Tokyo shopping guide: six lesser known fashion districts bursting with vintage and luxury stores
Whether you want high-end boutiques or streetwear stores, Tokyo has you covered. But for those wanting to get away from the tourist-lined streets, these smaller neighbourhoods sprouting hip stores are the place to go
It’s no secret that Tokyo has some of the best shopping in the world. Repeat visitors to the city will have no doubt spent hours walking the streets of Ginza, Aoyama or Harajuku perusing their favourite stores and discovering new ones.
But for those looking to expand their horizons, there are other great finds further afield.
Like any large city, Tokyo is constantly changing, often at a rate that seems to outpace others. This is a good thing, as it means there is always something new to discover, both in well-known areas and in those neighbourhoods that are less traversed by tourists.
Exploring a new area on one’s own can, however, be both daunting and time consuming. So we’ve done the legwork for you by seeking out the best shops in six of the city’s lesser known shopping districts.
One tip: Tokyo is not a city that gets moving early in the morning, with many stores not opening until 11am or noon. To avoid disappointment, plan to visit the areas below in the afternoon. Just don’t go too late either, as most smaller stores will close around 6pm.
1. If you like Harajuku, try Shimokitazawa
Some of Harajuku’s best stores are ones that specialise in vintage clothing, but it’s certainly not the only area of the city to have a plethora of second-hand stores.
Just one stop from Shibuya on an express train running on the Keio Inokashira line is Shimokitazawa, or “Shimokita” as it is often called by locals. While development in recent years has brought in lots of chain stores, there are still plenty of small, quirky vintage shops that give the neighbourhood its unique character.
Exiting the station via the north exit, visitors will find themselves in an area of narrow alleyways filled with stores and cafes that seem to spill out onto the streets. It’s compact enough to make the area easily walkable.
A good place to start is Shimokita Garage Department, a “department store” filled with small thrift shops and kiosks selling hats, jewellery, clothing, and more.
Also check out Flamingo for Doc Martens and Chuck Taylors in every size and colour, floral skirts, lacy tops, and wide-legged pants; Dylan for vintage rock and tie-dyed T-shirts, checked flannel shirts, Mexican ponchos and Dickies shorts; and Little Trip to Heaven for 1950s fit-and-flare dresses, delicate lace blouses, silk scarves and costume jewellery. Interior decor collectors won’t want to miss Antique Life Jin.
2. If you like Ura Harajuku, try Koenji
Just as the backstreets of “Ura Hara” are grittier than Harajuku with a hodgepodge of stores, Koenji is less polished version of Shimokita when it comes to vintage shopping.
It’s one of the few places in the city where some great bargains can still be found. While Hayatochiri and Macaronic – which specialise in items of their own design remade from vintage pieces – are both on the north side of the station, most of the true vintage is on the south side.
Start by walking through the PAL shopping arcade, near the end of which you will find Albatross and Slut. The former shop stocks ’90s dad jeans, polo shirts, windbreakers and chinos, while the latter has an eclectic mix of military and Hawaiian shirts, Western bandanas, jeans and Mickey Mouse sweatshirts.
For women, there’s Oshare no Gaijin for feminine dresses, dainty blouses and flowy pants; Fizz for ethnic printed gauze tops, long floral skirts and embroidered kaftans; and Hikari for all things kawaii [cute in Japanese], including teddy-bear-print T-shirts, tiered skirts and sequin tops.
3. If you like Daikanyama, try Jiyugaoka
Those who love Daikanyama’s leafy streets and European-style cafes should take the Tokyu Toyoko line to Jiyugaoka. Just outside the station’s main entrance is an area of several blocks filled with charming shops, restaurants and cafes. The area has many stores catering to children and is easy to navigate with a stroller, so is very family friendly.
Some of the best shops are interior goods stores, such Today’s Special, Acme Furniture, Watashi no Heya and Ideé Shop. For clothing, many stores in Jiyugaoka stock loose, easy pieces in natural fabrics and subdued colours. Plantation and Across the Vintage are two of the best shops, and Slow makes sturdy, classic leather bags that will last for years.
4. If you like Nakameguro, try Tomigaya
Like Nakameguro, the area of Tomigaya is less of a shopping district and more of a neighbourhood full of restaurants and bars, with some great stores to check out as well. With the offices of Issey Miyake and CIA Inc. in the area, as well as its proximity to both Yoyogi Park and Shibuya, it has become a popular spot for creative types.
The super-cute store Pivoine packs a lot into a small space, selling linen and denim clothing, jewellery, Naot shoes, organic cotton baby clothes, tableware, home fragrances, and more. It also has fresh cut flowers and a small cafe counter at the back serving coffee, tea and desserts.
MJ & Friends and Archivando both target men, but the shops are fun for women to browse as well. The former serves coffee that you can drink while you shop for stationery, wooden frame sunglasses, small leather goods and casual clothing. Minimalist Archivando has Rwandan baskets, leather book covers and passport cases, tableware, pot plants, wooden faced watches, and casual clothes in natural fabrics.
For a great bookstore that sells much more than just books, stop at Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers.
5. If you like Aoyama, try Marunouchi
If international luxury brands are your thing, but you’ve grown weary walking the streets of Aoyama and Omotesando, head to the area between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace.
Marunouchi’s tree-lined main street of Naka Dori is the perfect place for a stroll, especially during the many times when it’s closed to cars. Also check out the Marunouchi Building, or “Maru Biru” and its new sister, “Shin Maru Biru” for stores such as Beams, United Arrows, Urban Research, Fred Perry, and many others.
Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake, Tomorrowland, Brooks Brothers, Kate Spade, and many other internationally known brands have shops along Naka Dori. At the southern end of the street is Isetan Salone Men’s, a smaller but beautifully curated version of Tokyo’s top luxury department store designed just for the guys.
6. If you like Ginza, try Nihonbashi
Ginza’s glitzy department stores attract millions of shoppers a year, but venture a bit further north and you’ll find yourself in the neighbourhood of Nihonbashi. While chiefly a business district, it’s also home to Tokyo’s most historic department stores, and it’s where many of Japan’s old-money families go to do their shopping.
The Tokyo roots of department stores like Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya can be traced to Nihonbashi, where they still have stores. In addition to shopping, the buildings themselves are impressive works of architectural history. Pay attention to Takashimaya’s lifts and central staircase in particular.In October 2015, Takashimaya also opened a Watch Maison across the street from its main store.
For a lesser-known brand that is still very high quality, check out the leather goods of Walleteria Yamato, about a 15-minute walk from Mitsukoshi.