Tokyo might be considered one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, but did you know they also have an incredibly vibrant secondhand shopping market? Thrift and recycle shops in Tokyo aren’t filled with shabby clothes. Plenty are quality designer items with intact labels!
But first, what sort of items can you purchase secondhand in thrift shops or recycle shops in Tokyo? The simple answer is just about anything – vintage clothes, designer bags, household goods, antiques and so much more.
You might be wondering why Tokyo would have a used goods market if they’re one of the most expensive cities in the world. In reality, wages have been largely stagnant for about 25 years. The result is a consumer market that is very spending-conscious. Small apartments make it difficult to keep things you’re not using, so some savvy folks saw a business opportunity and ran with it.
Secondhand shops for clothes
Each area of Tokyo has its own vibe and culture. Shibuya is known for the latest trends, whereas Harajuku features more quirky and vintage items. Ginza is famous for high-street fashion and Sugamo’s primary market is mostly women over 60.
A good rule of thumb is that secondhand shops will reflect the style of the area they’re in. If you’re looking for secondhand branded shops or authentic labels, I’d recommend starting your hunt in areas that sell a lot of these items new.
Shops with a focus on high fashion include KESHIKI, RAGTAG, and EVA. Daikokuya is a chain that focuses on luxury items and has several branches scattered over the Kanto region. If you’re more into typical street fashion, I recommend checking out BlueWorkerz, 2nd Street, DonDonDown on Wednesday, and Stick Out.
Japanese culture loves merging the old with the new, so vintage styles are readily available. Stores you might want to visit for vintage shopping in Tokyo include TORO Vintage Clothing, Haight and Ashbury, and Grapefruit Moon. Japanese-style vintage can also have a lot of great finds. HARAJUKU CHICAGO and Boy might be good places to stop by.
In the end, thrifting is all about finding affordable clothing. If you’re just looking for everyday wear, you might want to try Kinji Used Clothing, WEGO, and OTOE. Mode Off is another great place to visit, but more on the Off store chain later!
For menswear, consider the Sun Goes Down.
I wouldn’t consider it secondhand goods, but you may have heard that purchasing used women’s panties is a “thing” in Japan. It’s relatively difficult to find and it’s pretty sleazy, but it’s still possible to find places to purchase (and sell) them.
However, it’s my understanding that secondhand underwear generally isn’t sold in thrift shops, because it’s seen as unsanitary.
Recycle shops for furniture, electronics, and appliances
While we may consider these as “secondhand” or “thrift” stores in the West, shops that sell household goods go by the name recycle shops in Tokyo!
Why “recycle shops”? It has to do with the fact that the Japanese government wanted to incentivize recycling. Post-war Japan had a lot of old trash that needed to be disposed of as new technologies developed. The narrow streets in Tokyo meant that trash tended to pile up and block traffic.
This problem meant that the government really needed to prevent people from simply throwing away everything they don’t want anymore. They decided to charge people to throw away large items. Furniture and appliances fall into this category.
Entrepreneurs saw a market and so recycle shops in Tokyo popped into existence! Treasure Factory, Mogland, and Dopeland are all good shops to visit. Your local government may even have a list of shops that you can purchase from.
Another option for Tokyoites is the Tokyo Truck Guy. This small company helps people move domestically and sells used appliances, but they’ll also take your appliances when you move back to your home country. They offer free delivery!
A word of caution: sometimes small kei trucks roam neighbourhoods with loudspeakers saying they’ll accept your appliances. However, these trucks often find places to just dump the items instead of actually disposing of them. I don’t recommend using their service, since it’s neither legal nor sustainable.
Secondhand shops for collectibles
If you’re looking for secondhand collectibles, Nakano Broadway is your best one-stop shop. Approximately five minutes from Shinjuku via the Chuo Line, this shopping mall is home to Japan’s largest secondhand collectible chain, Mandarake.
DVDs, video games, figurines, books, manga, Star Wars paraphernalia, Troll dolls, and even fan-written comics…they sell every collectible good you can imagine.
