How to Buy a Kimono in Tokyo Without Breaking the Bank

Yulia
cheap kimono
Kimono girls image via Shutterstock.

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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cheap kimono
Local furugiya are some of the best places to buy a kimono in Tokyo. Pic by Chris Gladis, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Online shops

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.

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Kimono-clad women waiting for a train.
Kimono-clad women waiting for a train. | Photo by Christophe Richard used under CC

Physical stores

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.

Buying Kimonos in Tokyo - Inside a kimono shop. Image by Okinawa Soba, used under a Creative Commons licence.
Inside a kimono shop. Image by Okinawa Soba, used under a Creative Commons licence.

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.



Two women in kimono go for a stroll and discuss ways to save money.
Two women in kimono go for a stroll and discuss ways to save money. | Photo by mrhayata used under CC

Yanaka Ginza

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.

Renting instead

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.

Once you've got your cheapo kimono, all you need is a sword and bit of bamboo to complete your Japan experience. Woman in bamboo forestpic via Shutterstock.
Ed’s note: Once you’ve got your cheapo kimono, all you need is a sword and bit of bamboo to complete your experience. Death stare optional. Woman in bamboo forest pic via Shutterstock.

This article was updated by Carey Finn in January 2017.

Location Map:

Name: Places mentioned in this article:
Location(s): Akasaka, Akihabara, Asakusa, Harajuku, Kawasaki, Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno,





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7 Responses to “How to Buy a Kimono in Tokyo Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. farkennel

    Can you tell where to get (cheap) authentic japanese fans?Not the paper ones,the ones made from cloth.

  2. farkennel

    I was looking at the ICHIROYA fleamarket site at some kimonos.Who knew there is so much difference with the histories of these things!I`m thinking of buying one for a friend,still unsure whether to do it now on the web or wait until I get to Tokyo in September…..anyways enough small talk….what`s the story with the “obi”?Do I need to get an “obi” ? Is it a must have to go with a kimono?Thanks for your help Yulia.

  3. Frances
    Frances

    You should be able to get an obi (the sash/belt) cheap with the kimono. It is a must-have, as it finishes off the outfit (and holds the kimono together). If you’re not in a rush, I’d suggest waiting until you can have a look at all the different options yourself. 🙂

  4. Toronto Steve-O

    Thanks very much for the Sakaeya tip. We were in Tokyo late October, 2014 and bought two kimonos. Kahori is a wonderful young lady that speaks great English and is very welcoming and informative. We enjoyed meeting her. She will fit you, give you great tips and is just great to meet. A great experience and for $100 per kimono, it was a wonderful thing to do.


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