Thrift shops, or recycle shops as they’re called in Japan, are warehouses of throwaways with some gems hidden underneath all the undesirables. Grandma sweaters, ‘80s fashion blunders, and leather biker jackets sit on racks surrounded by dust bunnies, waiting for someone to purchase them.
Grab your crucifix if you come to visit me because you’re gonna need it for protection against this evil little thing.
In Japan though, the items you’ll find in a thrift shop are almost always in pristine mint condition, with no dust bunnies in sight. Japanese people are known for taking extremely good care of their items, so you’d almost never be able to differentiate between something new or used.
Thrifting has always been one of my favorite past times since childhood, so I wondered what kind of weird treasures I could find at shops in Japan.
I headed down to Smile Company, a huge department store-like shop in Kanagawa Prefecture, hoping for wild taxidermy finds but was met with loads of collectible anime figurines including some *ahem* wild hentai ones. I didn’t buy any of those, though, I swear.
Princess Mononoke Music Box
Anything Studio Ghibli always hits me in the childhood feels so when I saw this figurine of San, the badass main character from Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, I knew I had to have it.
What I didn’t know was that it was actually a music box. When I unwrapped the figurine and wound up the silver disk at the bottom, San spun around slowly as the main theme from the movie played.
Species III Statue
“It looks like you,” a friend pointed at Sara from Species III proudly brandishing her breasts from behind the glass case. My first thought was, dang I wish my boobs were that perky. The resemblance was in the character’s hairstyle though. Two rope-like braids fall over her shoulders, slightly resembling a style I sometimes wear.
While most sci-fi freaks tend to nerd out over the Alien franchise, Species was always my jam growing up. My cousin and I would watch it on VHS back in the day every time I visited her house, which was damn near every weekend.
While the first movie is the best and Species III was a straight-to-video failure, this was still a cool find. A seductive, murderous alien, yeah that’s me alright.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare Collector’s Figurine
One, two Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four you better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix if you come to visit me because you’re gonna need it for protection against this evil little thing.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a totally underrated film in the Freddy Krueger series in which the actors play themselves as Freddy comes out of their nightmares and into their “real” lives.
This bad boy is on sale for Rakuten for ¥44,800, and I only paid ¥2,000 for it! Needless to say, if I’m ever strapped for cash or need some extra shopping money, my pal Fred here will be for sale. Hit me up if you’re interested in buying, all (reasonable) offers will be considered.
These buffalo horns with hand-carved markings that proudly proclaim “buffalo” were the closest thing to the taxidermy hopes and dreams I had going into this shopping spree.
They remind me of a traditional Native American artifact—one that the main character of a horror movie stupidly disturbs, sending the ancient spirits into a murderous rage. If anything happens to me after writing this, tell my mother I love her and give these things a proper burial to break the curse.
Sumo seat cushion
I’m not entirely sure what the kanji on this pillow says, but I really hope it’s something along the lines of “girl, you look good won’t you back that thing up.”
Regardless, I needed a cushion to protect my derriere against the cheap IKEA chairs in my apartment. I can only imagine whose butts may have graced this cushion, but in true Japanese fashion, it was in impeccable condition and looked barely used.
Come on, it’s a seat cushion with sumo wrestlers on it, what’s not to like?
Furnishing an apartment in Japan through thrifting
Beyond movie memorabilia and random trinkets, Smile Company has loads of practical things from appliances to bicycles. They have two locations in Kanagawa—one in Atsugi and another in Sagamihara both of which are only about 80 minutes south of Tokyo. And of course, they deliver.
For foreigners just moving to Japan, thrift shops can be an invaluable resource to furnish an empty apartment. Especially since stores like Japan’s home furnishing giant Nitori can be a bit pricey with less funky pieces on offer.
If you want cookie-cutter decorations with zero ounces of individuality, Nitori is your friend. If not, thrifting is the way to go. Get all your necessities like rice cookers and storage racks or head straight to the hentai section, it’s all good.
Ever found anything weird or cool while thrifting in Japan? Let us know in the comments!