Question

What is good for shopping in Japan?

I've booked my travel to Japan. What should I not miss buying there? Electronics, food or anything else that's specific to Japan and difficult to get in the US?

Location

Country: Japan

Answers

Given the strength of the yen, I wouldn't be buying anything to be honest. Maybe some antiques that you can certainly only get in Japan.
Used cars are cheap. Small, too. You could get several and put them in the over-head compartment on the plane.

Also, roto-tillers are cheap, and a very good value. The hand-tiller type are a great bargin and by the look of economy O-chan is setting in place, you will need a garden. Unless you are on the recieving end of the largess, that is. But you know how it goes with socialism; Poverty spread equally...in spite of the promises.

You might hesitate to buy electronics because while the goods are great, the instruction book will be in Japanese. How are your Japanese reading skills?

As for Antiques, a very good sugestion. Like America, most of the junky nick-nacks are not Japanese but Chinese. Old stuff will probably be real Japanese stuff.
I'd say traditional Japanese things and souvenirs that you can only get in Japan, there is a lot in Ueno, one of the main train stations on the Yamanote loop line , you can get there easily from Tokyo, only a few stops.
Traditional things and goods you can find in the traditonal Japanese department stores like Mitsukoshi in Ginza, or Takashimaya, though a little expensive.
The food is not worth trying to take it out of the country unless you have a madness for it, most Japanese food you have to develop a taste for and that takes time, even the traditonal sweets that are made with sweet beans have a unique taste that is all their own, so taste everything first, chances are if you don't like it, no one else you give it to will. Fortunately there are usually free samples of everything.
In Tokyo along Meguro Dori there are a lot of recycle and antique shops with some really interesting products (furniture, knick knacks, old silk Kimonos) ranging in price from inexpensive to very expensive.

Most usual things are generally more expensive, used cameras can be bought very cheaply and you can usually find an English manual on line for them.

Electronics with English operation function and manuals can
be purchased but they are not cheap.
It is a lot of fun for me to go around Akihabara and browse the different computer and electronic shops.

Have a great trip,
Christiaan
Japan is great for cutting edge electronics and gadgets. If you are coming to Tokyo, go to Akihabara (electric town) to find all the latest devices. If you like to try different types of food, Japan is the place for you. There is a huge variety of cuisine here. Almost everything you try will be pleasing to the palate and attractive to the eye. Visit the basement floor of any large department store to see an enormous collection of food stuffs. Have an open mind and be adventurous. Japan is very safe and easy to get around in.
Natto is cheap in Japan.
Since your user name is "invest5solutions", are you looking to invest to sell later or are you looking for things for you?

If you want to invest, you probably know better than me already (-^_^-). There are tons of Hello Kitty goods available in 100Yen shops. You can also go into Game Centers and try to catch the latest anime goods in those "claws machines".

If you want to treat yourself, then, go crazy (-^O^-), make yourself happy!

Laox, in Akihabara, is a big electronic store and some of the staff speak english (they also know about the tax return policy and stuff). And as Christiaan said, you can find the manual on line. Also, many cameras and stuff have a multiple language choice, including English, of course, for the interface.
There are many other good electronic shops too: Big Camera, Yodobashi Camera...

For Anime goods, Akihabara is great.

For Hello Kitty and other funny goods, the shop "Kittyland" in Harajuku is great.

For Japanese traditional goods, the Oriental bazaar, a few hundred meters from Kitty Land is great.

You will also be able to find great things for yourself, of to bring back to your family and friends, in 100yen shops. And there are everywhere!

If you like smart/funny/crazy/useful gadgets, visit Loft, Tokyo Hands, Don Quixote... They have a few shops in Tokyo and Yokohama area.

You will be able to find things difficult to get in the US in aaaaall these places! Garanted! (-^_^-)d

Have fun!! Have a great trip!!

Amelie
If you see a Uniqlo clothing store pop in to check out cheap t-shirts printed with iconic Japanese cartoon characters and consumer goods - these make great souvenirs.
Hi! Okay?
Well, answering your question, it will depend much on which region you will be in Japan and what kind of things you are looking to buy. Things may be something more typical Japanese or Western?
If you stay in the region of Tokyo, can be sure! You'll be in paradise! Well find all kinds of things you imagine!
If even the tokyo, be sure to visit OMOTO-SANDO, HARAJUKU SHIBUYA and also enjoy and take a last in Shinjuku, and if their wishes are electronics, go to Akihabara !!!
I hope I helped you! Good Travel
Japanese crafts are always loved as souvenirs. But many of my tourist friends buy Japan animation cel art, little gadgets & crafts, plastic foods (not edible, just for show), etc, that are more common to Japan. There are tons of things you may find exotic, but what you want to purchase ultimately depends on your interest and you should go to the pockets of town that suit your interests.
Electronic goods are only good if you know that you can use them in your home country, and also keep in mind that you may also have problems with warranty.
Hundreds of things are there...... what exactly you are interested in?
Hello, after reading everyones good advice, I thought I might keep it simple.

