Japan has become one of the top-rated travel destinations, and because quite a number of people consider being able to visit the country — let alone live in it — as a luxury, there’s this assumption that everything in Japan is bound to be expensive. Little do they know.
For those of us who have been to this great land, and especially for those lucky ones who had (or still having) the opportunity to live here, would know that it’s actually not so bad. While there are things that are comparably expensive to get here, there are also quite a number of things that are extremely cheap and only in Japan! Sometimes it’s a matter of luck on discovering the exact spot that sells the item cheap, but there are also categories of stuff that’s the cheapest overall. Occasionally, you got to have a little bit of both.
It feels like a treasure hunt when looking for the cheapest things to get in Japan, but in all honesty, it’s not that difficult when you know exactly where to look. Read on to find out the carefully curated list of the cheapest things to buy in Japan along with where to get them — all from the experience of someone who has been scavenging around the country for a while.
1. Matcha Products
What is a trip to Japan without trying and buying the most famous Japanese products of all time: matcha! Matcha is made from a finely grounded special type of green tea where they’re grown and processed differently from normal tea and eventually turning these leaves into powder form. It’s not just the delicious flavors that reeled in the loyal customers but also the various health benefits that come along with this powdered tea.
The matcha hype is insane everywhere else in the world and it’s known to be a rather expensive product outside of Japan. However, in this country, it’s one of the cheapest things you can get! In fact, you can get matcha in quite a number of ways — everything from unique matcha desserts like matcha pancakes and matcha parfait to matcha drinks and chocolates, and the list goes on and on! As you walk down the streets of Japan — especially in the capital city Tokyo and the housing city of the Japanese tea, Kyoto — don’t be surprised to come across cafes that are exclusive to matcha, where they don’t sell any other products except matcha-flavored ones!
You might think that matcha is only available in edible products — you’re wrong! Even cosmetic products can be made with matcha. Matcha is actually extremely good for the skin just like green tea, and the Japanese cosmetic brands have taken advantage of this matcha hype to produce tons of matcha-inclusive cosmetic products! Everything from facial scrubs to peeling masks, you’ll find them here in Japan!
Where To Buy
It’s not that hard to find matcha products in Japan. It’s scattered everywhere — so much that almost every store and restaurant you enter would have at least one matcha product to offer. The Japanese are nuts over matcha, after all.
If you’re looking for matcha snacks like matcha KitKat and matcha Pocky, they’re basically all around the country. Convenience stores, supermarkets, drugstores — you name it, they have it.
The best place to look for matcha food products is none other than the great Don Quijote. This gigantic chain store can be found in larger neighborhoods like Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo. Keep an eye out for a matcha corner — it’s probably any matcha lover’s heaven.
It’s quite an obvious fact — Japan is extremely known for its technology. There are tons of Japanese companies that are constantly developing cutting edge technology that includes various electronic gadgets. One second you’ll have the latest bit of technology and the next thing you know, Japan has already come up with a level higher from what you have in your hands.
Japan is not only advanced and leading in technology, but the quality of these products is top-notch. Japanese electronics are reputable for its “Made in Japan” quality, being far more trustworthy and reliable than some other countries. Japan Technology and electronics are known to be on the pricier side everywhere else in the world, but of course, in their country itself, it’s definitely sold at much cheaper prices — your jaw will drop when you see how much of a difference they are!
What’s more, you’ll get tons of deals for electronic goods only in Japan itself! Everything from rice cookers and ovens to cameras and handphones, nowhere else can you get these goods at a bargain price. Even electronic toilet seats are the cheapest to get in Japan (maybe think twice about getting one if you’re going to have to deliver it over back to your country — there’s a solid chance the shipping costs more than the toilet seat itself).
Where To Buy
You have this whole list of electronics that you want to get but you don’t know where to get it. Here’s the answer you’re looking for: Akihabara. This town is your one-stop for all things technology and electronics. Various electronic shops and department stores are here so you’re able to compare the prices and see which deals are best for you. The selection is crazy huge, and plus, some even offer English-speaking services so you won’t be stumped with the language barrier on top of your tax-free shopping! What more can you ask for?
Look out for big shopping malls like Yodobashi Camera. These kinds of shopping malls are the most convenient ones for foreigners and tourists, plus wonderful deals. Alternatively, you can check out Bic Camera — they’re known for a huge selection of electronics from various brands and constantly coming up with promotions!
3. Beauty & Cosmetics
Every girl (and the occasional guy) can understand how much the accumulated amount for beauty and cosmetic products can get. Even if we think one product is considerably cheap, the total for all the various types of products add up to a lump sum. But we can’t deny ourselves of these wonderful products.
When you find yourself in Japan, make a list of all the cosmetic and beauty products you want — rest assured you won’t be spending too much as compared to when you are back home. That’s because in Japan, the prices of beauty and cosmetic products are one of the cheapest you can get in the entire world!
