Mode Off – Clothes so Cheap, the Hardest Part is Carrying Them all Back Home

Grace Buchele Mineta
Mode Off Shimokitazawa
Mode Off Shimokitazawa | Photo by Greg Lane

The most difficult part of living in Japan is the fact that everyone looks so presentable, all the time. And by presentable, I mean absolutely immaculate, with flawless make-up, and chic or edgy fashion.

However, the problem with chic or presentable is that both chic and presentable costs money. Looking fashionable in Japan can be a serious financial burden if you only shop at Shibuya 109 or other high-end fashion stores in Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.

So the first time I heard about Koenji, the land of vintage shops and cheap clothes, I immediately dragged my fiancé on what ended up being a six hour shopping excursion. I have no regrets. Koenji is famous for vintage: both cheap and incredibly expensive. Being a Cheapo I, of course, ended up looking solely at the cheaper shops and discovered the best indicator on price is, in fact, the smell of the store. In Koenji, if it smells like a normal, clean store, it probably has cheap clothes. If it smells rustic and warm, like the inside of a used bookstore, get out. Fast. Worn out jackets and shoes can easily be up in the tens of thousands of yen.

And then there’s Mode Off.

Mode Off is the hidden gem of Koenji, and hands-down the cheapest clothing store I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It is one of the “Off” chains, like Hard Off (cheap hardware and electronics), Off-House/Home-Off (cheap home appliances and clothing), Hobby Off (cheap stuffed animals, figurines, and collectable cards), Garage Off (larger appliances), and Book Off (cheap books).

Mode Off is divided into three sections: women’s clothes, men’s clothes, and the 300yen rack.

The women’s clothes section was, of course, the largest. It took up the entire bottom floor. Things were divided based on type (skirts, pants, dresses, jackets) with a special section for brand-named clothing. I originally skipped the brand-name section, thinking it would be too expensive.

Then I went back and realized that, brand-name or not, everything in Mode-Off was incredibly cheap. To make it even better, some of the (already cheap) clothes were on an even further sale.



The second floor was divided equally between the 300 yen rack and the men’s section. Surprisingly, the men’s clothing was much more expensive than the women’s section, due to the fact that all of the men’s clothes were either vintage or from a famous brand.

However, expensive at Mode Off is still a great deal cheaper than anywhere else in Tokyo. Rather than 500yen for a jacket, it was closer to 1,500yen. My fiancé was a little disappointed, but was still able to walk away with a wonderful baby blue, wool pullover for only 1,000 en.

The 300yen rack was a miracle in itself. They had dresses, skirts, blazers, shirts, and full-length winter coats. They even had a faux fur section. And everything was still only 300 yen.

At checkout, they were kind enough to provide us with two large cloth bags so we could lug our purchases all around Koenji. No crinkly plastic bags for us, we were shopping in style. I spent the rest of the day as a walking billboard for Mode-Off.



At Mode Off I got:

Navy sweater: 300 yen
Short red shorts: 300 yen
Pinstripe Jeans: 300 yen
Green Military Jacket: 500 yen
Jean jacket: 500 yen
Grey full-length dress: 500 yen
Black and white winter coat: 500 yen
Black Blazer: 700 yen
Leather Jacket: 1,000 yen

Total: 4,600 yen for 9 items. It turns out it is possible to buy cheap clothes in Tokyo.

 

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24 Responses to “Mode Off – Clothes so Cheap, the Hardest Part is Carrying Them all Back Home”

  1. TokyoFreshy

    Hi Grace,

    Thanks for the post, your writting style is so capturing! I was wondering if ‘mode-off’ is a second hand type of store.

    Cheers

    • Sara Abbate

      yeah, nice question

    • Grace Buchele

      Yes, it is a second hand type store. I’ve sold some of my stuff there too (didn’t get a LOT of money, but made about $20)

      • Well, 20$ in Tokyo means you can buy fruits or vegetable for a week ! It’s really expensive in japan, while in my country they almost give it to you because they have too many. Gh.

