When it comes to shopping, few places in the world can rival the buzzing streets of Tokyo, Japan.
Regardless of your budget or style, chances are you’ll be able to find your desired items in Tokyo, and with plenty of options to spare.
What sets Japan’s capital apart from other shopping destinations is the sheer volume and variety available to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you want trendsetting or subculture styles, recognizable international labels or local favourites, high-end designer boutiques or affordable 100 yen shops, mass produced or traditional hand-crafted products, Tokyo will have it.
To name a few of Tokyo’s most popular shopping districts, there’s trendy Shibuya, ritzy Ginza and the top of all of Tokyo shopping, Shinjuku. However, none of these really offer second-hand shoppers a space to sift through pre-loved items and snag that perfect piece you never knew you needed.
But don’t despair vintage lovers, Tokyo also has districts dedicated to previously loved treasures for those that enjoy the hunt as much as the items itself.
Before we dish out the top vintage spots in Tokyo, I have to mention how second-hand shopping is set up slightly differently in Japan.
Items are fairly priced
Easily one of the top thrills of second-hand shopping is scoring the perfect item at a steal.Whether it’s because the shop owner overlooked the value or because it’s a common item for the area, it’s an exciting adrenaline rush.
But chances of scoring these deals are much rarer in Japan. Often, items are carefully assessed and sifted through before making it onto the racks. Scratches, tears, stains or other malfunctions just won’t do in Japan. Even though items are pre-used, they are still treated with the upmost of care and it shows in how the items are priced.
The trade-off? You’ll know your purchases will be in pristine conditions.
It’s almost second nature amongst us thrifters to be bargain hunters as well, always looking for the best deals. Most second-hand stores are open to negotiating prices and would even offer further discounts after a bit of chit chatting. But not in Japan.
Second-hand shops in Japan are fully operating boutiques and stores, and they operate like any other store, with store policies and regulations. If the price tag say 1,000 yen, it means 1,000 yen.
Vintage Inspired Shops
Casually strolling in and out of stores, a particular red, floral dress caught my eye. I decided to shop around before splurging. As I continued to rummage through several stores, I found another beautiful red floral dress, but to my surprise it was the exact same dress, being sold at the exact same price as the previous store! Vintage-inspired clothing is something you’ll come across – they are mass produced but with a vintage feel.
Wear slip-on shoes
It’s considered bad manners in Japan to walk into a changing room with your shoes on and staff will expect you to take yours off before entering (even if you’re only trying on a jacket). Make it easier on yourself and leave the lace-ups at home.
Now that we’ve gotten those differences out the of way, let’s get to the juicy part. Where are the best vintage shops in Tokyo?
This ultra-trendy neighbourhood is known for its wide selection of vintage boutiques. You won’t find any large brands like Uniqlo or Muji here, instead it’s replaced with small and independent boutiques dotted through the narrow streets. Don’t be deceived if the shops look closed or if it just looks like a local hangout spot, that’s just the “too cool to be working” vibe you’ll find here. Take a step in and you’ll be welcomed in typical Japanese fashion. Also don’t forget to look up and visit all the hidden gems on the upper floors too. Make sure you visit these 2 stores.
With its open and inviting storefront, Ocean BLVD is easy to find. It’s quirky, offbeat and some pieces are even handmade by local artists. Even if you don’t find anything here, it’s still an interesting spot to spend some time.
There’s several Chicago locations in Tokyo, but the one here has a particularly consistent assortment of treasures. Along with a healthy selection of affordable American vintage finds, Chicago is also one of the best places to find second hand kimonos and yukatas.
Unlike Shimo-Kitzawa, Koenji is low-key and understated. Shops here are humble and sometimes even run out of someone’s living room. Selections here might not be as fashion-forward or high-end as Shimo-Kitzawa, but the no fuss attitude mixed with everyday second-hand options make Koenji a true hunter’s paradise.
Maybe because of the laid-back nature of the area, the only down side here is that shops operate at various different hours, sometimes even only on a part time basis. It might take several visits to cover all the shops, but it’ll be well worth it. Make sure you visit these 2 stores.
Sokkyou stands out even from the highly competitive vintage district of Koenji. It’s a small store, but it’s brimming with envious pieces predominately from America in the early 1900s. You can tell each piece has been carefully selected and displayed, just a stroll around the shop will take you back to another era.
A true second-hand thrift store, Mode Off is a utopia for bargain hunters. You won’t find particularly unique pieces or the latest seasonal trends here, but what you’ll find instead are pre-loved staples at extremely affordable prices. Think 300 yen for a hoodie!
A district within Shibuya, Harajuku is known for being the epicenter of quirky Japanese youth culture and of course everything kawaii! There’s plenty to feast your eyes on here, and don’t be surprised to see numerous of stores offering cosplay costumes for both humans and pets.
In between all these eccentric boutiques are also some of the best vintage stores in the city. It’ll take more effort to spot the authentic second-hand stores here though, especially since many are tucked away in the back streets, but they’re well worth the hunt. Make sure you visit these 2 stores.
You can’t miss the hot pink flamingo neon lights greeting customers from way down the street. With stores in several other districts, Flamingo offers a wide variety of pieces that are predominately American vintage.
Similar to some of the other notable mentions above, the Jumble Store is one of several in the city. It doesn’t specialize in one-of-a-kind pieces, but it’ll make up for it with its affordability. Even though picks here are from previous seasons, you can rest assure they’ll still be in pristine condition.