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Japanese Retail Therapy

Tokyo Shopping

Shopping the puzzling streets of Tokyo has never been more fun.

Japan is the wellspring of some of the world’s most gorgeous traditional crafts and fabrics, and the bulk of its most innovative technological gadgets. Unfortunately finding these treasures can be tricky, especially when you’re digging through one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Where to Buy Gadgets
At BIC Camera, near the Ginza district, you can buy digital camcorders, cameras, TVs, robot dogs and other electronic equipment and appliances at a far better price than you would find anywhere else. Many of the items won’t be available in the United States for many months, some may not arrive at all, and a few, though they may look identical to the “Made in China” versions you can buy in America, are manufactured in Japan exclusively for the domestic market, according to greater quality standards.

Where to Peruse Local Art

In the Kanda district, Hara Shobo has been selling traditional Japanese woodblock prints for 70 years by masters from centuries past, depicting Kabuki actors, fishmongers and Mount Fuji. Were price no object, we’d splurge for Utagawa Kuniyasu’s portraits of legendary sumo wrestlers that sell for close to $1,000 USD.

Where to Find Cool Shoes by the Thousands
Head over to Takeshita-dori (Takeshita Street), in the Harajuku district, where you’ll find a couple dozen crammed-together stores selling Nikes, Pumas and other sneakers of every possible decade, design or color permutation.

Where to Buy a Kimono
Tokyo’s venerable department store, Mitsukoshi, whose Ginza location dates back to 1914, still offers exquisite kimonos beside the products of English tea and biscuit purveyors and Italian haute couturiers.

Where to Find Japanese Mass Retail
Pay a visit to the Muji department store, at Minato-ku. The prices are eminently reasonable for Japan, and this “no-name” department store sells basic clothing far better designed than Gap’s, storage and home office solutions as bold as IKEA’s, and kitchenware more visionary than anything to be found at Crate & Barrel.

Where to Decompress After a Long Day of Shopping
Should your Tokyo shopping expedition leave you too exhausted to sample the city’s nightlife, consider taking a refreshing respite at one of the city’s many Queensway reflexology depots, where, for about $24, you can reward your feet with a 25-minute bath and massage.

BIC Camera, open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., 1-41-5 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 81-3-5396-1111

Hara Shobo, open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 2–3 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 81-3-5212-7801

Mitsukoshi Department Store, open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., 4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 81-3-3562-1111

Muji, 2-12-28 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 81-3-3478-5800

Queensway, open seven days a week, noon-9 p.m., 3-20-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 85-3-3583-2227

This article has been adapted from the original, which was published in February 2005 by MSP Communications.

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