Tokyo is an expensive city to live and travel in. Even buying souvenirs for
the folks back home can set you back a lot more than you were planning on, which
is a shame because many people won’t realize how expensive a simple present
from Japan actually is. However, in the late 1990s, with recession biting
100-yen shops suddenly hit the market and became hugely popular. Everything in
these shops cost a 100-yen (OK 105 yen with tax, but 105 yen shops simply doesn’t
have the same ring!). 100-yen is currently about $0.75.
These shops mainly aim at the domestic consumer with cheap plastic
containers, household cleaners, some cosmetics, paper ware and kitchen utensils.
However, sometimes it is possible to find pretty neat souvenirs here at a
minimal price. Decorated chopsticks are a lot cheaper here than at the
department stores and sometimes there are nice toys for younger children.
Pottery and ceramics can be of a surprisingly high quality as well. The cheap
cosmetics and large selection of notebooks and pens make nice gifts for older
It is important to note that the selection at each 100-yen shop differs. Some
may have nothing of interest while others may be a treasure trove of potential
low budget gifts. Just remember that sometimes you have to remove the Made in
China or Made in India stickers before wrapping!
The shops are popping up all over Tokyo and although some are part of a chain
not all are. However, all have signs of 100-yen coins as advertising boards on
the outside. In addition 100-yen shops often move around - seemingly from one
low cost rent building to the next. They often occupy buildings shortly before
the buildings are due to be demolished or to be occupied by higher rent-paying
customers. The size can also varies dramatically – from the five floor 100-yen Plaza in Shibuya to miniscule ones in Roppongi and Akasaka. The shop in Shibuya, in Bunkamura Dori close to Shibuya station, has a particular strong section on make up, cosmetics and accessories. The one in Roppongi, in Gaien Higashi Dori towards the Roi Building, usually has some Hello Kitty merchandise going for a song.
Mexico City, Mexico
March 25, 2002
From journal Tokyo - bargain shopping and dining