Tokyo shopping ranges from the crowded sidewalk and underground markets hawking black-market DVD's and faux designer jeans, to the true designer boutiques in the Roppongi Hills and the Ginza districts. Shopping in Japan follows roughly a similar mold in the major cities of Osaka and Nagoya, while in the smaller villages and towns in the outlying regions it is possible to buy authentic vases, jewelry and crafts from the artisans themselves.
Tokyo shopping offers the choicest shopping in Japan and with the opening of the Roppongi Hills complex in 2003, Tokyo is now, arguably more posh than Beverly Hills. After 17 years of planning and development, the Roppongi Hills area opened in 2003 and saw 10 million visitors within two months. A city within a city, Roppongi Hills consists of eight themed areas that blend into one another. In addition to hotels, restaurants, movie theaters—and pretty much anything else you could think of—the Roppongi Hills is home to some of the best shopping in Japan. The Hillside section of Roppongi Hills offers four levels of shops that face the Mori Garden. In addition to upscale shopping there are a number of world class restaurants in this area.
If the Hillside is known for its shopping and restaurants, the Keyakizaka Dori section of Roppongi Hills is strictly an upper-end shopper's delight. Known as the Rodeo Drive" of Tokyo, discerning shoppers can chose from Gucci, Armani and Christian La Croix and then take a break on one of the interesting art-themed benches that line the main avenue.
Though Roppongi Hills is currently the hottest shopping area in Tokyo, it is by no means the only place to max out your gold card. The Ginza District is centrally located and bejeweled with the neon signage that has become the default image of urban Tokyo. Head to Ginza on Sunday's when the main thoroughfare "the Chuo-Dori" is closed to motor traffic. This weekly Japanese block party offers street music, vendors selling magical puppets, and, above all, great people watching. Off the main thoroughfare you will find numerous art galleries, and, just like the Keyakizaka section of Roppongi Hills, Ginza is home to Louis Vuitton, Dior, Channel and a host of other designer boutiques.
For a rowdier shopping experience head to Tokyo's Shinjuku area. This crowded area is filled with shops, wholesale distributors, ryokan (traditional Japanese lodgings), and tea houses. The nerve center of Shinjuku is its train station. It is estimated that 3 million people a day pass through this bustling station. Within the station are four massive department stores, two of which have their own private train lines! Keep you money safely tucked away, and be prepared to be swept along by the mass of commuters.
If you would like to snap a few great pictures before breakfast, head to the Tsukiji Market. Here, merchants from across Tokyo arrive long before dawn to select the best seafood of the day. If it swims or crawls in the sea, it is likely that you will find it at the Tsukiji Market. Besides seafood, the market sells a wide variety of produce. Just be sure to arrive at the Tsukiji Market before (yawn) 5 a.m. if you want to witness the bustle of unloading and selling.
While only the major shopping highlights of Tokyo have been outlined here, Japan itself offers a wide selection of antiques and traditional wares throughout the smaller towns and villages. In addition, other major cities such as Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto offer near the same level of designer shopping as Tokyo.