Fashion is a fickle mistress – just when you think you have it down, parachute pants are suddenly 'not cool' anymore and the shiny new purchase you were so proud of two weeks ago is confined to the back of the closet, never to be spoken of again. But, as every experienced fashion-lover knows, some styles do endure, and the savvy shopper with an eye for a lasting piece can't go far wrong with a vintage buy. After all, if it can stand the test of time from as far back as the 1800s, you know it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Tokyo has more than its fair share of vintage and secondhand clothes shops, but with such an enormous selection to choose from, separating the treasure troves from the tat dens is a long and arduous process – a process that we've gone through so that you don't have to. With that in mind, we bring you the best vintage clothing stores that Tokyo has to offer, from Shibuya and Harajuku to Koenji and Shimokitazawa. Now go out there and get your glad rags on, you stylish young thing, you.
Best for: Quality vintage, labels, accessories
Visit if... You want edgy style in a welcoming environment
Single-handedly proving that used clothing shops don’t have to consist of stacks of bargain bins filled with ugly, ugly shoes, this sleek Meiji-dori store offers a good selection of fashionable vintage apparel and accessories. The simple interior showcases diverse pieces with an edgy, raw sense of style, ranging from rock T-shirts and American stadium jackets to classic tailored items. Find it about a seven-minute walk from Shibuya Station.
Best for: Western-style menswear
Visit if... You’re looking for an eclectic mix of vintage menswear
A Johnny-come-lately on the fashion circuit, this used clothing shop in Shibuya’s Fire Street opened in September 2012, selling a range of vintage menswear that the shop’s owner personally imported from the UK, France and America. Despite their Western origins, plenty of the clothes fit smaller Japanese frames, and range vastly in style – from Harley Davidson leather jackets to Nordic patterned sweaters and even handmade accessories.
Best for: Vintage Japanese brands at affordable prices
Visit if... You like your music and fashion to mix
It’s lucky the name is stencilled over the main entrance, otherwise you might mistake the unassuming brickwork exterior of this shop for a storage unit. Inside, however, lies a treasure trove of old-school Japanese pieces; look hard enough and you might even find dead stock sportswear and trainers. Boy – which counts local fashion beacon Fake Tokyo and Shimokitazawa used clothing shop Haight & Ashbury as siblings – mainly sells vintage items made by Japanese brands that have a connection with music.
Best for: Anything with a touch of the fairytale about it
Visit if... You’re looking for some new Dolly-kei dresses
Step into the fairytale world of Grimoire, where antique dolls, chandeliers and ornaments set the scene for a fashionable range of girly gothics and cutesy dresses. Tobe Naoaki and Hitomi Nomura opened the store in 2008, and it's already earned a reputation among fans of the Dolly-kei style. Located near Miyashita Park, Grimoire stocks an array of vintage clothing imported from Europe and America, as well as antique furniture such as cabinets and lampshades.
Best for: Clothing with character
Visit if... You want to splurge on a trendy vintage outfit
Take the battered old lift to the third floor of a multi-tenant building, where you’ll find this cosy slice of store that dates all the way back to 1993. What it lacks in size, Toro makes up for in reputation – widely regarded as the daddy of Shibuya vintage clothing shops, its carefully chosen, on-trend selections make most of its competitors look like the jumped-up thrift stores they really are.
Best for: Cheap and cheerful bits and pieces
Visit if... Your outfit could benefit from some neon trinkets
Nude Trump is a chaotic jumble of outré garments and accessories: you'll find all kinds of studded, sequinned and fur-print oddities squeezed into its cramped racks and shelves, accompanied by a range of boots, T-shirts, jackets, sunglasses, blinged-out jewellery and Don Qujiote-grade novelty tat. Don’t expect quality, but do expect to find something dazzling.
Best for: Vintage books and posters, designer labels
Visit if... You’re on the hunt for art books or vintage Chanel
When your store is drawing in even fickle fashion-industry experts, you know you must be doing something right. This boutique, hidden on a side street near Hachiman-dori, stocks a range of vintage items (mostly by Maison), including antiques, revamps, lingerie, out-of-print art books and vintage European posters. It’s strictly womenswear, and carries some heavy-hitting labels such as Chanel, Hermès and Vuitton, as well as ’60s and ’70s retro textile vintage dresses, chiffon blouses, original remakes and selected imported items.
Best for: Designer labels
Visit if... You’re looking to buy and sell high-quality used clothing
Ragtag has 15 branches across Japan, all specialising in second-hand designer clothing for men and women. Its new Harajuku branch occupies a plum spot in narrow Cat Street and spans three floors. The ground floor is reserved for casual and street wear, while the second floor displays fancier formals – Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood and even Chanel often make an appearance. If you’re looking for cleaning, repairs or have a branded item of clothing to flog, head up to the third floor.
Best for: Indie brands, jewellery and quality vintage pieces
Visit if... Toro’s a little out of your price range
The younger sister of Shibuya boutique Toro (it opened in 2006), Otoe does a nice line in quality vintage clothing at affordable prices, while also stocking remade items and accessories created by young designers. Boasting the same commitment to on-trend pieces as its sibling, it stocks good quality vintage menswear and womenswear, as well as select items from indie brands.
