Japan is a shopper’s paradise, with an often overwhelming and dizzying array of neon signs and displays beckoning you in. You can find everything from fashions, home wares, souvenirs, traditional crafts, antiques, and electronics, to the quirky novelty items like anime loved by all Japanese. Shopping options range from huge department stores, entire streets of boutiques, underground malls, the Akihabara electronics district, local arcades, 100-yen stores and the weekly shrine and temple markets.
The Japanese are obsessed with fashion, with Ginza the all-time favorite retail spot for its luxury outlets and mega-department stores: Mitsukoshi, Hankyu, Matsuzakaya, and Matsuya. Every leading international fashion house has a presence here and even if you’re just window-shopping, the district is a stunning evening destination for its amazing neon lights. For travelers on a budget, the Japanese sense of style runs the gamut of prices, particularly in the high-street chains of Muji and Uniqlo (the Topshop or H&M of Japan), found in shopping arcades, underground malls, and less exalted districts in all the major cities. Fashions here are a great value, long-lasting and easy to care for, as Japanese women hate ironing!
For unique souvenirs, the weekly outdoor markets held on temple grounds are a bargain-hunters dream. Haggling is standard practice, and the stalls offer a great choice of craft items, traditional Mingei folk ware, ceramics, vintage and antique artifacts, and gorgeous second-hand silk kimonos. Popular souvenirs include chopsticks, sumo uniforms, tea sets, and kitschy Hello Kitty or anime cartoon items. If you’re a serious collector, come very early in the morning equipped with a torch and try your luck along with the local antiques dealers. After a long day of shopping and a leisurely lunch, head to one of Japan’s lovely parks for people-watching and a refreshing wander.