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Shopping for Expats in Japan

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: June 2014

Japan has long been regarded as a shopping haven. Items bearing the 'Made in Japan' marker are generally considered to be of comparable high quality but low in cost. If you are moving to Japan, or if you are visiting Japan, you can spoil yourself with the wide variety of goods ranging from local specialties to big international brands.

Tokyo, the economic centre of Japan, caters to the needs of 13million residents and millions of tourists each year. Here you are likely to find anything you could possibly want to buy. Tourist shopping experiences in Tokyo have been well documented online, with many articles discussing the best places to shop. For example, here you can find the most popular shopping areas in Tokyo; https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/10-best-tokyo-shopping-neighborhoods including Ginza for luxury goods and Shinjuku, one of the Japan's busiest towns. There are many other shopping malls and outlets in other cities in Japan, such as Osaka which is home to many of Japan's department stores headquarters.

You can use cash or card in most shops in Japan. However, there might be fees for each transaction if you use certain international cards. Japanese Yen is the official currency; you can withdraw cash from most cash machines in Japan from foreign bank accounts.

It is not popular or common to bargain in Japan. Some tourists have, however, done so successfully. If you would like to try haggling whilst in Japan, it is recommended to try in smaller shops where managers or store owners are present. Many big shops will not offer any reduction to prices but will often have separate deals available in store.

Consumption tax

Normally, you are liable to pay a consumption tax (value added tax) of 8% of the purchase price of goods and services, including imports, unless you buy something in the tax free shops. The tax is included in the price. If you are just visiting Japan, you should be able to get such tax exempted. Unlike many other countries, such tax exemptions are directly deducted from the price you pay in the shop rather than claiming it back at the Custom desks in the airports. You should note this tax may rise to 10% from October 2015.

Online shopping

Online shopping is very popular in Japan. Many high Street shops and supermarkets have their own online shopping websites, often providing free delivery if your purchase reaches a certain amount. One of the most popular online website in Japan is www.rakuten.co.jp, which combines tens of thousands of shops in one place.

You can buy what you want online from all over the world from sites such as Amazon and ebay. You need to be aware that this is a form of importation and can therefore trigger custom duties and VAT (consumption tax in Japan). Some items are not allowed to enter Japan so before making any purchasees online, it is best to check carefully here: https://www.customs.go.jp/english/summary/prohibit.htm.

Shopping hours

Typical business hours in Japan are from 10am to 8pm. Many large shops normally open seven days a week while superstores may open 24/7. However, some small shops may close at 5pm. For more information about business hours and holidays in Japan, here is a useful link; https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/businesshours_holidays.html.

Return Policy

In Japan, you may find the return policy is different from the policy in your home country. Some large stores may offer a cooling off period or easily accept the return of goods in a resalable condition. You should check the return policy before you make a purchase as, for example, many electronic stores in Japan have a no-returns policy. If you do want to exchange or return goods, it will be helpful to your cause if you can communicate, or ask somebody to help you to communicate, with the shop staff in Japanese.



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