TOKYO THRIFTING GUIDE

I've only gotten into it relatively recently but thrifting has quickly become one of my favourite ways to shop.

TOKYO 2014

Not only do you get that rush from finding an amazing bargain, there's reducing clothing waste and the rare delight of having to really work for your purchases. Nothing gives me as much thrill as finding a gem that would otherwise have been thrown away, hidden in a pile of once-loved clothes, to be repurposed into my wardrobe with its own mysterious backstory buried in its seams.

And if you are into the thrifting scene, Tokyo is the place to go. Not only is there a huge variety of goods that are generally all clean and selected with a careful eye, the stores are all impeccably organised, often with tags that tell you both the price and the brand of the goods. And you can probably (perhaps?) trust that the brands are genuine. I'm just saying, it's not uncommon to find a Burberry skirt going for maybe 4000Y, if that's your scene. Most stores will allow you to try the items on but beware because some stores are very narrow. Combined with overflowing racks, it can get crowded very quickly so keep in mind your backpack can cause much destruction if you're not careful. And dress as lightly as possible to streamline the fitting room process.

The bulk of vintage and second-hand stores can be found in Shimokitazawa, particularly a small nook near the West Exit, while others are in Shibuya/Harajuku (and Koenji, I am told, which we didn't get to visit). After three days' worth of exploring, I think we exhausted most of them. Here are my favourites:

HIYORI | TWITTER

This is actually not a thrift store but it has extremely cute decor - including a bathtub with goldfish in the very front and a cute selection of girly but sophisticated clothes. They are a bit pricey - most sweaters will be in the 3000 - 5000Y ballpark. The shopkeeper was so lovely and cheerful that I just had to give a special mention, even though we didn't end up buying anything.

LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN

2-26-14 Coo 1F-A Kitazawa-gyu. Open 12:00 - 21:00 (050-3803-2248)

Little Trip to Heaven features quite a huge range that is a mix of second-hand and new items, along with accessories (sunglasses, jewellery, scarves). I found a gorgeously unique sweater that you may have seen in numerous Instagram photos - I'm calling it my 'piano sweater'.

STICK OUT

This was definitely worth a revisit from last year. All items are 700Y, apart from a small section selling brand new sweaters and shirts, which makes this place one of the cheapest thrift stores in Tokyo that also boasts a range that spans blazers to hats to pants. Definitely should be on your 'to-visit' list in Shimokita - at 700Y, why not? There's a huge menswear section too. It's a very narrow store and often crowded so be prepared for a tight squeeze.

MODE OFF | SHIMOKITAZAWA

Mode is perhaps one of the largest secondhand stores in Shimokita that stocks clothes, accessories and shoes and its cheapest section comprises several racks of 200Y clothes (though I believe they were on sale from 300Y). Definitely worth a thorough dig and helps that the hangers and tags are all there to make your experience that much easier. Mode Off is part of a wider chain of stores that has branches all over Tokyo.

MICMO (NO 2) | TWITTER

Micmo has a great range of clothes and its prices are all fairly low - around 1500 to 2000Y for sweaters, compared to a couple of other vintage stores though quality-wise, they're pretty similar to other 'sweater stocking' stores. Definitely worth checking out for staples as their sale rack prices go even lower.

NUDE TRUMP

Your first impression walking into Nude Trump is probably fear at the dingy little staircase leading up to it. And then it's probably shock at how flashy and gaudy this place looks. Huge glittering gold chains, row upon row of shiny, colourful wares and a bundle of Halloween ready costumes (think bright sequins, cowboy hats, feather boas, ridiculous drag queen bomber jackets of awesome) can be quite the assault on your senses. Once you get over the visual stimulation, there is a lot of edgy and interesting pieces to pick your way through - and may have you questioning your life choices when you find yourself contemplating checkered suspender pants (yes, you do need these in your life). If you ask nicely, there may be a little wiggle room with the price.

It goes for every vintage store but be very careful when inspecting your items before purchasing. The leather back of my gorgeous leather jacket started to peel off (though I really didn't see any cracks upon purchasing) and now I have to get it specially fixed...which is going to cost me a pretty penny, even in China.

CHICAGO THRIFT STORE

If you're looking for a sweater...Harajuku/Omotesando's Chicago Thrift Store is your place, along with denim jackets and slightly edgier street-style clothing. Colour-coded racks of sweaters makes choosing things very easy and there are quite spacious changing rooms for you to enjoy.

HAIGHT & ASHBURY

Haight & Ashbury stocks more upper-end vintage wear, many imported from overseas, with some gorgeous coats, as well as bags, shoes, jewellery and other knick-knacks. I was tossing up about buying a sweater for around 4500Y-ish but ended up not buying it. It's worth the journey to simply browse, since it's such an interesting store.

ragtag, harajuku, omotesando, tokyo, sketch and run, thrift
ragtag, harajuku, omotesando, tokyo, sketch and run, thrift

RAGTAG

For those who can fit designer ware on their travel budget but are looking for a bargain, RAGTAG is your go-to. The first floor stocks a lot of local Japanese designers while the second floor stocks second-hand luxury items ranging from Yohji Yamamoto to Kenzo to Chanel, many of which look as good as new. As always, meticulously labelled and arranged. It's in a street perpendicular to Omotesando's main road, a little past Kiddyland, so you can't miss it.

TORO

Ishida Bldg 4F 6-19-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-001

Who says vintage stores can't be beautiful? Toro is definitely for the high end thrift shoppers (think designer coats) but the lovely little store boasts some gorgeously curated pieces. If you have the budget, check it out. They also have a sister store - Otoe in Harajuku - that we didn't get to visit but if it's the same vibe as Toro, it's definitely worth a visit. And apparently it's slightly cheaper too (darn it!).