Best for: Outlandish costumes
Visit if... You want to stand out from the crowd, or you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Lady Gaga
Basement boutique Dog has wooed some unusual customers with its blend of outlandish vintage and reworked clothing – not least Lady Gaga, who’s been known to visit incognito on her trips to Tokyo. Indeed, those with a taste for the theatrical will appreciate its remakes, which include replicas of costumes from Gaga’s own shows (and a few Madonna numbers). If you’re looking for something a little more wearable, its range of indie designer remakes are also worth browsing.
Best for: Unusual European designs
Visit if... You like Toga but want vintage
Intrepid fashion hounds in search of unusual designs won’t be disappointed by this used clothing shop, opened in 2007 and run by designer Yasuko Furuta’s Toga brand. The choice of location – it's effectively squatting in the ground-floor parking space next to Toga’s Harajuku shop – is thoroughly in keeping with the eccentric nature of the selections within. Toga XTC focuses on second-hand European clothes, shoes and accessories, with a fine eye for unusual designs and textiles – the kind of thing that's likely to appeal to dedicated Toga fans, in other words.
Best for: Distinctive vintage eyewear
Visit if... You’d like to know how you look in a pair of specs from the 1800s
If you're yearning for an alternative to the latest eyewear trends, you can find something more distinctive at this classically styled boutique in central Harajuku. Solakzade offers an impressive selection of vintage glasses and sunglasses from Japan, the US and Europe, dating as far back as the 1800s, though mainly focuses (sorry) on frames from the '60s and '70s.
Best for: Classic Western pieces, antique dresses and old lace
Visit if... You have money to burn on chic European/American style
A giant scarlet shoe marks the entrance and sets the tone for this chic store specialising in American and European clothing from the 19th and 20th centuries. Haight & Ashbury has been plying its trade for more than 20 years now – and it’s in good hands too, as the owners also run Shibuya vintage store Boy and ultra-hip boutique Fake Tokyo. The shop is divided into menswear and womenswear (with a slight skew to the ladies) and there’s a vintage section where you’ll find old lacy numbers, embroidered antique dresses and summery floral accessories.
Best for: Cheap vintage buys
Visit if... You’re looking for affordable vintage or American-style clothing
The Shimokitazawa branch of Flamingo – sibling to its Harajuku and Kichijoji namesakes – opened in 2005 and stocks a mix of new clothing and American vintage duds, starting at the ’40s and ending at the ’80s. Thanks to its US-based buyer, new stock comes in quickly, and there’s a good selection of both men and women’s clothing – as well as a few added extras such as retro-look tableware.
Best for: Modern second-hand clothing
Visit if... You like your thrift stores thrifty; you want to offload some of your unwanted clothing
Exchange by name, exchange by nature: this spacious store sells imported, non-branded used clothing, while also buying in items from customers, or even allowing them to swap threads they no longer want for pieces from the store. They have to meet a certain criteria, mind, so showing up with a sack of baggy old T-shirts probably isn’t going to get you much more than a raised eyebrow.
Best for: Anime fans
Visit if... You want some eye-catching items to add to your wardrobe
If you like to buy your style in stylish surrounds, this used clothing shop in Koenji's Kitakore Building won’t disappoint. The one-of-a-kind decor has a new theme for every season, with scraps of manga pages plastering the walls and stuffed toys dangling from the ceiling. Stock centres mostly on unique, brightly coloured menswear, while many of the remade items draw inspiration from anime.
Best for: Unique pieces
Visit if... You fancy leaving with a jewel-studded leather jacket
Another member of the Kitakore Building club, this Koenji select shop deals primarily in used clothing, original brands and items crafted by young designers. Much of what you’ll find is ’80s and ’90s-style pieces or one-off items, such as redesigned leather jackets adorned with jewels and studs. In addition to clothes, Garter also sells shoes and a wide range of accessories.
Best for: Fashion-forward vintage buys
Visit if... You’re looking for old, but not old-fashioned
Sokkyou is carefully stocked with on-trend pieces for both men and women, mostly of American origin, so you can be sure your buys are fashion-forward. Vintage pieces range from the 1920s to the 1990s (and every date in between), though there are a few finds from as early as the 1800s.
Best for: All things ’80s, anything neon
Visit if... You’re old enough to be nostalgic about the ’80s without being embarrassed by them
Spank!, quite possibly the only ‘’80s pop disco’-themed used clothing shop in Koenji (or at least in the area’s Pal Mall arcade), stocks womenswear and a variety of toys and trinkets – most of which are bought in from the States. About 80 percent of the goods on offer are used, while the remaining 20 percent is made up of the store’s own handmade accessories, printed tights and a selection of items from own brand Monascas Banana.
Best for: Antique interiors and top-quality vintage clothing
Visit if... You want to beat the fashion insiders to the best buys
Vintage store J’antiques offers a good range of items from throughout the 20th century – the bulk of which is menswear and womenswear. That said, you'll also find vintage fabrics and buttons, as well as interior items including antique accessories, furniture and tableware, dating from as late as the 1950s and as early as the 1800s. It’s rumoured that the quality of the stock draws big names from the fashion industry in search of inspiration – and you can’t go wrong with an endorsement like that.