In the land of technology and love of everything new, it’s strange to think that Tokyo would be a vintage and thrift store mecca, but it is. From the super cheap outlets, to tiny niche boutiques, to the high-end fashion label 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
Don Don Down on Wednesday gets its name from the Japanese onomatopoeia 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 ready 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.
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 a lot for cheap. They’re the classic mega-vintage store where everyone is guaranteed to find a special piece no matter your style, gender, or size. Thanks to their location down the road from Shibuya’s fashion capitals 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.
One of Harajuku’s most iconic names on the vintage scene, Chicago is the Americana-themed thrift store wonderland taking over Shibuya’s streets. Given Chicago’s ability to source 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, but they also have locations in Tokyo’s other vintage meccas 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 in leather jackets), it’s easy to find just what you’re looking for. However, what they do best is denim – carefully organized into color, size, style, and cut, the range of denim across the Chicago outlets is potentially some of the best in the world.
Do a search for “best vintage Japan” and chances are that one name you’ll seeing repeatedly dropped 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 their prices reasonable and their selections incredibly diverse. If you’re strolling down the streets of Shimokitazawa, you won’t miss the mural-sized neon flamingo beckoning you inside.
BOY is an icon in the Tokyo fashion scene. Semi-hidden, adjacent to the heart of Shibuya, the store is easy to miss. Thankfully for the BOY stencils adoring its 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 it’s 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.
Designer brands on a budget is what Ragtag does, and they do it so well it’s become one of Tokyo’s most well-trodden clothing stores. If you’re really 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 meccas, wider Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa, Ginza, and Kichijoji.
Stick Out is for the shopper sticking to a very strict budget. Be warned given the sheer amount of what’s on offer, it can feel like a bit like a tornado hit this vintage wonderland. But hunting through everything to find that special piece can sometimes be half the fun! Stick Out’s main drawcard is the fact that everything is priced at 700 yen (US$6.40), no matter what it is – jackets, T-shirts, shoes – so it’s more about quantity over quality. However, that’s not to say there aren’t some proper gems hidden thought the store. If you are after the thrill of the hunt, this is where to go.
From the company that brought you Book Off, Japan’s massive secondhand book outlet comes the thrift store haven Mode Off. There are actually a chain of “OFF” stores, including Hard Off for hardware, Off-House/Home-Off for home appliances, Hobby Off for collectibles, Garage Off for larger appliances, and, of course, the most famous: Book Off.
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, they do have brand-name sections, too, so if you are after something a little fancier, they worth checking out.