Even though Japanese cosmetic and beauty brands can be found globally, including the luxurious ones like Shiseido and Shu Uemura, they’re priced at such a bargain in their local country. Save a few bucks by getting them in Japan, and on top of it all, you might even be able to get it tax-free!
A tip on shopping for beauty and cosmetics is to buy from brands of the same parent company as your favorite luxury brand. For example, if you’re a huge fan of Shiseido, the Japanese brand Kose is from the same parent company — you’ll get similar types of products for almost half the price.
Discover other local Japanese cosmetic and beauty brands while you’re at it. Who knows, you might even find one that you like more than the luxury brands. Rest assured every Japanese cosmetic and beauty brand produces high-quality products — that’s just how it is in Japan.
Where To Buy
You’ll be spoilt for choices when it comes to shopping for beauty and cosmetics in Japan. There are so many places you could go to get them — basically any drugstore, pharmacy, supermarket or convenience store you enter, you’re bound to see a section just for them.
It’s probably recommended to not get them at convenience stores and supermarkets as they’re marketed at higher prices — probably due to the convenience factor. The ultimate best places to get them are in pharmacies where there’s a substantial range of beauty and cosmetic products — think everything from ¥300 to ¥30,000!
It’s good to note that products and brands can vary depending on the stores they’re in, and especially in the town they’re in. If it’s in a store in busy towns like Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, chances are they’re marked at higher prices. Go down a few streets from the main street, or even out of the city center itself, to get better deals.
Another huge tip for shopping for beauty and cosmetics is that pharmacies tend to have sales and promotions from time to time. Anything from a few hundred yen off of the total bill to a 10% discount off of all items can happen, so if you’re in Japan for a while, plan your trip to the pharmacy accordingly.
One would think, “why would anyone go to Japan and get stationery?” As a matter of fact, there are quite a lot of travelers that go to Japan and seek out the best stores exclusively for stationery! Japan is quite known for its stationery — they are regarded in all aspects, from quality to the aesthetic for the value.
Every shade of marker to every size of a pencil, Japan has it. Arts and crafts enthusiasts would go crazy when they see the range of stationeries Japan has in every store. Prices can vary anywhere from as low as ¥100 to as high as one can possibly imagine. It all depends on the brand and exclusivity, but you’ll sleep easy knowing that regardless of price, the quality is tip top.
It doesn’t even matter what kind of aesthetics you’re looking for when it comes to stationery. Japan has everything — the cutesy “kawaii” concept is definitely available, complete with colorful stickers; the minimalist look is also becoming in trend and you’ll find an abundance of them in the country. Everything from notebooks and pens to accessories like clips and tapes — count on Japan to have them in their stationery range.
Where To Buy
At first, it might be quite difficult to find stores that have a full corner just for stationery, but if you know where to look, you’ll definitely be in for a treat.
There are various places you can get stationery in Japan. The cheapest options are lifestyle stores like Daiso — everything goes for ¥100! There’s a decent enough range of pens and markers along with notebooks, but here is where you should go for when you’re interested in cartoons and colorful tapes and stickers. It’s best to go to bigger stores in central areas — those are where they have a bigger collection.
Head over to Muji for your fix of minimalist and clean aesthetic of stationery. The Muji concept of neat and nature is appealing to so many. Colors come as neutral as they can — browns and whites, sometimes the occasional black if it’s in season.
Stores like Tokyu Hands Loft have a wide variety of various styles that you can browse casually. There’s a range of prices offered at these stores — anywhere from middle range to high end, depending on the brand.
5. ¥100 Products
Scattered throughout Japan are stores that offer a variety of products at only ¥100! Who wouldn’t want to shop in a store where everything costs only ¥100 — you buy ten items and it’s only ¥1,000. What a bargain, isn’t it?
In these ¥100 stores, you can get all kinds of daily necessities. Kitchen utensils, washing and cleaning supplies, gardening tools, interior decor, and even cosmetics and electronics — the list is endless! It’s safe to say these ¥100 stores have everything.
Some of these stores are so huge that it can get so confusing. Thankfully, there are signboards displaying the various categories of goods. Not all of the stores have signs in English though, but rest assured the ones in bigger towns have them.
You might think that just because it’s priced at ¥100 that they might not be of good quality — think again. They’re actually high quality for the value! Not only are these ¥100 stores popular among foreigners because of the cheap deals, but the locals also love them as well! You can decorate a whole house without breaking the bank.
Where To Buy
All these ¥100 products can be bought at — you guessed it! — ¥100 stores. There are tons of franchises that offer all their products at ¥100. These include Daiso, Seira and Can Do — they are the main and most common ones you’ll see on the streets of Japan.
Sometimes, some of these ¥100 stores aren’t that publicized. You’ll only figure out you’re in one when there aren’t any prices next to the products — just one massive sign that says “ALL ¥100”. Be careful though, you might end up having a suitcase full of ¥100 stuff you have to pass off as souvenirs for others even though you bought them for yourself!
6. Video Games & Game Consoles
For some of us who have been gaming since we’re a small kid, we probably have come across either a Japanese video game or a Japanese game console. We probably didn’t know it was by a Japanese company at the time — we were so tiny to know anything other than the characters we were playing.
