Japan has a knack for the peculiar. From vending machines that sell everything and anything to maid cafes, this beautiful country has more to offer than anime, sashimi and onsens. Known for their unique wabi-sabi (imperfection aesthetics) and kawaii (cute) aesthetic sensibilities, some shops in Japan can be pleasantly surprising and interesting - just like discovering a hidden treasure trove.
Who knows what little products might be discovered along the way when you look past the Mujis and Daisos when shopping in Japan? Here are six of the most cool, unique and quirky shops Japan has to offer. Be sure to check out your map and visit some of these stores during your next trip to the land of the rising sun!
1. Suntrap (Tokyo)
If you’ve a hankering for the past and a collective yearning for vintage finds, Suntrap is one of the must-visit vintage thrift stores when visiting Tokyo, the capital of Japan.
Its customer base reaches far and wide – popular Japanese designer Nigo has shopped there for over 15 years. His brand Human Made is heavily inspired by American Vintage and stores like Suntrap serve as inspiration.
Established in 1998, Suntrap has been the hotspot for vintage Japanese and foreign enthusiasts - Mackinaw jackets and wool shirts are a hot favourite, so be sure to check them out if you’re into American Vintage. You can also find smaller accessories like stitching supplies, wooden hangers, and small buttons here, which no other shops in the area offer.
Address: Japan, 〒166-0003 Tokyo, Suginami City, Koenjiminami, 4 Chome−23−5 ACP#1F
Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday - 1:00pm to 7:30pm, Saturday to Monday - 12:00pm to 7:30pm
How to get there: A five-minute walk from JR Koenji Station, through its South Exit.
2. Archive Store (Tokyo)
Tucked away in a basement away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya is a treasure trove of international designer brands.
Archive Store carries the best brands like Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela and Raf Simons. It also features a series of designers and iconic pieces from past collections.
With a dimly lit atmosphere, mirrored walls and modern interior, this interesting store gives off a mysterious and strangely inviting vibe. Clothes on display are organised in a way that resembles an exhibition with the more couture pieces showcased in a large glass display at the back of the shop.
With new items every season at accessible prices, it is no wonder that this Japanese shop is popular amongst locals and tourists alike. One major draw of Archive Store is also the curated pieces from all over the world in their collection, which makes your shopping experience truly one-of-a-kind.
Address: Wako Bldg B1F, 1-12-16 Jinnan, Shibuya
Opening hours: Monday to Friday - 3:00pm to 8:00pm, Saturday to Sunday - 1:00pm to 8:00pm
How to get there: It’s 3-minute walk from Shibuya Station in the direction of Miyashita Park
3. Kohchosai Kosuga (Kyoto)
A symbol of prosperity in Japan, bamboo has been used for over 10,000 years to create bamboo wares.
Established in 1898, Kohchosai Kosuga is a family-operated business that began by supplying bamboo crafts to the Japanese Imperial family. It established its presence by making flower brackets that come with unique designs.
The founder of Kohchosai Kosuga - Kenzo Kosuga also worked with other local artisans to produce a series of other bamboo products including utensils and kitchen wares. It was after the second World War that the second generation owner - Chojiro Kosuga moved Kohchosai Kosuga to Kyoto, the heart of Japanese culture and artistry.
Today, Kohchosai Kosuga is still making bamboo products from scratch with hands. A type of special knife called kiku-wari is used to cut bamboo into finely stalks before they are woven into various patterns and shapes. The products will then be dyed or lacquered to preserve its beauty and sturdiness.
Visitors to this interesting Japanese store will be surprised by the many bamboo products at the Kohchosai Kosuga’s flagship boutique on the first floor of the Royal Park Hotel in Kyoto. If you’re looking for handcrafted, woven goods and beautiful cutlery you won’t find elsewhere, be sure to drop by!
