Second-hand Shops in Tokyo
By Samuel White on 3 Jul 2017
When it comes to shopping, Tokyo is endlessly stimulating. Whatever your preference, you can find it here, with every niche provided for. If you're looking for high-end fashion, you'd be advised to take in the well-to-do Ginza area. Move on to Harajuku for youth trends and cheap kitsch, or take the train to the Nippori textile district if that's your thing.
But Tokyo also has a thriving market in second-hand goods. You might see the English word recycle used on signboards at such shops, but it doesn't have an environmental nuance in this context. It just means that the business in question buys and sells used goods. On average, the items you'll find for sale are in excellent condition—often almost as good as new—but of course selling at a reduced price. The other big attraction in buying used is the unpredictable variety you can find. Although shops tend to stick to a particular theme, you won't be restricted to the latest season's items, and can sometimes find rarities and collectibles. Be warned though, shopkeepers are shrewd enough to know a desirable item when they see it, and prices aren't always as low as you might be hoping.
Designer Label Fashion
This used fashion chain is quite an institution in Tokyo. The first branch opened in Harajuku in 1985, and it has now expanded to a multitude of locations, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, and Kichijoji. It doesn't look anything like a second-hand store. Branches look the same as any stylish, city centre fashion vendor, and the items are almost always in close to impeccable condition. The attraction of Ragtag is quality, condition, and a wide range of labels. Expect to find everything from Helmut Lang and Prada to Adidas and Vans. And plenty of Japanese labels too, such as Yohji Yamamoto, Zucca, and Journal Standard.
While there's a diversity of goods within all their stores, expect variation depending on the location. Harajuku, for example, has a younger, more street oriented feel, while Ginza is upmarket.
The Harajuku branch is at the heart of that colourfully eclectic district, but if you go to the Kichijoji branch, you can stroll round popular Inokashira Park too, which is at the end of the relaxed shopping street the store is situated on.
Thrift Store Fashion
If you're after a more chunky-knit, worn-in style, then try the Chicago chain of shops. There are several branches around the city, of which perhaps the most well known is located in Harajuku. It has a slightly dustier, more obviously thrift shop atmosphere than Ragtag. Shelves and racks are always colourful and packed to bursting point. You can find quality denim, leather jackets, military items, vintage sportswear, and all manner of quirky discoveries in between, and prices are generally low. Locations can be found on their website.
For other similarly characterful stores, it's highly recommended to spend a few hours exploring the streets around Shimo Kitazawa station, which are packed with independent second hand shops. Take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku, or the Keio Inokashira Line from Shibuya.
Also, try the Koenji district, particularly if you lean toward a more punk rock aesthetic. You can find all manner of quirky outlets nearby Koenji station, which is on the Chuo-Sobu Line from Shinjuku.
Photography is an incredibly popular hobby in Japan, and there's a big turnover in used equipment. Fujiya Camera in Nakano—just a few stops from Shinjuku on the Chuo-Sobu Line—is one of the best places for second hand photography gear. Arranged over two floors, they have display cases lined with bodies, lenses, and anything else you might need, in all the major brands, ranging from the newest models to well worn classics. They're cleaned up and well maintained, and priced according to age and condition. With photography equipment, particularly lenses, it can be difficult to judge an item without using it, but all products come with a guarantee, so you're covered if there are any problems. At the back of the second floor they have some antique cameras, and an eye catching display of Leicas.
Fujiya Camera is right next door to a large, slightly rundown shopping mall called Nakano Broadway. If you want to get a taste of the weirder side of second hand shopping in Japan, head inside and look around from the second floor up. You'll find an intriguingly bizarre mixture of vintage toys, military wear, luxury watches, anime cels, records and CDs, and some memorably outlandish curiosities.
The 'Off' Stores
It's worth mentioning also what I'll call here the 'Off' stores. These form a chain of shops which stock all varieties of used item. The name of the shop tells you what it specializes in. So you can find Book-Off, Hobby-Off, Mode-Off (fashion), Hard-Off (electronics), and Off-House (interior items). The most commonly found is Book-Off, which has branches near major stations. Try the outlet in Shibuya to get English books, or have a look inside the Akihabara branch, which has an extensive selection of manga and anime to cater for the famous otaku crowd.
Sam is a writer and photographer from the UK who has lived in Tokyo for several years. He covers a wide range of topics, including politics, current affairs, music, and travel. He loves taking photographs around the incredibly diverse streets and districts of Tokyo, in which all kinds of fascinating people and places can be encountered.