Japan’s initial fees for a new apartment can be expensive. While some budget-friendly apartments come furnished, it isn’t the same for most places. You might not even have curtains. Every day, neighbors will get a birds-eye view of you walking around in your empty yet humble abode.
That’s no way to live!
Here are six good ways to find furniture in Japan that won’t break the bank.
1. Recycle shops
Japanese second-hand stores are known as “recycle shops” and can be found pretty much everywhere. Most will have a sign saying リサイクル (recycle) and you can also recognize them by the product displays outside the front of the store.
There are recycle franchises too, like the hilariously named “Hard-off” (primarily electronics and musical instruments) and its sister branch, “Book-off” (for, uh, books).
- Good for: Appliances. Recycle shops are the best place to buy hefty appliances like fridges, washing machines and microwave ovens. A second-hand washing machine will set you back around ¥10,000, which is half the price of what you’d pay for a new one. They will usually deliver, too.
2. Sayonara sales and classified ads
Look no further than your fellow expat for a cheap, or sometimes free, deal on second-hand furniture. Since many foreigners live in Japan only temporarily, there’s a constant flow of sayonara (goodbye) sales as people look to sell items they don’t want before they leave the country.
Sites like Craigslist (which has local subsites for major cities), Freecycle (where you trade stuff for free) and our very own GaijinPot Classifieds are excellent resources for finding one-off bargains.
- Good for: Everything, as long as you can pick it up or find some way to deliver.
3. ¥100 stores
Japan’s answer to the “dollar store” provides all the small household items you’ll need.
These stores also have an array of ergonomic storage solutions—things you only really see in Japan, like magnetic hooks for your kitchen and bathroom, portable shelves and foldable chopping boards.
- Good for: Cutlery, utensils, dishware and cleaning supplies.
4. Furniture chains
The two biggest furniture retailers in Japan are Swedish brand, Ikea, and the Japanese equivalent, Nitori (ニトリ). Both sell affordable furniture that you have to assemble yourself along with other items such as bed sheets, pillows, curtains, bathroom needs and kitchenware.
Nitori is typically better located, but many foreigners will argue that the quality isn’t as nice despite the prices being the same. However, Nitori can be a better choice if your home is Japanese-style and, for example, has tatami floors.
A good tip is to look online for specific pieces before you go to the store (because the choices can be overwhelming) and make sure to measure windows, rooms and doorways, so you know it will all fit.
- Good for: Larger furniture such as sofas, mattresses, futons, lights, closets, tables, chairs, bedding, curtains and more.
5. Lifestyle stores
If you’re not looking to turn your home into a Swedish sauna, try finding a few unique pieces of furniture from Japanese lifestyle stores such as Loft, Tokyu Hands, Muji and everyone’s favorite discount store Don Quijote—all of which have furniture sections.
You can pick up cool, decorative pieces for a reasonable price that could also make a good souvenir when you leave Japan.
- Good for: Cushions, clocks, storage (Muji has some great plastic boxes) and decorative pieces.
Furnishing your apartment can be stressful and time consuming. Sometimes just choosing between curtains can feel like the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make. So sometimes it can also be a good idea to just shop online from the comfort of your new home.
Amazon Japan, Rakuten and Kakaku are popular websites where you can spend hours just browsing different categories to find what you need. For big discounts on used furniture (and plenty of other near new and used items), try the Mercari app (Japanese).
- Good for: Specific furniture pieces that are hard to find. And indecisive people.
How did you furnish your place when you moved to Japan? Did we miss anything good? Let us know in the comments!