Having spent less than a week in Tokyo proper (there was a day in Kyoto and another in Tokyo Disneyland), I can safely say this: it is one amazing city as far as shopping is concerned.
Everywhere I went I saw something new and breathtaking, designer brands with facades that took up entire buildings ranging from 2 to 8 storeys high, flagships like you’ve never seen, department stores the size of an entire city block and streets filled with shops that went on and on.
You can walk, and walk, and walk some more and still not be done for the day. And while this short guide is not the be-all and end-all of shopping guides for Tokyo, I do hope it comes in useful for the first-timer in Tokyo.
Perhaps the most high-end of all the shopping districts in Tokyo, Ginza is always poised and proper, where wealthy Japanese ladies come out to play (or in this case, shop). Any brand worth their weight in designer gold is represented here, including must-sees Chanel, Dior and Hermès whose facades just seem to go on forever into the sky.
Other noteworthy stops include Abercrombie & Fitch (think gay club with dim lighting, loud music and hot Japanese-American boys), Apple, Barneys New York, H&M, and Shiseido Parlour which actually sells delightful chocolates and cheesecake on the first level of its flagship here.
M: Ginza Station (connected via Marunouchi, Ginza, and Hibiya subway lines)
Another shopping district worth checking out is Aoyoma, in my opinion the less flashier cousin of Ginza. More quaint and definitely prettier, the most outstanding building here has got to be Prada’s six-storey glass flagship, stocked with everything they’ve got to offer.
And while you’re in Aoyama, you must not miss checking out Comme des Garçons’ flagship, which features beautiful sloping glass panels adorned with little blue dots. Keep on exploring the surrounding area and you’ll find 10 Corso Como and Loveless (both chic multi-label destinations), stand-alone shops including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Chloe, D&G, Kate Spade, Miu Miu, Neil Barrett… the list just goes on and on.
M: Omotesandō Station (Aoyoma is just across the junction, so just follow the street signs)
Adjacent to Aoyama is Omotesandō, which features a multitude of designer flagships designed by internationally renowned architects within a short distance of each other, including Dior, Louis Vuitton and Tod’s. This is also the area where you’ll find Celine, Fendi, Gucci and Loewe, all worth a quick look whilst you are in Omotesandō.
And of course, you should check out Omotesandō Hills, designed by Tadao Ando and hosts 130 shops including Ann Demeulemeester, Dolce & Gabbana and YSL.
M: Omotesandō Station
If you’re new to Shinjuku, let me first say this. You are guranteed to get lost in this huge shopping district that’s filled with mall after mall after mall. From Komehyo (a seven-storey building that sells pre-loved designer merchandise) to H&M to Isetan, it is one area that will keep you occupied for hours on end.
You can wander the streets and come across anything from designer boutiques like Louis Vuitton to Japanese brands like Comme Ca and Muji.
M: Shinjuku Station
Another shopping district I’ve enjoyed immensely is Harajuku, filled with kitschy shops that cater strictly to tweens and quirky Japanese labels. There is another huge H&M in the area, as well as other favourites of mine, including Head Porter and Kiddyland.
M: Harajuku Station
While you should visit each and every designer store I’ve mentioned above, you are better off not buying anything considering how much more it costs in Tokyo, unless of course it is something specially made for the Japanese market or you can’t find anywhere else. They have most of everything produced for each season, so you’ll have no issues looking for the elusive bag in that particular colour.
Tax refunds are done on the spot, so remember to bring your passport. In designer boutiques they will take down your particulars and sell you the merchandise at the tax-free price, while in departmental stores you go to the tax refund counter where cash is rebated to you immediately.
Brands and shops you cannot afford to miss out on while in Tokyo include Comme des Garçons (the Play range as well as the huge wallet and SLG collection are must-buys), Head Porter (the real deal) and Kiddyland; in my opinion the perfect place to stock up on cute merchandise from Hello Kitty, Studio Ghibli and other favourite Japanese animation icons.
Any other questions?