The first and foremost goal of most people when traveling is to see new and magnificent sights and to eat lots of different food. Being able to do these things helps one feel more immersed in the culture of another country and intensifies the feeling of experiencing something new. However, that is not the only thing to done when one is in another country; one definitely also has to go shopping! This is because shopping can be a new experience altogether when done in another country since the products, their quality, and the prices may vary depending on where they are sold. Probably one of the best places to shop in Asia is in Japan. Truly, the Japanese take shopping to a whole new level. While Japan is famous for its rich history and culture, the unique taste and preparation of the food that it offers, and the scenic views that tourists clamor to visit every year, shopping in the Land of the Sun could also be another fun experience that you might enjoy.
Bare Necessities: Grocery Shopping in Japan
Upon arrival to Japan, if you would be staying for a while, then it is important to know where to grocery shop, especially for those who are on a tight budget and would not want to eat out every day that they are in Japan. Grocery stores in Japan are almost just the same as every other grocery store abroad. However, unlike supermarkets in other countries wherein you can also buy soaps and other toiletries, most grocery stores in Japan sell only food items. Because you are already in Japan, expect that foods sold in grocery stores are those within the range of Japanese cuisines. This means that exotic or imported foods are typically not seen in grocery stores.
While the country is quite friendly when it comes to foreign visitors with English translation almost all over the country, especially in transportation systems, the same cannot be said in their food labels. Food labels in Japan are still mostly in Japanese; hence, it would definitely be beneficial if you learned some basic Japanese words about food. A great thing about grocery shopping in Japan is that some stores offer discount coupons, and who would not love that? Another way to save while grocery shopping in the country is by signing up for a point card. How this works is you basically get a point for every amount that you purchase from the store and these points that you accumulate is equivalent to their currency of Japanese yen, which you can then use to purchase more products.
Another way to save while grocery shopping in Japan is by shopping an hour before the store closes. Because the Japanese value quality over quantity, they would rather sell items, especially cooked food, at a lower price before the day ends instead of having to sell old products the next day. If you are not into grocery shopping, an alternative would be to shop for food online. There are various online outlets that you can go to that provide food products for shipping with a corresponding fee.
Review: The Best Shopping Malls and Districts in Tokyo and Kyoto
Probably one of the highlights of visiting Japan is dropping by their shopping malls and districts. There are several of these all over Japan, so there are definitely a lot to choose from. However, if you are in the vicinity of Tokyo, then you must try shopping in some of the most well-known shopping districts and malls in the city, so famous that a lot of tourists actually considers them the first stop when visiting Japan.
First stop would definitely be Shinjuku, which is one of the biggest shopping and entertainment districts in the city of Tokyo. Many flagship stores can be found in this extremely busy district; hence, you can definitely get some of the best prices there are. Some of the country’s biggest electronics retailers also have outlets in Shinjuku, so techies can definitely go crazy in this shopping district. It is always packed with so many people, the location being just around Shinjuku Station, which is known for being the busiest train station in the world. For the young, fashionable ones, Shibuya may just be your type of shopping district. Several clothing stores like Shibuya 109 that follow the fashion trend can be found along the streets of Shibuya. The location is also pretty accessible through the Shibuya Station and is packed with people from day ‘til night. More clothing stores, both high and low-end ones, can be found in Harajuku.
If shopping malls are what you are looking for, then look no further than Odaiba, a man-made island built in Tokyo Bay. A combination of shopping and entertainment can be found within the three shopping malls standing on the island, namely, the Aquacity, Decks, and Diver City. A Venice-themed shopping complex can also be found within Odaiba, known as the Venus Fort shopping mall, which was designed to cater to young women. For those looking for upscale shopping districts, then Ginza and Roppongi are the places to visit. Not only does Ginza feature upscale department stores and boutiques, but it also has art galleries for the art aficionados. Almost all leading fashion and cosmetics companies, both local and international, have a store in Ginza. As for Roppongi, due to the opening of both the Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, several high-end brands have opened up stores in this shopping district. Products to look out for when shopping in Roppongi include those related to fashion, accessories, and interior design. Because both Ginza and Roppongi are upscale shopping districts, you can expect the best service there is at every store.
For visitors who are into technology, Akihabara would certainly be a must-visit. It houses several electronic stores that sell great brands like Yodobashi Camera, Yamada Denki, and Sofmap. There are discounts in most stores that you can check out. Akihabara is also popular for its growing otaku culture. Thus, for those who are into anime, manga, and video games, there are stores in this shopping district that sell products related to that.