Ueno, (secret spot), Akihabara, and then Asakusa. This is an easy and very convenient shopping tour.
All of these locations are near to each other and have all the things on your shopping list.
No need to lug all those presents and souvenirs around Tokyo. And especially on the trains.

I hope this has helped you.
I have also included a quote and please don't hesitate if you have any more questions.

All the best,

Lance Robinson
Good suggestions from all previous suggestions so I'll just mention what has not been...
Though it depends on what you like, what your age is and your interest and how much you know/like/love Japan... Though previous tourist friends have done the stuff below in the respective genre:

Clothes:
UT (Uniqlo T-shirt store) Harajuku, limited print t-shirts with designer collaboration with shirts that come in a tube and wrapped as a gift in milk-carton-like-boxes
109, Shibuya Cheap Shibuya fashion, possibly the love of teens and the young
Takeshita-dori, Harajuku, various things on one tiny street including a huge 100 yen store that sells EVERYTHING

Kitchenware:
Asakusa, it is aimed at tourists but they sold this box set of Japanese tea set and it was very nicely decorated and came in a fancy wooden box

Food:
Any department store such as Mitsukoshi, Matsuya, Takashimaya or even the super market or convenient store
(Thing is, the world comes to Tokyo to deliver cakes, bread and what not so you don't have to get Japanese food but rather a Japanese take on many things. 1 friend came looking for green tea flavoured snacks, there is the all famous hi-chew candy that must have limited flavours in Japan, the potato chips exists in so many flavours unimaginable)

Stationary
Tokyu Hands (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza... and others)
A hobby store with the coolest and latest gadgets that the big companies come up with. Crazy pens, weird USB sticks, 3D puzzles. Although it is an International store, may have products form USA but also from elsewhere. Not just stationary but literally if you need something, Tokyu hands will have it.
Itoya, Ginza. A 7 floored stationary store, pricy but worth the browse, pretty fun. (Found some Kate Spade paper there, never knew she made cards)

If you like anime stuff then some toy stores are worth a visit like Kiddyland in Omotesando.
Also any BIG electronics store like Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera are stacked with the coolest tools that you're likely to have before the stuff hits stores in the States.

Enjoy retail therapy!
Hello,

As a personal shopper you really are going to be hard-pressed to find something here that you can't get in America. There are a plethora of goods ranging from chopsticks (Japanese, Chinese and Korean are different) and, of course, kimonos. Be forewarned though that a real silk kimono will not only be thousands of US dollars but you will probably not be able to wear it when you get home. Even Japanese girls often go to a special shop to be dressed correctly in them -- or their grandmother may help.

Calligraphy, musical instruments (shakuhachi/koto/shamisen), art and the like are good unique choices.

If you're looking to import to the USA for sale then you're going to run into some issues. First, Japan has amazingly tough barriers to entry in the business world and unless you have a Japanese friend to make the initial contact and help you with the details then you're out of luck -- generally speaking. Electronics, as was mentioned earlier will be mostly in Japanese. You may find "overseas" models but you could buy them at home for probably cheaper.

One good idea, if you're into this type of thing, would be woodworking tools. From my experience in the states, most hand tools (western style) are mediocre at best but the Japanese tools are awesome. Traditional pull saws, planes, knives etc are very high quality and work smooth like magic. I highly recommend them. ()

As was previously mentioned, the yen is still relatively strong (right now, 98.3 yen per dollar - was up to nearly 125 yen per dollar maybe a year ago -- or 18 months) so if you really are looking to import you may want to wait until this gets back to the over 100 yen range. There are tons of sites that report the exchange rate up to the minute.

Seeds/raw and I think some dried meat etc will not pass through customs and should be avoided. Fireworks etc will obviously not go. Make sure you know the laws for bringing items into the USA.

hrm... Anime and Manga goods are unique, but in Japanese. Posters and figures might do you well, though and can be found in Akihabara on the Yamanote line (if you don't know the Yamanote you will discover it very soon after you arrive)

Be prepared to pay big money (from my experience) for antiques. Japan is not like Thailand/Vietnam i.e. other SE Asian countries -- they know how much it's worth and they will get that much or they won't sell it. Haggling in Tokyo is not common and not easy.

I hope that helps a little.
Just to add that shopping at the airport on the way home also works well - selection is good and you do not have to carry your purchases as long.

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