While there are of course exceptions, Japanese swimwear can feel rather conservative to those more used to Western cuts, as many people don’t want to get too tanned and would rather cover up.
If you’re a woman and you’re looking for something more revealing in Western-friendly sizes, good places to shop are popular chains like H&M and Forever21. While their prices are already low, the secret is to hunt the discount aisles that most locations hide: you might be able to find last year’s models for half the price, usually in the underwear section.
For men who are okay with basic longer boxers, Don Quijote shops (and their online Donkimall counterpart) go as low as around ¥800 for a pair (like this one)!
Remember also that sales happen in all major shops around July to August. If you’re around Tokyo and you're looking for more professional swimwear, you can hit the Kanda-Odagawamachi Sports Goods District in Chiyoda-ku, and hunt the sportswear stores for discounts and flash sales. These shops also sell more advanced equipment for diving, but if you just need a pair of goggles, Rakuten is a good idea!
2. Beach Towels
A good place to shop for large and cheap beach towels is Ikea. If you're not picky on the design, you might be able to find items for sale (or be a true cheapo and buy a regular large towel, use it for the beach, and then re-use it at home—we won’t tell anyone!). Remember to check the sale corner, which is usually close to the checkout, for older or slightly damaged items on discount. You also might be entitled to special discounts if you're a member of Ikea Family: membership is not only free, but can be processed on the spot through one of the shop's computers. As I write this article, a limited beach towel for Family members is on sale for only ¥899!
If you don't have access to a store nearby but you speak some Japanese, a good online shop to check for relatively cheap yet cute towels is Wowma, which also sells beachwear and various accessories, and Yahoo Shopping, where you can look for the keywords ビーチマット (beach mat) or ビーチタオル (beach towel). Round beach towels are this year's hit in Japan, and you can find them for as low as ¥650!
If your Japanese isn't up to the task, don't forget the English side of Rakuten! Similar round beach towels are currently priced as low as ¥500.
If you're more a leisure sheet type, those are easily available at ¥100 shops in a variety of sizes. Flying Tiger also carries some interesting items, like this inflatable plastic chair for ¥500.
3 Flip-flops & Hats
If you’re okay with something not especially resistant, hit your local 100¥ shop around the beginning of summer and you will find all the flip-flops and beach shoes you need. Another choice on the same quality level is Miniso, which also carries hats and sunglasses for cheap and has location scattered around major cities in Japan.
If you're a cheapo with a cunning ability for planning, hit your local Donquijote store the year before, at the end of summer. Usually, even pricier beach shoes go on sale - my ever-best find was a pair of brand Crocs flats for 300¥ (and being cheap, I bought a pair of no-brand beach flats for 100, in the same shop).
4. Toys & Floats
If you’re not looking for top-quality goods, once again the ¥100 shop is a good choice. Another good place to shop is Flying Tiger, carrying some regular toys like sand molds, water guns and nostalgic items like marbles . If you live in Tokyo, you can find stores in several major locations like Odaiba, Shibuya and Shinjuku (full list of shops here).
Another place to hunt for water guns, floaties and such is Don Quijote (or Donkimall), where floaties, swim rings and inflatable pools for kids are priced at around ¥500. And since we're in the land of cute, they come with ribbons, wings and Hello Kitty designs!
Sunscreen in Japan tends to be pretty expensive, but we've all been told that sunscreen should be bought new every year to make sure it still has its protective effect (assuming there's no expiration date printed on the tube!). If you find the tubes sold in drugstores to be too small, you can plan in advance and buy from Amazon Japan, which sells plenty of brands for around ¥600 per 100 to 150 grams. For example, here's 140 grams of Skin Aqua sunscreen for around ¥900. Also, while you might have to get rid of your sunscreen after one summer, don't throw away the bottle, as some brands sell refills for cheaper than the new bottle!
If you only plan to go for one or two days, a very common quantity sold in drugstores is 30 to 40 grams, and that should usually be enough for one person.
Japanese sunscreens tend to go under various names, but you can easily identify them by the letters SPF or possibly UV written on the package. Other words you might see are 紫外線 (shigaisen, ultraviolet rays) and 防止 (boshi, protection).
Parasols are important if you plan to stay in the sun for a long time and you’re afraid of getting burnt. Once again, your best chance for a good deal is online, on the ever-helpful Rakuten, where you can find deals for the brand Captain Stag for around ¥2,000.
However, parasols tend to be rather bulky, especially if you're walking to the beach or taking public transportation. In these cases, another good idea comes in the form of small tents, which can serve for both camping and the beach. Rakuten has a variety of such items, starting for as low as ¥1,780.
If you want to increase the protection from these items, another popular choice in Japan is a so-called UV protection spray (like this one). Priced around ¥1,000 to ¥1,500, such products promise to cut out up to 99 percent of the UV effect and can be used on various kinds of cloth goods (including parasols, but also hats and T-shirts).
7. Bags & Security Items
While Japan is a very safe country, you might not want to leave your stuff abandoned on the beach while you got for a walk or a swim. Once again, the ¥100 shop comes to the rescue with waterproof pouches in various sizes and light belt bags. Don't forget that ¥100 shops also sell plastic tote bags, which are perfect for bringing all your stuff to the beach without worrying about the water!
You can also buy fanny packs at Thank You Mart, where everything is ¥390, or use this clever fake sunscreen bottle from Flying Tiger (assuming nobody will run off with your sunscreen!).
Don't forget to share your own cheapo suggestions below... and enjoy your holiday!