Love it or hate it, Christmas shopping season is upon us, but we’re here to make it a whole lot easier, and maybe, just maybe, you might enjoy it!
Whether you’ll be returning home for the festive holidays or staying in Japan, there’s something for everyone on your list in Tokyo, you just have to know where to start. It can seem daunting (and expensive) but there are plenty of options for all budgets, be it the 100-yen store or an independent crafter. We’ve got a mixture of shopping complexes, independent stores and markets for your perusal, as well as some more unusual ideas for those annoying people who are impossible to buy for!
Tokyo Christmas shopping spots
Tokyo Solamachi: Sightseeing and souvenirs in one
Located around Skytree, this is a great option if you want to fit your shopping in with your sightseeing, or if you’re after some specific brands. The Solamachi area has over 300 stores and restaurants, including the official Ghibli store, traditional Japanese gift shops and modern souvenirs too. If you’re looking for something specifically Japanese to send home, this is a great spot as you’ll find a wide range of gifts, but probably leaning towards the higher end of most cheapos’ budgets. This year there will be a Christmas market located on the fourth floor in the Sky Arena, with plenty of stalls and illuminations making everything that bit extra festive!
Interesting independents: For the unusual and unique
If you’re after something a little more unusual there are plenty of unique shops in Tokyo that are perfect for that one person who already has everything.
- If you want to make a bit of an afternoon, try rummaging at Sippo—a shop filled to the brim with crafts, pottery and fabrics as well as a cafe and an outdoor bargain area too.
- For the tea obsessives out there, find a luxury brew at Tea Market Gclef in Kichijoji where international teas are to be tried and tested before you purchase.
- If you are looking for something bamboo based (and who isn’t), head to Yanaka and find Midoriya, a bamboo craft shop in business since 1908—selling baskets, chopsticks, lunch boxes and bird cages (pictures above). You’ll find it by the TV-famous steps of Yanaka Ginza, which you can explore for other great local shops too, including unique personalized animal hanko stamps and plenty of antiques.
- For that salaryman gift with a twist, why not select a new tie at Giraffe in Daikanyama, a shop dedicated to ties of all kinds, and nothing else, with a great selection of creative and colorful options.
- Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focuses on quality and tradition, and opened in Nara in 1716—so the qualities are definitely successful. Selling has signature items from across Japan which will impress the most intimidating of in-laws and bosses alike.
- Trendy the main clue on your ideas list? Then head to Aquvii in Daikanyama for the more unusual in ideas, with a miss-match collection of vintage, antique and independent designs from around the world and for all ages.
Christmas markets: Festive cheer and gifts galore
Designed for this exact purpose, the markets in Tokyo can be a really affordable option, not to mention the festive feelings and Christmas-y vibes. The best option if you’re struggling to get excited, here you can browse with mulled wine in hand and even pick up a few treats and decorations for yourself. There’s quite a variety, with German-style markets, world markets and flea markets that are best for bargains. Have a look at our guide to markets for the details!
Loft and Tokyu Hands : The one-stop shops
Mentioned in almost every shopping article and for good reason, these two cater for all your needs, be it children’s toys or beautiful stationery. If you’re the type to get all your shopping done in an afternoon, this is ideal. There’s a great mix of suitably Japanese souvenir-type gifts as well as regular ones, with every department covered. The Loft in Shibuya has a large section on the ground floor for seasonal products and designers, so be sure to have a look here for unusual products. They often have a reduced section hidden away somewhere too, if you care to look. The prices are not always the cheapest though, so if you’re looking at things like electronics or cameras, best to check out the specialized shops instead.
Stuck for ideas? A cheapo helping hand
Gifts are hard. Sometimes the person has everything, sometimes you pulled their name in the work Secret Santa and aren’t quite sure who they are. Either way, being stuck for ideas as the days draw in can be stressful, so here are some crowd-pleasing options that will make everyone smile, and help you stick to a budget.
Stationery: Washi tape and calligraphy pens
If you wanted something small and beautiful to post home, or you have one of those Secret Santa limits, the Japanese stationery trend is perfect. With leading brands and exceptional quality as well as plenty of innovative creations, you can please plenty of people with a small collection of well-matched pens and notepaper. This is also a great idea for people at home, as Japanese calligraphy pens are often far cheaper here than abroad. Have a look at our guide by stationery specialist Kuv for some inspiration. More stationery shops here.
Alcohol: Whiskeys and weird flavors
Who doesn’t need a drink at Christmas; all those people and questions about what your doing with your life are much easier to handle with a drink in hand. Help someone out with a nice bottle of world-class whiskey or some traditional drinks like umeshu (plum liquor) and shochu/sake. If you find yourself in Tokyo Station head down to Liquors Hasegawa for one of the widest selections around and very helpful staff. They have Japanese and international brands, so it works if you’re looking for something from home for a co-worker or friend, or wanting to take something back home. If you don’t find yourself near the station, head to any large department store basement and you’ll find specialist alcohol shops there too.
Stocking fillers: Small, cheap and easy to personalize
If you’re looking to fill a stocking or bulk out your secret Santa gift, there are some handy spots for fun and cheap gifts that are fun too. If you’re heading to Daiso or Seria, you can pick up branded stickers and stationery like Gudetama and Disney (Seria) for half the price of the official stores, as well as getting cute notebooks or decorations too. The children’s toy section can be handy, as you can find traditional Japanese toys and games that are fun no matter what age (drunk kendama is a whole new sport) and obviously handy if you have kids to buy for too. Alternatively, head to Matsumoto Kiyoshi for beauty products on offer, with face masks and unusual beauty items (cheek-stretcher anyone?) making great add-ons.
Vending machines: Pot luck and mystery prizes
Possibly the most Japanese gift of all, there is one quick, simple and fun (albeit risky) way of getting your shopping done in about half an hour. For a ¥1,000 a pop, you can take a chance on a vending machine and give your surprise packages to everyone and anyone you know, with the added bonus of a cool explanation of how you got it too!
Still stuck for ideas?
If none of our suggestions have seized you yet, then why not try our guide to Shopping in Shinjuku or our guide to the best shopping neighborhoods in Tokyo. There’s everything you need to know about Japanese antiques if you want something timeless, or a guide to outlet malls for some branded bargains. There’s a whole Kitchen Street for the foodie friends and those infamous food models you’ll see in restaurant windows, and be sure to check out our guide to the basics of shopping in Japan!