Japan may be famous for electronics stores filled with all of the latest gadgets, but what people don’t realize is that they carry far more than just electronics. From whiskey to cosmetics to bicycles, you can find pretty much everything you need for your home lifestyle, up to and including washlet toilet seats and massive OLED televisions.
Since most non-Japanese customers don’t need to bring home a vacuum or television, visitors to Japan tend to buy items that they can’t get back home, or are much cheaper in Japan. We’ve put together a guide of the different types of products in electronics stores, what to look out for, and of course how to get the best deals while you’re shopping.
Most Popular Categories:
1) Cameras and accessories: You can get great deals on camera bodies, but especially lenses. Many lenses are released in Japan first as well, so you can get products before they’re out in the rest of the world.
2) Beauty appliances: Panasonic’s Nanoe line of facial steamers, skin tighteners, and other devices have been major hits for a long time in Japan, and aren’t pseudo-science either.
3) Japanese whiskey, sake, and other spirits: Much bigger selection, and you can get it all done in one place
4) Cosmetics: Yes, electronics stores have cosmetics and plenty of them at good prices.
5) Home Appliances: Depending on your country you may or may not be able to use these, but popular items are rice cookers, and Japan-only products with great design.
6) Watches & Sunglasses
7) Games & toys: Both for kids and adults, there are toys, figures, video games, and other items, usually on the top floor of these stores.
8) SIM Cards: Get fast, cheap data during your trip
Of course, with different standards around the world there are some issues to look out for:
1) Multilingual menus: Most devices with screens only have menus in Japanese, but many have at least English options or can be easily used regardless of language. Be sure to check before you buy. For example, Sony’s domestic cameras don’t have multilingual menus, but all Fujifilm cameras do.
2) Power supply: Japan runs on 100 volts, which means that you’ll likely be fine the US, Canada, China, and other countries that work within that range, but many products won’t fare well in Europe or Australia. Many recent products, such as cameras and smartphones, can already adjust on their own (and only need a plug adapter) but be sure to check.
3) Japan Price vs Home Price: Japan is seen as being an expensive place, but you can actually get pretty good deals! Before you do a price comparison to your own country, be sure to factor in tax (you don’t need to pay that 8%) as well as the additional 3~7% you can save with a special coupon you can use at BicCamera stores. These add up quickly.
(There are some products that the coupon may not be applied, so please ask the staff for detailed information.) Get the coupon at the bottom of this article.
Search for a BicCamera store
Tips for getting the best deals:
1) Haggling: OK, so this isn’t exactly “Turkish bazaar” style haggling, but if you are buying a significant quantity of items you may be able to get a few percent off of your bill. However, you don’t need to be aggressive about it. If you ask, they’ll check if it’s doable and then give you the deal as they aren’t working on commission anyway.
2) Price comparisons: Electronics stores tend to have slightly higher prices than one another, but if you bring in a price from a competing retail chain (not online only) they will match the price.
3) Ask the staff! These stores now have plenty of people who speak your language and have likely dealt with the same questions many times.
4) If you’re a tourist, the best deals are for you. You can already save 8% with duty-free purchases over 5,000 yen, but BicCamera also has some well-hidden but valuable coupons giving up to an additional 7% off your purchase. The reason is that, as a tourist, you aren’t getting their typical members points, so they’re just letting you keep roughly the same amount in cash upfront (a way better deal than having points for sure).
To get a sense of your average electronics store we went to BicCamera in Akihabara, one of the largest and certainly newest. This is basically a tower of everything you could want for yourself or souvenirs for others. Going into the first floor you wouldn’t even realize that it’s an electronics store, as it’s filled with Japanese snacks, drug store products, and many many bottles of every kind of alcohol you can imagine, including a decent selection of Japanese whisky.
Starting from the second floor you find cosmetics and rows of beauty products, from the very popular skincare devices from Panasonic to other rollers, facial products, hairdryers, and then accessories like sunglasses and watches. There are plenty of staff around to answer questions, but we were most surprised to find so many non-Japanese customers buying some many personal care products. After asking the staff, the beauty products in particular are some of their best sellers for tourists, mostly because they simply aren’t available in most other countries.
The rest of the building is much more like the electronics store you probably imagine, with comprehensive selections of cameras, lenses, headphones, and plenty of home appliances that you can only find here. The top floor, like most electronics stores, is full of video games, toys, and gadgets for kids and the kid in everyone. The coupon we mentioned doesn’t apply to video games, unfortunately, but most other products on that floor (including figures) are fair game.
The main issue you’ll have in a place like this is actually finding the right products for you. It’s best if you already know what you want before you go, so you can walk in, ask the staff, and get it all handled. It’s also fun to browse in these big electronics stores, but if you’re trying to make decisions you may find the lights, sounds, and (perhaps too big) selection a bit distracting and intimidating. That’s part of the fun of course, but definitely don’t go in there hungry or tired!
Once you’ve made your purchases, BicCamera can send the products directly to your hotel or to the airport for pickup, so that’s a great solution if you don’t want to carry things around during your trip. You can also leave your luggage at the shop for a small fee if you want to explore the neighborhood unburdened. Just give yourself plenty of time, look out for good deals (there are plenty) and take advantage of coupons and other discounts that you can get hassle-free.
Now enjoy your shopping with the coupon below:
BicCamera discount coupon