It's market day!
Attention geeks: each weekend the space under the railway tracks near Akihabara Station’s Electric Town exit transforms into an otaku paradise, with about 40 booths selling manga and anime merchandise ranging from cosplay outfits to collectible toys, figurines and all manner of weird and wonderful items at reasonable prices. Even when it’s a wet and rainy day, you can still shop to your nerdy heart’s content, thanks to the covered location.
With its 250 to 300 vendors, this is by far Tokyo’s biggest flea market and it takes place nearly every weekend in the parking lot of Oi Racecourse, also known as Tokyo City Keiba. With an extensive selection of goods, it’s not difficult to spend half a day here – and given the tempting prices, you definitely won’t leave empty-handed. Expect to find daily necessities, rare collector’s items, clothing, accessories, handmade goods, home decor, toys and even a small selection of antiques. And since shopping can be quite tiring, hungry bargain hunters can restore their energy levels by munching on light meals and snacks from food trucks onsite.
Once a month the space in front of Shibuya’s Garden Tower transforms into a colourful spectacle with more than 50 booths. At the Tokyo Romantic Market, you can find a diverse variety of items from international antiques to vintage goods, handicrafts, accessories and organic food as well as flowers and plants. The vendors change monthly, so you can find something new and exciting every time you drop by.
If you want to combine sightseeing with a bit of shopping, then mark the fourth Sunday of each month in your calendar and pay a visit to Nogi Shrine in Akasaka. About 30 booths are sprinkled along the pathway which stretches from the gate to the main hall. Find clothing, furniture and tableware at this long-running flea market, which dates back to 1976.
This monthly event takes place in front of the United Nations University between Shibuya and Omotesando. Following the principle of reusing and not wasting, it’s a festival-like market which focuses on street fashion and vintage clothing. Apparel shops and secondhand boutiques from different parts of the city come here with their wares, making it a convenient stop for those looking for one-of-a-kind clothing, vintage shoes, accessories and other hipster must-haves. To match its carefree vibe, the market features live DJ sets and gigs by talented local performers. We’ve seen live painting by artists and pop-up food stands here in the past, so it’s a flea market where you can easily spend the whole day and not feel bored.
Japan's largest regular urban farmers' market always features more than 100 vendors from around the country. In addition to a vast range (more than 50 types) of Western and local vegetables, each month the market highlights a different seasonal fruit, vegetable or other specialty. In addition to the seasonally changing children's events, farmers hold workshops and let visitors get involved with harvesting, making the market a great option for parents hoping to sneakily educate their kids. The market is held on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month.
Far from a shabby yard sale, the Ark Hills flea market is more like an upscale alternative to Tokyo’s many smaller craft fairs. Setting up shop next to private antique dealers are trendy clothing brands, giving you the opportunity to upgrade your style before digging for everything from furniture to jewellery. Shoppers can also fill up with grub from the food trucks that often park at the premises. The market takes place on the fourth Sunday of every month.
A monthly market taking place on the plaza in front of the Sumida ward office, this one sees local craftspeople, shop owners and baristas from across the neighbourhood join farmers from all over Japan to show off their wares. These range from fresh veg and fermented products like miso to leather items and handmade candles, while around half a dozen food trucks cater to the needs of hungry shoppers. If you live in Sumida or Taito ward and spend more than ¥3,000 at the market, you can get your stuff delivered straight to your door.
Taking place once a month, this market is great for picking up some cool art, unique handicrafts or time-worn decorative items. Keep an eye out for real Edo-era treasures hidden among the heaps of merchandise, which ranges from ceramics and clothing to ukiyo-e prints.
On one Sunday each month, Tokyo International Forum holds this flea market on the centre's ground floor plaza, featuring around 200 stalls. There are all sorts of creatives offering their products here, so you could end up finding expertly made ceramics or a more budget-friendly, quirky handmade item. Either way, if you see something you like, you should snap it up because it most likely won't be on sale at the next market. Since it's located between Tokyo and Yurakucho stations, it attracts large crowds of both young and older shoppers.
The UNU farmers’ market is one of Tokyo’s longest running and best-attended markets. Taking place every weekend in front of the university’s Aoyama headquarters, this one always attracts a knowledgeable crowd. Organic and local fare is readily available every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, with the farmers themselves happy to provide details about their wares.
Around 700 stalls line the street during the annual Setagaya Boroichi, a venerable flea market that's been going on for more than 430 years now. Held twice a year – on December 15-16, and again on January 15-16 – the event attracts tens of thousands of visitors, making it one of the highlights on Setagaya's yearly calendar. The main area of the market is along Boroichi-dori, a street which centres on the Setagaya Daikan Yashiki, the old, thatched-roof local magistrate’s residence. We’d recommend hopping off the train at Setagaya Station on the Setagaya Line, walking along Boroichi-dori, and then leaving from Kamimachi Station. The Setagaya Line is a light railway, and tickets are bought either when you get on the train or as you enter the platform, so you’ll have a smoother trip if you get the fare ready beforehand (¥150 for adults, ¥80 for children). And if you don't mind the long lines, it's worth sampling one of the market's popular daikan mochi rice cakes – the Boroichi's de facto official food.