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The Shopping Scene Best Buys -- Tokyo is the country's showcase for everything from the latest in camera, computer, or stereo equipment to original woodblock prints. Traditional Japanese crafts and souvenirs that make good buys include toys (both traditional and the latest in technical wizardry), kites, Japanese... 顯示更多 The Shopping Scene
Best Buys -- Tokyo is the country's showcase for everything from the latest in camera, computer, or stereo equipment to original woodblock prints. Traditional Japanese crafts and souvenirs that make good buys include toys (both traditional and the latest in technical wizardry), kites, Japanese dolls, carp banners, swords, lacquerware, bamboo baskets, ikebana accessories, ceramics, chopsticks, fans, masks, knives, scissors, sake, and silk and cotton kimono. And you don't have to spend a fortune: You can pick up handmade Japanese paper (washi) products, such as umbrellas, lanterns, boxes, stationery, and other souvenirs, for a fraction of what they would cost in import shops in the United States. In Harajuku, it's possible to buy a fully lined dress of the latest fashion craze for $75, and I can't even count the number of pairs of fun, casual shoes I've bought in Tokyo for a mere $40. Used cameras can be picked up for a song, reproductions of famous woodblock prints make great inexpensive gifts, and many items -- from pearls to electronic video and audio equipment -- can be bought tax-free.

Japan is famous for its electronics, but if you're buying new you can probably find these products just as cheaply, or even more cheaply, in the United States. If you think you want to shop for electronic products while you're in Tokyo, it pays to do some comparison shopping before you leave home so that you can spot a deal when you see one. On the other hand, one of the joys of shopping for electronics in Japan is discovering new, advanced models; you might decide you want that new Sony MP3 player simply because it's the coolest thing you've ever seen, no matter what the price.

Great Shopping Areas -- Another enjoyable aspect of shopping in Tokyo is that specific areas are often devoted to certain goods, sold wholesale but also available to the individual shopper. Kappabashi Dori (station: Tawaramachi), for example, is where you'll find shops specializing in kitchenware, while Kanda (station: Jimbocho) is known for its bookstores. Akihabara (station: Akihabara) is packed with stores selling the latest in electronics. Ginza (station: Ginza) is the chic address for clothing boutiques as well as art galleries. Aoyama (station: Omotesando) boasts the city's largest concentration of designer-clothing stores, while nearby Harajuku (stations: Harajuku, Meiji-Jingu-mae, or Omotesando) and Shibuya (station: Shibuya) are the places to go for youthful, fun, and inexpensive fashions.

Sales -- Department stores have sales throughout the year, during which you can pick up bargains on everything from electronic goods and men's suits to golf clubs, toys, kitchenware, food, and lingerie; there are even sales for used wedding kimono. The most popular sales are for designer clothing, usually held twice a year, in July and December or January. Here you can pick up fantastic clothing at cut-rate prices -- but be prepared for the crowds. Sales are generally held on one of the top floors of the department store in what's usually labeled the "Exhibition Hall" or "Promotion Hall" in the store's English-language brochure. Stop by the department store's information desk, usually located near the main entrance, for the brochure as well as flyers listing sales promotions.

Taxes -- Remember that a 5% consumption tax will be added on to the price marked, but all major department stores in Tokyo will refund the tax to foreign visitors if total purchases amount to more than ¥10,001 ($84) on that day. Exemptions include food, beverages, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, film, and batteries. When you've completed your shopping, take the purchased goods and receipts to the tax refund counter in the store. There are forms to fill out (you will need your passport). Upon completion, a record of your purchase is placed on the visa page of your passport and you are given the tax refund on the spot. When you leave Japan, make sure you have your purchases with you; you may be asked by Customs to show them (pack them in your carry-on).

Shipping It Home -- Many first-class hotels in Tokyo provide a packing and shipping service. In addition, most large department stores, as well as tourist shops such as the Oriental Bazaar and antiques shops, will ship your purchases overseas.

If you wish to ship packages yourself, the easiest method is to go to a post office and purchase an easy-to-assemble cardboard box, available in three sizes (along with the necessary tape and string). Keep in mind that packages mailed abroad cannot weigh more than 20 kilograms (about 44 lb.), and that only the larger international post offices accept packages to be mailed overseas. Remember, too, that mailing packages from Japan is expensive. Ask your hotel concierge for the closest international post office.
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