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Thrifting in Japan

10 Nov 2017

Saturday | October 28th 2017 | Minami-Funabashi, Chiba

Back when I was in high school, I began thrifting at my local Salvation Army. Beyond finding cheap gems (many are still in my closet), thrifting became a social activity between my friends and I. Every weekend, we would stroll to our local Salvation Army, or Saver’s if we were feeling bougie, and just sift through piles and piles of clothes. It was always such a satisfying feeling to leave with one-of-a-kind pieces at dirt cheap prices.

Ever since then, thrifting has become a huge part of my identity. If I’m ever feeling bored, uninspired, or just have a few hours to spare, I try to situate myself in a local thrift store to pass the time. Therefore, I was intent on finding some unique gems during my time in Japan. And thankfully, I’ve found a group of friends who are equally invested in thrifting!

When I was doing some preliminary research, most articles directed me towards well-known, touristy spots in Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Harajuku. To my surprise, though, these thrift stores had ridiculously high prices. Just imagine buying one flannel for 5000 yen — that’s about 44 dollars, no thank you!

And so, after spending about two months in Japan, my recommendation for the ultimate thrift store has to be Bookoff. Part of a larger franchise of stores, there are a bunch of Bookoffs throughout the Tokyo and Chiba area. In fact, there’s one about 15 minutes by foot from KUIS, and another bigger Bookoff one stop away from school at Minami-Funabashi station. Here, you’ll basically find every clothing item ever, with prices as low as 500 yen (in addition to knick-knacks, home goods, the works really). And in typical Japanese fashion, Bookoff is spotless, organized, and color-coordinated. For an American comparison, it is most similar to a Saver’s or a Value Village, only with better selections and cheaper prices. Thus far I’ve copped a jacket (1000 yen), a flannel (500 yen), a T-shirt (1000 yen), and an overshirt (1000 yen), but my best find of all has to be a gray Fjällräven Kånken that was only 3000 yen. At full price, a Kånken would go for about 12,000 yen, so this was a ridiculous deal!

If you find yourself studying abroad through IES Abroad Tokyo (or really anywhere), pack your suitcases a little less and just head over to Bookoff, or your local thrift store! It's one of my favorite ways of acclimating to a new environment in a sustainable manner. If you’re still not convinced, just remember: each purchase becomes another memory of Japan. When I’m back in the United States, I will think fondly of my time in Japan, my memories with my friends, and of course, the crazy good deals every time I don one of my thrifted pieces.

Happy thrifting!

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