also bring bargains, with up to 80% off the marked price. The New Year’s sales often include fukubukuro (a surprise bag of items that can be purchased at various price increments). Electronic items can be cheaper, although CDs and DVDs are likely to be more expensive than elsewhere. In general, the Japanese are reluctant to buy second-hand goods, but there are still a surprising number of second-hand shops selling designer clothing and vintage furniture in good condition.

Shopping used to be confined to the local shops and department stores lining the streets in each neighbourhood. However, with the introduction of the shopping mall to Japan, one-stop shopping complexes where you can shop, eat, get a massage, and ship everything back home before you leave the building are springing up everywhere. Old-fashioned markets still exist, especially in the temple yards and parks, but you’ll need to seek them out.

Shopping by area is another way of life, with high concentrations of vendors selling a certain type of goods, such as the multitude of electronics stores in Akihabara, high-end boutiques on Omotesandō and Shibuya’s penchant for teenage fashion. Outside the city, Gotemba Premium Outlets, and Costco are worth the trip for cut-price goods.

Ginza is the traditional shopping centre, although Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesandō and Shinjuku are all popular too. In recent years Roppongi has had a shopping revolution and Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown are getting in on the action. Odaiba is a man-made island with sprawling malls (Venus Fort and Palette Town 03 5500 2655, www.palette-town.com), and is a true testament to the enthusiasm of Tokyo shoppers. On a smaller scale, try the Sunshine Building in Ikebukuro.

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