The Best Thrift Stores in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is a thrift store mecca
Tokyo is a thrift store mecca | © EDU Vision / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lucy Dayman
4 November 2020

In the land of technology with its love of everything new, it’s strange to think that Tokyo would be a vintage and thrift store paradise – but it is. From super-cheap outlets to tiny niche boutiques and high-end department stores, Tokyo has it all, but knowing where to go is the trick. Here’s a guide to some of the thrift stores you can’t miss while you’re in town.

Don Don Down on Wednesday

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Don Don Down on Wednesday gets its name from the onomatopoeic Japanese word don don, which is the sound of something steadily dropping. Dropping is exactly what the store’s prices do every Wednesday. One of the most ubiquitous outlets on the local vintage scene, Don Don is a must-not-miss stop-off for anyone looking to hunt for a few new threads at a crazy cheap price. In order to keep stock rotating, each item is allocated a fruit tag, depending on when it arrived in the store. That fruit tag determines the price of the item, so the longer it’s been sitting in the store, the cheaper it becomes – but be warned, if you wait too long, odds are that precious vintage jacket you’ve been eyeing will get snapped up.

Kinji

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This Harajuku outlet boasts a reputation for being one of the best in the business. Though perhaps not the most curated or trend-driven, what Kinji does best is to provide volume at cheap prices. It’s the classic mega-vintage store where everyone is guaranteed to find a special piece, no matter your style, sex or size. Thanks to its location down the road from Shibuya’s fashion capital Takeshita Dori and Aoyama’s shopping strip, Kinji gets access to a cross-section of cast-offs from the quirky and the fashion-forward, all in one convenient location.

Chicago

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One of Harajuku’s most iconic names on the vintage scene, Chicago is the Americana-themed thrift store wonderland taking over Shibuya’s streets. With a knack for sourcing some of the best pre-loved stock in the world, the stores have found booming success in fashion-forward Tokyo. There are actually three Chicago stores in Harajuku alone, and Chicago also has locations in Tokyo’s other vintage hotspots Shimokitazawa and Kichijoji, and another one down in Kyoto. Thanks to the store’s meticulous layout and huge collection of classic vintage-style apparel (think rockabilly dresses and well-cut leather jackets), it’s easy to find just what you’re looking for. However, what it does best is denim – carefully organised by colour, size, style and cut, the range found in the Chicago outlets is one of the best in the world.

Flamingo

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Search for “best vintage Japan” and one name you’ll see repeatedly is Flamingo. Similar to Chicago, this American-inspired vintage outlet is a key player in the US-inspired thrift store scene, and definitely a great follow-up to a visit to Chicago. With a focus on old-school style ranging from the 1950s right up to today, Flamingo keeps its prices reasonable and its selections diverse. If you’re strolling down the streets of Shimokitazawa you can’t miss the mural-size neon flamingo beckoning you inside.

Boy

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Boy is an icon on the Tokyo fashion scene. Semi-hidden, and adjacent to the heart of Shibuya, the store is easy to miss. Thankfully, with the Boy stencils adorning the brickwork outside, those with a keen eye will be able to spot it. What this store does best is collecting some of the best Japanese labels and music-related merch from years gone by. Whether you’re looking for classic old-school sneakers, legitimate vintage band tees or a one-off piece by a Japanese fashion legend, chances are you’ll find it here at Boy.

Ragtag Harajuku

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Designer brands on a budget is what Ragtag does, and it does it so well it’s become one of Tokyo’s most popular clothing stores. If you’re hunting that special piece, you can’t miss this Harajuku stop. With floors divided into designer names and fashion subcultures, it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. And don’t worry if you’re not in the Harajuku area, because they also have 15 locations across Japan, including stores in Tokyo’s other fashion hubs Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa, Ginza and Kichijoji.

Stick Out

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Stick Out is for the shopper sticking to a very strict budget. Be warned, the sheer amount of what’s on offer means that it can feel like a bit like a tornado has hit this vintage wonderland. But hunting through everything to find that special piece can sometimes be half the fun! Stick Out’s main draw is the fact that everything is priced at 700 yen (£5), no matter what it is – jackets, T-shirts, shoes – so it’s more about quantity than quality. However, that’s not to say there aren’t some proper gems hidden throughout the store. If you’re after the thrill of the hunt, this is the place for you.

MODE OFF

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From the company that brought you Book Off, Japan’s massive second-hand book outlet, comes thrift store haven Mode Off. There is a chain of Off stores, including Hard Off for hardware, Off-House/Home-Off for home appliances, Hobby Off for collectibles and Garage Off for larger appliances. Unlike some of the other vintage stores in Shimokitazawa, Mode Off isn’t about trend-driven vintage icons, but simply cheap clothing, so cheap that items cost less than a block of Meiji chocolate. That said, there are also brand-name sections that are worth checking out if you are after something a little fancier.
These recommendations were updated on November 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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