Japan is a shoppers paradise, no matter what you are interested in! Whether you are into clothes, electronics or cosmetics, it is a joy to shop your way through the city.
Here I will talk about some of my favorite things about shopping in Japan
- tax free
- high quality
- long opening hours
*header photo : Tokyo sky tree from JNTO
1. Tax Free
In many countries, tax free (or duty free) shopping is only available at the airport, but in Japan you can get tax refunds from many department stores and even large stand-alone stores like Uniqlo and Bic Camera. Shops that offer tax free shopping will bear this logo.
As the prices are usually written with and without the 8% tax, it is easy to calculate the price.
There is one catch – you need to spend more than 5,000 yen in one store (less than 500,000 for consumable goods like food and cosmetics in one day). Although this might be difficult for shoppers who buy many small items at different stores, it is great when you are buying large items or shopping as a family.
When my family came to Japan, we spent close to 30,000 yen on clothes for our family at Uniqlo. This results in a 2,400 yen discount for doing almost nothing!
For more detailed information about the tax free procedure, check out this blog post.
It might be weird to talk about the packaging of an item being good, but in Japan there is a care taken to packaging that we don’t find much overseas.
For example, if it is a rainy day the shop assistants will wrap your items in plastic to make sure that they don’t get wet when you go back outside.
*courtesy of monthly.diaryclub.com with permission to use on TIC blog
Or if you buy something heavy they will double-up on bags. For example, when I bought a lot of books at Kinokuniya they noticed that the standard paper bag was likely to tear, but it was fine with the double bag.
Also, in many places, if you buy any items of a personal nature like sanitary products or even lingerie, the shop assistant will place them in a discreet paper bag before putting them in the plastic bag with the other items. This helps you feel comfortable spending the rest of your day without worrying about people looking at what you bought.
This concern taken in packaging the items was something that surprised me when coming to Japan, and it something I miss when going back to my home country!
3. High quality
“Made in Japan”
What kind of impression does this phrase have for you? For most people, it brings up an image of high quality, durable goods.
For example, Japan is a world leader in high-quality knives, electronics and even ballpoint pens! (my personal favourites are Zebra Surari and Uni Jetstream).
You can feel the care taken in designing each component of even mass-produced goods, and the stringent quality standards in manufacturing.
4. Long opening hours
One of the things I love most about Japan is the long opening hours for shops! In my home country department stores close at 5-6pm on weekdays, so it is an amazing feeling to be able to head out shopping after dinner. In Japan, the majority of large retailers are open until 8-10pm on weekdays.
According to JNTO, most department stores open until 20.00.
Also, the majority of shops are open throughout weekends and on public holidays (with the exception of the new year period).
This is convenient for those who work full time, or tourists from overseas who aren’t really aware of public holidays. It means that shopping can fit around your daily schedule, not the other way around!
In western countries, we have the phrase “the customer is always right”. In Japan, this is taken to the next level with the saying “the customer is god”. This extends from the staff working at department stores (who have extensive training sessions on politeness) to even the most casual of restaurants or conbini.
It really is the small things that make a customer experience stand out. For example, once when I shopping for clothes, my hands got really full and it was difficult to hold the items. They had baskets at the front of the store, but I didn’t realise that I would be trying on so much! At this time, the shop assistant actually noticed that my hands were full and personally offered me a basket. This never happens in my home country, so it was a nice surprise.
“omotenashi” or Japanese hospitality, you need to experience to understand
Although this might be seen as normal by Japanese people, customer service like this is refreshing to those of us used to the bare minimum that we see in many western countries. The service provided at shops in Japan really can’t be matched.
The shopping experience in Japan really is different, and it is something that I miss when going back to my home country. I hope you enjoy your time shopping!
Summer sales in Japan start now! Be sure to check out xx% off items from major department stores.