Tokyo has long been world-famous as a foodie destination, though its dominance as a shopping capital is somewhat more discreet. This is also due, in part, to the wide variety of things to do in Tokyo, many of which are free (contradicting Tokyo's expensive reputation). Whether you're in the mood for a department store dive or are seeking out specific items like electronics or manga, this is where to find the best shopping in Tokyo.
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku
It's true: Most travelers come to Tokyu Plaza, located along the upmarket Omotesando shopping street in Harajuku, to Instagram from the inside of this shopping mall, whose entrance is like a diamond cave that looks out onto Tokyo. Once you're finished walking up and down the escalators, however, you can explore six floors of mostly brand-name retail outlets, including one of Tokyo's most picturesque Starbucks outlets, as well as an open-air terrace on the seventh floor, which provides views of Harajuku, Shibuya and other western wards of Tokyo.
Tip: Most shop inside Tokyu Plaza Omotesando accept credit cards, but always bring some cash just in case, as Japan is perhaps surprisingly a cash-centric society, as rich countries go.
Akihabara Electric Town
Akihabara is a popular part of Tokyo, located just two stops north of Tokyo Station via subway and train, where travelers of all stripes come to experience Tokyo's anime and manga culture, to ride GoKarts through the street dressed (sort of) like Nintendo characters, and to perfect their night photography skills. What you might not know, however, is that Akihabara's "Electric Town" is home to some of the best electronics shopping in Tokyo, from cameras and laptops, to appliances and household electronics, and far beyond. Top shops in Akihabara include Yodobashi Camera and Don Quijote, which sells many general souvenirs in addition to its impressive selection of electronics.
Tip: One purchase to consider making in Akihabara is a tripod. Although certain temples in Kyoto ban them, tripods are an indispensable companion for a budding photographer, especially for the night shots that are so worth taking throughout Tokyo.
Sembikiya Fruit Emporium in Ginza
Glitzy Ginza is one of Tokyo's wealthiest districts, and one of its most enjoyable for travelers, whether you visit the 200+ galleries of the Ginza Massif art district, or sample from among the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants on the planet. One treasure in-your-face Ginza hides, however, are the so-called "Fruit Emporium" outlets that sit in the basements of many of its department stores. The most impressive among these is Sembikiya, run by the family of the same name, which started the Japanese tradition of giving $160 cantaloupes and $200 pyramidal watermelons as gifts.
Tip: You're not reading those prices wrong. From packs of strawberries costing $65 to boxes of cherries for $150, Sembikiya sells luxury gifts, not healthy snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Kappabashi Cooking Town
If you've spent any time at all in Tokyo, you'll realize that many of the beautiful plates that sit outside restaurants are, in fact, fake plastic food. What you might not realize is that the vast majority of this food is sold on one street: Kappabashi, in Taito City not far from Asakusa and Tokyo SkyTree. A general hub of cooking and restaurant supplies, Kappabashi tends to be more of a photo spot for tourists than a retail therapy one, but it's quintessential Tokyo nonetheless.
Tip: The giant chef's head that sits at the entrance to Kappabashi-dori street will let you know you've arrived to this quirky Tokyo shopping district.
Department Store Heaven in Shinjuku
You can think of Shinjuku, as a whole, as one big department store (or shopping mall, as it were—or restaurant, or bar), but where this popular ward really shines is the large number of department stores it has, in close proximity to one another. From household Japanese brand names like Isetan, Odakyu, and Takashimaya, to the innovative Bicqlo, which marries the flagship store of world-famous Japanese clothier UNIQLO with BIC Camera, Japan's most prestigious camera shop, Shinjuku is literally paradise for shoppers.
Tip: Since Shinjuku is so frequented by tourists, most cashiers here are well-versed in the process of helping foreigners benefit from Japan's popular tax-free scheme, which applies to many products sold in the area and purchases above 5,000 yen in value. Make sure you have your passport with you, as you aren't eligible for exemption from taxes without it.
Hello Kitty was conceived close to Tokyo (specifically in Yamanashi prefecture, which sits beneath Mt. Fuji), so it's not surprising that a lot of Sanrio paraphernalia is in the capital. If you buy to buy Hello Kitty products (as opposed to spending a day at the Sanrio Puroland Theme Park in Tama, for example), simply head to Ginza, where you will find the Sanrioworld store. Featuring merchandise related to Hello Kitty and her friends like My Melody and Gudetama, Sanrioworld is paradise for all things "kawaii" (that's Japanese for "cute.")
Tip: Although Sanrioworld Ginza is the largest Sanrio store in Tokyo, it's not the only one. You can find smaller outlets in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and the Tokyo SkyTree.
Nippori Textile Town
Nippori is one of the most underrated parts of Tokyo, especially if you explore Yanaka, the oldest neighborhood of Tokyo. Another worthwhile activity just steps from Nippori Station is Nippori Textile Town, which is known among locals as Tokyo's DIY hub. Although there's plenty of high-quality cloth on offer here (among the most beautiful is fine Kimono fabric), you can also find clothing patterns, yarn and crochet needles, jewelry making supplies, and more.
Tip: Many of the shops in Nippori Textile Town, which is known in Japanese as Arakawa, are cash only. If you're out of yen, stop inside any 7-11 store, whose ATMs always accept foreign cards.
Shibuya 109 is probably the best-known Japanese department store among foreigners, if only because of how conspicuous its signs are that hang above the world-famous Shibuya Crossing. Escape the madness of the "scramble" and venture inside this store for young women's fashion accessories, which is the majority of what you'll find here. However, recently, Shibuya 109 opened Magnet, a men's-focused spinoff store, which is also home to a great view point of the crossing below.
Tip: Although Shibuya 109's logo stays illuminated most of the night, the store is only open until 9 p.m., so do your shopping before dinner and drinks.
Otome Road in Ikebukuro
Even first-time travelers to Tokyo know that the aforementioned Akihabara is one of the top spots for anime and manga in the city. However, the art there is created with a decidedly male audience in mind and frequently features female characters sexualized to an almost ridiculous degree. Women who like anime with a little less of that exaggerated appeal (and some men, to be sure) should head instead to Otome Street, located in Tokyo's northwestern Ikebukuro district not far from Ikebukuro Station.
Tip: A more general place to shop in Ikebukuro is the Sunshine City complex, with is also home to a 60th-floor observation deck and the aptly-named Pokemon Mega Center.
KITTE at Tokyo Station
The only thing more delightful than walking into KITTE, a shopping mall housed in the renovated Japan Post Office headquarters located in the Maranouchi district of central Tokyo? The view from the open-air terrace on the sixth floor, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo Station. The shops of KITTE focus on boutique design for clothing and housewares, though the mall also houses dozens of mid-range eateries, both Japanese and Western, as well as a large supermarket in the basement.
Tip: Since most shops in KITTE are operated by independent, local business people, it's a good idea to have cash on hand when shopping here. If you don't have any yen on your person, the ATM inside the Japan Post (an outlet still operates in here) accepts international cards.