Shopping delights in Tokyo

As any Tokyoite will happily tell you, you are what you buy. Shopping defines this city. The sacred palaces in contemporary Tokyo?s consumer culture are the enormous, opulent depāto, or department stores. They are pervasive, irresistible. It?s impossible to leave Tokyo without having bought something, be it a radio-controlled robotic dog or an early Edo-period teapot. Don?t try to resist. You can?t.

Shopping Areas
Searching for good shopping in Tokyo is akin to searching for sand in the Gobi. It?s everywhere. Yet there are several notable areas where rampant commercialism has saturated the environment like a summer typhoon. Akihabara is manga and electronics. Shinjuku competes on even terms for both and offers even more with Takashimaya Times Square ? more a commercial space-station-come-to-earth than a store. Shibuya responds with flashy teen trash, and artsy trendiness. Ginza plays the high-price status card. Aoyama, boutique chic to the nth degree turns up its collar, and its nose?and the shopping war rages on. Only Asakusa, proud of its rough old roots sits back?then lets you have it with both materialistic barrels, in the form of Nakamise-d?ri, where history is carefully packaged and resold as papier-mache dolls, kimono?We reiterate, IT IS USELESS TO RESIST!

Department Stores and Malls
Shopping in a Tokyo department store is a unique experience. If you arrive at opening time you will receive an elaborate welcome from the staff. The atmosphere is electric at times ? especially during sales and on public holidays. Basement floors are reserved for food, the top floors usually have a selection of restaurants to choose from and in between, everything else. Enjoy.

Flea Market Finds
Things to look for include old kimonos, scrolls, pottery, Chinese snuff bottles, old Japanese postcards, military memorabilia, antique toys and costume jewellery. A Tokyo flea market is the only place where it is acceptable to bargain. But be polite.

Tokyoites have long spent copious wads of cash on how they look ? it?s very important to look right in this city of style. The city is fashion mad, from hip-hop street wear to clubber chic, to the high-price designer brands of Aoyama. You can?t fail to find something you like and you can bet no-one will be wearing that when you get back home.

The Etiquette of Shopping
When you pay a cashier for an item, look for the rectangular, plastic dish somewhere on the counter. This is where you place the money. Don?t try to put it in the cashier?s hand. It?s okay to add coins to make the change simpler. So if the item you are buying costs ?250, put down ?1050, if you?re familiar enough with the currency. The cashier will then place the change in the dish and move it towards you. Bow slightly and leave.

From Tokyo Condensed 1st Edition
Lonely Planet
John Ashburne
Published January 2002
ISBN: 1740590694
128 pp / 19 maps
$17.60 inc GST