1. Fashion & Apparel
Tokyo has almost too much to choose from when it comes to fashion and apparel, so let's cover some basics.
Overlooking the iconic scramble, Shibuya 109 is loaded with stylish boutiques and trendy shops, as well as several restaurants. With 10 floors to peruse, one could easily spend an entire day bouncing from store to store. It's worth noting that many of the stores sell "free size" (one size fits all) clothing, which means the selection is somewhat limited. But the friendly staff is always around to help you try on items and find cute accessories.
Nearby is Harajuku, the heartland of kawaii culture. Bustling Takeshita Street is filled with shops peddling modern and alternative/pop culture fashion, as well as great cafés and restaurants for when you need a break from all the shopping. But beware—with great popularity come large crowds!
If you're looking for affordable fast fashion, Japan also has plenty of international chain stores from which to choose. There's homegrown Uniqlo, which can be found in almost every neighborhood of the city and offers great prices with lots of variety. There's also the popular Swedish retail company H&M, as well as the Spanish retailer Zara.
2. Books & Stationery
Sure, Japan is known for its vast quantities of manga—but that's not all that's available! For those who still love the nostalgic feeling of perusing shelves and idly flipping through page after page, Tokyo definitely has you covered.
Large bookstore chains like Kinokuniya have an incredible selection from which to choose. There's classic and contemporary literature from around the world, light novels and manga, how-to books on topics of all kinds and even books for studying Japanese and other languages. Larger branches also have many books in English. In the event you can't find what you're looking for, Kinokuniya also has an online search system that lets you confirm their inventory or order online.
Other stores such as the second-hand chain Book-Off sell used books and manga in great condition at discount prices. They're ubiquitous throughout the country, and Tokyo has many branches. It's worth noting that some locations also sell apparel, as well as used toys and games, household appliances and more!
If you're looking for a more traditional vibe, you should check out Tokyo’s center of used books and publishing houses, Jinbocho. With around 160 stores that cover the latest published volumes, academic collections, art books, old magazines, as well as rare and antique books, it's practically heaven for bibliophiles. Although most of the books are in Japanese, the atmosphere alone makes it worth a visit.
But we can't mention books without mentioning stationery. Ginza Itoya is a one-stop shop for any stationery enthusiast. You can buy a postcard and send it in-store, browse a wide variety of pens, pencils and other writing implements, pick up some beautiful traditional Japanese paper, washi, make your own notebook and more! Other honorable mentions are Sekaido in Shinjuku, and also Kakimori, another place where aspiring writers can make customized notebooks in which to pen their thoughts.
3. Health & Beauty
When it comes to health and beauty products, the problem in Japan isn't having trouble finding your favorite product or brand—it's having so many places to look!
There are stores that sell a bit of everything, like the popular chain Don Quijote, which has a great selection of bargain products as well as high quality Japanese brands. There are also brand boutiques like MAC if you prefer to get your product straight from the source. Surprisingly, drug store chains like Matsumoto-Kiyoshi or Create also have a large selection of health and beauty products, usually at very reasonable prices. Plus, there are many department stores that surround the city's larger stations. For example, Takashimaya, Marui, Seibu or Shibuya’s Hikarie. Most offer international brands for those who are looking for products from their home country.
Last but not least, there are stores dedicated specifically to selling skin care and beauty products. One of these is a small gem that can be found in Omotesando called AINZ & TULPE, a split-level store that carries the best drugstore brands, certified organic beauty products and even international brands popular in Europe. If you're looking for a Japanese brand to take home, why not give the cult beauty brand THREE cosmetics a try? It offers plenty of organic options for those looking for more holistic products.
4. Electronics & Toys
Whether you’re tech-savvy and looking for pieces to build a new computer tower from scratch, simply replacing some parts or a complete newbie, you should definitely make your way to Akihabara, fondly known as Electric Town.
There are large electronic retailers like Yodobashi Camera, sprawling towers like Tsukumo and a huge variety of small shops that sell basically any type of electronic or part you can imagine. With oodles of both international and local brands, if you're looking for the latest cameras, mobile phones or gadgets, you're bound to find them there. Beyond that there are lots of stores for anime or game goods like Animate and Kotobukiya, and shops that sell used and new toys of all kinds.
Another option that you might want to check is Bic Camera in Ikebukuro. It boasts even more floors and departments than Tsukumo!
When it comes to entertainment like CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray or games, there are several options. The aforementioned Book-Off usually has a huge selection of used consoles and games, CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray. Outlets like Sofmap and Yodobashi Camera offer the latest tech, toys, games and more at market value.
For the budget conscious, Tsutaya is a chain store that can be found on almost every corner of the city. If you sign up you will be able to rent CD and DVDs at very affordable prices. Some stores rent manga as well! If you're looking to buy, they also operate as a retailer.
5. Budget Shopping
If coins are burning a hole in your wallet, look no further than the ubiquitous ¥100 store. Sure, everything isn't exactly ¥100 (thanks to taxes), but it's still a great option for those on a tight budget.
Last but not least, places like Loft or Tokyu Hands are great to stop in and browse. They offer a large variety of merchandise ranging from stationery and stamps to toys and home goods, so there's a great chance you'll find a good buy!