Shopping in Tokyo
1. Harajuku (原宿)
- High fashion vs youth trends and counter culture
This name probably needs no introduction anymore. The rows of fashion boutiques and departmental stores in this suburb of Tokyo has earned it the reputation for being one of the world’s leading fashion capitals, said to even attract world-class fashion designers seeking inspirations for their latest creations. But be warned! Fashion in Harajuku does not only go as far as your typical ideas of what fashion is; it also includes some of the weirdest ideas of cosplay and dressing up, what anime and manga fans know as “gothic” and “lolita” fashion. Neighbouring Omotesando (表参道), dubbed the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo, is another hotspot for fashion hunters and seekers of the latest trends. The ironic thing about this place, however, is that it once used to be the “Omotesando” (lit. “frontal sacred path”) to the nearby Meiji Shrine during the early days of the shrine’s establishment.
Just a side note: the bridge connecting Harajuku to the Meiji Shrine, as well as nearby Yoyogi Park, are popular spots for cosplayers during certain weekends and holidays as well.
2. Ginza (銀座)
- Tokyo's premier upmarket shopping district
The suburb of Ginza is another popular fashion hotspot in the Japanese capital. This area, which was once a large swamp, was developed in the early days of the Tokugawa Shogunate as a settlement where the city’s silver-coin mint was established, hence its name in Japanese. It was also one of the earliest sites in Tokyo to be modernized with Western-styled architecture during the rule of Emperor Meiji. Today, Ginza is most reputable not only for its countless boutiques, departmental stores, brand outlets and high-end coffeehouses, but also for being one of the world’s most luxurious shopping districts on the globe.
3. Akihabara (秋葉原)
- Electronics mecca and center of Otaku culture
Not knowing the name of this suburb is probably the most unforgivable sin for any self-proclaimed fan of anime, manga and Japanese popular culture. Frequently nicknamed the “Mecca of Anime,” Akihabara is undeniably paradise for all anime, manga and video game enthusiasts and otakus out there. This little suburb of Tokyo is saturated with video game outlets, shops selling all sorts of anime-related merchandises, manga centres, maid and cosplay cafes, and even an anime centre, all of which promise the true-blue ACG (anime, comic and games) fan an experience of a lifetime (and a big hole in the pocket) they’ll never forget.
4. Shibuya (渋谷)
- Center of youth fashion
This world-famous suburb of Tokyo is another fashion hotspot and nightlife centre especially popular with young people. Numerous departmental stores, food outlets, boutiques, entertainment centres, bars and nightclubs can be found throughout this area, all within walking distance from one another. Indeed, if ever there was a place in Japan that never sleeps, that place would undoubtedly be Shibuya. Additionally, the Hachiko statue outside Shibuya Station, as well as the Starbucks outlet facing the station where one can get the best view of the infamous Shibuya Scramble, are also popular spots for both locals and tourists.
5. Shinjuku (新宿)
- One of Tokyo's largest shopping and entertainment districts
Shinjuku is another popular spot for shoppers and fashion seekers, being a place that is home to many major departmental stores and boutiques as well. Alongside Shibuya, Shinjuku is the other part of Tokyo that is always full of life and never sleeps. Shinjuku Station, which is said to be among the busiest train stations worldwide, makes this suburb of Tokyo a bustling commercial and entertainment centre visited by thousands every day.
6. Odaiba (お台場)
- Shopping malls on a man-made island
Being the ideal embodiment of futuristic development, Odaiba is unique in the sense that it is a suburb located entirely on a manmade island in the Tokyo Bay, connected to the mainland by several bridges and train lines. Besides housing several major offices, businesses and company headquarters, Odaiba contains a wide range of shopping and world-class convention centres, making this island a highly sought-after venue for numerous conventions and exhibitions.
• More and more stores (especially department stores) offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over JPY5000. 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.
• Tokyo’s department stores have excellent basement food halls, which are great for finding foodie gifts (or for a mid-shopping treat).