Your guide to a budget friendly shopping experience: Don Quixote!
Ah, vacation. That awesome trip that you planned to Japan has finally rolled around. You've got your passport, your bag is packed, and you've got an itinerary full of awesome things to do and see.
The only problem is, you've also got a list a mile long of people that you need to get souvenirs for. There is your best mate who is completely beauty obsessed, your co-worker who keeps hinting at the fact that she would love to go to Japan someday, and your niece and nephew who would be super excited about a cute toy from your travels (and that's just the beginning). It's natural to want to get something as a souvenir for those people in your life. The problem is, you don't want to go spending a small fortune - and you also don't want to be traipsing around the city from shop to shop trying to find something to suit everyone.
Enter your one stop shop that will not only cater to just about everyone in your life, but won't see you burning a massive hole in your pocket in the process. That shop goes by the name of Don Quijote. Not only is it an awesome store to check out for fun souvenirs from Japan, it's also fantastic if you've forgotten to bring something with you - I'm not kidding you when I say it's a one stop shop!
Here's a bit of a walk-through of my local Don Quijote store and some of the things you can find there.
First thing is first...
Welcome to Don Quijote! They have 160 stores across Japan, so it's likely you'll come across one during the course of your travels.
Getting around the store is easy - on each floor there is usually some signage that indicates what products are on which floor. It makes it quick and convenient if you're looking for something in particular.
One of the great things about Don Q are their long opening hours. My store out in the Tokyo suburbs is open from 9am until 5am daily - yes, that's right, they're only closed from that window between 5am and 9am. A lot of the stores closer to the middle of the city are 24 hours, which is super handy if you've come in on a late flight, for instance.
Don Q do have a comprehensive store locator on their website, so if you need to find a store close by to where you're staying, you can do that here.
Now, onto some of the things you can buy here - at reasonable prices, and for basically every category under the sun!
For your beauty obsessed bestie
One thing that I would have to recommend as a fun gift for someone in your life that is all about beauty products are these sheet face masks. Usually clocking in at around 300-500 yen, they have quirky designs on them - my friends and family back home love the dog and cat ones! One of the best things about these are that they're super light - adding next to nothing to your baggage limits.
Another product I love (and that is a steal right now!) is DHC's cleansing oil. It works wonders to get rid of makeup, and honestly, how cute is the packaging? I'm a sucker for all the adorable packaging that Japan puts their products in - and if you can combine something that looks great with a product that actually works, then you're winning! The cleansing oil right now is 598 yen plus tax (but a little about the tax side of things at the end of the article!)
If your friend really wants eyeliner, mascara, shadows, primers, or foundation/BB cream, there are loads of Japanese brands that you can find at Don Q. One that I particularly like is Majolica Majorca - it's a subsidiary of Shiseido, and it's legit! Their products are reasonably priced, packaged really nicely, and they work well. If you want to do a bit of a product scope-out before you come to Japan, they have a website here.
For your workmate that keeps dropping hints about a souvenir
Is there someone you work with that tries to drop those ever so subtle hints that they'd love a gift from your vacation? Well, you can be the office golden child for a while if you bring back some fun goodies for your workmates! Perhaps something that would be useful for the person's job would be nice? There's some awesome stationery products in Japan - cute notebooks, page markers, pens and more.
Best of all is that these things also are weight limit friendly, too. Personally I love all the different tapes and tape dispensers they have here. I have lots in my stash - they make wrapped gifts look adorable, or even sealing a letter or card that you're sending to a friend. Most of this stuff will run you from around 200 to 400 yen.
For the kids in your life
Most of us have some kids in our life - whether that's younger siblings, nieces or nephews, friends who have children, or our own kiddos, perhaps! If you want something unique and popular in Japan, anything Anpanman tends to be a hit. Anpanman is quite literally a superhero who has a head made from an anpan, or a red bean filled bread. Anpanman has a friend called Currypanman, who (you guessed it) has a head made from a curry filled bread - a delicious snack to try along your travels in Japan, if you come across them!
Anyhow, back on topic - there are some cute Anpanman figurines here for around 500 yen and little plush toys for about 800.
For something traditional
Maybe you want something traditional for yourself, as a keepsake from your Japan trip. One thing that I spotted when I was at Don Q today were these beautiful (and perfect for the season!) yukata. They were very reasonably priced too, at around 2500-3000 yen for these two that were on display. These would be really fun to wear to a summer festival here in Japan if you plan on attending one.
