Shopping is a certifiable pastime in Tokyo. At all times of day, in every corner of the city, people are buying, buying, buying. Ten years ago, paying with a credit card would have been a difficult thing to do, even in Tokyo. Even today, while plastic is becoming more common, it's still advisable to carry cash with you wherever you go. Tokyo is incredibly safe and travelers should not hesitate to carry large sums of cash on their person, as this is what the locals do as well. Using an ATM can be a little tricky in Tokyo, as most Japanese ATM's don't operate on the Cirrus or PLUS cash networks most major ATM and credit cards are linked to. A sure bet is to use an ATM at a 7-11, for these are widely known for accepting foreign cards, and (unlike many Japanese ATM's) are open 24 hours.
A good way to get your head around the commercial way of life here is by meandering through one of the cavernous department stores located at all of the city's major train stations. One of the best is Daimaru, located in Tokyo station.
Akihabara is the place to go to get your hands on some quality Japanese electronics. Here you'll be confronted with sheer city blocks full of gadgety retail, offering everything from space-age toilet seats to vintage Nintendo games. If you're looking to pick up a new camera or some cheap memory cards, this is the where it's at. Haggling is the norm in every Asian country except Japan, where the sticker price is what you pay. Akihabara is the one place that makes a caveat to the no-haggling rule, with discounts of up to 10 percent sometimes negotiable.
For trendy and weird clothes, Harajuku is the place to pick up all sorts of great stuff. Lots of eclectic and specialist boutiques offer good window shopping at the very least. Just down the street from Harajuku station is the famed boulevard of Omotesando, where you'll find a hub of luxury retailers.
Ginza is where you should go for high-end fashion. While many of the major designers have stores in other parts of Tokyo, the flagship stores of the big brands are in Ginza, where posh and luxe are run of the mill.
Want a lesson in Tokyo girl fashion and J-pop culture? Shibuya 109 is a learning experience, for sure. You might not see anything you would care to buy for yourself in the famed mecca of Tokyo girl fashion (think oversized sunglasses, fox tail accessories and purple suede stilettos of miraculous proportions), but gawking at all the young fashionistas cashing in on the latest trend is a fun experience. Shop girls work their booths, heavily made up with cartoonishly false eyelashes and crazy bejeweled fake nails, luring in shoppers by screaming welcome greetings until they're hoarse.
Check out the various shops leading up to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa for a great selection of Japanese souvenirs. The temple, Tokyo's oldest and most significant, is reason enough to come to Asakusa, but the boulevard leading up to the entrance is a major attraction as well, full of small souvenir stalls offering everything from bizarre edibles to a sake set you can take home to Mom.
- Sleep Like a Buddha on Mt. Koya
- Learn Cultural Traditions in Kyoto
- Live Longer with Okinawa's Cuisine
- See Where Sumo Wrestlers Train
- Bike from Hiroshima to Shikoku
- Visit Off-the-Beaten-Path Matsue
- Watch a Parade of Costumes
- Hike the Nakasendo Highway
- Feast on a Kaiseki Meal
- See Cutting-Edge Art on Naoshima
- Soak in a Hot Spring Bath
- Hang Out in Wacky Akihabara
Japan Lodging: Where to Stay in Japan
Getting Around Japan
Tokyo City Guide
Living Like a Local in Tokyo