Some outfits never go out of fashion. Kimonos are a prime example—they’ve been making people look elegant for centuries. It certainly isn’t cheap to buy a kimono in Tokyo though—unless you know where to look… (hint: read this article).
In today’s fashion world where unique stands above all, what’s more exclusive than the kimono? Leaders of the time-honored industry have traditionally catered to the status-conscious elite, but modern-day kimono designers and manufacturers are having a hard time selling what typically costs thousands of dollars to anyone who isn’t a refined and wealthy middle-aged Japanese woman. As a result, while most of today’s kimono industry is struggling to stay above water, budget secondhand shops are gaining popularity.
You can pick up an authentic kimono in Tokyo for just 100 US dollars or under, if you rustle around the right places. And you should be able to snag a yukata, the kimono’s casual summer cousin, for even less. Your local furugiya (the name for a secondhand clothing store) is your first stop when looking for cheap kimono and yukata.
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If you don’t know where to look, don’t stress—a lot of secondhand kimono shopping can be done online. Rakuten’s kimono page is a cheap, mix-and-match stop for easy access to inventory from hundreds of stores from all over Japan. It also gives you a quick and informative overview of the different types of kimonos and accessories out there. Kimonos on Rakuten range from 90 dollars or so up to a couple of thousand—keep an eye peeled for special deals.
Random fact: Rakuten apparently is responsible for a full 10% of the kimono industry’s sales these days!
Another competitive option is Ichiroya, an online flea market that sells genuine, family-owned kimonos from Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, with the goods ranging from vintage to practically new. Their kimonos can cost anything from 28 to 1,800 dollars, but most seem to range in the low hundreds. They have a handy Youtube page with short guide videos on kimono purchasing and wearing too.
If you can speak some Japanese and are more inclined towards brick-and-mortar shops, any of the numerous Tansuya stores are ideal places to score a routinely offered discount, as well as face-to-face kimono dressing assistance. A popular chain that sells new and recycled kimonos, Tansuya is a go-to choice for both kimono experts and newbies. Their prices are known to be a bit higher; secondhand kimonos usually cost a couple of hundred dollars. However, if you’re just after the experience, you can rent one for around 8,000 yen a day. And, depending on the branch, you can complement your shopping by exploring Japanese tea culture at the historic tea house district in Kagurazaka, ride a rickshaw in Asakusa, or do a bunch of equally cool stuff near the 38 other stores scattered around Tokyo.
While it’s not at all a kimono specialist, the Mode Off chain is also worth a look, as you never know what might be lurking on the rails. Local recycling shops can reveal surprising bargains too.
One of our favorite secondhand kimono shops is only a five-minute walk away from JR Harajuku Station. The family that has been running Sakaeya for over 50 years is now on Facebook and Tumblr (in English), making their social media a great place to start your kimono quest. The ultimate in cheapo kimono, Sakaeya not only sells secondhand kimono for as low as 1,000 yen (yes, you read that right), they also rent starting at 5,000 yen, which includes dressing assistance and a mini tea ceremony. For a little extra, you can join their dance and photo shoot events as well. Plus, their CEO is an adorable cat named Totoro and their bucho, or department chief, is a raccoon who lives at the nearby Meiji Shrine. Why aren’t you trying on a kimono there already?
Check flea markets for cheap kimono
Tokyo has some of the best flea markets we’ve ever seen, and we’ve known people to pick up secondhand kimono for a couple thousand yen—with obi (kimono belt) and other necessary bits to boot. If you’re in the city when one of the bigger flea markets is on, it’s definitely worth having a look. A couple of words of advice: check the condition of the kimono carefully before buying, and try it on over your clothes if possible too—we’ve also known people to take home unexpectedly tiny kimonos that they have later had to foist onto tiny people.
Another good place to buy a kimono in Tokyo is this arcade in the Ginza district. Just five minutes from Nippori Station, Yanaka Ginza is famous for street food, as well as kimonos, yukata and all manner of other traditional Japanese clothes (including hanten—those short winter jackets you see older folks and hipsters sporting).
Cheapo tip: You can also have a gander at the goods in Ameyokocho, as the stores there sometimes have discount yukata and so on too.
There are heaps of other Tokyo kimono rental options in addition to the ones we’ve mentioned above. Whether you’re wanting to see what it’s like to stroll around in a kimono before splashing out, or feel like one wear would be enough, check out our comprehensive rental guide for some ideas.
This article was updated by Carey Finn in January 2017.