How to Recycle Old Clothes in Tokyo

On August 20, 2015

Whether you’re leaving Japan, after an image overhaul, or your wardrobe has taken on Chronicles of Narnia proportions and it’s time for a clear-out, you might be faced with the problem of getting rid of your old clothes. While you can easily chuck your used threads in with the burnable garbage, there are a number of more environmentally friendly options out there which might just come with a cash reward for the extra effort.

Take old but wearable clothes to any Uniqlo store

Since 2007, Uniqlo has been sending used clothes to people in need all over the world. Clothes are given to organizations that support refugees, disaster survivors, homeless people, pregnant women and single mothers, and so far the initiative has donated around 14.2 million items to 53 countries and regions globally.

If you have a pile of old clothes still in fairly decent condition, take them to any Uniqlo store and either hand them to a sales assistant or put them in the recycle bin yourself. They don’t have to be Uniqlo brand but as it’s kind of an honor system (staff usually won’t check your bag), try not to include any of your antique underwear or that mankini you were saving for a special occasion.

Take any bag of clothes to H&M and get a 500 yen coupon

For every bag of old clothes you take to H&M, you’ll get a 500 yen coupon to use in store. Clothes that are still decent will be sent to markets to be resold while the rest gets recycled for textiles. The clothes don’t have to be from H&M and are accepted in any condition, though they don’t accept shoes or accessories.


You simply take your bags in and hand them over to the sales people; they’ll give you the coupon straight away so you can go off and buy more clothes. The catch is that you have to spend 3000 yen to use a coupon and get your 500 yen off but luckily you’ve made space in your wardrobe now so…

Donate your clothes to the Mottanai Flea market

The brilliant tight-wads at TokyoCheapo suggest taking your old clothes to the Mottanai Flea Market where you can donate bags to be sold at the market. Organized by the Mottainai Campaign which aims to promote sustainability and environmental conservation around the world, the markets are held in different spots on a weekly basis – simply check the schedule for where the next market is taking place and head on over. You can also give books and CDs depending on the market, and proceeds go to Tohoku relief efforts as well as the Green Belt Movement in Africa.

Sell clothes to a secondhand store

If you have a number of designer or high-end clothes still in good condition, it might be an idea to try selling them to a secondhand store. You can pop in to your local secondhand store and ask about their policy for buying old clothes or try one of the bigger chain stores – RagTag has several outlets across the city where you can take your clothes and negotiate a price for them, though you’ll need pretty persuasive Japanese to get a good deal on that ill-advised pair of harem pants you bought back in ’92. There’s a way to send a box to them through an online form if you’re able to read Japanese, and you can also arrange pick-up.

Bring your clothes to Mode-Off 

Much like its better-known counterparts Hard-Off and Book-Off, donating your secondhand fashion treasures to Mode-Off involves going to the buy counter in the store, taking a numbered ticket and waiting in line while a staff appraises your offering and then gives you twenty yen for all 10 kilos. You won’t pocket much cash but the reward is knowing that you’ve contributed to the potential happiness of a plucky bargain hunter somewhere.

Give clothes to the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Bazaar Centre in Suginami-ku has a basic English page which explains their procedure for taking donations. You can either take in clothes to the center, send them by post or arrange pick-up (within a limited area) though it depends on the time of year as to what they’ll accept. They ask that you call before to check.

Have you recycled any of your old clothes in Tokyo? Any tips for our readers? Comment below!


Tokyo-based writer and consultant.
  • Electra K. Vasileiadou says:

    Some city offices accept donations or even buy stuff but you need to check beforehand. Chuo-ku offers to buy things but requires sellers to dry-clean everything. It sounded so troublesome that I skipped it althogether. Bunkyo-ku has donation baskets where you can leave clothes, blankets etc. I imagine they have those in various buildings but I’ve only ever visited the community center in Nezu. Some homeless shelters also accept donations (usually only season-relevant stuff) but the ones I’ve sent things to did not arrange pickup. Still, postage for a big box full of clothes within Tokyo is minimal.

  • Shani says:

    good decission

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