Best of shopping in Japan
January 4, 2018 9:18 PM   Subscribe

I'll be living in Japan for almost the next three years. I have run across cool things for my kid that I've never seen in the States, but I know there is more that I haven't even thought about. Help me find great things to buy that I'll love forever and just wouldn't even know about in America.

I've been living in Japan about 6 months now and I'll be here another 2.5 years. I have an 11 month old daughter and I am loving things like baby capes and fun wood toys that I just didn't see much of in the States. After someone in another group was lamenting not being able to find a slim fitting swimsuit for kids (Hi, great FB group!!) I was wondering what are other great household, children, women's etc. things I should make sure to seek out and buy while I'm here.

I like quirky art, old posters, vintage items but also just really useful everyday items. Anything goes! If it helps narrow your search, I'm in Zushi about a 30 minute train ride from Yokohama and 1.5 hours from Tokyo. I drive too.
posted by stormygrey to Shopping (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Japanese and Korean cotton clothes, particularly socks and pajamas are great. Everyone I know that travels there regularly stocks up. Obvs Uniqlo is available in the US now but it was cheaper in Japan.
posted by k8t at 11:20 PM on January 4, 2018

Go to Tokyu Hands and Loft in Tokyo! You can find them both in Shibuya.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 11:31 PM on January 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

Everything stationery. Gel pens, fountain pens (brands like Sailor, Pilot or Platinum), **fountain pen inks** (there are hundreds of inks that are exclusive to certain stores), notebooks with Tomoe River paper, traveller's notebooks.

As you're there, get a few cute bento boxes for your family. If you don't take them for lunch you can always use them for organizing.

Next time you go to Harajuku, check Kiddyland for tons of cute children's toys and figures. They usually have half the store dedicated to Sanrio, Disney and Snoopy goods, but there's also awesome Star Wars merchandising (or there was last time I was there in November '16).

If you're in Kyoto, there's Yojiya in several touristy locations like Gion or Sannen-zaka. They specialize in facial oil-blotting paper but they're great for souvenirs (pouches, hand mirrors, lip balms). It's a bit very focused but it's very difficult to buy their products outside Japan.

Steam Cream is very nice for the skin (although it has a lavendery fragance, if you're sensitive to that), and they sell only in Japan and the UK. Buy one tin if you find them and see if you like them.
posted by sukeban at 12:19 AM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Textile edition:

SOU·SOU has quirky "wa-modern" clothes. This is the US web store.

RAAK/ Eirakuya sells mainly tenugui and furoshiki in vintage prints, but they also have amazing cotton gauze mufflers with the same designs.

Kamawanu also has a store in Harajuku and sells tenugui and textile accessories.
posted by sukeban at 12:27 AM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tokyu Hands - I went to Japan in 2015 and this glorious store is still a frequent location in my dreams.
posted by Hugobaron at 4:05 AM on January 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Friends of mine import and sell uniquely Japanese goods – they trade under WAZA. If you browse their store or Instagram account you may find lots of inspiration of beautiful things you can only buy in Japan. They typically also list who/where they get it from, and provide background about the companies or artisans. They specialise in artisinal, rather than mass-market goods.

When I visited Japan I enjoyed Tokyu Hands, as previously mentioned, also Kiddyland, also the Ghibli Museum shop. Otherwise I just randomly browsed. I blogged about the stuff I bought (back in 2003) here.
posted by snarfois at 4:07 AM on January 5, 2018

I had a package of Jaga Pokkuru potato chips that were at the time sold only on Hokkaido. They were the best potato chips I’ve ever had in my life! They were sent to my company by a Honshu-based vendor who had familial connections on the northernmost island. Nowadays I think they have nationwide Japanese distribution, although there was a crop failure last year that has pushed prices wayyyy up.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2018

Ceramicware in Japan is incredibly diverse and dirt cheap. All those weird little plates and trays and bowls for holding bits of sushi, bits of daikon-oroshi, etc. Stock up while you can. There are places in Kappabashi, Tokyo that specialize in nothing but ceramicware, but you'll probably find a decent selection in your own neighborhood.

One (two, really) of my best scores from the time I lived in Japan are a couple of Japanese kitchen knives that I bought at my local grocery store for about ¥3500 each; they've got a construction I've only seen in Japan where a layer of carbon steel is sandwiched inside two layers of stainless; this is called 本割り込み (hon warikomi). They need a little more care than all-stainless knives, but they hold a really good edge, and when I take them to my local knife sharpener, he comments on how nice they are.

You've probably gotten the word about going to flea markets at shrines (which are typically one Saturday a month at a given shrine—I frequented the ones at Togo Jinja and Hanazono Jinja). There's also the granddaddy of flea markets, Heiwajima. Worth the trip.
posted by adamrice at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go to the D47 store and gallery on the 8th floor of the HIkarie building in Shibuya. D47 specializes in design, food, and crafts from each of the 47 prefectures in Japan. They do rotating exhibits featuring each one and their gift shop is AMAZING! If I could, I would have purchased nearly everything in that store. You will find unique, high quality, interesting things made by Japanese artisans. It's really lovely. And not everything there is super expensive. The department store in the rest of the building also has some nice, Japan only, finds.

And yes, Tokyu Hands is also awesome!

The outdoor market in Kyoto is great. Beautiful stores specializing in ceramics, sesame seeds, etc. If you make any side trips check it out.
posted by brookeb at 11:11 AM on January 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Tokyu Hands is great. Also check out Village Vanguard, which I think has a few locations in Tokyo.

If you're in Kyoto, the monthly flea market at Toji Temple is worth visiting.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2018

Jimbocho district for vintage books and posters, including the incredible Jimbocho Vintage poster shop.
posted by Gortuk at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2018

Here are some things that I think are either only in Japan or much easier to get in Japan.

There are things for sucking the boogers out of your kid's nose called hanamizutotte. Useful for smaller children who can't blow their own noses yet.

Ceramic knives and sharpeners are pretty common and inexpensive. I had a ceramic vegetable peeler that was great.

I know that every ENT doctor will tell you not to use them but mimikaki (Japanese ear picks/cleaners) are so satisfying to use.

Dental care and orthodontics are relatively inexpensive in Japan as well. So if there is any work you need done now would be a good time to do it.

When I was there I had a microwave oven that was also a regular oven. I don't know how it worked but it did. So if you're living in a place that only has a stove and regular microwave oven you might want to replace the microwave so that you can actually do some baking.

Denkipot hot water kettles are quite convenient if you drink a lot of tea or other hot drinks.

I think insulated bottles (thermoses) are better there as well.

If you are into outdoor activities then you should check out Mont-Bell and Snow Peak.

Fine mesh bags for laundry. They are useful for washing more delicate clothes or bras that'll get caught inside the washing machine.

Katameru tenpuru. It is a powder you put in waste cooking oil to turn it solid so that you can throw it away in the garbage instead of pouring it down the drain.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:16 PM on January 5, 2018

Japanese sunscreen- so much better than anything you get anywhere else. The consistency is so good! Even the cheap brands you buy at a konbini like Lawsons is great. I stock up when I am in Japan, and when Japanese friends ask what they can bring for me it’s what I ask for.
Jikan is a brand that make quirky tengui. Check out their Instagram or Facebook account to get some idea.
posted by thepuppetisasock at 2:11 AM on January 7, 2018

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