You may have heard that Tokyo is a fashion capital, with some of the highest standards of beauty and strict expectations when it comes to appearance for people of all ages and both female and male. It is not considered feminine for a male to enjoy shopping, in fact there are malls just for men and an equally as large market for male customers as there is females.
You may have also heard that Tokyo is super expensive and that to buy a pair of jeans it costs at least 100$ *flails arms in the air in anger*. Well, though the second part may be correct, what you would call expensive depends on the culture that you were brought up in. I find it is mostly the American and Canadian people, who come from places where clothing is very very cheap, who have a problem with the prices in Japan.
Where I was born, you find a lot of whole-sale factory made goods that come from major companies that can afford to make stuff cheap and sell it for cheap. We also have a culture of buying things in multiple colours "blue, pink, white and yellow tank top please" and buying new clothes quite often, especially with the whole "back to school culture" where you buy a new everything for the next year. High end brands are not as popular, and often people will think of a rich and snobby person when it comes to such. Puting on make up everyday and maintaining a professional and "high maintenance" look when you are out in public doesn't have such a pressure in the west.
Well Japan, and especially Tokyo are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. This will shock you if you come from Canada or America. I have heard a lot of different opinion such as "Tokyo people care TOO much about their looks" to "Everyone looks like a model!!". Brands are in, make up is in, high fashion is in, looking your best even when you are in your home and nobody will see you, is also in.
Aside from the fact that you are expected to look proper and clean, it is also considered the norm to put more money towards your look. Something that is cheap is looked at as "suspicious", rather than a good deal. I once wanted to make a video on how much Japanese people spend on buying their wallets, and I wish I caught this on camera.
"can I make a video about your wallet, just a short video, you don't have to show your face"
"no, I can't show this wallet this is just a cheap one"
"how much was it"
One thing you gotta know about Tokyo, brands are VERY popular. Louis vuitton is the number one brand that you will see stand out. You could stand on the corner of Shibuya crossing at any time of the day and see more than 10 LV bags crossing about. It is so common there are even some people say it is "too trendy, everyone has it". (well I don't think so I love LV but yeah)
It is not strange, crazy or silly to spend so much money on fashion here. It is expected to pay about 60$ or so for a shirt or even about 100$ for a pair of pants. It is pretty normal to pay over 100$ for shoes, and a couple hundred on a jacket.
So with all these brands being in style how the heck do people afford it?
Is everyone rich??
Well no. It is all about what people want and what people are willing to spend their money towards.
In Canada, people spend a lot of money on eating out. Eating out is more expensive in Canada than in Japan. People also spend a lot of money on electronics and stuff. But here, people would save up money, just to get the brand items they want.
Another factor you have to consider is taxes in Japan are quite low, so this allows people to save money on such purchases. People tend to keep clothes for a longer time here (and they usually last longer). It is also very common that people live with their parents till they get married AND it is normal for parents to pay for their children's university, allowing their children to have more money to spend on the clothing they want.
But, not everyone has the will or the way to save up 2000$ for a new purse.
So how do you shop high end but save money?? Especially being a foreigner whos parents possibly didn't pay for university, you are so used to being in a culture where you don't save money and or you spent too much money on that plane ticket here :o What do we do?!
Used clothing stores.
In Canada, used clothing stores are looked at as somewhere homeless ppl shop. Poor and or low quality people shop. The used stores usually smell really gross, don't carry brands at all. The image of a used store is just no good one.
In Japan, used clothing stores are completely different. There is a huge market for them and they are generally divided into two categories. Brand name high priced used stores, and clothing used stores (which also have brand stuff but is not specially for that). They are everywhere. There are over 20 used stores in Shinjuku alone, and thats just one area. There are plenty of people who think used stores are gross because someone else used it, or its damaged. But if you want to look cool and save money its a great place to go ^^
LV sunglasses that are regularly 700$, you could find for about 300$.
LV purses ranging from 60$-1800$ depending on the style.
The stores that have clothing sold usually separate brand name clothing between regular cheaper clothing and often have the original store price on it.
At these stores you can find plenty of wonderful deals. I have bought shirts that originally were 140$, for 10$. I also have had shoes that were 250$ for only 8$ ^^
Some names of used stores are;
Treasure Factory - Many chains all across outer Tokyo area. I really recommend Machida store, Funabashi store, Tachikawa or Chiba stores. They have a point card too. Point cards are a big thing in Japan and it is actually worth getting one. Each point = 1 yen. Those points add up quickly and you can use those points to pay for your next purchase. I have saved over 200$ in points at Treasure factory alone ^^
There also is Jumble store. This is a chain store but I recommend you travel to the one in Tama shi. It is bigger and cheaper.
There are some used stores that only deal with brand purses or brand clothes, and others where it is both mixed. There is also "men only" used clothing stores such as BINGO (it is a chain, the shibuya store has a small female section but mostly for men).
Some kanji or words you should look for when you want to find a used store is
買取 kaitori - buy sell ? buy take? I don't even know how to translate. Basically used stuff store.
質店 shichi ten - used store
質屋 shichi ya - used store
リサイクルショップ risaikuru shoppu - used store