Probably the best-known gift shop in Tokyo, this is a useful one-stop outlet for almost everything: dolls, china, kimonos, yukata, woodblock prints, furniture, antiques and books on Japan. Ideal for stocking up on presents and souvenirs in one easy trip, but it can be a little kitschy. Prices are generally moderate, and staff speak good English.
From stationery to toilet-seat covers, Tokyu Hands has everything you actually need and everything you never knew you needed. The Shibuya outpost is the largest household and novelty goods store in Tokyo: packed to the rafters with knickknacks and items from hardware to board games, the store's split-level floors gives it tons of space yet also means it can be difficult to find your way around. Particularly interesting is the party supplies section, which gives a unique glimpse into the Japanese sense of humour. The character goods, stationery, kitchen, and health and beauty floors are particularly enticing for those looking to zero in on potential souvenirs.
Much like its competitor, Tokyu Hands, Loft offers anything you can imagine for the home, office, car or even plane, just presented in a slightly more design-heavy way (although the two stores often have similar products). Loft stocks an extensive array of cartoon character items such as mobile phone straps, stationery and keychains along with modern takes on traditional Japanese products like fans, socks, and tenugui (handkerchiefs). You'll also find Japanese innovations such as the staple-less stapler and non-smelly nail polish here; if they're sold out, loop back to Tokyu Hands.
Another 'everything store', but decidedly downmarket from Tokyu Hands and Loft, at Don Quijote it’s pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap taken to the extreme. The aisles and shelves are cluttered, disorganised and disorientating, but you’ll find everything from snacks to washing machines. There’s even a curtained-off 'adults only' section for naughtier tastes – with this Shinjuku outpost staying open 24 hours a day, there's certainly more than enough opportunity to check it out if you so please.
The National Art Center's shop stocks a lot more than the usual postcards and coffee table books (though it's got plenty of those, too). Souvenir From Tokyo lives up to its name with a diverse selection of Japanese-style accessories, clothes, crockery and pieces by feted local designers like Mina Perhonen and Anrealage.
Japan takes the 'dollar store' or 'pound store' concept to new heights – previous expectations of what can be bought on the cheap are blown out of the water. They are a staple for locals in need of household basics, a haven for DIY enthusiasts, and a must-visit for visitors in need of gifts. At most ¥100 shops, expect to find ceramics, kitchenware, stationery, office supplies, homeware, garden supplies, toiletries, beauty supplies, toys and games; it truly is a one-stop shopping experience that's friendly on the wallet.
Traditional arts & crafts
Great for souvenir shopping, Bingoya offers unpretentious but high-quality traditional crafts made in Japan including pottery, fabric, lacquerware, glassware, dolls and folk art. Their selection of indigo-dyed clothing and accessories is very good too, and staff are always on hand to answer any questions you may have. If you're looking for some non-kitsch souvenirs to bring back home, head here.
If you just can’t get enough of stationery, this store is your happy place. Re-opened in summer 2015 and spread across 12 floors, G.Itoya sells everyday stationery and Japanese calligraphy goods, plus fancy fountain pens, art tools, globes and so on. Pick up some Japanese-style stationery essentials or just a well-made postcard to send to someone back home.
Hara Shobo is an ukiyo-e lover's dream: they stock arguably one of the city's best collections of woodblock prints from the Edo and Meiji eras, while also offering new prints. The company issues a catalogue, Edo Geijitsu (‘Edo Art’), at least twice a year, depending on how many prints they manage to amass. The staff speak good English, and with prices going from the extremely cheap (¥300 for a reprint) to the astronomical (¥2,000,000 and upwards), you'll be sure to find something to suit your taste and budget. As one of the staff members put it: 'Seeing ukiyo-e here is probably more fun than in a museum, because you actually get to touch them too.'
Japanese paper specialist Kyukyodo opened its first shop in Kyoto in 1663 and supplied incense to the Imperial Palace during the Edo period. Still run by the Kumagai family that founded it, the shop moved to Tokyo in 1880. This branch in Ginza, with its distinctive arched brick entrance, sells incense alongside a selection of seasonal gift cards and lots of small, moderately priced items (boxes, notebooks, picture frames) made from colourful washi. The interior and setup may be decidedly old-fashioned, but don't be deterred: their items are so well-made that you won't walk out with a gift that feels outdated.
This cosy shop is worth seeking out for high-quality, quirky souvenirs. MA by So Shi Te's frequently changing lineup consists of work by top designers and includes anything from beautifully carved yosegi secret boxes to kimono obi upcycled into pencil cases and clutch bags. Their selection of wooden and bamboo tableware is enviable too, as are the small yet innovative gifts that add a little touch of dandiness to everyone's day. Scents for your business cards, anyone? You might just end up buying them for yourself rather than a friend.
