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Japan Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Japan

Shoppers will encounter a blend of quintessential Japanese goods and sophisticated sales techniques in Japan, particularly at the big department stores which are usually located near major train stations and commercial districts. Department stores, which are more like exhibitions than shops, almost always have extremely attentive and highly trained staff. Smaller specialty shops, which sell traditional goods and have often been in business for hundreds of years, also provide a unique shopping experience and offer a high level of service. Special purchases include kimonos, mingei (local crafts including kites and folk toys), Kyoto silks, fans, religious articles such as Shinto and Buddhist artefacts, paper lanterns, ceramics, lacquerware, cameras and other electronic equipment. 

Colourful souvenir shops stocked with high-quality hand-made and region-specific goods are ubiquitous. Fans of Japanese popular culture will be able to purchase the latest fashion and character goods from their favourite manga and anime in all major Japanese cities; in particular, Akihabara in Tokyo and Den-Den Town in Osaka. Outlet stores for brand-name goods manufactured in Japan are becoming increasingly common, and are often located near international airports.

Bargaining is not usual, but significant discounts are available during sales in summer (June-July) and winter (December-January).   

Tax exemptions are available in authorised tax-free stores, provided that the item is taken out of Japan unopened/unused. Remember when buying electronic goods that they may not be compatible with UK or US voltage.

Shopping hours

1000-1900 every day of the week and on public holidays.

Nightlife in Japan

Tokyo has an abundance of cinemas, theatres, bars, live music venues, coffee shops and nightclubs. A wide range of bars is available, from the upmarket and stylish to cheap street stalls where patrons stand to drink, with the key areas in Tokyo being Shibuya, Roppongi and Shinjuku. Izakaya, drinking halls that are similar to pubs, are patronised by everyone from university students to office workers and usually have a lively atmosphere. Karaoke “boxes”, venues with small private rooms where customers can be served food and drinks while they sing, are one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Japan.

In summer, rooftop beer gardens are also common all over Japan. Be wary of clubs with “hostesses” - companions who expect to be bought drinks and snacks. There are thousands of other bars and clubs that do not charge entry and do not offer hostess service.

In Tokyo, there are concerts of all styles of music almost every night. Foreign opera and ballet companies, orchestras and rock/pop stars visit Japan all year round. For those who would like to see the traditional Japanese performing arts, there is kabuki and noh theatre in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and other major Japanese cities. Check the Japan Arts Council website for details of venues and performances (www.ntj.jac.go.jp).

The English-language magazines Metropolis (www.metropolisjapan.com) in Tokyo and Kansai Scene (www.kansaiscene.com) in Western Japan are good sources for finding out what's on. It is advisable to purchase tickets in advance because shows quickly sell out. Osaka is also renowned for its nightlife, as is Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido and Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu.

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