If you haven't already taken a gander at my posts on eating and touring in Tokyo, check them out! I also had a second set of friends ask about shopping there, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to put together a mini guide on shopping in Tokyo (for people who are on a budget and even for people not on a budget - go ahead yall!). It coincides nicely with my blog post on Three days in Tokyo - so it is no coincidence that some of the best shopping happens to be around some of the best places to check out! I also created a map (because if it was me reading this post, my sometimes type-A self would love a convenient map!)
This place was up and coming when I was living in near Shibuya (just two stops away), now when I go back I always swing by there to grab lunch and shop at one of their boutique stores. If you are from or live in Los Angeles, it is Tokyo's version of Abbot Kinney - it's almost uncanny. Just take an exit from Daikanyama station and wander around.
Big Department Stores
If you want to check out some big department store shopping in Tokyo, you have to go to the basement level first to see the wide array of food selection down there. It is utterly beautiful, delicious looking, and amazing (especially if you are a foodie and want to be dazzled by everything from desserts to regular japanese food). Seibu as a good level on their basement floor. Other department stores include Parco and Marui. Exit Hachiko from Shibuya Station.
Shibuya 109 Building
I think this was my biggest culture shock when I checked out the famous 109 Building. It was my first time in Japan and I wasn't expecting 1. to find nothing to really fit my bottom half and 2. The overly glamorized girls beckoning you to come check out their stores. I mean it is quite cool and takes your breath away at the same time. I really love taking a short stroll through everytime I come to this building to see kind of what the latest fashion craze is and get inspired by the clothes (on all 9 floors!). A shop of note that I always pass by is Baby Shoop which sells "Black Lifestyle" clothing (which is always fun to see and interpret) and has wonderful afro silhouette shirts sometimes. Exit Hachiko from Shibuya Station.
I like to call Don Quijote an Ikea, Walmart, Target, CVS - all rolled into one. It is completely maddening but you will find everything you need from being a tourist to an expat living there. They also sometimes have a lot of American products as well as great deals. My first time there I was so humored by some items that I took some pictures, including "Black Love" incense (wonder what that smells like?), some extra curvy toe shoes and even on Halloween night at 2am we were bustling around looking for fake blood (which we found). Exit Hachiko from Shibuya Station.
Stores you can find the in US
There are also many stores like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 that you can find in the US but also in Tokyo (Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku are the popular station to find these stores). I sometimes go inside them even when on vacation because there are some major sales that go on - I mean I bought some great tailored shorts and linen pants from Zara all for under US$10 each. A lot of the sales are during the summer months. You can also find items that I could not find at American stores (mostly jewelry).
As soon as you get to Harajuku station, exit and go down Takeshita Street.
Daiso 100 yen Shop
Wait, I am not that broke, why am I going to the equivalent of a 99 cent store? Well ladies and gents, 100 yen shops are nice. I mean like you can find great souvenirs that look like they cost $20 here and you can find stuff that is wonderfully made for only be about US$1! On Takeshita street.
Thank You Mart
A friend of mine from Japan introduced my Thank You Mart because I was an on a budget student. It is like a small upgrade from Daiso in that everything in the story is 390 yen, so less than US$4.50. I bought over half of my scarf collection there and also sunglasses (since my clumsy self adores cheap sunglasses). They also have a wide array of other items that are cutesy and fun. On Takeshita street.
La Foret is my next tax bracket place to shop. Although I haven't reached that tax bracket yet, I always try to buy one special item from one of the stores there as a souvenir from myself, whether it is Barbie Shoe Earrings or a beautifully made multi-layered scarf, it is worth the investment there. It is very much like shopping on Melrose except in a big building. Pricey but nicely made and unique clothing. Once you reach the end of Takeshita street, make a right.
Vintage and second hand shops are their own blog post in of itself in Tokyo (there are lots!) but my favorite is Chicago which is a chain used and vintage clothing shop. I always took my friends visiting to Chicago because there were some awesome finds there (got half my winter wardrobe there - sweaters from like 1970s Japan) and they usually ended up buying cool knick knacks like kimonos and yukata for a good price. Once reach end of Takeshita street, cross over into Jingumae area.
I usually ended my shopping tour in Omotesando - the main street there has all the big name and expensive brand name shops aka Louis Vuitton, etc. It is really pretty at night and has some nice eateries in the area. It is also near some convenient train stations for you to get back home. Walk through Jingumae and you will know when you hit Omotesando.
I have to be honest, I was 'underwhelmed' by akihabara to which some of my most trusted nerdy expat friends that lived in Japan would quickly slap me. I am a nerd too but it wasn't what I thought it would be. The first time I went there, I exited the Akihabara train station and saw just a bunch of buildings...I don't know what I was expecting I guess, maybe like crazy nerd town with twinkling lights and whatnot. Still a great place to get good deals on electronics but I mean you can get that at a camera store in shibuya and shinjuku as well. If you are into anime and manga (like me!) I thought it was interesting to go up an escalator of almost 10 floors of just anime and manga. In typical over-stimulation-Japan fashion be prepared for an onslaught of anime music and video screens playing everything. I do have to warn you at least one or even three floors might be a little X-rated (to which those floors I always find amusing) but it might not be so great if you have kids with you.