Discover the unique items you should buy on your next trip to Tokyo. From specialty kitchenware to local candy, this guide includes some of the cool, unique, and famous things you can only buy in Japan.
1. A high-quality Japanese knife.
Japanese knives are renowned for their incredible quality and craftsmanship. Whether you’re looking for a utility chef’s knife or a specialty sashimi knife, Kama Asa on Kappabashi Street is an excellent place to find the one.
A helpful English-speaking staff can guide you through their wall-to-wall selection of stainless and carbon steel knives. You can also get your knives engraved in either English or Japanese characters. Chef’s knives start at around $90.
2. Green tea Kit Kats.
Green tea Kit Kats are the perfect souvenir for friends, family, and coworkers: They’re novel, tasty, cheap, and easy to find. The discount chain store Don Quixote or a konbini (Japanese convenience store) always have candy bags of green tea Kit Kats in stock.
If you want to give away individual boxes as gifts, I recommend purchasing them at the airport on your way out of Japan. They’re packaged in cuter sets, and you can pick from unique and seasonally available flavors, like sakura (cherry blossom), wasabi, strawberry cheesecake, adzuki bean, etc. Taro is my favorite if you can find it!
Location : 3 Chome-14-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan
3. Super-soft Imabari towels.
From o-shibori (hand towels that you're given before you eat) to sento (towels used in Japanese bath houses), towels are kind of a big deal in Japan. And the city of Imabari makes the best of the best. It’s said that the climate—combined with the extra-pure Sojagawa River water—brings out the softness of the cotton.
Imabari even offers a towel sommelier exam so that one can certify themselves as a towel expert! These high quality towels are expensive, but they’d make a lovely gift for someone who loves to host, or, you know—yourself.
4. Unique kitchenware and ceramics.
Kappabashi Street is a chef’s paradise. This restaurant and kitchen supply district, located between Ueno and Asakusa, sells everything from industrial-size pots and pans to fake plastic foods.
You'll find amazing gifts for any chef friends, like a specialized cookware like a taiyaki (fish-shaped waffle) maker, a ceramic hot pot, or a tabletop shichirin grill. (We own both a hot pot and grill, and love making sukiyaki / yakiniku at home.)
You'll know you're in the right place when you see a giant chef's head peering out on the southern end of the street.
5. All the MUJI things.
This “no brand” brand sells simple, beautifully designed products that’ll make any minimalist’s heart sing. Prices in Japan are cheaper than you’ll find in their international store locations, and the selection is much larger than what I’ve seen in New York or San Francisco.
I love decanting my beauty and skincare products into their travel-size containers. The homewares are gorgeous, and their skincare line has legions of fans. Even their cleaning products are beautiful! At the flagship store, there’s even a cafe, bookstore, bicycle rentals, etc.
Location : 1-3F, 3-8-3 Marunouchi, 100-0005 Infos Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
6. Barware at Bar Times Store.
Recently, we started experimenting with making cocktails at home, and as a result, have started collecting unique items for our own bar. As with most things they try, the Japanese have taken cocktails and elevated them to another level of precise quality and craftsmanship.
Bar Times Tokyo has an incredible assortment of the most beautiful bar tools and glassware—shakers, strainers, spoons, coupes, and more. On Mike’s last trip, he picked up a gold hexagon-shaped jigger and a clear shaker with a gold cap that look gorgeous left out on our countertop.
(If you love cocktails, visit Bar Trench, Bar High Five, and Bar Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo for the best cocktails in the city.)
7. Drugstore makeup and skincare products.
A Japanese drugstore is a heaven for a beauty junkie: You can buy high quality cosmetics products—mascara, eyeliner, face wash, sunscreen, and more—for great prices. My favorite drugstore to visit is Matsumoto Kiyoshi because they have a huge selection, but most drugstore beauty aisles are worth a quick browse.
(more locations included at the link below)
8. Fun fashion accessories.
Get your kawaii on in the neighborhood of Harajuku. The main road, Takeshita Street, is chock full of shops for kitschy gifts and fast-fashion, like excessively large polka dot headbands, outrageous phone cases, or streetwear featuring Engrish sayings.
Kutsushitaya is a fun stop for all the socks: if it’s striped leg warmers or lace socks with cat faces that you’re looking for, this is your jam.
9. Quality pens and stationary.
Prices for Japanese brands like Pilot and Platinum are typically lower than you’d find elsewhere. My favorite place is Tokyu Hands, a one-stop shop Japanese department store (think Target where you can buy anything and everything—toiletries, luggage, toys, electronics, plants, etc). Check out Tsunaga Japan’s complete guide to Japanese stationery for ideas on stationery items to purchase.
Location : 12-１８ Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan
10. Tax-free designer goods in Ginza and Omotesando.
The neighborhoods of Ginza and Omotesando are home to the most elegant of designer shops and boutiques. Prices on premium designer goods fluctuate depending on the exchange rate and whether brands have adjusted accordingly, so do your homework if you’re making a big purchase. I love window shopping in the huge Chanel store. Don’t forget to show your passport for purchases over 5,000 yen to get your tax refund.
P.S. My favorite little secret in the mountains of Japan: what to do in Nozawa onsen town this winter.