Shopping in Japan

Shopping in Japan is a delight, with a wide array of merchandise often beautifully displayed. Whether you’re wanting a souvenir of your trip, a present for someone, or practical everyday goods, there are a few things it’s useful to know before you head out shopping.

  • Take your passport with you to benefit from the tax free shopping for tourists that is available in some shops. The refund is given immediately, either at the counter where you paid for the item, or at a central tax free counter. A central counter is common in department stores, so you can buy items from various departments and then get a refund on your total purchases. There is a minimum spend of 5000 yen on either general goods or consumables before you get a tax refund. The store needs to check the visitor stamp inside your passport and place a receipt inside, to be collected by customs on departure from Japan.
  • When you buy something in a shop, there will be a rectangular tray on the counter. You place cash or a credit card on this, rather than handing it directly to the shop assistant. Once the transaction is completed, your change or credit card is handed to you with the receipt.
  • If you are shopping for clothing, note that you are expected to remove your shoes in the changing rooms. There is a slightly raised area of the floor, and you take your shoes off before stepping onto this.
  • Shopping malls and department stores are open every day, but small independent shops often have a weekly closing day.
  • Shopping hours vary considerably too, but as a rough guide, department stores and malls are open from about 10 am to 8 pm. Some shops are open later than that, with some Don Quixote stores staying open 24 hours a day. Some small shops may close around 6pm, particularly outside big cities.
  • Basement food halls in department stores start discounting unsold food around 6:30 pm, with discounts increasing towards closing time. This can be a great way to pick up a bento for an economical evening meal.
  • If you arrive at a department store slightly before opening time, you’ll see the daily welcome ceremony. An employee will greet the waiting customers and bow. When the doors are opened, the staff inside are lined up by their counters and bow to the first customers of the day.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, with other ebook stores to come soon.