#1 Start early!
As they say, the early bird catches the worm and Japan is no different. Most stores in Japan open their doors starting at 10 or 11 am. In fact, it’s not rare to hear shoppers saying, “I wanna go shopping just before breakfast!”. To curb their enthusiasm, shoppers get ready for the day. As the sun hits Tokyo’s popular Tsukiji market, shoppers are already waiiting outside the stores selling fish and vegetables. In other regional cities, you can purchase locally made goods at “morning markets”, but good luck finding any brand products since these markets are for local goods only.
#2 The staff keeps avoiding me. Are they mad?
In Japan, stores want customers to be able to leisurely and peacefully browse products, so sales clerks don’t usually approach customers. That doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you!! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them, because they’re happy to help even if they might not be bubbly and friendly. Aside from a group of electronics stores, most sales clerks cannot speak English or Chinese, and explaining may take some time, but they will surely be hospitable toward you. If you absolutely can’t communicate with sales clerks, you might consider using your smart phone to get your message across.
#3 What’s up with sizing?
If you want to try on clothing or test make-up products, just ask a staff member and they’ll direct you to fitting rooms or point out which products are testers. Please be aware that if you return tax-free purchases, the procedure can take a lot of time.
#4 Can I negotiate pricing?
In Japan, shopping culture doesn’t encourage pricing negotiation, so don’t expect to pay less than the listed price for an item through bargaining for a lower price. Some electronics stores or flea markets might let you bargain the price down, but the price tag is generally the final price.
#5 Why won’t you sell to me?
Items such as popular color contact lenses cannot be purchased without a prescription from a doctor. Other goods at drugstores may also require a prescription to be purchased.
#6 Can I send this back home?
Shopping in Japan is reassuring, safe, and fun, and you might find yourself with too many souvenirs to bring home at the end of your trip. Aside from certain department stores, it is still uncommon for stores to provide services that send purchased goods to overseas addresses, hotels, or airports. Keep in mind that you’ll have to carry the souvenirs that you buy yourself. Recently, suitcases have been selling well thanks to visitors who buy heaps of souvenirs for their friends and family back home. Leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan is taking steps towards encouraging hands-free travel that allows visitors to send baggage and purchased goods to airports, stations, and hotels as well as their airports, stations, and hotels at their next destination, better use coin lockers and station storage spaces, and enjoy tourism without worrying about luggage.
Extra ”Hotaru no Hikari”
“Hotaru no Hikari”, meaning “Glow of a Firefly”, is a Japanese song using the tune of the Scottish folk song “Auld Lang Syne”. In Japan, stores play this song about 10 minutes before closing, encouraging customers to complete any remaining purchases. If you have any purchases you want to make before the store closes, this song is your cue to bring those items to the cashier.
Essential information Apps for shopping in Japan