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Last updated : Nov 2009
Tokyo Shopping
Tokyo Shopping Guide - TravelPuppy.com
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 Key Attractions).

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.

Antique/flea markets 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.

Shops 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.