How to (Cheaply) Furnish your Japanese Apartment

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So, how to furnish your Japanese apartment you have finally found? Of course, depending on your finances, available space and style preferences there are a number of options available to you. You may wish to purchase mostly used items, a combination of used and new or splash out with a designer package. Whichever situation you find yourself in, I hope to provide some better insight on some of the options available.

Naturally, if you haven’t found a Japanese apartment yet, you may like to read first about some of the rental options available, which we have available here.

When I moved into my first Japanese apartment, I was lucky enough to rent a place that was somewhat semi-furnished. Unfortunately, you will most likely be paying a (heavy) premium for the privilege, so sometimes furnishing yourself can save you money in the long-term. When I moved out of my semi-furnished, then I found my own place, completely empty and ready for additions. So, I hope to be able to impart some of my experience and knowledge to those looking for options.

Used furniture

Perhaps the cheapest, but not always the easiest or most reliable is by way of second hand or used items. In Japan, I felt there were not as many options as Australia, but if you look hard enough and with a bit of patience and persistence, you should be able to source the item you’re after.

The first site I found a large list of items was Craigslist, with a reputation for some weird and wonderful listings, it also has a good amount of used good postings. The site can also be selected by locality, for example, it has local listings for the main cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Sendai, Fukuoka and more, which helps especially if you are not in central Tokyo. Obviously, in the smaller prefectures though, this may mean used goods are few and far between. One word of caution, being an online site I would recommend you be careful, especially if the seller requests payment in advance. Make sure you can physically see the item first. From my experience with the site, I was lucky enough to find a washing machine, refrigerator and small vacuum cleaner from one lady and a 32 inch Panasonic TV in very good condition all for the measly sum of 40,000 yen.

Another group which may also be useful is the Sayonara Sale Facebook page, which contains a lot of used items. These postings are typically sold by people relocating or moving back to their home country. However, similarly, with Craigslist, I would recommend you exert caution when dealing with anyone online, as there were recently some people trying to post fake ads within the group. So, please, only pay for items you can actually physically see and take home with you.

In addition to these sites, Book-off is a chain of second-hand goods stores located throughout the country. Specialising in used books, but also stocks a long list of second-hand CDs, DVDs, comics, games consoles, mobile phones electronic devices and assorted products. Unfortunately, their website is in Japanese, but if you visit the store you may be able to score a bargain or five.

Alternatively, you could also try your luck searching ‘中古品’ (Chūko-hin meaning used goods) in Google. This is really a mixed bag, dependent on your luck, location and also Japanese ability, you just may stumble upon a second-hand goods store with a bargain or two. Typically stores will be small independent stores with limited space, tending to only stock certain goods, with some focusing on electronic appliances, while others may prefer to stock the only furniture. Still worth checking out in my opinion though.

New Furniture

If you’re contemplating sticking to new items, one of the biggest stores and international brands that houses a massive range of furniture and related items are Ikea. They have an online store too, which believe it or not is also in English. Through the site, you have access to all the regular items you would expect such as furniture, dining, living room, kitchen related items and more. You can also find a local store in most major cities, of course across Tokyo, but also in Chiba, Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kumamoto and more. In addition, most items listings on their website also provide dimensions, making it easy for you to check measurements prior to purchase.

There are another Japanese furniture and home accessory store known as Nitori, with many large showrooms located within the inner limits of central Tokyo and across greater Japan. While the site is in Japanese, they have stores located across the country, so you may be able to find a store that is in close proximity. Despite the language barrier, their website is quite easy to navigate, with an abundance of pictures and photos to help identify the different categories. Their showrooms, even though smaller than Ikea, are still quite spacious and have a lot of furniture on display. They are also home to a range of home accessories including cutlery, glasses, plates, mugs and other cooking utensils.

Electronics

Japan has a distinct reputation for being an electronics powerhouse, both as a designer and manufacturer of many electronic appliances. Comparatively, the main 2 Electronic Store giants in the country are almost as impressive. Both Yodobashi Camera and BIC Camera are very large retail chain electronics stores, and depending on the location are very large, even dwarfing some of the large Department stores. An obvious example being the Yodobashi Camera store located in Akihabara, containing 8 levels of electronic product goodness. On the other hand, BIC Camera has a large retail store located directly in front of Yurakucho JR Station, incorporating a selection of factory seconds’ goods and a large alcohol section, in addition to the plethora of electrical products in stocks.

Furthermore, I have heard on occasion that prices in these stores are negotiable, albeit having never tried. Depending on your level of Japanese, or English level of the staff, you may be able to experience some success in saving a couple hundred yen plus!

For more details, you also want to read further tactics we have about buying discount electronics goods in Japan.

Online retailers

Whilst most of the aforementioned stores have some kind of online store or website, there are also a handful of internet dedicated retailers where you can buy, and yup you guessed it, both second hand and new items.

Probably the most famous of the Japanese online sites for second-hand goods is Yahoo Auctions, being a Japanese only site, it still has a comprehensive selection of goods from A to Z. If your Japanese skills are up to the challenge, this site is definitely worth a peak.

Mericari is a similar kind of service to Yahoo, becoming quite popular of late, where Japanese will try to auction off their unwanted or used goods. They do offer the convenience of dedicated iOS and Android apps, but again I would gather an intermediate level of Japanese is needed to use this service effectively.

Rakuten the Japanese equivalent to eBay, is also an online portal full of anything from cars, phones, furniture, home accessories and more. The service is a lot more foreign friendly, as they offer a range of languages including English, Korean and Chinese, in addition to Japanese. I used this service to source some quite cheap, but decent quality furniture including a bed, couch and 2 seat dining set, all new. Definitely worth checking out in my books.

Amazon is also quite the popular shopping site in Japan, and being an international company, also provide their Japanese site in English. As a member of their Prime service, you can also gain access to expedited delivery times, movie and TV streaming services, online music and more. Another site that I would consider, especially if you are already a subscriber of the online streaming services.

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