Fashion & pop culture
The kimono is a huge part of how the world sees Japan. In virtually every Orientalist depiction of the country, kimono-clad women will be doing the rounds, and to this day, it’s synonymous with the ideals (and stereotypes) of this island nation. Although you're unlikely to see people wearing kimono in their day-to-day life nowadays, kimono and their accessories make for great souvenirs, with secondhand stores stocking interesting selections at reasonable prices.
The Beams Japan flagship in Shinjuku was re-opened in bigger and better form in April 2016, and now spreads out over a total of six floors. You'll find a dizzying collection of clothing, crafts and art, plus a gallery hosting an eclectic array of events and exhibitions and a restaurant in the basement. Everything here is Japan-branded – perfect if you're looking for a local yet non-kitsch souvenir.
Walk down the cathedral-like shotengai (shopping arcade) in Nakano and you’ll reach the covered Broadway section. A popular haunt for Tokyo's otaku community, this five-floor complex contains numerous outlets of Mandarake, specialising in new and secondhand manga; branches of Fujiya Avic, the secondhand CD/DVD/anime store offering rarities and bootlegs; and a large number of shops selling collectible action figures. Most of the geek action is found on the second and third floors, though it's worth exploring the entire building to see what you find – there's even a shop selling original manga and anime sketches tucked away on the fourth floor.
Derived from 'purinto kurabu' ('print club'), purikura are a phenomena in themselves: photobooth prints where you are made to look like an infinitely cuter, almost Japanese pop idol-esque version of yourself. The purikura fad may have faded a bit with the advent of similar filters on smartphone apps, but who wouldn't want an actual, hard-copy photo of you looking very kawaii? You'll find these booths at most large arcades, where one set of photos generally goes for ¥300-¥500, but if you really want to experience the full range, head to Shibuya's Purikura no Mecca. This spot has an almost infinite variety of these machines – it's famous for a reason. Taito Game Stations and Club Sega locations are good bets too. Note that many places may not accept men-only groups or solo males due to the amount of (underaged) young women who frequent purikura.
Kiddy Land is a Tokyo institution. The main Harajuku shop is a noisy, heaving maze of mascots, dolls, cuddly toys, furry toys, action figures, Disney, Kitty, Doraemon, Godzilla and more. This epicentre of adorableness is a favourite shopping spot for celebrities passing through Tokyo. Warning: this much cuteness can damage your mental health.
Kit your kitchen out in every kind of high-quality Japanese knife you'll ever need from this cutlery specialist established in 1792. They are always experimenting with new technology and materials, so your knives will be cutting edge.
Chopsticks make affordable, portable and beautiful souvenirs or gifts. Make a beeline for this speciality shop – it may be small in size, but its amazing, eclectic collection will keep you busy browsing for ages. The shop houses over 2,500 sets of chopsticks and accessories such as chopstick rests to go along with your tableware.
If you’re visiting Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple and Nakamise, take a short detour to this area devoted to wholesale kitchenware shops. You’ll find low-cost crockery, rice cookers, knives, grills – indeed everything you need to set up a restaurant, including the realistic-looking plastic models of dishes displayed in restaurant windows. The shops run along Shinbori-dori, from the corner of Asakusa-dori; look for the giant chef’s head on the top of the Niimi store. We're particularly fond of Kappabashi Maeda, which has a good selection of whimsical, Japanese-y items such as vegetable-shaped chopstick holders.
Cosmetics & booze
Tokyo's sweltering summers wreck havoc on any make-up routine not accustomed to it. Luckily, there are quite a few Japan-made products created just for this purpose. From products tailored for exploding hair to oily, melting skin, here you'll find everything you need to look as cool and collected as a Tokyoite in 35 degrees and 85 percent humidity.
Located in underground shopping mall Yaesu Chikagai, right by Tokyo Station, Hasegawa carries a truly extraordinary selection of sake, shochu, craft beer, whisky and other types of hard liquor. With exotic bottles of single malt decorating its shelves, the shop feels almost like a museum to booze – and even better, it’s interactive. If you’re thinking of splurging on a vintage bottle, the staff may let you try before you buy: a ‘tasting cup’ can be had for ¥100-¥700.
Part of a city-wide chain, Hasegawa Saketen has a good lineup of high-quality yet reasonably priced nihonshu and much more. The sleek interior of this Omotesando outpost may feel a bit intimidating to those uninitiated in the world of sake, but staff are always willing to give you a hand to find the best bottle for your tastes. They're also part of the annual Sake Competition team; head here to get your hands on some of the best sake in the country before they start retailing for sky-high prices online. Check out their original store in Kameido as well for an even wider selection.