Japanese cosmetics are reputed to be of good quality, such that tourists love to take them home from their shopping trips. You might think that they’re expensive, but they’re actually not! You don’t have to go to high-end department stores or specialty shops for cosmetics (yes, this also applies to famous brands like Shiseido!). Aside from the obvious option that is a cosmetics shop (you should be able to find at least one in a shopping street like Harajuku’s Takeshita-dori or a mall like Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City), here are some places where you can begin your search for inexpensive but good options.
Many drug stores here (at least, the ones that don’t just sell prescription drugs) look more like general health and beauty shops than pharmacies. To a tourist, they may not even look like drug stores at first glance, because their prominent displays tend to be cosmetics! Drug stores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi (the drugstore with the big yellow sign seen around most stations) and Kokumin are where you should start looking for inexpensive makeup. They have a spectrum of brands, from cheaper ones like Cezanne and Canmake (product line under 1,000 yen) to Shiseido’s high-end product lines. You can also count on them to have fun brands like Dolly Wink and Majolica Majorca.
2. Don Quijote
Don Quijote is a popular chain of discount department stores that tend to close late at night, past the last train, so if you ever want to do some late-night shopping, this is where to go. It has branches in most major locations in Tokyo: Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Roppongi, Akihabara, and so on. Although the way Don Quijotes are organized leaves much to be desired, you can’t really complain much, considering that this department store has pretty much everything you’d need, and that includes makeup, too! Like drug stores, they also carry a variety of cheap, mid-range, and high-end brands.
Yes, the minimalist Muji sells cosmetics, too! Our former writer, Grace, swears by the quality of Muji makeup in her article. As she says, Muji’s selling point is that its makeup is simple and earthy—the kind of makeup that you can use in everyday life. And if you end up buying a lot of their makeup, they also have some drawers, cases, and boxes for you to store and organize them!
4. Tokyu Hands
Tokyu Hands is better known as a department store for DIY goods—a place you go for crafting supplies or materials for your latest project—but it does have cosmetics, too. You can find branches in Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Kita-Senju, Toyosu, Ginza (near Yurakucho Station), and right next to Tokyo Station. The average Tokyu Hands branch has a floor devoted to health and beauty products, and that’s where you can find some makeup. This writer finds that makeup at drugstores is usually cheaper, but Tokyu Hands’ selection isn’t that expensive, either.
Like Tokyu Hands, Loft is a lifestyle shop that’s known for its stationery and craft and hobby supplies. It’s not too apparent, but you can also find makeup at Loft. There are a few smaller branches that just stock up on stationery, but Loft branches that span multiple floors will usually have cosmetics. You can find Loft in Shibuya, Seibu (a department store in Ikebukuro), and in the Yurakucho area.
6. The Dirt-Cheap Option: 100-Yen Shops
There really is some truth behind the notion that 100-yen shops sell anything and everything you can find under the sun, so it’s probably not too surprising that you can also find makeup at 100-yen shops. Just keep your expectations realistic: you won’t find anything branded, of course. The quality is okay—for 100 yen, the makeup will definitely not be anything outstanding or fancy, after all. But it does the job, and is not of dubious quality despite the very cheap price, so if simple, quick makeup is all you need, 100-yen makeup can do the trick. Besides, 100-yen shops also have some other makeup-related items that come in handy, such as a liquid detergent for puffs and sponges, eyelash curlers, brushes, makeup remover wipes and a makeup eraser that you can apply to smudged areas.
Also, a tip for you: Daiso isn’t the only 100-yen shop out there! It may be the best-known chain, but look out for Can-Do and Seria as well. There are also many other 100-yen shops around; they may not be as famous, but chances are, they will also have some cheap makeup on hand.
(Check out our list of beauty vloggers below—Sasaki Asahi has a video tutorial on using Daiso products for a full application!)
Our Favorite Beauty Vloggers in Japan
Check out Youtuber Sharla—a Canadian girl living in Japan and the star of the Sharla’s Life channel. She vlogs about her daily life and all things beauty related. In her makeup routine videos, she reviews products, runs you through her application process, and always lists the products in the description box below the video should you see something you like.
We also recommend checking out mimei—another successful YT beauty vlogger. Some of our fav tutorials by mimei are: How to Make Your Eyes Pop Without Eye Makeup and Spring Sakura Make-up (should you want to match the season!).
We couldn’t end the list without mentioning Sasaki Asahi. Her YT channel focuses on makeup, fashion, nails and hair tutorials. Her videos range from daily beauty routines to geisha makeup application to how to become a Disney princess (like Elsa from Frozen). But the main reason we love her is for videos on a full face application using 100-yen products from Daiso! How awesomely cheapo is that!