While Nakano Broadway is their main branch, they have other branches dotting the Tokyo area. If the Nakano shop doesn’t have what you’re looking for, consider visiting their Akiharabara or Ikebukuro branches.
Online flea markets
Online flea markets and secondhand stores are a great way to save some money for anyone living in Japan. They offer some great deals and domestic shipping in Japan is usually quite affordable.
Some online thrift stores include ZozoTown, Mercari, and RAGTAG’s online store. If you’re looking for more luxurious items, Komehyo is a good place to check. A few of these stores are so successful that their stock has exploded in recent years.
As with all online purchases, I recommend doing some research on items you’re interested in before buying. The deals are generally good and the sellers are trustworthy, but it never hurts to check!
If you’re looking to purchase things from people directly, I recommend visiting Tokyo Craigslist, the Gaijinpot Classifieds, and Sayonara Sales.
What are “sayonara sales”, you ask? When people have to move back to their home countries, they often need to get rid of whatever they can’t pack into their suitcases. This includes appliances, furniture, and electronics.
I’ve personally furnished a whole apartment with stuff purchased from sayonara sales, so I definitely recommend looking them over for deals! Many items are only lightly used. Some are even brand new, but the original owner couldn’t fit it into their luggage!
Some warning though:
Most of the people using these sites aren’t Japanese, so you may encounter cultures that are different from your own. I’m not an aggressive haggler, but many people on these sites are. Stand your ground if you won’t pay more than the listed price!
Watch out for scams! If a seller ever asks you to pay online and they’ll “ship” the item to you before you see it in person, just walk away. Most of the sellers are legitimate, but a handful are scammers hoping you’ll believe their lies.
The Off stores
Book Off, Mode Off, Hard Off, Garage Off…there are many branches of Japan’s largest secondhand store chain. Everything they sell is used, but their appraisers do take the time to note down any noticeable flaws.
So what stores sell what?
Book Off sells books (obviously), but they also sell DVDs, CDs, and video games. You can often read the books inside the store too!
Mode Off is clothing-specific. They sell clothes, accessories, shoes, and bags. If you have kids, you might also get good finds in their children’s section.
Hobby Off focuses on hobby-related items, like collectibles, figurines, trading cards, and fandom-related goods. If you’re into otaku-related hobbies, I highly recommend visiting!
Garage Off focuses on outdoors-type items that you’d typically store in your garage. Things like bicycles, lawn mowers, tools, and car-related items (tires, jacks, etc).
Off House primarily sells home appliances, but they also sell infant/children’s goods, toys, clothes, bags, shoes, kimono/yukata, kitchen gear, and so on. Basically, all those things your house collects over the years.
Liquor Off specializes in alcohol. It has to be unopened, for obvious reasons, and they also sell drink-related items like shot glasses and mixers.
Selling your stuff at secondhand thrift or recycle shops in Tokyo
Secondhand shops aren’t just for finding great deals! You can also fund your next purchases by selling some of your old items. How much you get will largely depend on where you sell your items.
If you sell something of value to the Off stores, like designer bags, you’d be lucky to get just 10% of the price you paid for it. Going to a branded shop that specializes in certain items might earn you a lot more.
But if you’re desperate for some cash and don’t have time to wait, your local Off store can help you out. It’s important to note that the Off chains will only buy clothes that are in season, since they don’t have much storage space.
Selling your stuff is generally straightforward,
but there are some things that might be different from your home country.
You’ll bring what you’re selling to the sales counter. I recommend only bringing items that are clean and clearly still functional. If something is stained excessively, has tears, or smells bad, the shop probably won’t purchase it from you.
An appraiser will go through and sort out what they won’t take. They might make some notes if you have a lot of items.
Finally, they’ll make you an offer. You don’t have to accept it and you might be able to haggle for a slightly better price if you have a good argument, but don’t be greedy. The appraiser can always withdraw the offer entirely.
You will only be paid in cash and they’ll give you a receipt. They might also offer to take the items they didn’t want to purchase as donations if you really want to get rid of them.
Have you ever been secondhand shopping in Tokyo? How do the options compare with those from your home country? Let us know in the comments below!