Let’s face it. Gift Giving is hard. No one wants to resort to gift cards, chocolates or bath bombs but, in a city as sprawling as Tokyo, it’s hard to know which area to start in to find the perfect Christmas gift. If you’re tasked with buying Christmas gifts for multiple people, you might find yourself just hitting up the internet or resorting to Tokyu Hands to tick off your shopping list.
Thankfully, as big as it is, Tokyo can be neatly divided into areas that make shopping a much more manageable task. The metropolis offers warrens of streets and nooks in neighborhoods that play host to creative hubs and cool enclaves, where you can fill Christmas stockings with an array of unique, interesting and thoughtful gifts. Here’s our guide to Christmas shopping in Tokyo that will help you truly knock the giftee’s socks off (those lame ones you got for them last year).
Thrifting, British antiques and vintage furniture
This busy thoroughfare may seem unassuming at first, as it leaves the crowds of Meguro Station behind and heads downhill. Meguro-dori has been dubbed Kagu-dori (furniture street) and it’s clear to see why, as you continue along past Otori-jinja shrine towards Gakugei-daigaku Station.
A collection of stylish homeware shops pepper the road selling everything from new designer goods to second-hand gems. Recommended gift-buying spots include COLT — a thrift store with a collection of intriguing interior items — stylish curios at ARTICLE Antique & Curiosity, and the large Geographica, which stocks British antiques (don’t miss reasonable lunches at the Italian restaurant on the second floor).
There’s a multitude of independent cafes and eateries for pit-stops. Myconos Coffee serves an array of freshly roasted beans in a cosy atmosphere, while Ogawaken is a delicious confectionery, famous for their raisin-wich: a rum-raisin cream sandwiched between biscuits, perfect for a tasty gift.
Sweet treats and nostalgic European Christmas gifts
Dubbed “Sweets Town” due to the sheer amount of confectioneries and patisseries in the area, Jiyugaoka has a European flair to it — from French street names right down to the mini Venice at La Vita. Christmas brings a full serving of festive feelings, and sees the town lit in a fantastical array of seasonal decorations.
You could (almost) be shopping in London, perusing the plethora of cute boutiques tucked away along the pedestrianized streets of the Sunset Area. The mix of small independent stores and specialized chain retailers sell a range of fashion accessories, cosmetics and clothing.
If you’re struggling to buy a gift for a certain someone, stop by Today’s Special, which stocks a menu of culinary goods, plants and homeware; come Christmas they also sell a selection of classic decorations and sweet treats. Over at Trainchi, an open-air mall, there’s a collection of stores selling Japanese-made products, favorites including Natural Kitchen &.
2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan
Artisanal intrigues and cool crafts
There’s more to Akihabara than electronics and maid cafes. Tucked away under the JR railway line, a five-minute walk from Akihabara Station, is 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan — a creative hub of around 50 galleries, boutiques and workshops selling traditional and modern products.
For those of you on the hunt for authentic local crafts or artisanal intrigues, this is the place for you. Making full use of this repurposed urban space, it’s a treasure trove of creativity.
Highlights include Hacoa, which specializes in just about everything — from calculators to stationary — in wood; chic leather goods at b3Labo; and there’s a rainbow of reasonably priced handmade umbrellas at Tokyo Noble. Pop-up stalls appear on weekends, lending this secret hideaway a flea market twist.
Take a break from the gift buying by hanging out (literally) with coffee and cake at Asan, complete with hammocks.
Handcrafted goodies and thrifted threads
Make your way over to Jingumae’s backstreets for some hipster haunts and trendy items. Sandwiched between Omotesando Station and Yoyogi Park, this part of town is home to art village Design Festa Gallery, a creative space that takes up residency in an old apartment block. Aside from playing host to new and exciting exhibitions, handmade goods are also on sale that make for cool Christmas gifts.
Independent clothing shops and vintage stores selling retro T-shirts and accessories also line the nearby lanes. Hit up RRR Vintage for carefully curated finds, BerBerJin for men’s thrifted plaid shirts, or opt for island vibes only at Aloha Lovers.
For something a bit more quirky, there’s the Japan Squeeze Center. Made popular by YouTubers, this hotspot sells all things colorful and kawaii, albeit in squishy form. A particular favorite with the pre-teen crowd (it seems that kids love to squeeze the pretend baked goods), head here to buy for little nieces and nephews.
Retro gems and way-beyond-vintage literature
Famous for its secondhand books and publishing houses, Jimbocho is a dream for hunting down unique Japanese gifts. Among the kissaten (traditional coffeehouses) and local eateries, long-established shops sell old parchments, historic maps and used books.
Bumpodo (established 1887) packs its two floors with stationery, paintings and printing materials. Brimming with atmosphere, the venerable Ohya Shobo — founded in 1882 — is a world of books, ukiyo-e woodblock prints and manuscripts, sourced exclusively from the Edo-period (1603-1867). Elsewhere, Isseido (1903) sells stacks of second-hand books from Japan and further afield.
For something even more niche, there’s the much-loved Anegawa Bookstore Nyankodo, which stocks books, accessories and stationery on one theme: cats. Nearby Vintage Jimbocho is the place to go for old posters; here you can pick up retro favorites, from idol groups to 80s movies. Be prepared to spend time sifting through what’s on offer, but you could be rewarded with the perfect gift for a loved one (or yourself).