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From shoppers looking to score one-of-a-kind vintage pieces to buyers consciously looking to go green, thrift shopping has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Gone are the days of diving into dirty discount bins to fish out torn and stinky second-hand clothes. Today, avid shoppers find their way through rows of curated collections in thrift stores, keeping a keen eye out for highly sought-after vintage clothing, accessories, shoes, and jewelry.
One country that has embraced vintage culture is Japan. Vintage culture, known locally as furugi, is the trend of wearing vintage, used, or second-hand clothing. This fashion trend has exploded in Japan, with young and fashionable Japanese look to get their hands on vintage designer clothes, workwear, and unique upcycled pieces, all for a fraction of their original price. This trend has since taken off to influence the principal Tokyo Fashion Week, where Tokyo street style and vintage culture looks are strutted down the runway.
Thrifting heaven: Shimokitazawa
Because of the boom of vintage culture, many neighborhoods in Japan have exploded with an increasing number of second-hand or thrift stores known as furugiya. One is the charming and hip cultural quarter of Shimokitazawa in the nation’s capital, Tokyo. Lined with hole-in-the-wall coffee joints, vintage vinyl stores, and most definitely thrift stores, Shimokitazawa exudes a bohemian vibe that is laid-back and trendy. This eclectic neighborhood was even ranked by Vogue as the world’s coolest neighborhood in 2014!
Shop till you drop! Read on to find out about the coolest thrift stores you must visit in Shimokitazawa and where to get the best finds.
How to get there
By train: Shimokitazawa can be accessed by taking the Odakyu Line or Keio-Inokashira Line to Shimokitazawa Station.
From Shinjuku Station: Seven minutes on the Odakyu Line to Shimokitazawa Station.
From Haneda Airport: One hour by train to Shimokitazawa Station.
From Narita Airport: One hour and 45 minutes by train to Shimokitazawa Station.
Thrift stores in Shimokitazawa
With over 70 stores all over Japan, WEGO is the most accessible used clothing store you must visit in Japan. The store specializes in what they call “Mixed Used Style,” a unique mix of new and fashionable clothing coupled with specially-selected used clothing collections.
The WEGO store located in Shimokitazawa is decked out with quirky accessories, eccentric outfit pieces, and fun knick-knacks for you to discover when you visit. No time to visit? Check out WEGO’s online store and browse their collection from the comfort of your own home. We recommend WEGO if you are a thrift shop newbie looking to purchase your first piece of second-hand clothing.
Find rare vintage Disney tees and relive your childhood with WEGO’s selection of colorful and vibrant tees. With original cartoon designs dating back to the seventies, you know that these high-quality tees are going to stand the test of time!
New York Joe Exchange
New York Joe Exchange is one of Shimokitazawa’s most Instgrammable thrift store hideouts with its fluorescent neon sign on its shopfront and eclectic collection of antique letter signs that spell out the store’s name.
What sets the Shimokitazawa store apart from the two other New York Joe Exchange outlets in Tokyo is the history behind it. The store sits in an old public bathhouse, or onsen as they are locally known. Hints of this historic onsen peek through when you step into the store. Its tiled floor is divided into two colors, red and blue, indicating the division of male and female sections of the bathhouse. Today, these demarcations are cleverly used to separate the male and female clothing in the store.
New York Joe Exchange is also popular for its trading system that is unlike any other thrift store. The store offers its shoppers three main services to buy, sell, and trade at the store.
Buy: New York Joe Exchange buys the second-hand clothing that you bring into the store with a cash payout based on its retail value. Remember to make a reservation before coming with your preloved items!
Sell: Shop New York Joe Exchange’s extensive range of outdoor sportswear, vintage clothing, and fashion accessories. All of the shop’s items cost less than 10,000 yen, so you’ll be sure to find a steal here.
Trade: For any item brought into the store, New York Joe Exchange offers a 60 percent in-store credit of their assessed value.
Vintage band tees
Are you looking for a dream band tee that is perfectly distressed, comfortable, and trendy at the same time? Look no further! New York Joe Exchange offers a wide range of vintage band tees. From classic rock and roll bands to underground Japanese city pop artists, the range is endless.
The cool and charming hole-in-the-wall Hickory is one of the oldest used clothing stores in Shimokitazawa. Hickory stocks a curated selection of American outdoor brands like Patagonia, North Face, and Colombia for both men and women. The store manager has even traveled to the United States to handpick items to feature at Hickory.
As mentioned, Hickory’s collection of outdoor brands is carefully crafted and a pleasure to look at. Best of all, thrifting allows you to snag these otherwise-expensive items for a fraction of their original price.
The unmissable bright-pink neon sign of a flamingo makes the thrift store, Flamingo, a household name in the vintage clothing world. With 13 stores in Tokyo featuring items sourced from the United States and Europe, Flamingo is undoubtedly a treasure trove of vintage finds.
Find three Flamingo outlets in the neighborhood of Shimokitazawa, each featuring their very own curated assortment of Americana, fashionable men and women’s clothing, and a variety of vintage shoes including the classic fashion must-have: Dr. Marten leather boots.
Apart from eccentric fashion pieces and wardrobe staples, Flamingo offers a wide variety of old-timey vintage Americana. Find antique pins, kitchenware, and film cameras to add to your collection. You might even be able to score a rare find!
Toyo Department Store
Consisting of over 20 independent stores with products ranging from handmade accessories to antique home goods, Toyo Department Store is a shopper’s paradise. This mini department store is located in a cozy garage space jam-packed with an exciting assortment of goodies. Patience is key here. Take your time to browse through Toyo Department Store to find the perfect item to take home.
Unlike the other second-hand or used items we’ve featured here, accessories found at Toyo Department Store are upcycled from unexpected products like bottle caps and safety pins. Jazz up your outfit with a cool find here!
Flat Disc Ranch
Flat Disc Ranch is a thrift store of a different kind. This quirky and charming record store carries vinyl, vintage electronics, books, magazines, and random nuts and bolts. Dig through rows of vinyl records in this cozy, colorful, and vibrant hideout, most noticeable for its cheeky monster mouth storefront. Unsure of what to get? Flat Disc Ranch’s helpful owners will be more than happy to offer recommendations.
If you’re an avid vinyl collector or simply just a music lover, visit Flat Disc Ranch to explore the store’s range of records. Check out Flat Disc Ranch’s amazing range of records ranging from Americana rock to oldies.
Know of any hidden thrift stores in Japan? Let us know! If you’re traveling in the near future, check out our handy resource, The Ultimate Guide to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions, to remain up-to-date with regulations around the world.