On the other hand, if you are in the vicinity of Kyoto, worry not for there are also great shopping districts that would be worth your time. The most popular shopping district in Kyoto is Nishiki Market. Also known as “The Kitchen of Kyoto,” this shopping spot feels close to home. This is because Nishiki Market is the shopping district for the locals. Several small shops line up along the very narrow street that is 400 meters long. Just between Teramachi-dori and Takakura-dori, shops in this district sell mostly food that most Japanese enjoy. The cost is not that high and the place can get crowded sometimes because of the street’s narrow width of just 5 meters. One can try food samples that are just great and would be worth every cent. The shopping district has a homepage that can guide a customer as to which shops are open and what are in store.
Next stop would be around JR Kyoto Station, the second biggest shopping area in the city of Kyoto. Malls that can be found in the area are the Porta underground shopping mall, the Aeon shopping mall, the Isetan department store, and “The Cube” shopping center. If all these are too modern for you, then you can head right on to the eastern side of Higashiyama District for that old, traditional Kyoto vibe. Several specialty foods and handicrafts like the well-known Kiyomizu-yaki pottery can be found there. Almost everything in the area, including the properties, maintain that traditional feel of old Kyoto.
Another great shopping spot would be the Kyoto Handicraft Center. No need for bidding or auction, this shopping center sells regular products like kokeshi dolls, yukata, and wood block prints in every size and high-end ones like lacquerware, damascene jewelry, and folding fans at a fixed price. With so many shopping districts to choose from, the rate of tourists who visit and shop in these areas every year is increasing. Satisfaction rating is also quite high because the quality of Japanese products sold in these areas is top-notch.
Cheap and Affordable: Japanese Souvenirs to Take Back Home
However, most travels, if not all, must come to an end. What is the best way to commemorate this visit in Japan other than buying souvenirs that would remind you of this trip? If you are looking for something edible that you can give to your family, friends, and co-workers, definitely opt for either Japanese sweets like mochi or Kit Kats. Mochi can be found almost in any store that sells food because it is a staple in Japan. Sweet and chewy, mochi made in Japan would definitely bring a smile to their faces. As for the Kit Kats, Japan is famous for creating several flavors of Kit Kats, such as orange, matcha green tea, sakura or cherry blossom, and even soy sauce. There are many variants that you can choose from and that would definitely pique the interest of the eater. Japanese sweets, also known as wagashi, are also great to drink with tea.
Speaking of tea, for the tea-lovers, they would most certainly appreciate tea leaves from Japan. Although you can just order tea in restaurants in the Japan, why not buy a box or two of Japanese tea and bring them home as well? That way, you can still enjoy the aroma and taste of Japan even back home. Some great variants of Japanese tea include matcha and sencha. A plus for drinking this tea is that it is also good for the body. For women, you can also purchase paper fans, yukata sets, and hair accessories and jewelry. Usually, these products are vibrant and can add a touch of color to your outfit, whilst remind you of your trip to Japan.
Because the Japanese mainly uses chopsticks as their utensils, it should not come as a surprise that they have many designs and colors of these. If you happen to enjoy using chopsticks, then buying some as a souvenir would be great. Not only do they look good with the design, they are also useful. As for those who are thinking of giving souvenirs to children, you can get stationery items such as pens, pencils, notebooks, post-its, and washi tapes. Either those or keychains so they can either use it for keys or hang it on their bags. The best part about buying these souvenirs is that they can all be bought at an affordable price. Souvenirs need not be expensive for them to be appreciated.
What to Buy: Japanese Products At Their Best Prices
One should not pass up the opportunity of buying the best products of Japan if one is already in the country. For the skincare and beauty addicts, they would know that Japan has some of the most famous brands for beautifying and taking good care of the skin; this is quite apparent when you see the skin of most Japanese women who look younger than their actual age. One may opt to buy products from Kanebo, Shiseido, and Shu Uemura, as these brands sell their products cheaper in their homeland than elsewhere. As for the foodies, do not miss out on the specialties of Japan such as mochi, sakura ice cream (when in season), and cheese tarts. They are all a delight to the taste buds and would have you craving for more. Last but certainly not the least, for the otakus, they all know that Japan is the land of anime, manga, and Pokemon. They would probably go crazy buying tons of manga, cards, and video games, which are the best and cheapest in Japan. The greatest part about buying these Japanese products is that quality is a guarantee. Hence, one would not be afraid that these products might get broken easily because almost everyone knows how the Japanese value quality.