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Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

vancouver, canada
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Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

Just back from a week in Tokyo and I thought I would share my shopping impressions. We were on the hunt for cameras and watches and visited Bic Camera, Yodabashi Camera and a few smaller shops. We then compared them to Narita Airport duty-free. Be aware that in most shops downtown as a visitor you can show your passport and get your purchases tax free plus an additional 5% off if you use a credit card. The total discount is 13% on purchases over $100.

We found Bic Camera had consistently lower prices and a great selection. In general the prices in Japan are similar to home so shop carefully and try to take advantage of the tax breaks. It does mean shopping with your passport in your pocket and not tucked away in the hotel safe.

Duty-free at Narita South Terminal was disappointing and we found the prices for cameras and watches much higher than those in town. We did purchase a couple of bottles of scotch because that is a good deal for Canadians as our liquor prices are very high domestically.

Do be aware that you may see cheaper cameras in Tokyo but make sure that they are not domestic models that may only have a Japanese menu. Sony and Panasonic make Japan only models that have limited warranties and Japanese only menus. Be careful!

Toronto, Canada
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1. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

Well, you are not supposed to tuck your passport away in your hotel anyway since by law you are supposed to have it on you at all times...but that's a different discussion altogether.

My last trip I did buy a replacement camera (small travel one Canon and a model I have owned previously) at BIC...but I did notice variance in their price between Tokyo stores, non Tokyo stores and on their website. Long story short..I ended up getting it for a good deal and about $100 cheaper than buying in Canada. Combination really of a good deal at BIc, tax savings and Visa card discount

Downside is no Canadian warranty, but I can live with that,

You are right about making sure it has an English menu though..not all do.

Hong Kong, China
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for Hong Kong, Osaka
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2. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

Most modern electronics these days such as cameras come with multi-language menus. The "Japanese language menu only" issue is likely a thing of the past. You might not get worldwide warranty coverage though as MapleG said.

Beside BIC Camera, Yodobashi also offers similar deals and prices. These two are probably two of the easiest stores for foreign visitors.

The 5% discount is not only offered at electronic stores. It's also now offered at many department stores and even Tokyu Hands. Take advantage of the deals. You need to carry your passport around anyway as mentioned. Petty theft isn't a concern in Japan so I wouldn't worry about it.

NRT is good for last minute snacks and souvenirs purchase. Once you clear outbound immigration, anything you buy is tax free.

Tokyo, Japan
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3. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

As mentioned, in Japan, carry passport with you whenever you go out and don't keep it at hotel safe. You can't drive or buy alcohol without a ID; as a foreigner, you are meant to carry your passport. But yes that's another issue.

There are some ways of having prices discounted in total and Duty Free is one way. There is a fierce competition among BiC group (including Sofmap, Kojima), Yamada Denki group (LABI, Tsukumo etc), Yodobashi, and smaller electronic tradings. Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Akihabara are big front-lines in Tokyo. There are ways to have indicated prices cut at large electronic stores, and one way is to cite the rival shop's cheaper price while stating your intention to buy it if price is lowered than that price. The shops always monitor the prices at the market as well as general sales of the specific item. For items exceeding a couple of ten thousand yens, and especially concerning items which change models by season such as digital camera or computer, it should be wiser to have the shopkeeper negotiate with you with a calculator and discuss with his boss about the price. Yamada Denki explicitly advertises that if there's a price 1 yen more expensive than other shops, then inform the shopkeeper.

vancouver, canada
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4. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

The Japanese language menu is definitely still "an issue". We were shown export models and domestic models and also told that Sony and Panasonic do make Japan only models, which are less expensive than the export models. These domestic models can not be upgraded to an English menu. Canon has a changeable menu. Also I confirmed this on DPReview. So buyer beware.

Edited: 18 December 2014, 16:04
Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

Yes, agreed with the Japanese language menu issue. The Canon camera I purchased in Japan had only Japanese, Chinese and English menus (with English being the one I obviously want). If you buy the same camera here in Canada, there is an exhaustive worldwide list of languages to choose from on the menu.

6. Re: Tokyo shopping vs Duty-free

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