For Everything: Japanese department stores are microcosms of practically everything Japan produces, from the food halls in the basement to the departments selling clothing, accessories, office supplies, souvenirs, pottery, household goods, and cameras, to rooftop garden centers. What's more, service is great and purchases are beautifully wrapped. You'll be spoiled for life.
For Designer Fashions: Tokyo's Shibuya District has the most designer boutiques in town, while Aoyama boasts main shops for all the big-name designers, including Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons. Department stores also carry big-name designers; their annual summer sales are mob scenes.
For Souvenirs: Japanese are avid souvenir shoppers when they travel, so souvenirs are sold literally everywhere, even near shrines and temples. Nakamise Dori, a pedestrian lane leading to Tokyo's Sensoji Temple, is one of Japan's most colorful places to shop for paper umbrellas, toys, and other souvenirs. The two best places for one-stop memento shopping are the Oriental Bazaar in Tokyo and the Kyoto Handicraft Center, both of which offer several floors of everything from fans to woodblock prints.
For Traditional Crafts: Japan treasures its artisans so highly that it designates the best as National Living Treasures. Tokyo's Japan Traditional Craft Center offers a varied inventory of everything from knives and baskets to lacquerware, but there are many renowned shops in Kyoto and Kanazawa as well. Department stores also offer an excellent collection of traditional crafts.
For Antiques & Curios: Flea markets are great for browsing; you'll see everything from used kimono to Edo-Era teapots for sale. Japan's largest and one of its oldest monthly markets is held the 21st of each month at Toji Temple in Kyoto. (A lesser flea market is held there the first Sun of each month.) Tokyo also has great weekend markets.
For Electronics: Looking for that perfect digital camera, MP3 player, calculator, or rice cooker? Then join everyone else in the country by going to one of the nation's two largest electronics and electrical-appliance districts. In Tokyo, it's Akihabara, where open-fronted shops beckon up to 50,000 weekday shoppers with whirring fans, blaring radios, and sales pitches. In Osaka, head to Den Den Town.
For Local Specialties: Many prefecture capitals have a government-owned exhibition hall where local products are displayed for sale. Often called a kanko bussankan, the hall may have everything from locally produced pottery to folk toys and foodstuffs. Cities with kanko bussankan include Kanazawa, Okayama, Matsuyama, and Kumamoto.
For Porcelain & Pottery: Porcelain and pottery are produced seemingly everywhere in Japan. Some of the more famous centers include Nagoya, home to Noritake, Japan's largest chinaware company; Kanazawa, known for its Kutani pottery with its distinctive colorful glaze; Matsuyama, famous for its Tobe pottery (white porcelain with cobalt-blue designs); and Kagoshima, with its Satsuma pottery, which comes in white (used by the upper class in feudal Japan) and black (used by the common people).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.