  2. Sara Abbate

    Graze I love you, marry me *_*
    Just kidding ! Btw I TOTALLY LOVE YOUR BLOG, I am going to move in japan and I’ll be a student too, so I am trying to stay as cheap as I can.
    I loved this sentence “Grace is an American college student, so by default, that makes her cheap.” because when I was selecting colleges between America and Japan, I noticed the SUPER EXPENSIVE price of (public) colleges. Terrible !
    Thank, thank, thank you for your hard work with this blog: it’s exactly what every student or turist going to Tokyo is looking for.
    Hope to meet you in Tokyo !

    • Grace Buchele

      Thanks 🙂
      I hope to see you in Tokyo too! We can be cheap together!

      Mode Off was my savior. I got so many great clothes there.
      I wish college was less expensive 🙁
      Good luck!!!!

      • Thank you :3 I added you on facebook some weeks ago, I also sent you a PM before. Same name as here.

        See you soon and good luck you too ! ; )

      • Olvina Retha Pollock

        Im going to Mode-Off in Koenji, based on ur blog recommendation! Thanks ❤

        • Olvina Retha Pollock

          Yess.. Its second hand shop! I dont like buy second hand but i just did it, find something not-bad and cost only 100¥ each! Got them 8, so only pay 800¥

  3. Sara Abbate

    If only I could have the direction on a map….that would be great !

    • Sara Abbate

      Sorry, actually there’s a map, but you wrote “Ueno and Setagaya” in the location, but the map shows different place O_o is just me ??

      • Grace Buchele

        There are several Mode Off shops (the one I like the most is in Koenji)

        I often just go to the nearest station and ask the attendant where the Mode Off is. People are very helpful.

  4. Tide Forrester

    I went to the one in Shimokitazawa and it was not cheap at all and felt i wasted my time trying to find it but there was a few hidden shops that were amazing. I went into a store called Chicago which was dirt cheap compared to the others a ..

  5. hi grace..i’m in Tokyo..stay near tamaeki-sano station…mode off in koenji, is it near the station?

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi there Ria, It looks really close to the North exit – probably about 2 minutes walk.

  6. I went to the one in Koenji – and it was a complete waste of time. A small shop with only granny clothes, most of it over 1000 yen. I really wanted to like it, it seemed like such a good thing from the article, but… I went to Uniqlo in Shinjuku afterwards instead.

    • CheapoGreg

      I’m not intimately familiar with the store (there don’t seem to be any in central Tokyo) but I think it probably depends a lot on the branch – both its location and size. Anyway, we’re big fans of Uniqlo. Don Don Down on Wednesday and Kinji are worth checking out IMHO.

      • The thing is, the Koenji one was the one the article mentioned. Oh well.

        I really like Uniqlo as well, it’s a savior and a nice break from H&M for basic clothes. Got some nice unique Disney print clothes 😉

  7. I hope they also have a lot of S sized clothing there too 🙂

  8. Samantha Cosby

    I went to the one in Koenji and it was mehh but the one in Kichijoji was fantastic! I tried on baskets full of clothes and eventually I had to narrow down my selections as I didn’t have enough money for everything (not that anything was expensive, but all the 300~500yen items can add up). With Mode Off, or any other second hand store, I guess it really just depends on the season and what kinds of things people are selling at what store location. I’ve also had really good luck at the Don Don Down on Wednesday in Kichijoji though, so maybe Kichijoji is a good place for oshare cheapos 😀

  9. monochromerobot

    A bit OOT but Mode off (Book Off Plus) in Dotonbori Osaka is a real goldmine! I literally have to be dragged out of store so i stop finding cool stuff and empties my wallet, bad bad bad

  10. Sophia Olguin

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  11. Maria Janáček

    Thank you SO MUCH for this article! I know it was posted 3 years ago, but I guess they keep selling cheap stuff. I am going to the Kansai and Kanto region in December, and coming from a tropical country I have no winter clothes at all besides my heavy winter coats that I wear when I visit Russia in the winter and they would feel ridiculously warm in the Japanese winter! I am so going to this place 🙂

  12. thank you


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