5 Of Tokyo’s Best Zakkaten (Variety Shops) To Spice Up Your Life
Add Something New To Your Home And Office This Spring
While zakkaten is translated as “general (or variety) store,” here in Japan, it really goes beyond that — a zakkaten shop can carry just about anything and everything cute and cool and that’s what makes them so much fun to visit! Here are five of our most favorite in the capital.
Stylish, chic, eccentric fashionistas strolling the neighborhoods, creating a landscape captured by fascinated tourists and fashion photographers — it’s no doubt that Tokyo is on the forefront of fashion, art and food. But while we can look outside and see some of the latest runway collections elegantly walk down the streets of Omotesando, Ginza and Shinjuku, it’s also fun to imagine what’s on the inside, too: How do these individuals live and what type of goods do they buy to decorate their living spaces?
Just as colorful and charismatic as Japan’s fashion boutiques and department stores are, zakkaten offer an abundance of goods ranging from books, home décor items and gifts to special skincare and health products and even import food items like specialty salts and preserves. Here are five of the most popular zakkaten shops in Tokyo where you can find everything you need to freshen up your home and office!
The global Danish design and interior lifestyle goods shop has successfully won the hearts of millions young and stylish Japanese since its opening a few years ago. While there are currently six stores in Tokyo (and 23 in Japan), one of the largest and most popular is this in Omotesando, just off the main street of Omotesando Dori (behind the Apple store). The chain stands out for its typical Scandinavian-designed products and even more so for the brightly colored items that cheer up the store and call out for your attention. Recently, you can also find a variety of Japan-inspired goods stretching from home decor to stationary and decoration items. The great plus of Flying Tiger is the super affordable prices. Despite being an imported brand, items range from as little as a few hundred yen to a few thousand and they are all so practical, cute and catchy!
Where: Omotesando (4-3-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku); Odaiba Aqua City (3F, 1-7-1 Daiba, Minato-ku); Kichijoji (1-8-9 Kichijoji, Musashino-shi) and other locations
Formally known as Sony Plaza, this company has been around since the late ‘60s, making it the oldest overseas-inspired zakkaten brand in Japan. The original shop was located in Ginza in the basement of the Sony building and the concept was to create a boutique similar to an American drugstore, offering imported products to stylish and trend-setting Tokyoites that could not be purchased elsewhere. As a pioneer in the imported small goods trade, the shop soon expanded into a chain with an identifiable brand, and now has five sub-brands — Plaza, Plaza Depot, MiniPla, Plaza Outlet, and #0107 Plaza — with locations across Japan and overseas.
While Plaza collects its items from over 300 overseas brands, in the past few years, there has been a shift to promoting more domestic products and brands. As of now, more than 50 percent of the products are made in Japan. At Plaza’s stores you can find everything from cosmetics, food products, clothing, hair accessories, stationary, gifts, lifestyle and kitchen goodies and more. Plaza shops often have seasonal or featured displays so if you’re looking for the most recent cream, hair oil, maybe even special eyeliner, this is definitely the place to check out!
Where: Ginza (Exit Melsa 2F, 5-7-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku); Shinjuku Lumine 2 (2F, 3-38-2 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku); Shibuya 109 (B2F, 2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku) and other locations
The Awesome Store is, well, pretty awesome! Off the main street of Omotesando Dori (towards Shibuya), this multi-leveled shop is great for finding things that are seasonal, holiday-specific, and all with a price tag that won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for items with cute or clever catch copy – fun phrases or text splashed across stationary, towels, mugs and even t-shirts – make a stop here. You can also find a great accessories corner with eclectic necklaces and bracelets that you can layer up and add to your latest look. Just like any other zakkaten store, the contents of the shop are always changing so be sure to have a visit once or twice a month, or ask the staff what they’re expecting next so you can have an idea of what to purchase next!
Where: Harajuku (5-8-7 Iida Bldg 1/B1F, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku); Tokyo Dome City LaQua (LaQua 4F 1-1-1 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku); Futakotamagawa (2-21-1 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Futakotamagawa Rise 5F) and other locations
Afternoon Tea is a large zakkaten chain that sells, well, everything that you can think of that is related to tea or tea-time. What’s nice about these shops is that some of the busier locations, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ueno, have cafes attached to the shop and so customers are able to enjoy the full tea-time experience pre or post-shopping. As you can imagine, this zakkaten is best known for its wide variety of mugs, tea cups, and tableware, as well as cute storage items. You can also find some small leather goods like coin purses, stationery cases or notepad covers, large handbags and even totes that are perfect for everyday use or for day trips. For the ongoing hanami season, you will also find special items that are perfect to pick up for your next park picnic with friends. You will definitely be able to find something that you can bring home for yourself, as well as for your friends or family.
Where: Omotesando (4-3-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku); Shibuya Mark City (1-12-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Mark City 1F) and other locations
When it comes to shopping for kitchenware items, most likely you will head towards Kappabashi, but with all of the choices and stores lined up one after the other, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and then almost give up entirely. Kakesu Zakkaten is one of the many shops on Kappabashi Street, that is highly stocked with high-quality made-in-Japan tableware and cooking utensils. You can find teacups, canisters and other porcelain goods, but this shop also carries kitchen items like tea towels from the world-famous Imabari Towel brand. It’s a boutique store that carries high-quality products you can use for years to come, so if you’re looking for something authentic, stylish, and even modern to add to your kitchen or give to a friend as a gift, this is the place to look!
Where: 3-24-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
What’s your favorite variety store in Tokyo or in your city? Let us know in the comments!