Buy electronics in Japan 日本で電子機器を購入する
In high-tech paradise
It's no secret that Japan is the land of unique and excellent electronic appliances. So where can I find the best deals and what else should know?
Since the 1980s, during Japan's unparalleled economic growth, the country has gained a reputation as the cutting edge of technology. Many electronics and high-tech brands, starting with Sony, Canon, Toshiba, and Panasonic to name a few, have forged a solid international reputation. Japanese companies are particularly successful in the fields of photography, video, and audio, and more recently in robotics.
While visiting Japan, it may be a good idea to buy electronic items, for their lower prices than in your home country. Large brands such as Yodobashi, Bic Camera, or Sofmap. So where to shop for the best deals and selections? Can I find unique products only sold in Jap[an? How to take advantage of the tax refund? Here's a short guide to shopping for electronics in Japan.
Electronic districts in Tokyo
Any self-respecting geek will tell you: Akihabara is THE neighborhood to go shopping for high-tech products. Located east of Tokyo, it is a paradise for electronics, and more recently for fans of manga and video games.
In this Electronic Heaven, the area offers everything from the biggest brands to small mom-and-pop shops in a cheerful and cheeky atmosphere.
The must-see stores for bargains are Yodobashi Akiba. Japan's largest, spanning 9 floors, sells everything from home appliances, computers, and toys. Not far, you will find the Bic Camera, another Akiba landmark.
The Shinjuku district is also a great place to shop as it offers the same big brand stores as well as smaller stores.
In Osaka and Kyoto
In Osaka, the Nipponbashi district, or " Den Den Town ", is recommended for all visitors and otaku looking for bargains. The nickname of this district, denki no machi, speaks for itself since it means "the electric village". It, therefore, bears the same nickname of Electric Town as its Tokyo counterpart Akihabara.
Den-Den Town in Nipponbashi is Osaka’s version of Tokyo’s Akihabara. It’s the city’s electronics, camera, computer, pop culture, games, and anime shopping neighborhood.
Kyoto is widely known for its historical and cultural heritage, the city is however home to some large electronics stores, like the gigantic Yodobashi located in front of the main station. Furthermore, the southern end of the Teramachi Dori, in the city center, is aligned with stores offering discount computers, smartphones, video games, peripherals, and other accessories.
One of the big advantages of buying electronics as a tourist in Japan is the exemption from tax (VAT). The exemption of the 8% consumer tax can offer additional savings, the bigger the item, the more savings!
There are, however, a few rules: a tax refund can be applied from a minimum purchase amount of 5,000 yen (around $44/40), and you must present your passport at the time of purchase. You can easily identify the stores offering this tax refund, just look for the logo of a "Tax-free shop". When paying at the checkout, present your passport for it to be applied. Some department stores even have a specific counter for this service. Sometimes you will be asked to fill out a small form.
IMPORTANT: Check your home country's customs exemption policy. There may be an additional tax imposed on foreign purchased items depending on the country.
The characteristics of Japanese electronics
There are a number of points to be concerned about before purchasing any Japanese electronics or computer products.
The first concerns language. Unless you are fluent in Japanese, be sure to check that the device's operating system (especially on cameras) offers additional languages. In the same vein, if you buy a laptop computer, make sure the keyboard is of internal use.
Furthermore, know that the Japanese electrical outlets provide 110 volts, as the voltage may not be optimal for your home country. Today, most devices have a compatible voltage of 100 ~ 240, which will allow you to connect your device around the world without an adapter. If the device is only 110 volts compatible, you will need to invest in a current transformer.
Finally, do purchase an adapter (fairly inexpensive) to switch plugs.