A preconception of being elbow-deep in a bargain bin of second-hand thrift was dashed, as soon as I realized that the art of second-hand shopping is fast gaining momentum in Japan. Recycle shops have ironed out the wrinkles both literally and figuratively and have an easy system that anyone, given a few pointers in Japanese, can easily manage. Whether trading or buying, if you are of the adventurous sort you might consider trading in some of your well-known foreign brands to finance a few local Japanese purchases at the recycle stores of Yokohama. I found a beautiful geta this Summer to pair with my yukata for the fireworks festival and Japanese sake sets have been a major hit with friends visiting Japan. Myself, I have my eyes on the retro type-writer.
If you have the time to spare, another option for thrift branded merchandise is to seek smaller, independent retailers selling high-end merchandise that often follow fashion trends closely. Good, if you want to get some upmarket bling at slashed prices and don’t mind being behind by a season or two.
Gone are the days of finding gems on the pavement without a collection sticker attached. I have been regaled with stories of furnishing an entire apartment, or at least part of it, with an old kotatsu and tatami mats found on the pavement after an all nighter at an izakaya. While this may be true, I urge you to take a closer look. If it has a collection tag, this tells you that it has been spoken for. True, I have seen perfectly good things such as old appliances and clothes tossed out by the bagful on regular collection days, perhaps due to the owners reticence to lug a huge bag across town in return for a few yens. But, the sometimes hefty price-tag required for the collection of goods, means there is a happy end to this tale for many a thrift seeker. Where the cost of collection outweighs or matches the value of the goods, people often choose to discard their worn garments and household accessories at second-hand stores. These shops often offer a free appraisal of the item or accept them even if the owners choose not to buy anything. Although the payment might be meagre, the cost of disposal being free is often luring. At the time of the year when people are clearing out the clutter for the New Year, Japanese souvenirs got be found for a steal.
A variety of second-hand stores have been gaining momentum in Yokohama over the past few years and have chains in a variety of locations all over Japan. The big chains have streamlined, re-organized and colour-coded the merchandise to make it both easy on the eye and in turn a shopper’s paradise. A major plus when short on time and don’t have an entire day to dedicate to your thrift shopping. Most of the bigger shops follow seasonal patterns and will only start to accept trade-in goods for Winter, like nabe pots shortly before the new season begins. So, those in search of cheap ski-wear for their Winter holidays in Japan will be in luck during their stay in Japan. However, there will not be a Summer yukata in sight! A point to remember, if you are visiting Japan and hoping to nab some Japanese Summer thrift-wear during your stay.
With the major second-hand retailers specializing in everything from second-hand anime collections and impressive guitar collections to Japanese sake sets, it is easy to lose a few hours in one of these stores. As it also happens to be the time of the year when I am homebound bearing gifts from Japan. I have a special Christmas game plan, too. My thrift-map is focused on the bigger chains since time is limited and without much to waste on trains all over town. My tried-and-tested favourites are also easily accessible by public transport.
The chain stores like Book Off and Treasure Factory sell everything from secondhand books and travel guides, to clothing and accessories. They are some of the most recognized second-hand retailers who bode well for travellers, both short on time and eager to find everything at one place.
Bookoff Super Bazaar (Tsunashima Tarumachi Store)
The 200 yen discount clothing racks and clothes are organized by brand. No pushy sales staff and free use of he change room. Also it was easy to navigate with a stroller. Beware, you could lose a day at this place and this is where my game plan comes in handy.
For: Books, DVDs, Gaming softwares, Clothes for adults and children, Baby products, Household goods as well as branded items and Japanese souvenirs. The Bookoff megastore has everything that is thrift in Yokohama.
Access: From Tsunashima station ride bus No. 6 and get off at Tarumachi Centre. Get off and walk for 3 minutes in the direction the bus was traveling.
Opening Hours: 10:00 - 22:00
Website: Bookoff Super Bazaar
Treasure Factory (Eda)
They have some of the best Anime merchandise and other Japanese character toys that you may know. You can also pick-up some Winter sporting goods here.
For: Clothes, Branded Products, Interior goods, Toys, Hobby, Sporting Goods, Outdoor Goods, Tableware, etc.
Access: 10 minute walk from Eda Station on the Tokyu Denentoshi Line. Take the East exit and walk along the National Highway Route-246.
Open Hours: 11:00 - 21:00
Website: Treasure Factory (Eda)
Recycle Gorillas (Aobadai)
A 15 minutes walk from the station, this shop has been one of my favourites over the years. You are bound to find some great only-in-Japan items that could prove the talk of your next house party.
For: Japanese Ceramics, Appliances, Watches, Clothes, Sports Equipment, Cameras
Access: 10-15 minutes walk from Aobadai station. Take the left-hand side exit from the station and walk along the main road until you see a Fit Care Depot. On the same side of the road it is on the corner just after. Look out for the red Gorilla’s sign.
Open Hours: 11:00-21:00, 7 days a week.
Website: Recycle Gorillas (Aobadai)
Yokohama Isezaki Mall
This Mall has one of the best discount shops selling second-hand kimono. The kimono can be used as robes for those who are not accustomed to the intricate tying techniques. The area under the main gate facing Kannai station has an underground shopping area called Marinard. This modest area is by no means flashy and for ordinary folk, which means there is a bargain to be found and a good dose of Showa retro. A Bookoff, Don Quixote and Daiso are must-visit too.
For: Secondhand kimonos, Woodblock prints, Household goods, Clothing and Japanese tableware. A huge department store carrying luxury goods as well as everyday utensils.
Access: 1 minute walk from Kannai Subway Station take the North exit, turn left and cross the street. You will see the white Isezaki Gate.
Open Hours: 8:00 - 20:00, 7 days a week.
Website: Isezaki Mall, Yokohama
Enjoy your the thrift sales, in and around Yokohama this season. Why don't you check out the Facebook page of Japan's Garage Sale.<>