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Shopping trips – Part 5: Tokyo, what to buy and where to go

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You may not associate Tokyo with bargain shopping, but there are some great adventures to be had in this intriguing city. There are around 50 shopping districts throughout Tokyo, enough to challenge even the most experienced Singapore shopper.

The trusty team at Budget Direct Insurance has done all the legwork for you. Here are a few expert pointers to help you in the right retail direction.

1. Japanese brands

Japanese cosmetic products are known for their high quality. Popular skincare brands like SKII, Albion, Kose, Kanebo, Shiseido, Ettusais Shu Uemur and Fancl are all available in high street pharmacies in Tokyo for around 30% less.

Other popular brands in Singapore like Uniqlo, Muji, Bape, and Samantha Thavasa handbags are all much cheaper in Japan (depending on the exchange rate.) And stores like Under Armor carry a much wider variety of goods.

2. Electronic goods

This is the place for the seriously tech-obsessed tourist. It’s all about the variety and volume of products on offer, as much as the price.

There are two areas of Tokyo to visit if you want floors and floors of gadgets plus niche new products, many of which you won’t see outside of Japan. Big retailers are found in Akihabara – Yodobashi Camera, Yamada Denki, Laox and Sofmap are favourites, as well as hundreds of small discount electronics shops.

For a change, head for Ikebukuro with a range of large electronics retailers expanding in the area.

Hot tip Many warranties aren’t valid outside of Japan so check before you buy.

3. Shop without ever entering a store!

Tokyo does vending machines better than anywhere in the world. There is approximately one vending machine for every 23 people in Japan – so you really can do all your shopping without ever entering a shop!

Short of holiday gifts to bring home? Head to Shibuya, there’s a unique vending machine spot where you can buy all your Japanese souvenirs in one hit; earrings, tenugui handkerchiefs, phone straps...

Address Shibuya Center Building 1F, 16-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

More information at

4. Take a break

A Kit Kat chocolate bar may not usually be on your shopping list, but you can astonish your Singaporean friends by bringing home flavours that even Willy Wonka hasn’t heard about!

The Japanese are crazy about Kit Kats. They are so popular that around 300-plus exotic varieties have been created, from wasabi to melon.

“The story begins, it seems, with a stroke of luck that is the stuff of marketing dreams: KitKat sounds similar to the Japanese phrase kitto katsu: ‘you will surely win’.” **

The makers of Kit Kat noticed a spike in sales every January. This is when university students sat their exams and were given Kit Kats for good luck. Ever since, the bar has been made in every variety under the red sun. Yum!

For more tips on shopping overseas, look out for future posts in this series.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good travel cover.
Check out Budget Direct Insurance for your best deal

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