Top Tier Cheapos love charity shops. Charity shops are even cheaper than recycle shops and their profit goes to a good cause—what’s not to love?

Whether you’re after a cheap, cheap bargain in the name of charity or if you just want to do your good deed and give a load of clothes and stuff away, a charity shop (or reuse shop or goodwill store or Op shop, depending where you’re from) is the place for you.

Charity shop versus recycle shop, what’s the difference?

A recycle shop is simply for profit. It’s a business, designed to make money. An advantage of being a business is that they will pay for your clothes and goods. People go in with their bag of clothes or items, hand them over to the shop staff to evaluate their worth, then receive a small portion (this varies from 20-40% depending on the shop) of the estimated retail price in return.

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A charity shop is a place to donate clothes. A charity shop (op shop, thrift store…) will be run by volunteers and all profit made is donated to a designated charity or NPO.

Porcelain at W.E. Shop | Photo by Kim Kahan

Compared to a recycle shop, the disadvantage is that you won’t receive any money in return. You give your stuff to the shop as a donation, kifu in Japanese. Your reward is a heartfelt feeling and the knowledge that you’ve done your good deed for the day.

From a Cheapo’s perspective, a huge advantage of a charity shop is that they can be a lot better value than even the cheapest recycle shop. Imagine a top-of-the-range coat by one of the best up and coming brands, innocently priced by a kindly silver-haired volunteer…


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A useful tip is to build up a relationship by regularly donating. Once you have developed a good relationship with the volunteers, ask nicely and they may look out for special bargains for you.

Different ways to donate

How to donate in person

The exact way to donate in person tends to be as follows:

  1. Wash your clothes and make sure they’re in a sellable condition. Wash anything else you want to donate, whether it is tableware, a stuffed toy, books donation (well, only if the books are horrendously crumpled), or stationery
  2. Take your donation into your nearest shop, saying okifu desu (it’s a donation). We’ve included the approximate locations and more specifics of some of the main charities and their stores at the bottom of this article.
  3. The staff will ask you to write down your name and telephone number in case there are any issues, and will quickly check your donation to see if it is in a sellable condition.
  4. Finish! It’s that easy.

How to donate remotely or via post

This section is basically the same as selling your clothes via Mercari:

  1. Wash your clothes and make sure they’re in a sellable condition. Wash anything else you want to donate, whether it is a stuffed toy, books (better give up on the tea stained ones), or stationery
  2. Pack your items
  3. Post them to the sorting center
  4. Sit back and relax!

How to arrange a pick-up

The main store which offers a pick-up service is the Salvation Army, based in Tokyo. Before you pack anything, first check the website and see what they will take, as they have a minimum amount of bags in order to qualify for collection, and a maximum distance too. Once you’ve checked they’ll come to you, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Call the store or contact via the website to arrange a day and time
  2. Wash and check your items are in a usable condition
  3. Put them into bags ready for pickup
  4. Wave your items goodbye

Things to beware of

  • Charity shops will only accept donations that are in-season, as most don’t have space to store everything.
  • As donations, most thrift stores will only accept clothes and small items… No washing machines! Call the op shop directly to check if you are unsure
  • Charity shops will not accept items that are dirty or broken

Top charity shops near Tokyo

W.E. Shop

W.E. Shop | Photo by Kim Kahan

Industry: Third world poverty and the environment
Mission: “WE21 Japan NPO promotes reuse and recycling, intergovernmental cooperation, mutual education and policy changes in order to expand the number of citizens who think and act to solve environmental destruction and poverty.”
Where: Kanagawa area
Notes: Only Japanese spoken.
Link: Official website

Some of the clothing selection at W.E. Shop | Photo by Kim Kahan

Salvation Army

Mission: “The Salvation Army is a Christian (Protestant) organization born in the UK and engaged in evangelism work while providing social welfare, education, medical care, etc. for those who are suffering from these problems occurring around the world and seeking help.”
Where: Tokyo area
Notes: Full English support and pickups available. Not an actual army.
Link: Official website

Ecomesse

Industry: Sustainability and the environment
Mission: “Ecomesse is a NPO (not-for-profit) organization that advocates greener city planning and development. Our mission is to create eco-friendly and environmentally conscious communities that will support and sustain greener towns and cities.”
Where: Tokyo area
Notes: English ability varies by shop
Link: Official website

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Let us know on the Tokyo Cheapo community how you get on and if there are any other charities you recommend in the Tokyo area or beyond.

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Filed under: Fashion | Shopping
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