People who want to visit Japan often hear this one particular sentence from friends and acquaintances: “But Japan is really expensive!”
There’s truth to this sentence though, as particularly touristic areas in Japan – with Tokyo being the most famous example – often do have somewhat inflated prices. That doesn’t mean that there’s no shopping bargain to be made if you know when to strike!
So, when is the best time to go shopping in Japan? Let’s take a look at all the secrets behind a successful Japanese shopping tour!
Summer and Winter: Sweet Spots for Shopping in Japan
The best deals, no matter what part or city of Japan you’re shopping in, can be struck during the seasonal summer and winter sales. Particularly, trend clothing can be found for amazing discounts when purchased during a sale – and can still be worn during the entire season! As a lot of companies pay their employees a bonus in these seasons as well, you can expect a wide variety of discounts in pretty much every store to encourage the working population to enjoyable shopping sprees!
On the first day of sale, many of the items you’re especially looking forward to will be abundantly available, which is precisely why there’ll be people queueing up in front of certain shops and department stores. Sometimes, only a few people at a time will be allowed inside but that depends entirely on the individual location. But remember, making a tour on the last days of the sale period is also highly recommended as the prices of the remaining items are lowered even further! The very best snatches can be made at the end but the risk of finding nothing you like, or in your size is considerably higher.
Particularly department stores often have different stages: first is the “sale,” followed by the “clearance,” and finally the “final closing sale.” The last period is the time of the biggest bargains, often done to attract as many customers as possible.
Early July to Early August: Summer Sales - Fighting the Heat with a Shopping Spree!
Department stores and large chains hold their summer sale from early July to early August. The discount rate does of course depend on the individual stores but you can expect prices to be lowered from a decent 20 to an astonishing 80 percent. This rate tends to get higher as the sale approaches its end, as already mentioned earlier, so it can be majorly beneficial to make a tour on the final days of July or early August!
January: Winter Sales & Amazing New Year’s Deals!
When shopping is one of the main goals of your visit to Japan, the absolutely perfect time to go is New Year’s and January. Apart from clothing, electrical appliances and miscellaneous goods are also extensively discounted.
January 1st is also the day of fukubukuro. Fukubukuro are lucky bags for various budgets, filled with a whole variety of items with a value much larger than what you pay for the lucky bag. The downside: you don’t know what kind of things are inside your lucky bag – besides themes like clothing or electrical goods. Because of the massive steals than can be made with these bags, they are hugely popular and people usually line up to get the bags from their favorite brands. These New Year’s sales usually start from the 2nd or 3rd, at certain stores even from the 1st of January.
But Wait, There’s More!
Albeit not as massive in size, there are sales besides the summer and winter periods.
March to Mid-April: Back to School
While schools in many countries start the academic year in September, those in Japan start in spring. Look for back-to-school specials at this time, especially on stationery and other supplies at shops like Loft and Tokyu Hands.
In addition, university graduates will be entering their new companies at this time as well, so you can expect to see sales on suits, garments and bags.
May: Golden Week
Just as the nation gets ready to relax with a string of public holidays, many stores will entice customers with special offers and sales.
Yes, Halloween has slowly become a fun holiday in Japan! You can expect to find some sales on sweets and other Halloween-related items, but increasingly you can expect some shops to get in on limited-time discounts as well.
October or November: Japan Series
Another time for massive bargains is the Japan Series, the annual championship of Japan’s top baseball league. The sponsors of the team that wins the season will usually hold huge sales in their stores throughout the country.
Knowing when the best bargains are to be made, let’s take a look at Tokyo’s major shopping spots!
Shinjuku: Everything the Heart Desires
Shinjuku and its big train station is filled with equally huge department stores, such as the famous Isetan and Takashimaya, as well as Lumine, directly connected to Shinjuku Station. Clothing, appliances, and many more – in Shinjuku, you’ll be able to find both high-class and casual brands for pretty much any product imaginable!
5-24-2, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 151-8580
Shinjuku Station （JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Chuo Main Line / JR Saikyo Line / Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line / Toei Shinjuku Line / Toei Oedo Line / Keio Line / Keio New Line / Odakyu Odawara Line）
2 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 03-5361-1111
- Address 5-24-2, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 151-8580
Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando: Fashion Culture Galore!
When hearing Shibuya, the majority of people immediately think of Shibuya109, and Hikarie.
Harajuku, on the other hand, is the epitome of youthful and subculture fashion with its landmarks Takeshita Street, Laforet, and the fashionable Omotesando.
Fashion-forward Shibuya is also home to many Japanese designer brands that are internationally renowned, such as Acne Studios, Undercover, Issey Miyake, and Beams. Take note, however, that certain brands do not have a sale in summer but only during winter!
Ginza: The Leisurely Luxurious
When looking to buy brand products and luxury goods, Ginza is the right place to go. Famous department stores like Mitsukoshi, Matsuya, and Hankyu Men’s Tokyo sell world-famous high-class brands such as Chanel and Prada. Besides those, Dover Street Market and Issey Miyake are just two among the many designer stores found in Ginza’s beautiful streets.
The area around Yurakucho Station, just a stone throw away from Ginza itself, is populated with more casual brand stores, UNIQLO and MUJI x LOFT being the most famous examples. Take a luxurious stroll through the area!
Final Tips for Master Shoppers in Japan
1) From December to early January, many stores often have shorter business hours than the rest of the year or are closed entirely until the massive New Year’s sale period begins.
2) A lot of sale items can neither be returned nor exchanged.
3) Sometimes, clothes on sale cannot be tried on before purchase.
4) Have fun and make the most of your shopping tour in Japan!
Photo credit (main image): BT Image / Shutterstock.com
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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