Shopping is one of the fun parts of traveling, but it does take money. Here are some smart ways to enjoy shopping in Japan on a budget.
1. Go to 100 yen stores
100 yen stores are stores where you can shop for a huge variety of items, from sweets, everyday necessities, underwear, pet products, and even DIY products for 100 JPY (excl. tax). You'll see a lot of them during your trip, especially chains like Daiso and Can Do. NATURAL KITCHEN is also very recommended thanks to their original products, everyday necessities, and interior decorations they offer that are popular with women. If you realize you're missing something during your trip, the 100 yen shop can be very useful for that too. Batteries, makeup tools, feminine products, first aid products, bags, lighters, can openers - anything you might need in a pinch you can find there at a cheap price. Also, their cute stationery and interesting erasers in different shapes like animals or sushi are popular as souvenirs. They also have board games and cards, so why not pick some up for the long travel hours?
2. Go to your local supermarket
For foodstuffs, check out the supermarket. Supermarkets show the lifestyle of local people so going to one is pretty exciting, and it's really useful if you can cook in your hostel or guesthouse. You can buy 2L drinks for half-price compared to their prices at the convenience store, and you might find snacks that are sold in your country under a different name so they could be a fun souvenir that you can get cheaply. In recent years supermarkets also offer plenty of prepared food so you can buy Japanese side dishes and bento. If you go about an hour or two before closing you can find these prepared food for 10% off or even half-price!
3. Aim for bargain goods at the drugstore
Japanese drugstores are stores where you can buy over-the-counter medicines, everyday necessities, and cosmetics (some of them have areas where you can also pick up prescription medication). Just like the photo, there's often bargain goods lined up at the door. They have a cosmetics corner where you can buy cute items for low prices, perfect for any teenaged girl in your life. You can also buy luxury cosmetics for prices cheaper than at department stores, and they also have baby diapers that are extremely popular overseas. Japanese cold medicine is also becoming more and more popular with foreigners, so some drugstores even have sections dedicated to items popular with tourists. You can buy necessary items for daily life at bargain prices, so spending some time there might be worthwhile.
4. Go to flea markets
Flea markets are held all around the country every weekend. You can spend time looking at all the booths, from people selling items they don't use to actual shops, and lately there have even been people selling their handmade professional-level clothing and accessories. In areas where entry isn't regulated, popular items may get sold out in the morning so try to get there early. If you find something you like, it might be fun to haggle over the price. The flea market in Shinjuku's Central Park is often frequented by foreign travelers, and the retro products, secondhand clothes, and useful stationery that you can only find in Japan are popular. You can buy stuff at flea markets at prices that would be impossible in a store, but you can't return items so make sure that everything works before you buy.
5. Go to recycle shops
If you go to recycle shops, they're not just cheap but you might encounter some really lucky finds. At recycle shops you can buy a huge variety of things including clothes, shoes, miscellaneous items, books, CDs, furniture, appliances, and more. A lot of the items aren't even secondhand, but are brand new and unused. Some of their popular items are toys and children's clothing that you'll want to use right away. You can use the baby carriage you bought during your trip and then sell it when you get home. It's also recommended to check out the secondhand books and manga. You can buy solo volumes, but a lot of the time they also have full sets that you can buy cheaper than if they were new. Many people also bulk-buy CDs. However, be aware that most DVDs and video games sold in Japan are region-locked so they can only be played on Japanese or multiregional hardware. Please do some research before you buy.
6. Look up sales
Japanese sales are usually from June - July and December - January. It's when employees receive bonuses, but also when companies sell their seasonal items cheaply to make way for the next season. In June - July you can find summer products, and in December - January you can cheaply buy winter products, especially in clothing stores. Also, there's a tradition that says the first day of the year sets the tone for your sales for the rest of the year, so many stores offer fukubukuro ("lucky packs"). These fukubukuro come in a variety of sizes and prices, usually from around 3,000 JPY to 50,000 JPY. Fukubukuro are filled with products, but the catch is that you can't see what's inside. Popular brands and department stores fill their bags with products worth much more than the bag's price, so many people line up very early in the morning to get them. There are also sales during May's Golden Week (a week with many holidays one after the other), November's Silver Week (ditto), three-day weekends, and more.
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
This is some common knowledge that many Japanese people utilize in their shopping. Please enjoy shopping in Japan using these tips so you can obtain good products smartly and cheaply.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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