Shopping in Japan is usually a pleasant experience. The sales staff are generally polite, friendly and attentive, and great care is taken to provide a high level of customer service. Although foreign language services are rarely available, some stores that regularly serve foreign customers may have some staff that speak English or other languages.
Shopping Hours and Closures
In general, large shops and department stores are open daily from 10:00 to 20:00. Smaller stores and shops around tourist attractions may have shorter hours. Most stores are open on weekends and national holidays (except January 1 when many stores close). Large chain stores open everyday, however smaller independent stores may close one day a week or one day a month.
When you walk into a store, the sales staff will greet you with the expression “irasshaimase” meaning “welcome, please come in”. Customers are not expected to respond.
Consumption Tax and Tax Free Shopping
Consumption tax in Japan, known in other countries as VAT, GST or sales tax, is a flat 8% on all items. In the past, stores used to be required to show the after-tax prices; however, since the increase of the consumption tax in 2014, some shops are now also displaying pre-tax prices.
Tax free shopping is available to foreign tourists only at licensed stores when making purchases of over 5,000 yen at a given store or mall on one calendar day. A passport is required when shopping tax free. Note that at many shops and malls, it is necessary to first pay the full price (including the consumption tax) at the cashier and then obtain a refund at a customer service desk.
Be aware that any items you purchase in Japan may be subject to import duties in your home country. Also be aware of the differences in operating voltages, language settings and other standards that may exist in goods bought in Japan.
Cash is accepted everywhere, and it is usually no problem to use large bills to pay for small items, except at small street vendors or dusty mom and pop shops. Japanese yen can be withdrawn from foreign bank accounts through ATMs found at post offices and 7-11 convenience stores.
Although not as universally accepted as cash, credit cards can be used at more and more places, especially major retail stores, electronics shops and department stores. Visa, Mastercard, JCB, American Express and Union Pay are among the most widely accepted types of cards. Travelers checks, on the other hand, are not widely accepted except at major department stores and electronics shops that regularly cater to foreign customers.
Suica and other IC cards can increasingly be used for purchases (max 20,000 yen) at shops and restaurants in large cities, especially in and around train stations.
- When paying, put the money onto the provided tray (preferably with bills neatly unfolded). Your change may be returned in the same way.
- Bargaining is neither common nor appreciated in most stores.
Once you have paid for an item, it will be bagged or marked with colored tape. Clothing stores, department stores and gift shops, among others, will wrap your items if you indicate that they are for a gift. While this is often a free service, some stores charge a minimal fee for wrapping.