Shopping Japan (Frugally) - The Haul

Freemans Sporting Club, Harris Tweed, Alex Mill

I came back from Japan last year with a handful of memories and a suitcase-full of new purchases - some of them new and many bought from secondhand stores, also known as "recycle" or "reuse" shops. I wanted to share what I brought back with me in the hopes of encouraging more guys to consider it, be it online or on vacation as I was. Truth be told, I was a bit wary of shopping in Japan as I've heard it many times considered a particularly "expensive" destination in many regards, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really doesn't have to be. I've mentioned it before, but one of the highlights of my Japan trip was the secondhand shopping - and not just in Tokyo, but in every city we traveled. I have more I want to cover about secondhand shops, but suffice it to say for now that if you're on a budget and traveling in Japan you should definitely consider looking into stopping into a few.

The Blue Blue Japan indigo wool zip sweater pictured above was bought at a reuse shop in Osaka, if memory serves me right, for roughly $115 USD, with the other accessories (a couple pairs of socks and a handkerchief) from the Okura/Blue Blue stores in Kyoto and Tokyo.

I also found this belted Tomorrowland cardigan and a Buzz Rickson herringbone twill shirt (with the tags still attached) at a Jumble Store in Shibuya, Tokyo for about $70 and $50, respectively (I also randomly snagged a pair of Alex Mill moleskin chinos (pictured above) along the way at 80% off).

Gussetts and chainstitch run-off

But my favorite piece is a Freemans Sporting Club jacket my wife bought me in the Kyoto Urban Research store (low $300s USD at full price). I'm still in love with the indigo sashiko - a texture that's uniquely Japanese but reimagined in the format of an unstructured patch pocket blazer, and a fabric I wish we'd see more of in the West. I've been wearing it with a piece of Harris Tweed as a pocketsquare cut from a bigger piece I bought in a Kyoto fabric store for around five bucks.

Some people buy refrigerator magnets or shot glasses as a reminder of the places they've been. I much prefer it this way - glorified versions, if you will, of an "I <3 New York" shirt.

Ukiyo-E Japanese woodblock prints from Kyoto

If you're planning a trip soon, shoot me an email and I have a Google map I pinned with several in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto I can send you. If you found this post interesting but are wondering how it may be applicable to those outside Japan, I'd point out that using a proxy service from Japan does not seem as complicated as I had initially feared. I've been spending a lot of time lately looking through Japanese auctions and online sales portals, and it's something that I'm getting more interested in trying out myself, hopefully soon.


  1. Fascinating post, even more than usual, thanks so much for sharing. The indigo sashiko fabric is amazing isn't it. I got some martial arts practice jackets from Japan on eBay made with this stuff, and it's even better a bit weathered and beaten up. Your FSC jacket looks like a lifetime find.

    If you were able to post about what you have found out about the options for using proxy services in Japan, or finding stuff in Japanese auctions and online services, that would be fantastic!


    1. Hey Matt - thanks! No lie, I spent an unreasonable amount of time searching "sashiko," "kendo," etc. to see if I could find more garments made up in it.

      It'll be a while yet before I'm comfortable enough to use the Japanese online sites confidently, so for now I'd just say that I've spent a lot of time this week searching Yahoo Japan auctions, Rakuten, Zozotown for new items, etc. and plan to probably use a proxy service like From Japan. Oh, and I'd also point out that using a web browser like Chrome that has auto translation helps immeasurably (even if the translations are kinda wonky). The Japanese have always been great with cataloguing information, and with enough background research and cross referencing you can usually find 2-3 size charts and fit pics on and other blogs.

      Proxy fees don't seem to be that bad, honestly. Shipping seems to be the bigger cost using a reliable service like EMS, but From Japan actually has a cost estimator on their site that lets you plug in some numbers from a potential purchase and then spit out what should be close to the final cost. It's a touch more complicated than that (there are two stages of billing, for instance), but honestly it doesn't look as hard as I thought it might. When I do buy something, I'll be sure to share the process more. Cheers, man.


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