Tokyo Thrift: How to Find Streetwear on a Budget

Ubiq X Vault by Vans | © Justin Wolfe / Flickr
Ubiq X Vault by Vans | © Justin Wolfe / Flickr
Photo of Lucy Dayman
28 December 2017

Tokyo is arguably the streetwear capital of the world, and it’s also a vintage mecca, so it’s a great place to do some shopping if you’re on a budget. From special tax discounts to knowing which stores drop their price according to the day of the week, here are our top tips for looking flash without dropping too much cash.

Keep a close eye on the day of the week

Don Don Down on Wednesday, one of Japan’s major vintage and secondhand retailers, runs in an unconventional fashion. To maintain stock turnover, each item in the store is allocated a tag depending on when it arrived in-store. As the days and week go on, the items drop in price. If you’ve found something you love but it’s a little expensive, it may be worth keeping an eye on the item over the coming days and seeing how low it drops, like a reverse auction.

Trawl the flea markets

Flea markets in Japan are a far cry from the knick-knack and garbage-strewn pop-up markets so often associated with the term. When it comes to streetwear in Japan, vintage is a key element, and as a result, this method of vintage shopping has been elevated to a very high standard. Running on the first Saturday and first Sunday of every month, Raw Tokyo is a relatively new thrift store market, but it’s made its mark. Situated at UNU in the heart of Shibuya-ku, Raw brings the best in vintage street wear and fashion to the public sphere. Run by local fashionistas, the market covers all your affordable street wear niches.

Try your New Year’s luck with fukubukuro

Japan’s version of a Boxing Day or Black Friday sale is called fukubukuro, and it typically happens around New Year. Rather than being a store-wide sale, fukubukuro is a lucky bag-type system, where customers purchase mystery bags for a fixed price with the promise that what’s inside the bag equates to more than what you paid – the catch is you don’t know what’s inside until you take that leap of faith and buy the bag. Many large stores and chains offer this fun lotto-style system, including major street wear labels like Nike, Adidas and Puma.

Ay ay ay~ #puma #pumatokyo #pumasuede #champion #championusa #asian #asia #style #日本

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Pull the foreigner card and get a tax refund

One of the greatest things about shopping in Japan is the country’s very foreigner-friendly tax discount. Many participating street wear stores like ATMOS, one of the biggest sneaker chains in the country, offer on-the-spot tax discounts to foreigners who show their passport. The discount is 8% off the price of items typically over 10,000 yen (USD$88). Some places will require you to pay in full then visit a separate desk for a refund, however these days many do it all at the same counter. This discount only applies to purchases intended for personal use, and do hold on to your receipts as you may need to claim them at the airport.

Go down the well-trodden thrift store path, then get specific

As has been covered a number of times, it’s no question that Tokyo is a thrift store paradise. From trendy outlets like Chicago and Flamingo, to mega outlets like MODE OFF, there’s no shortage of thrift options. However if its limited release, vintage and hard-to-find streetwear items you’re chasing, it’s worth getting niche, because chances are there’s something here for you. Try Fool’s Judge in Harajuku or a Ragtag outlet for the high end, elusive pieces.

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