6 Ways To Find Furniture For Your Japanese Apartment

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For the first six months of living in my new apartment in Tokyo, I didn’t have curtains. Every day my neighbours were subjected to the glorious view of me waking up in the morning, cruelly illuminated by the naked glow of a 100 watt light bulb (I didn’t even have a lampshade) as I struggled up from my bed (which was actually four cushions crudely taped together) to find the bathroom (unfortunately, there was no shower head).

Clearly, when moving in Japan it’s important to know that most apartments and houses will come unfurnished. And in Japan unfurnished probably means that there won’t be the teeniest speck of furniture in the whole place, not even a light bulb, unless you’re very lucky.

Thankfully, there are lots of places to find furniture in Japan that won’t break the bank. Check out our guide to the best places to find furniture, from budget to higher-priced, for your new Japanese home.

1. Recycle shops

recycle-shopPhoto by George Alexander Ishida Newman

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 recognise them by the product displays outside the front of the store.

There are franchise recycle shops too like the hilariously named ‘Hard-off’ (primarily electronics and musical instruments) and its sister branch, ‘Book-off’ (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 yen, which is half the price of what you’d pay for a new one, and usually they’ll deliver too.

2. Sayonara sales and Classifieds

sayonara-salePhoto by Guanlong D

Look no further than your fellow ex-pat for a cheap, or sometimes free, deal on second-hand furniture. Since many foreigners are living in Japan only temporarily, there’s a constant flow of ‘Sayonara’ (goodbye) sales as people look to sell stuff they don’t want before they leave the country.

Sites like Craigslist (which has local sites for major cities), Freecycle (where you trade stuff for free), and our very own GaijinPot Classifieds are a great resource for finding one-off bargains.

Good for: Everything, as long as you can pick it up or find some way to deliver.

3. The 100 yen store/Daiso

100-yenPhoto by Nemo's great uncle

The most magical place in Japan provides all the small household items that you’ll need, as well as having 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 and utensils, dishware, and cleaning supplies.

4. Furniture Chain Stores

nitori

The two biggest furniture retailers are Swedish IKEA and the Japanese equivalent Nitori (ニトリ). Both sell cheap, quality furniture that you have to assemble yourself as well as bed sheets, pillows, curtains and more.

IKEA is generally further away from the city and busier (shopping there is like going to a furniture theme park with meatballs at the end), whereas Nitori are smaller and better located.



A good tip is to look online for specific pieces before you go to the store (the choice can be overwhelming) and make sure to measure windows, rooms and doorways so you know it will all fit.

Good for: larger furniture like sofas, bed frames, futons, tables and chairs, as well as bedding and curtains.

5. Lifestyle Stores

banana-holderPhoto by mamichan

If you’re not looking to turn your home into a Swedish sauna, it can be good to source a few unique pieces of furniture from Japanese lifestyle stores like LOFT, Tokyo Hands and MUJI which all have a furniture section.

You can pick up cool, decorative pieces for a reasonable price that could also make a good souvenir should you ever leave Japan.

Good for: cushions, clocks, storage (MUJI has some great plastic boxes), decorative pieces.

6. Online

Furnishing your apartment can be stressful and time-consuming – sometimes choosing between the plain curtains and the ones with the swirly bits can feel like the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make – so it can also be a good idea to shop online from the comfort of the bare floor of your new home.

Amazon Japan and Rakuten both sell furniture and you can spend days browsing the different categories to find what you need.



Good for: Specific furniture pieces that are hard to find. And indecisive people.

How did you furnish your place when you moved to Japan? Comment below!

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Tokyo-based writer and consultant.

