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4/25/2006

Where to Shop

One slightly annoying thing about Japan – if you don’t read or speak any Japanese – is that shops, bars, restaurants, even schools are pretty difficult to find. This is because they tend to be tucked into the millions of office buiidings and skyrises throughout the country. The only hint that there might be a really funky discount clothing shop in this building is a tiny, flourescent lit sign hanging off the side of the building. But it’s all written in katakana, so most gaijin would miss it straight away.

While wandering around Harajuku, I’ve taken to just exploring every nook I can find, walking downs stairs into basements, pressing random buttons in elevtaors…just to see if I can find some interesting clothes shops.

This has been successful on a few occassions, such as the time we found a ¥390 shop. Everything was ¥390 (I *think* that was the price) – including shirts, hats, shoes, bags, endless amounts of jewellery and so on. My housemate and I decided that we would choose a colour and make a Harajuku outfit based on it from items in that store. Twas great fun.

If you’re not brave enough to just randomly walk into buildings and look around, then there’s a few websites you can look at for decent maps:

superfuture has shopping maps for cities around the world, including 10 just for Tokyo. Each shop listed has a short description to it. The downside to the maps is that you can’t seem to filter out only the shops you want (eg: clothing), so the maps look quite cluttered with dots for clothing, design, bars and restaurants, etc.

One website of interest to GothLoli fans is Sumire’s Tokyo Gothic & Lolita Shopping Guide. Here you’ll find some custom drawn maps and shop descriptions for clothing shops, all of which sell Elegant or Gothic Lolita merchandise in some form. Be warned though, the webpage was last updated in 2004, and while most shops are still there, a few may have moved or closed.

If you know of any other fashion shopping guides in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan, comment it in here.



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9 Responses to “Where to Shop”

  1. Wessel Says:

    I never had much trouble finding any clothing stores in Osaka/Kyoto. When I saw a big sign outside which mentioned 1F xxx 2F xxx and etc. it usually meant there were several “interesting” stores in the building.
    But yeah, it is kinda hard to find the cheaper/funky stores. In Kobe I had to walk into scary small sidestreets to find them, but it was worth it.

  2. Deekay Says:

    Hey there, i was just wondering if most of the Harajuku stores are in “walkable” distance of the station. I’m looking forward to going to Tokyo this summer!

  3. Chidade Says:

    Oh yeah, completely walkable. But make sure you have comfortable shoes because there’s a lot to see :)

  4. bim Says:

    “one slightly annoying thing about japan is that all the signs are in JAPANESE”?? no way!! that’s ridiculous, what are they thinking? they should change everything to english to accommodate lazy foreigners who won’t even bother learning katakana!!

  5. Chidade Says:

    I never said that the annoying thing is that the signs are in Japanese, I said that it’s annoying to find things because they’re often tucked away into buildings which otherwise look like office or even apartment blocks and the only hint you may have is a small sign in a bunch of other, also very small signs, telling you what is in the building and on what floor.

    The annoying thing is the lack of signage, and the places where these businesses hide, not the language that they’re in. The whole task is made more difficult by being in Japanese but of course you can expect that in Japan.

  6. leggie Says:

    Hmm… do you still know the directions of that 390 yen shop?

  7. Strange_Phenomeon Says:

    Wow! I don’t think I would find any shop like the 390 yen shop in Switzerland… This is one of the reasons why I really would like to go visit Tokyo!
    I wouldn’t mind if the names of the shops were in katakana, because it wouldn’t be very exotic if all their names were in English…!

  8. na-chan Says:

    funny…it sounds just like Germany – no signage.

    katakana is easy to learn and sounds worth it…if it helps to find things.

  9. jenny Says:

    is there anywhere to shop for cheap funky Harajuku stuff online??? I don’t have the money to actually visit japan, but LOVE fashion there. Especially these mittens: http://www.japanesestreets.com/photos/data/media/184/71113-1122.jpg
    Does anyone know where there are some like this? Any help would be great. Thx.

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