You just moved to Japan. You paid an exorbitant amount of key money and other fees, and now you’re ready to move into your empty apartment. Where to get all those things needed to make your place comfy and livable without going broke right off the bat? These secondhand shops in Japan, that’s where! Check out these affordable options for outfitting your new place.
The ‘Off’ Group
The Off stores are probably the most well-known secondhand stores in Japan with close to a thousand establishments across Japan. You can find the ones in your prefecture on the group’s website: Hard-Off Group.
If you’re like us, you’ll first want to line your bookshelves. From Tokyo to provincial towns, it is very likely you will find a Book-Off right around the corner. With prices starting at only ¥108, Book-Off offers a wide variety of books, DVDs and games. Although they are predominantly in Japanese (which is great if you are studying Japanese and want something besides textbooks), larger stores in major cities often also have some English books in stock.
Hard-Off and Off-House
Some people recommend Hard-Off and Off-House for furniture, although you’ll have more luck finding kitchen items like plates, cups and appliances. Another reason you might want to visit Hard-Off is for musical instruments or ‘junk’ PC parts which you could fix up (should you be so talented).
Liquor-Off is the rarest brand in the chain as it only has a few dozen shops. The store’s concept is very simple: have you been given a bottle of liquor you don’t want? Well, Liquor-Off will buy it off you and sell it to someone who does. The quality of booze here is usually on the higher side as most bottles have been given as a (unwanted) gift. So you might not be getting bottles for dirt cheap prices. Think of it more as getting a nice bottle at great value.
Japan, especially in its major cities, tends to have a fascination with brands. And while you might be wondering how some people can afford a Louis Vuitton bag, the truth is that they most likely did not buy it at retail price. Mode-Off, as well as other secondhand fashion stores, sell famous brands at relatively low prices—making it well worth checking out as long as you do not mind it being secondhand of course. For your everyday duds, there are plenty of (local) alternatives that sell more-than-affordable secondhand clothing (e.g. ¥10 for a T-shirt).
Pawn shops (質屋 ), such as Daikokuya, are the best alternative to Hard-Off and Mode-Off as they mostly procure branded items of near-to-new quality while still being highly affordable compared to buying it actually brand new.
For those of you looking to furnish your apartment, our best tip would be to simply look for リサイクル or 中古 using your search engine of choice. These stores can give you a great deal on furniture as well as appliances which might just be delivered to you for free.
If you really can’t find what you need at a nearby recycle shop, or you are stuck on having a few brand new items, we recommend checking the online stores of BIC Camera, Ikea, and its Japanese rival, Nitori, for budget furniture and appliances. With these options (and a few thousand yen extra), you’ll be guaranteed return or free exchange if there’s any defect.
Online options and flea markets
Lastly, there is always the option of buying items off of someone else rather than in an actual store. You will easily find deals to be made with exchange students who are returning back home and are therefore getting rid of their furniture and appliances on websites/groups such as Sayonara Sale and Craigslist (beware of scammers). Another option is the good old flea market. With its wide variety of items on offer and locations across many of Japan’s cities and towns, you may just find your needed item if you’re willing to take the time to look for it.