Introduction

For those big shoppers out there, I bet you’ve picked up a few tricks along the way when it comes to shopping. Well, so have I — I definitely have a few takeaways from my time in Japan, and I’m here to share them with you in hopes that it will make your shopping experience even more fun and exciting. They will not only help you in Osaka and Tokyo but also in other parts of the country when you just randomly walk into a local store. 

Sometimes, Japan can be quite different from the rest of the world. Shopping is no different. Obviously, most of the basics are the same — you browse, try something on, fall immensely in love with the piece and then you buy it. On occasion, it may not be as smooth as you expect it to be here.

What can be so different from one’s perspective of Japan shopping, you ask? Well, let’s go through the important tips that will highlight the key differences and how to slightly tackle them!

1. Know your budget

First and foremost, you have to know your budget. Generally, one would have a rough estimate of how much they would want to spend on their trip. Here’s a tip: instead of setting aside a sum of money just for shopping, why not budget yourself to how much you’d put as a maximum amount for a piece of clothing?

Trust me on this, you’ll get easily swayed by the prices of the stuff in Japan. Imagine budgeting yourself spending ¥50,000, and when you see a pair of trousers that costs ¥15,000, you’ll be like “oh that’s not so bad, I’ll still have ¥35,000 left for the rest.” At the end of the day, you’ll end up with 3, maybe 5 pieces of clothing.

If you set a budget for each piece of clothing — say, ¥5,000 maximum for a shirt and ¥8,000 maximum for trousers — you’ll end up with more stuff for the same overall budget of ¥50,000!

2. Basic phrases are lifesavers

You’re right, the Japanese language is hard to master. But, it’s not that difficult to memorise a few sentences to make your shopping experience that much more smooth-sailing! To be very honest with you, people can get away with just knowing a few vocabulary words and not even a full sentence, so there’s no excuse!

The easiest ones to remember are colours: kuro () for black and shiroi (白い) for white are just your basic two colours that you’ll soon find out you’ll be using the most. If you want something that’s white in black, just point at the item and say “kuro arimasuka?” (黒ありますか?) — it’s that simple!

A sentence that you can remember easily is “ikura desu ka?” (いくらですか?) which means “how much?” Learn your basic one through ten before using this sentence though, as you wouldn’t be able to understand the response if you use it and not know the numbers. Once you do, this sentence is a lifesaver!

There are a few other simple and basic phrases to ease your shopping experience — it will 100% make it a lot more fun, if anything!

3. Be aware of the size conversion

Image Credit: paulStarPics

This one can get quite tricky. Just like how the UK size chart is different from the US size chart, the Japanese have their own size chart! Their shoe sizing follows a different kind of measurement and the S/M/L sizing can run rather small to accommodate the smaller physique of the locals. 

Do your research in advance or have the size conversion charts for all the various types of clothing and accessories saved on your phone. Some shops, especially the small, local ones, do not allow customers to try on the clothes or accessories, so you have to roughly guess if the items fit you or not.

Basically, the thing to note is that everything just runs smaller than usual. The Japanese are slim and petite in general, so some lengths may not be suitable for taller people, either. Be sure to check before you make your payment — some places, just like the “no trying” rule, have the “no refund or exchange” rule!

4. Don’t forget your passport

Oh, the privilege of tax-free! Visitors are lucky enough to claim the taxes back, but unlike some countries where you claim them all at once at the airport, in Japan, you can claim them at the store itself! There’s one catch, though: you have to have your passport.

I have made the mistake countless times — when I was first in Japan for travel — of not bringing my passport along with me and had to face the consequences of not getting the tax amount refunded. I guess if you’re as forgetful as me, you have to pay the price — literally!

5. Keep your eyes wide open

One thing I notice about Japan is that the good and great things are, more often than not, hidden. Sometimes, there wouldn’t even be signs to point to these amazing stores! I guess that’s just the exclusivity factor in play.

Because of that, make sure you get your cup of brewed coffee in the morning so you’re on high alert with eyes wide open to spot these hidden gems. These treasure chests of stores can gift you with all sorts of stuff — from unique, rare items to bargain prices!

The best ones are the ones that are underrated and underground, and that is no less for Japan shopping. Some are even literally underground! Who wouldn’t want one-of-a-kind items that only you have and no one else can get?

Conclusion

So there you have it — 5 exclusive tips from my own personal shopping experience in Japan. In my opinion, Japan is one of the best countries to shop in, and every piece is guaranteed quality. Whether you’re into luxury goods or thrifted items, rest assured you won’t be disappointed when shopping in The Land of the Rising Sun.