When you think of shopping in Tokyo, you probably think of huge department stores and glitzy, glamorous shopping malls. You wouldn't be wrong to think this, either—Tokyo, for all its its superlatives, definitely doesn't have the same market game as Asian cities like Bangkok, Seoul, or Taipei. However, markets in Tokyo are easy to visit for travelers willing to look beneath surface. Here are a few of the best ones.
Akihabara Flea Market
Akihabara is the manga hub of Tokyo, so it's not shocking that the district's flea market (which takes place on weekends and national holidays) is also heavy on anime paraphernalia. Many enthusiasts actually prefer shopping here instead of larger boutiques and stores because items from people's personal collections tend to be more unique (and, in some cases, more valuable as well). In addition to otaku figurines and comic books, you can also find a range of costumes, which is perfect if you're into cosplay.
Tsukiji Seafood Market
Tokyo's world-famous tuna auction might've moved across the bay to purpose-built Toyosu Market, but historic Tsukiji Seafood Market is still very much worth visiting. Whether you duck into dozens of award winning shops to enjoy sushi or sashimi for breakfast, or simply photograph the colorful array of dozens of fish and types of seafood still sold in the bustling "outer" market, this is definitely one of the top markets in Tokyo. (Note that if you do wish to view the tuna auction, Toyosu is now the only place to do this!)
Nakamise Shopping Street
As you make your way from Asakusa station to Senso-ji, an 8th-century temple that might just be the most famous ancient structure in Tokyo, it's tempting to push and rush your way through Nakamise, the street that leads to iconic Kanarimon Gate. Next time, slow down. In addition to a variety of souvenirs and sundries, including lucky charms you can take inside the temple with you, many shops along Nakamise sell Ningyo Yaki, a decadent cake filled with sweet adzuki (red bean) paste.
On one hand, it's unlikely that you're going to need culinary items (or certainly, restaurant supplies) while in Tokyo as a visitor. On the other hand, Kappabashi Street is nothing if not a feast for the eyes. Whether you browse shops selling cookware, cutlery, or fake plastic food, or simply enjoy views of the futuristic Tokyo Tower framed by the post-war architecture of Taito City, this is definitely among the top markets in Tokyo to visit. Another great photo to take is of the giant plastic chef atop the Niimi Tableware shop.
Yurakucho Flea Market
If antiques are on your Japan souvenir list, no need to look further than Yurakucho Flea Market, which sets up inside Tokyo International Forum near Yurakucho Station. Although highly seasonal (this Tokyo market only exists for a week or two every April), it's widely known as the best flea market in Tokyo, so you might consider taking a break from sakura viewing to shop. Around 200 to 300 vendors set up shop here, so you'll definitely have your work cut out for you, whether you shop precious kintsugi (broken pottery mended with gold lacquer) or fans and other artwork from before World War II.
Nippori Fabric Town and Yanaka Ginza
As is the case with Kappabashi and cooking, you're not likely to be doing any crafts on your next trip to Tokyo. However, a trip to Nippori Fabric Town, near Nippori Station on the JR Yamanote Line, is still a worth stop on your Tokyo market itinerary. From fabric to make kimonos to a more general array of DIY craft supplies, Nippori Fabric Town is a go-to for creative types in Tokyo and is sure to inspire you, even if you don't buy anything there. After finishing up in Nippori, consider passing through the station to the ancient neighborhood of Yanaka, whose Yanaka Ginza shopping street is also worth a stroll, even if it's not really a market.
Less a traditional market and more a shopping street in the vein of Nakamise, Harajuku's Takeshita-dori is nonetheless one of the best places to shop in Tokyo that's not a mall or department store. Duck into wild clothing boutiques (if only to admire the Gothic Lolita fashionistas who shop there. (If you're not a teenager, you're unlikely to find anything that suits you.) Or fuel up with a Harajuku-style crepe or a cotton-candy the side of your upper body. After enjoying this insanity, cross the street to Harajuku Station, which is the best vantage point from which to photograph the calamity.
Officially known as Ameya-Yokocho, Ameyoko (to which it's often shortened) is perhaps Tokyo's only proper open-air market, and the only place in the city that compares to markets in neighboring Asian countries. Selling a range of items as diverse and fresh fish and luxury cosmetics, Ameyoko is located just a short walk from the exit of Ueno Station, near the park of the same name. Ameyoko Market is open until 8 PM, so if you visit during autumn, winter or early spring, this can be a great opportunity to have a "night market" experience, which is otherwise elusive in Tokyo.
Minami-Aoyama Farmer's Market
Tokyo's home to some of the most delicious food items in the world, but it can sometimes be hard to happen upon fresh fruits and vegetables, at least as a tourist. One way around this, if you're in the city on a weekend or holiday, is to visit the Farmer's Market of Minami-Aoyama located not far from Aoyama-Itchome station. Boasting a wide variety of items grown in the rural prefectures surrounding Tokyo, including seasonal fruits and vegetables like persimmons (autumn) and cantaloupes (summer), you can find interesting and downright quirky produce, including specialty mushrooms that can cost as much as 100,000 yen ($1,000) per piece.