Beauty City Guide (1) – Tokyo

by PJ on Friday, July 4, 2008

in "Beauty City Shopping Guide",all about Japanese cosmetics

(Takashimaya Shinjuku:
one of my favorite department stores on earth)
(image from

Today I start the Beauty City Guide series, which will take you to three cities and look at some of the best places to shop. These articles are mostly based on my own experiences and are not meant to be comprehensive. If you would like to add to them or ask a question, do please leave a comment.

This series simply has to start with Tokyo, probably the best place on this planet to shop for beauty products.


If you have One Day

Don’t hesitate and head straight to the Shinjuku area. The Isetan Department Store (Shinjuku branch) is within walking distance from Shinjuku Station. This buzzing emporium is one of the best places to see high-end Japanese beauty brands at a glance.

If you have more time, stop by Takashimaya Department Store (Shinjuku branch), which resides at the south entrance/exit of Shinjuku Station. The neat and structured (and almost regal) layout of the beauty department offers the ultimate browsing experience.

One Weekend

Also try:

Seibu (Ikebukuro branch). I think this and the two above are probably the best three department stores for beauty.

Ginza. For me, Shinjuku is great for pure retail indulgence, while the Ginza area has an upscale and less frantic atmosphere. Beauty-wise, try Mitsukoshi Ginza and Matsuya Ginza. (Matsuya is my favorite department store in this area). Also, stop by the OPAQUE boutique (across the street from Matsuya).

Drugstores. They are relatively easy to find in central Tokyo, particularly around bigger public transportation stations. One of the largest chains is Matsumoto Kiyoshi, whose yellow sign is very easy to spot.

Drugstores carry budget beauty lines whose quality is by no means inferior, and these inexpensive brands offer a great way to try Japanese cosmetics if you have a smaller budget for beauty shopping. (You can also see some department store lines from Shiseido, Kanebo, Kosé, and Sofina in drugstores.) Discounts are offered on many lines, and the amount of reduction and the contents of the value sets can vary even in different branches under the same chain. It can be fun to browse around, but if you don’t have much time and if you see something you like with a good price, consider buying it there and then.

One Week

Also try:

Shu Uemura Omotesanto Boutique. A must for all Shu Uemura fans, it features exclusive items only available in this store.

Shiseido Cosmetic Garden on Omotesanto. This store doesn’t offer retail service. It is a showroom for all the Shiseido products. You can sit down, relax, and test out all the items without feeling any pressure to buy anything.

Hakuho-do. This traditional Japanese business mainly deals with calligraphy supplies but also makes top-quality makeup brushes. Though expensive, they are must-sees for any makeup brush connoisseur. (Check the (English) link above for addresses. If you happen to be near the Los Angeles area, there is a branch in Torrance.)

– Asakusa. Close to Senso-ji Temple, Hyakusuke features traditional Japanese cosmetics used by geisha performers and for other traditional stage productions.

MAMEW. If you are a mascara fanatic, stop by the MAMEW boutique, which is in the Daikanyama area.

– More department stores. Try Lumine, Odakyu, and Keio in Shinjuku (all surrounding Shinjuku Station), Tobu in Ikebukuro, Seibu in Sibuya, and Seibu in Yurakucho.

– More fun in drugstore goodie hunting. See if you can find the best deal! (Some other drugstore chains include Sundrug, Ainz & Tulpe and Plaza Style.)


Unlike the UK, the seasonal sales in Japan don’t seem to cover beauty items. So I personally think the best time to go to Tokyo for beauty shopping is simply right after most of the latest spring/fall makeup lines are available. This would be late February and late August (even though many are available in January/July). If you also want to try the latest spring/fall base makeup releases, go one month later.


– Most department stores close at around 8pm, while many drugstores remain open until later.

– Beauty items purchased in Japan are usually not returnable.

– For information on Japanese beauty brands, please check out my “All About Japanese Cosmetics” category or have a glance over my “Read by Topics” and “Thoughts on My 10 Favorite Brands” lists on the sidebar. Also, please check out these related posts:

Loving Japanese Brands” series

Japanese Brand Profile” series

If I Could Go to Japan Right Now

Next stop: Taipei is probably one of the best places for beauty shopping when it comes to value for money on a regular basis. Find out why next week, along with my shopping recommendations.

Updated on April 20, 2009:

One reader, Kuri, has kindly posted a comment and mentioned that Shiseido Cosmetic Garden had closed. (It is a bit of a shame…)

Thank you for letting me know this, Kuri!