Address: Kyoto City, Nakagyo-ku Sanjyodo Kawaramachi Higashiro Nakajimacho 74 The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo 1F
Opening hours: Daily, 9:00am to 5:00pm
How to get there: It’s a 3-minute walk from the Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station on Tozai Line in Kyoto city
4. Sippo (Multiple outlets)
Resembling a Zakka store (a store that sells miscellaneous goods, a phenomenon that has spread from Japan throughout Asia), Sippo is the perfect spot for bargain hunters. There is a wide range of random goods, such as homeware, fashion, jewellery, accessories, gourmet food items and even antique furnishings that are all made in Japan.
Be sure to rummage through the items outside the entrance, as you can find pre-loved tableware, crockery and pottery items with prices as low as 100JPY (S$1). If you’re looking for items to complete your wabi sabi aesthetic or simply want to shop sustainability, visit Sippo.
Factoring in how you could easily lose an entire day browsing, there’s even an in-house cafe serving healthy and delicious teishoku (set meals), desserts and coffee.
Address: 1-18-25 Kichijoji Kitamachi, Musashino Tokyo
Opening hours: Friday to Wednesday - 11.30am to 8:00pm, closed on Thursdays
How to get there: There are many Sippo outlets located in Tokyo and across Japan. See full list of shops on their website.
5. Kiddy Land (Tokyo)
On the outside, it may look like a small average toy shop but Kiddy Land is certainly no ordinary toy store.
Don’t let its modest exterior fool you for it actually spans across five floors and is jammed packed with toys inspired by 80 of the nation’s most beloved characters from Hello Kitty to Godzilla.
Dating back to 1950, this toy store has been a favourite with locals and tourists alike, and it’s a fun way to spend an hour or so in the city. This is definitely one of the more interesting places in Harajuku and definitely worth a visit if you’re around the area.
Apart from the mega toy shop, there are also many Japanese restaurants around the area, so you can shop till you drop and fill your bellies after!
Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingūmae, 6-chōme−1−9 キデイランド原宿店
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday - 9:00am to 4:30pm
How to get there: A seven minute walk from Harajuku Station, East Exit on the JR Line
6. 6% Dokidoki
Harajuku isn’t Harajuku without the quirky, eccentric fashion that populates its streets. A pioneer of the colourful street fashion phenomenon, 6% Dokidoki is the Kawaii store when shopping in Japan. Founded in 1995 by Sebastian Masuda, a Japanese contemporary artist and known as the father of kawaii culture, this shop is a hallmark of kawaii fashion.
Over there, you will be greeted with an explosion of colours, patterns and trinkets that challenge convention. From pastel pink outerwear, to fluffy slippers, and mega glittery eyelashes. Basically, anything that’s anything but our ordinary black and white.
It ships worldwide to international fans of the subculture but nothing beats visiting the flagship store in Harajuku.
Termed as a “place of expression”, 6% Dokidoki is not for the faint of heart. If you’re a minimalist, Muji and Uniqlo might be more up your alley. Masuda likes to work in shades of vivid yellow, pink and purple, with recurring motifs like hearts, stars, ribbons, unicorns and ice cream.
Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 4 Chome−28−16 2F
Opening Hours: Thursday to Friday - 1:00pm to 7:00pm, Saturday to Sunday - 12:00pm to 7:00pm.
How to get there: A three minute walk from Meiji-jingu-mae Station on Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.
Be inspired by the best & most interesting Japanese stores
And there you have it—some of the more interesting (and well-loved) stores in Japan offering something for everyone. Even if you’re not a shopaholic, these shops are worth the visit for the vibes, ambience and perhaps a conversation with the owners.
As mentioned, you never know what hidden treasures you might find, so we hope this list gives you some ideas on what to buy when visiting Japan!
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Best time to visit Japan
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are generally considered the best times to go, as the temperatures are mild and the scenery is beautiful.
Subways and trains are the most popular means of transport, using a prepaid Suica or Pasmo card to pay for your rides. You can even buy a Suica card online before your trip and pick it up at the airport. Taxis are another option, but they can be quite expensive. Buses are also typically not recommended as they can be difficult to navigate if you're not familiar with the city.
You can get to Tokyo via a direct flight to Narita International Airport or Haneda International Airport. Book your tickets to Japan now!