Bargain and Tokyo are generally not words one would use in the same sentence given the city’s reputation as one of the fashion capital’s of the world and its regular appearance in the top placed cities in the Most Expensive Cities to Live lists. However, if you spend a little time digging around you can find some real gems that aren’t going to cost you an arm and a leg. One such place is Ameya Yokocho, in Ueno. It is a historic sweet market that has been in existence for a long time, being a famous black market after WWII and is now a busy street market.
Situated close to Ueno Station it is relatively easy to find, especially from the Ginza Line. Once there you are struck by a bustling street market full of colour, people, bargains, noise and smells. Don’t be put off by the number of people there, it can be rather daunting, but if you have young kids, keep them close and head on in. The streets are full of stalls and shops selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and snacks, fish, shoes, clothing, bags and numerous others along with a heap of food outlets and gaming parlours.
If you are living in Tokyo it is a good spot to stock up on your weekly fruit, fish, nuts, etc with prices being better than those we have generally seen in our local supermarkets, as well as the produce looking fresher. Whether you live here or are just visiting it is worth a visit to look for clothing bargains, with all sorts of stores selling a wide range of clothing and accessories. Keep an eye out for the sportswear shops, generally these are small by western standards (very small actually) and are packed full of bargains. The perimeter of the stores are lined with hanging racks displaying merchandise (actually not displaying it in a way you can actually see what the item looks like but more in the way of a typical wardrobe rail, with thousands of outfits squeezed along the wall), while the inside of the store is stacked full of crates overflowing with various items, generally by clothing type, ie shirts in one crate, pants in another, even better deals in another, kids gear in another, etc. All around the stores are signs stating that everything is half price, as well as there being an extra 20% discount (and even a further 10% discount if you have a store card, which they will generally give you if you don’t have one anyway.) and a list of what the marked prices end up being after the discounts. There are also a number of staff walking around the store trying to keep the merchandise in the crates and continuously yelling out “Irashimasae, Irashimasae…” and other Japanese phrases that I don’t understand as yet. So the whole scene is one of utter chaos with the stores also full of people looking for a bargain. Brave the chaos though and you won’t be disappointed, if you have kids, with a bit of searching you can get them a heap of good quality clothing for very little. Currently there are kids shorts selling for 40 Yen ($US 0.40) in some of the stores and we were able to get a couple of pairs of shorts, a Long sleeve shirt for our son and a pair of track pants for our daughter for under 1500 Yen ($US 15), all of it name brand items. Even adults clothing works out at around 20% of the original retail price, given that the original marked price in these stores is still about 50% of the original retail price.
The produce stalls seem to be pretty good value as well, with a few bunches of grapes selling for about 300 Yen which are about 3 – 4 times bigger than bunches sold in the supermarkets for around 380 Yen, and nuts being able to be purchased in bulk as well, we picked up 6 packets for 1000 Yen today, the packets generally selling for 300 Yen each here and even more for a similar quantity of nuts at the supermarket. There are also a large number of fish mongers in the market as well, with a good assortment of fresh and dried fish.
If the crowds scare you, try during the week when there seem to be a lot less people and shopping for bargains can be a lot less stressful.