The following piece is courtesy our friends at Tokyo Cheapo, who we once caught trying to sell their own kidneys at a flea market for beer money.
A cheapo’s paradise, flea markets in Tokyo are super spots for bargain hunting. And there’s no shortage of them – you’ll find something happening in one of the city’s parks or parking lots just about every Saturday and Sunday.
You can fork out wads of cash for fancy souvenirs at soulless stores, or you can riffle through the stalls at one of the flea markets below and find all sorts of awesome (and original) things for a fraction of the price. Keen on a second-hand kimono or yukata for 1 000 yen? How about some tea ceremony bowls? Second-hand fashion (still seasons ahead of much of the rest of the world) for a few hundred yen? You can also find CDs and DVDs, books, vinyls, random military stuff and much more.
Here’s our pick of Tokyo’s best:
This is one of Tokyo’s biggest and most popular flea markets, with around 600 vendors. Unlike a lot of the other flea markets, it also has a regular schedule.
Where: Ohi Racetrack, Shinagawa (it’s near Ohikeibajo Station).
When: Every Saturday, 9-3pm.
(Note: you may find this spelled “Ooi” in some resources.)
Say “ikura desu ka?” when you want to ask how much something is.
A cool little flea market with a focus on second-hand clothes. The organisers hope to reduce wastefulness (mottainai) through their event. You can sometimes also find books, CDS and DVDs. If you’re looking to off-load some clothes of your own, you can do that at some of the venues – read more about clothes recycling here.
Where: It moves around Tokyo. Venues include the Ohi Racetrack, Ikebukuro Station West Park (the dodgy concrete area), Akihabara and various parks.
When: 10-4ish, Saturdays or Sundays.
Shinjuku Mitsui Building Flea Market
Many hapless cheapos search for the famed Shinjuku Nomura Building Flea Market, but it seems to have stopped operating back in 2005. Luckily this one is still going. It’s not huge, but you can find some good deals.
Where: Shinjuku Mitsui Building, 55 Hiroba (near JR Shinjuku Station, West Exit).
When: Usually the last weekend of each month. 8.30-4.30pm.
Shinjuku Chuo Park Flea Market
Around 200 vendors. Apparently good for “vintage” stuff. In between browsing the stalls, you can nip up to the top of the Tocho Buildings to see the (free!) view over Tokyo.
Where: The Mizu no Hiroba Square in Shinjuku Chuo Park, at the back of the Metropolitan Government Buildings (near Tochomae Station).
When: Around once every two months. Sundays, 10-3pm.
Small, but one of Tokyo’s most well-known markets. If you’re looking for antiques and pottery, this is the place to go. Expect 150-200 stalls. If you think you’ve heard the name before, that’s probably because Yasukuni Shrine is often in the news. It honours Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals, making it a bit of a controversial place. Japanese politicians who visit the shrine are criticised by other Asian countries. Since you’re just after a flea market though, you don’t have to worry about ruffling any feathers.
Where: Yasukuni Shrine (near Kudanshita Station, Exit 1).
When: Two Saturdays a month, 10-3pm. No markets in July.
Punted (by the organisers) as being the oldest and most famous antique fair in Japan. 280 dealers. Held five times a year, with the next one coming up in July. They don’t only flog antiques – you can find much of the same kind of stuff as you would at a regular flea market.
Where: Ryutsu Center Building, 2F (in front of Ryutsu-Center Station on the Monorail line).
When: 5 times a year. Check the website above (in English!) for dates.
Yoyogi Park Flea Market(s)
One of Tokyo’s oldest and trendiest flea markets. 800 vendors, all flogging second-hand goods – with lots of recycled fashion. Hipster-friendly. The only problem is that it can be hard to figure out when, or even if, the event will be happening. It happens irregularly, with no more markets scheduled until August 30th 2014.
Yoyogi Park also hosts the Earth Day Market once a month or so (this is more reliable), where you can get organic produce, fair trade goods, tasty meals and handmade crafts.
Where: The paved space just across from the park itself, near the NHK buildings (near Harajuku Station).
When: Sundays, usually once a month … maybe.
Check the park’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/yoyogipark.info for event details (in Japanese).
Big Meiji Park Flea Market
Another popular one with around 600 stalls. It’s held in Sendagaya once a month.
Where: Meiji Park (near Kokuritsukyogijo Station).
When: Usually a Saturday, 10-3pm. Not happening for “a while” though due to some sort of construction.
Why all the uncertainty? The flea markets are run by a bunch of different groups and NPOs, so it can be confusing trying to figure out what’s going on, where. Also, if the weather is foul, the markets often get cancelled. Your best bet is to check the websites (using Google Translate to help, if necessary) before making any plans!
This website has a schedule for flea markets in the Tokyo and Saitama areas.
This one has a less comprehensive schedule covering markets in the big parks.
You can also check this site, though it lacks dates.
And here’s a good one for antiques.
If you’re around in December-January, be sure to check out Setagaya Boroichi – a designated cultural asset and a flea market that’s been going strong for over 400 years!
Check out more cheapo tips at Tokyo Cheapo.