This was originally going to be a top 5 list, but there were a couple of other places I wanted to add because this is a list of stores I ALWAYS go to when I’m visiting Japan!!
Seriously – I mean, I make time to go out of my way to check out these stores. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of other great places I love, but no one wants to read my top 100 list! (Well, I don’t think there’s anyone out there who does…but I could be mistaken!)
Let’s get right into it! Keep reading if you are planning to visit Japan at some point, or if you’re just curious to know more. 🙂
Itoya is essentially a store that sells office and school supplies, as well as stationery items. I LOVE Japanese pens and office supplies – for some reason they have the cutest post it notes, paper clips and sticky tabs!!! The pens are just amazing to write with as well, they write smooth and are comfortable to hold.
This might sound strange, but I could spend HOURS (literally) in an office supply store. And honestly, I revisited Itoya a couple of times to make sure I got everything that I could possibly want in regards to pens and other writing utensils. They also had some very cute animal shaped paperclips that I purchased as gifts for friends.
2. Tokyu Hands/Ginza Hands
In my opinion, Tokyu Hands is a store that’s pretty much a one stop shop, if you happen to need something for your trip, or if you’re looking for gifts to bring home for others. I went to another “version” of the store in Ginza called Ginza Hands, but from what I could tell it was basically the same store.
Here you can find things like travel items (bags, etc.), hobby and crafts, cosmetics, bath/kitchen items, trinkets of all kinds, etc. I found some novelty kitchen items, such as a cucumber or carrot “sharpener” like a pencil sharpener, so you can cut your veggies a certain way. There were also neat shaped ice cube molds and lunch bags.
A few specific items I found here that I liked were pens (of course!), office supply type things, cute desk calendars in various shapes and patterns, a cute light blue water bottle and a lunch bag. I know…very random, but they were too cute to say no to!
3. A Bathing Ape, also known as “BAPE”
If you’re into lifestyle/street wear, this might be a store you might want to check out. I’ll be honest here, the price tag is pretty steep. It’s not a store that I would go crazy in because of the high price, BUT I do love their t-shirts. The feel and fit of the t-shirts here are great, and they are very high quality. If you like thick cotton t-shirts, you’ll probably like these.
Where I live, BAPE merchandise is pretty hard to come by, so whenever I’m in a town that has a store I definitely check it out. I don’t get to purchase these shirts often, but if it’s in the budget, and I’m going to be near a store, I’ll try to make it happen.
4. Shu Uemura
This Japanese cosmetic brand is KNOWN for their eye lash curlers and make up brushes. It used to be found in the US. I recall seeing pictures of some boutique stores in the larger US cities, but also some of the products were sold in Sephora, Neiman Marcus, and…possibly Nordstrom. If you live in the US, the only way you can get your hands on Shu Uemura products are by ordering them online. Even then, I could be mistaken, but I feel like when I’m at a Shu Uemura counter there seems to be more products than what’s available on the site.
Products I can’t live without from Shu Uemura is DEFINITELY their famous eye lash curler and cleansing oils. I enjoy their other products, but those two are a must have for me!
5. Japanese Department Stores (Mitsukoshi/Matsuya Ginza)
Mitsukoshi and Matsuya Ginza are actually high end luxury department stores, similar to Neiman Marcus, Saks, or Barneys in the US. Now, I’m not recommending that everyone go out and purchase designer items, because I know that’s not in everyone’s price range! Simply, these stores are just fun to walk around in and honestly, I go there to take a look at their “food court” section.
There are many Japanese train stations that are essentially located in the “basement” of department stores, or there is a basement level entrance to these department stores from the train station. To make it convenient for those who are exiting the train and might need to grab something to eat on the way home, or gifts to bring to friends and family, these department stores are equipped with a variety of good eats!
I’ve found delicious treats in these little food courts, including chocolates, pastries, Japanese “sweets” (not quite candy, I guess I would think of them like small desserts). Some of these treats get quite extravagant, and are beautifully crafted or designed to be aesthetically pleasing, even cute. BUT, they’ve also got meals and things to eat on the go! I really wanted to bring EVERYTHING home with me! But of course…I couldn’t. 😦
6. Shops at the train station
Because public transportation is a common and frequent method of getting around in Japan, there are tons of convenient shops in the large train stations in Tokyo. These are almost like small malls with a variety of different stores – grocery, convenience/drug store, clothing, accessories, snacks, etc. They’re great to grab something quick, like a snack or something to drink, if you’re headed out on a busy day!
The last time I was in Tokyo, there was one day that happened to be rainy. Instead of walking around on the streets in the rain, we decided to check out a variety of different train stations and look around in the connecting stores. It was literally a full day’s worth of activities – believe it or not!
There are also great places to eat – either take out or small ramen shops, etc. in these train stations!
Uniqlo can be found in the US, although I’m not sure about other countries. This is basically the Gap store of Japan, in my opinion, with the casual/preppy vibe. I love the great finds here! I’ve purchased a few office friendly tops for work at a great price!
If you’re not familiar with Japanese sizes, I highly recommend trying on the clothing here, to make sure you are purchasing the right size. General feedback I’ve heard from people who have shopped here is that the sizes run small.
8. Don Quijote
If you’re looking for a stock PACKED with both useful and miscellaneous items, check out Don Quijote. This is one of the stores that I find those wonderful Japanese eye drops!
Seriously though, this store has EVERYTHING you could possibly want to find. There’s everything from groceries/snacks, cosmetics, some electronics, pots/pans, over the counter medicines, etc. I believe they also carry Halloween costumes (my last visit was right around Halloween). Definitely a great place to stop by if you’re looking for some great Japanese snacks and are planning to bring some home to share with friends and family!
Hope this was helpful for anyone who might be looking for suggestions, or if you were just curious and wanted a small look into Japanese culture.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!