For the foodie
Someone in your life who loves to cook? Maybe a packet of Udon or Soba noodles would be a fun gift. Some of the options here are as low as 98 yen, but the quality is still good. Package them up with a nice ramen bowl (you can find a bunch of great bowls at places like Daiso, that don't look like they're cheap!) and you've got a complete gift that only costs you the equivalent of a couple of bucks - that seems way more classy and expensive than what you paid.
For the healthy friend
For some time now, scientists have touted the health benefits of green tea - it's often credited as a reason why the Japanese have such impressive life expectancies! A bag of this matcha blended green tea is only 300 yen, or about $3 US. Pick up a cute mug or tea cup at a 100 yen store, and boom - a complete gift for 400 yen!
For cheap eats and drinks on the go
One thing that can really eat into the vacation budget (if you pardon the pun) is food. Naturally, most people coming to Japan want to enjoy all the delicious cuisine here - but there are days when you might just be out and about and need a quick snack to hold you over until your next meal. Enter Don Q for easy snacks that are friendly on the wallet. Today, they were having a special on onigiri - one of the best portable snacks ever - at only 59 yen. Seriously! They often have different food specials, so keep your eyes peeled for those great deals!
Another thing that is cheaper than a lot of vending machines and convenience stores at Don Q are their drinks. 88 yen for a drink?! Excellent! Some of my visiting friends have asked whether or not Japan's tap water is okay to drink - it's perfectly fine, so to save even more, you could always reuse a plastic bottle that you buy here, and refill it with tap water at your accommodation.
For pre-drinks before a night on the town
A night out on the town can be one of the most fun things to do on a vacation - Japan has loads of great bars, pubs and clubs to while away an evening! But drinks when you're out can be expensive and have your money disappearing faster than you'd like. Maybe you'd like to have a couple of drinks before you head out for the night with your friends...and this is a great place to pick up a couple of beverages. One of my favorite drinks here in Japan is chu-hai (an abbreviation of shochu highball) and you can get cans of it here in various flavors for 98 yen. Bargain!
I know it often goes without saying, but drink responsibly!
For the sweet tooth
Love something sweet, or have someone in your life that does? I always find that bringing back chocolates or candy from a trip is something most people adore you for!
You can find a range of fun Japanese sweets at Don Q - some souvenir favorites are Pocky and Kit Kats. They have various types at any time here, and today they had the special limited edition Colorful Shower Pocky. This type is a lemon cream flavor, and the packaging is so bright and eye catching. A box of Pocky like this at Don Q will only set you back 118 yen.
Share-bags of candy and chocolates are another souvenir that prove ever-popular (these are especially good if you work in an office where bringing something to share is a nice gesture!)
A bag like this has about 12 individually wrapped Kit Kats, and is only 238 yen. Depending on seasonal availability, they'll often have limited edition Kit Kat share-bag flavors too.
For a quirky and lightweight gift
I'm of the belief that you can never have too many pairs of cute socks. Don Q has cute socks galore - they have both kids and adults sizes (although bear in mind the average adult Japanese shoe size is a bit smaller than what I would call the average back home for me, so check the centimeter lengths listed!) These would make a great souvenir for anyone who likes quirky things - I love that they're unique but useful, too! One pair is 398 yen, or you can get 3 pairs for 998 yen.
For the things you forgot to pack
There's always something I seem to forget when I go on vacation. Even when I write list-upon-list of what I need, something will slip my mind. Whether it's contact lens solution, face wash, or sunscreen (especially important with these sunny summer days we're experiencing right now) you'll be able to find what you need at a Don Q store for a reasonable price.
Quite frankly though, even if I didn't forget to bring face wash, I'd pick up some of that Hello Kitty one...I really am a giant sucker for cute packaging.
For when your luggage is delayed or lost...
I hope this scenario doesn't happen to any of you - thankfully airports here in Japan are super efficient, and I've never had a problem with anything being delayed or lost. On the off chance that it does happen though, Don Q has your back. Underwear, socks, clothes - you name it and they have it!
Now, that part I mentioned earlier about the tax side of things. Japan has an 8% sales tax, which is usually added onto purchases when you're at the register - and depending on what you buy, that 8% can add up pretty quickly. At Don Quijote if you bring your passport along and it shows you're in Japan for 6 months or less (perfect if you're just here as a tourist!) then you'll be exempt from paying that sales tax. Every bit helps when it comes to saving those yen for other fun things along your vacation - or even for saving to put towards a return trip!
Finally, most Don Q stores accept a range of different payment methods - including cards like Visa, MasterCard, JCB and Amex - which makes it handy if you're running low on your cash stash! Once you start adding stuff to your basket, you'll probably be thankful for those extra options!
Happy Shopping, and enjoy Japan!
this is japan
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