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  • Gomi-kun says:

    I was stationed for a while in Japan in the 1980’s.In and around Yokohama and Yokosuka at the time, when families would buy NEW furniture, they would place the old stuff on the curb for a day or two to allow anyone who needed anything to help them-selves. Some would even include a little sign that read “どうぞ” (douzo – which is said when offering something). The practice was pretty common back then and having a nice “gomi” (rubbish) table or gomi-vacuum cleaner was a badge of honor for the thrifty foreigner. So on the days when oversized items were to be picked up, residents in need would go gomi-picking for items they couldn’t afford to purchase new. To be honest, many items were in great shape, but because their homes were so small by western standards, their literaly isn’t enough room to hold onto old things when they buy new… and they love new. The whole practice of gomi-picking was definitely an “early bird gets the worm” scenario. Within a couple hours after sun-up, most of the best things one might need were usually gone.
    I’m still in touch with the culture enough — 30 some-odd years later — to know that rubbish regulation has become allot stricter throughout Japan, and I’m sure that in “some areas” gomi-picking is frowned upon by the local authorities, if not outright illegal… especially when it comes to over-sized items (which most furniture would be). These areas usually require residents to pay for the removal of their old oversized items and the government provides stickers to apply to those items they have arranged for removal. Logistics on a moving target would be almost impossible so I can understand their need to really crack down on it.
    All of that said however, there are some areas still that still do provide for large and oversized item removal for free (or rather paid for with tax money) on like a monthly basis or so. My friend that still lives in Japan mentioned this to me not long ago “if gomi has a sticker on it, that item is technically the property of the government. If items do not have stickers, but have been placed at a refuse pickup place, it is “understood” that they are probably free to take. If you are at all unsure, it is always wise and courteous to just ask”.. providing it is at a reasonable time of day. The stickered items can still be given away or sold by the owner but they would have to go through the hassle of canceling it with the pickup authority, and have likely already paid for that service… if there is one thing that is not taken lightly in Japan, it’s inconveniencing other people.
    So depending on the area this … uh …”community service” may be an option.

  • All Digital says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information its truly awesome post and They all look pretty amazing .The careful consideration of the right furniture will eventually boil down to your decision to make your room spacious with an edge that is provided with the selective addition of furniture. Furniture stores perth can perfectly compliment the customer’s need of the right furniture items for their bedroom use.

  • Nazreen Farook Rausan says:

    as we live in mie-ken we bought furniture from ikea and kimbulu recycle shop, electronic items from yamada denki, other household and decorative items from ikea,nitori,viva home depot and costco. all the stuff for organizing from 100 yen shops daiso and seria.

  • AZ-Zakwanul Faiz bin Zakaria says:

    what about kakaku.com?

  • Nitori and Yamada Denki!! I also got some things from Shimamura hehe

  • maulinator says:

    IDC in Odaiba is probably the biggest. most of their stuff seems to have a Colonial US bent to it, which was not to my liking but seems popular with the locals.
    Bo Concept is great. I got my TV media center there, They will let you design your own furniture, color schemes, specs (my TV weighs 105 kg so you need to specify) and various accoutrements. The results were execllent but pretty pricey- so know exactly what you want before ordering.
    Livina- great for high end appliances, lamps etc. Also Estnation has some good knick-knacks at their Hills store.
    Time&Style may hav gone out of business, bot sure, but also excellent selectio of wood furniture, mostly imported stuff.
    Daikinyama has some awesome small boutique furniture stores where you can find one of a kind items, some of it is quite affordable.
    Bisley is great for office furniture, if you want a good office in your home.

  • Ng Yin Cin says:

    For my experience in Sapporo as student, this is the the way I got my furniture,

    1.Junk yard: As many perople throw away usable thing like rack and table, and even their fridge and washing machine.

    2.University (International) Student: As they love to give away their furniture before they leave the school. Rather than paying a big amount of demolition fees, most of them give up their furniture for free.

  • Amazon has everything. They even have mech suits. Don Quixote chain stores are also an option. I’ve never tried to carry anything too large home, but there’s also Uber cab here now which might oblige.

  • Kamran Morovati says:

    Thanks for this information

  • Off House too!! Even asking your friends and even if you teach, asking Japanese staff or even adult students if they know where they can find used things for your apartment. Many times they will know people trying to get rid of things, I got a brand new leather recliner for FREE, my student came over and dropped it to my place as well!!

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