|In spite of ongoing
economic troubles and a definite trend towards being more ‘Yen-conscious’,
the Japanese are still enthusiastic shoppers and
indeed the combination of outstanding service, the excellent selection
of goods and fabulous presentation make shopping in Tokyo very enticing.
Although prices are slowly starting to fall and cut price outlets
are increasingly popular there are still few bargains to be had,
however, the discerning eye will encounter several unique
and affordable items, including ceramics, pearls, handicrafts,
electronic goods and toys.
The main shopping areas in Tokyo are: trendy Ginza,
with its upscale department stores, chic galleries and designer
boutiques; young, stylish Shibuya for clothes, CDs and accessories;
the ‘youth Mecca’ of Harajuku for teenage
fashions and kitsch; Akihabara for a huge range
of cut-price electronic goods and computers; and livelyShinjuku,
known for its camera shops, both new and used. Odaiba Mall
is located on the Tokyo Rainbow Town development in Tokyo Bay (see
When purchasing electrical goods, visitors should keep in mind that
Japan runs on 100 volts AC, so an adaptor and transformer
will be needed unless the items have a dual-voltage switch. In addition,
many instruction books are only printed in Japanese.
The streets around Sensoji Temple in Asakusa are
packed with tiny shops specialising in Japanese arts
and crafts, while the Jimbocho-Kanda area
is the best place for 2nd-hand books and prints.
Worthy of particular mention is the Oriental Bazaar
on Harajuku’s Omotesando Avenue, a huge arts and souvenir
emporium with a massive variety of goods at reasonable prices.
A trip to the basement food hall of a major department store is
not to be missed, if only to marvel at the fine presentation of
the astonishing selection of foodstuffs. At the other end of the
commercial spectrum, vibrant Ameyoko Market, situated
under the railway tracks just south of Ueno Park, retains echoes
of its past as Tokyo’s post-war black market, with lively
vendors, cheap prices and throngs of shoppers. The market is open
during general shopping hours.
are held every Sunday – on the 1st and 4th Sundays
of the month at Harajuku’s Togo Shrine, on
the 2nd Sunday of the month at Nogi Shrine in Nogizaka
and on most Sundays at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku.
Beginning before dawn, many stalls close up by early afternoon.
These markets are good places for browsing and bargains include
old silk kimonos, Japanese dolls, ceramics and lacquer. A smile
and a gracious request will often garner a discount.
are usually open 7 days a week, 10:00–19:00/20:00,
with department stores closed 1 weekday a week. A consumption
tax of 5% is added to the price of most items and services
at the till. Main shops and department stores offer tax-free
shopping. Visitors can present their passport and receipt
at the customer service desk for an on the spot refund. Credit cards
are gradually becoming more widely accepted however most items are
still purchased in cash. It is sometimes possible for shoppers to
bargain at markets and in electronics stores. This usually means
politely asking for the ‘best price’
and haggling is frowned upon.