asking for trouble

Your Japan Questions Answered

Penguin meets robot

I get a few questions about shopping in Japan and my trips there. Below are some of the answers. Got a question? Ask it here!

I found a fabric in Fabric Town that I want more of but as I cannot visit Japan again soon is there a way I can find more?

Finding more of a specific fabric is really difficult as they bring out new designs so often. If you know the company, designer or fabric name you can search through the many Japanese fabric sellers on Etsy and beyond. If it has a pattern, you could scan or photograph the design and try a Google image search. Otherwise, I would look for an online forum of fabric lovers and someone might recognise the pattern or be able to suggest something similar.

I have your guide and I’m off to Japan soon. Do you have any other shopping recommendations you haven’t written about?

There are loads of shops I haven’t visited yet that I’d really like to – I keep running out of time to visit the huge Yuzawaya store in Kichijoji and I’m pretty desperate to go to Wrapple. Make sure you browse my Japan Links features on the blog and my Kaiwa Japan Tumblr as I often post about new shop discoveries or other shopping guides.

How up to date is your Tokyo Shopping Guide?

I was last in Japan in November 2010 and published the newest guide in Summer 2011 but most of the shops are still there with a few sad exceptions. If you’re really excited about visiting a specific shop or branch, I recommend checking the relevant post in the online Tokyo Shopping Guide before you go as that’s the first place I will update with any new info on closure, address changes, directions etc.

What souvenirs and gifts should I buy in Tokyo and Kyoto?

For traditional souvenirs and gifts, places like the market at Asakusa or Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku are good bets. Tokyu Hands and Loft sell a bit of everything from kawaii toys and stationery to gadgets and novelties – they’re especially good for cheap and fun gifts. If you’re looking for foodie treats, try Okashi Land downstairs in Tokyo Station. Some of the souvenir shops at places like the Metropolitan Government Building observation deck in Shinjuku and at Narita Airport also have surprisingly good range of gifts for all tastes.

What time do the shops close at night in Japan?

In Tokyo, the shops are usually open from around 10am – 8pm. Outside of Tokyo and at tourist attractions they may close earlier.

Where is the best and cheapest place to buy Ghibli character products?

You can buy Ghibli products in all the toy shops and lots of other stores too like Sunshine City, Loft, Character Street and Kiddyland. As for which is cheapest, that’s difficult to say. It depends on the product. I don’t imagine there’s a big difference between stores, though the Ghibli Museum is probably the most expensive, but also has some exclusive products. Tokyo is so big though – it’s best to buy things when you see them as you might not have time to go back to that store.

I’m flying to Japan soon and would like to buy a Gocco printer. Do you have any recommendation for shops?

Sadly, the gocco printers are no longer being made so I don’t think you can buy new ones any more, even in Japan. If you check the Gocco group on Flickr or search eBay there are often secondhand ones for sale.

Do you know if I can order items from Kiddyland online to ship to the US?

Sadly Kiddyland don’t have an online shop – I wish they did! There are quite a few stores selling the same kind of products that will ship worldwide though – have a look at our shopping guide on Super Cute Kawaii.

What sparked your interest in Japan?

I write a little bit about this in my book, and decided it must have been Nintendo. We were big Nintendo fans and totally fell for Pikachu when the Pokemon games started being released. The gaming magazines we read were always doing articles on the amazing stuff they picked up on trips to Japan and it just seemed like an amazing place. And then I discovered Ghibli films and woodblock prints and kimono/chiyogami patterns and bento and all the other inspiring things about Japan. We were also big Miffy fans in our household (my mum is Dutch) so it was a short step to Hello Kitty, Sanrio, San-X and more.

How much money would you say is safe to have per day in Tokyo?

I actually kept all my receipts from my last trip so I could give people a guide on how much it actually does cost. I haven’t sorted all the figures out but I spent around ¥5000 –  ¥10,000 per day. The expensive days were when I was shopping – I’d say ¥5000 per day would cover your travel, food, entry fees etc. and then you’d need extra if you’re going to eat out somewhere special or go on a spending spree. If you do get start to run out of money, as we did, it’s super easy to withdraw money at an international ATM. We used one at a post office near Shinjuku station. It’s also perfectly safe to carry lots of cash around with you, as long as you’re sensible about it in tourist areas.

When you went to Japan did you post your shopping back or did you carry it with you?

I’ve always just carried it all home as I didn’t really buy anything heavy and we always do direct flights. I did plan to try posting stuff back last time but there wasn’t any need. I’ve heard it’s very easy though and the Moshi Moshi Box in Harajuku is a good place to get help.

Have you ever taken a class in Japanese? What was it like?

I’m really terrible at learning languages so I’ve never taken a class. I’ve managed to get by mostly with a few words. I did download podcasts from JapanesePod101 which are pretty great (and you can get through a lot in the free trial). I’ve also pretty much memorised the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets using the Dr Moku apps.


Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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