Because they are made by Japanese companies, it’s only natural that they’re cheaper to purchase in the country itself than it is overseas. Japanese video games and game consoles are sold extremely cheap in Japan! Tons of travelers that come to Japan get their hands on some of the ones that are the latest release or even the older ones for memories’ sake.
When it comes to the older ones, Japan has special stores just for older editions of video games and game consoles, but they’re mostly second hand. On the plus side to that, these second-hand video games and game consoles go for extremely dirt cheap prices — your jaw will drop as you start grabbing five at a time!
The Japanese would prefer to recycle their items rather than throwing them away. As people clear their spaces in their homes to make room for the latest edition of products, the old ones get given away to these second-hand stores. Most of these products are still of the best quality where they’re merely weeks or even days old! After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Where To Buy
For a wide selection of Japanese game consoles, Hard Off is probably the best place to get them. They have stores in most major cities in Japan, and each store has a different variety than the next. If you have the time to spare, pop by a few to have a huge range to choose from.
If you’re looking for video games, Super Potato and Book Off are great places to start your search. Super Potato specializes in retro games, so an interesting selection awaits you here. Book Off offers a ton of second-hand products and video games are among them. Unlike Super Potato where you can find their stores only in Tokyo, Book Off can be found in major cities in Japan, just like Hard Off.
The Japanese comics and graphic novels, known as manga, are not only famous in their own country but also in other parts of the world. Its popularity spread like wildfire, increasing production to meet these demands. Of course, you wouldn’t get as substantial of a range anywhere outside of Japan than you get in Japan itself, and that goes the same for prices — it’s especially cheap in the local country itself than it is outside.
You can get everything from the newest release to the oldest ones in this great country — there is no limit to what is available on the racks. Even some of the manga authors that you’ve never even heard before having their manga books in the biggest manga stores.
While the new manga books are already cheap, you can even get manga books for cheaper when you get them second-hand! Don’t worry, the Japanese treat their manga books with respect — they’re often still at top-notch quality, you might not even be able to differentiate it from a new one. What’s more, the range for these second-hand ones can include those that aren’t even selling anymore. That’s great news for the manga collectors out there.
Where To Buy
For the best collections of manga from all your favorite manga authors and illustrators, head over to Akihabara. All the manga enthusiasts would freak out just by looking down the streets — they’re lined with stores that are full of mangas you cannot even comprehend.
If you’re interested in cheaper ones — far cheaper than the new ones that are already considered cheap — head over to second-hand stores like Book Off. Book Off is extremely known for the best collection of second-hand mangas (and even anime). Some stores even have exclusive editions. For example, specific editions have only a small number of printed editions or ones that are only available in Japan from years ago. Book Off is the best place for these steal deals.
In Japan, one of the staple foods is fish. All kinds of fish. That’s not a big surprise for a country surrounded by the big wide ocean. You’ll realize that the Japanese have become extremely innovative with their fish dishes, introducing flavors you wouldn’t think a fish dish could be like. Every method of preparation, from fried and grilled to steamed and roasted, your Japanese fish experience would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Japanese are responsible for consuming 10% of the fish caught in the whole world! Because of the easy access to fish since the beginning of time for the Japanese, it’s essentially one of the cheapest products to buy. Even in a restaurant or local izakaya, the fish item would generally be the cheapest one on the menu.
Don’t assume by the prices that they’re of mediocre quality — all fish from Japan are only the finest and freshest. While some Japanese go to certain places to get their premium fish types, rest assured that all stores in Japan that sell fish, regardless if it’s the fish itself or in a form of a dish, are guaranteed to satisfy your fresh fish cravings.
Where To Buy
There’s no specific restaurant that excels over the rest when it comes to their fish menu item. Even though chain restaurants like Yoshinoya and Sukiya are known for their beef bowls, their fish options like tuna and mackerel are just as delicious. They’re even priced at cheap deals of around ¥300 at the lowest!
If you’re looking for fish to cook at home, head over to your nearest supermarket for the freshest sashimi. The products you find in these supermarkets are almost always offered the day itself. If you don’t mind fish from the day before, they’re likely to be the ones at a discount, making the price for fish even cheaper!
Fish markets are great places to get the freshest fish in all of Japan, even premium and seasonal ones. Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Kanazawa’s Omicho Market are excellent spots for a wide selection of fresh fish. Keep an eye out for seasonal catches — they might be more expensive than the ones available all year round, but they are exclusive to a period of time so don’t miss out on that.
What Are You Waiting For?
Contrary to popular belief of Japan being one of the most expensive countries offering expensive products, it’s not all that bad. There’s quite a substantial selection of cheap goods to get in this country — from daily essentials from ¥100 stores and bargain-priced fishes to entertainment like video games and manga. What are you waiting for? Get shopping in Japan for all the cheapest things you can get, and at the end of the day, you won’t feel guilty about checking your bank account!