Sure, the K-Beauty industry may be in the limelight as of late, but it’s no secret that Japan’s beauty industry deserves equal — if not, more— recognition when it comes to their beauty products. After all, there’s no one else that can deliver on innovative, gorgeous, and sometimes just downright wacky beauty products that works wonders. (Yes, we’re thinking of the iconic steam eye mask, for one!)
With that in mind, we at Daily Vanity have put together the ultimate beauty guide in Tokyo, giving you the lowdown on everything you need to know about beauty shopping in the land of the rising sun. From the best places to score great beauty deals in Tokyo to tips as to how to shop like a pro, we have you covered!
Best places to shop in Tokyo for beauty products
This is not your “normal” drugstore, considering how you can get practically everything at Japanese drugstores, from eye drops to shampoos to full makeup sets. Notable drugstores to check out include Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Sun Drug, and Tsuruha Drug, with most of them stocked full of cult Japanese products such as Lululun Face Masks, Suisai Beauty Clear Powder, and Chojyu Collagen Solution Ball. These are the products that everyone stocks up on when they are in Japan, so make sure you don’t miss them!
Stumped as to what to get? Check out our handy list of top Japan drugstore buys so you can start planning out your shopping list. Trust us, it’s going to be a long one!
2. Department stores
We kid you not: department stores in Japan can go up to nine whole levels, with a countless amount of beauty shopping options available. Expect high-end and luxury J-beauty options here, such as Kanebo, Shiseido, and SK-II. The staff are also highly knowledgeable and full of expertise when it comes to the products they’re offering, with several of them speaking fluent English (and Mandarin), in case you’re worried about the language barrier!
3. Cosme Store
Beauty junkies definitely have heard of Cosme, a Japanese customer rank-and-review site that rose to fame over the years by being one of the more reputable and trusted beauty sources around. This popularity has led them to opening several physical stores which sells the products they feature on their site. So, essentially, it is a store that sells a majority of Japan’s top ranked and highly regarded beauty products, all in one place!
Make sure to scoop up the best ranked products and leave a review or two on the laptops placed around the store, if you’re up for it. Oh, and the best part? Shopping is tax-free! Do note that if your products will have to be sealed if you expect to get a tax refund from them, so remember to open them only once you’re back on Singapore’s sunny shores.
Located in the ever-popular district of Shibuya, Plaza is chock-full of beauty gems from a wider variety of brands. You’ll see classic drugstore faves such as Maybelline and Revlon intermingling with Japanese labels like Canmake and Ettusais, along with a whole bunch of other miscellaneous goods such as household items and stationary, even! Keep your eyes peeled for super cute character collaborations while you’re at it — the last we checked, they had a super adorable Care Bear range.
It’s a beauty junkie’s paradise over at Loft. There are several beauty brands exclusive to Japan available there, for one — think FlowFushi and Whomee — that come in a wide range of price points, from drugstore to luxury. Plus, you can pick up interesting souvenirs for just about everyone whilst doing your beauty shopping, there: they have everything from stationary, to cameras, to exercise equipment?!
Yup, you can fully buy yourself a trampoline over there, too. Talk about wrapping up all your shopping needs in one go!
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6. Don Quijote
If you’re already impressed by the Don Quijote outlets in Singapore (known as Don Don Donki here), well, trust us — the ones in Tokyo are at a whole other level all together. It can get a little overwhelming with the sheer variety and bright neon discount signs fluttering everywhere, but there’s no doubt that you’re bound to pick up a great beauty bargain over there.
DV Tip: Face masks and fake lashes go for notoriously affordable prices over at Don Quijote, so be sure to stock up on those!
For a full list of Don Quijote outlets, click here.
7. Cosme Kitchen
Specialising in organic beauty products, Cosme Kitchen is a haven for those looking for natural makeup, skincare, and even hair care products! Seriously, the range of products they have there is extensive — while they primarily focus on makeup and skincare, there are even organic household cleaning products for you to try out, if that’s your thing. Apparently, the Daikanyama outlet even comes with an organic juice bar that lets you sip at a healthy thirst-quencher as you shop. Now, that’s what we call 5-star service!
8. Ainz & Tulpe
A two-floor mega store containing just about every popular Japanese skincare and makeup product there is, Ainz & Tulpe is the equivalent of Japan’s Sephora, except their products come at waaayy more affordable prices, of course! Make sure to stock up on your favourite J-beauty products from popular brands such as Marjolica Marjoca, CANMAKE, and Kate.
No time to spare? Fret not: the new and popular items are always displayed by the entrance, which allows for a quick grab-and-go if you have to rush off for your flight.
It wouldn’t be an ultimate beauty guide in Tokyo if we didn’t include one of the cheapest options to get your beauty fix in Japan: Daiso, of course. With products going as low as 100 Yen and a much wider variety of products available as compared to Singapore, you’ll surely be spoilt for choice browsing the aisles.
Keep an eye out for this cancer-causing product, though! As far as we know, they’ve been removed from Singapore stores, but there’s no word when it comes to Japanese Daiso outlets yet.
For a full list of Daiso outlets, click here.
Tips when shopping in Japan
1. Make sure to bring your passport with you
Your trusty passport is essential when it comes to enjoying that tax exemption. Shops can offer you tax refunds right away when you have your passport with you, so make sure to keep yours with you for maximum convenience!
2. Check if there are any special deals based on which month you’ll be travelling down to Tokyo
There are several seasonal sales exclusive to Tokyo and Japan in general, such as the beginning of the year. For instance, the new year is where many beauty and makeup brands offer Fukubukuro— lucky bags filled with their products. Depending on your luck, you could be paying a lot less for what you get! There’s also some great spring sales in the stretch from April to May, and great end of the year sales beginning around December.
Check out this handy guide here to see when is the best time to plan your trip to Tokyo!
3. Save images of the EXACT products you want
If there are certain products you HAVE to bring home with you, make sure to save the exact image of it on your phone for reference. It also makes it a lot easier for you to communicate with salespeople as to what you want, even with the language barrier in place. Trust us, this will turn out to be more useful than you think it is, especially considering the diverse and sprawling drugstores you’re bound to come across in Tokyo!
4. Look out for this sticker
You’ll notice certain beauty products plastered with these stickers, which is a pretty good indication as to how popular the product is! Considered to be Japanese Cosmetic Award across all categories, any beauty product that is worth their salt will be awarded either Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
5. Check if the store charges you an additional 5% if you pay with credit card
Certain stores charge an additional 5% if you pay with credit cards such as Visa and UnionPay! Be sure to check with the shop staff before making any purchases, otherwise, go for cash just to play it safe.