Shimamura in Kobe's Tarumi ward.
After living in Japan for a while most gaijin eventually will find themselves shopping for clothes in some of Japan’s casual stores like Uniqlo, Muji, or Righton. These shops are somewhat similar to the Old Navy, The Gap, and Tully’s in the USA. One store which recently has gained popularity in Japan, although it’s been around for a long time, is Shimamura. My wife has been shopping there since the family she works for took her to one well before I first met her. It’s so cheap that they will drive an hour across Osaka to go their favorite store.
So what do they have? T-shirts with nonsense English, pants with extra pockets and unnecessary chains, normal shirts, dress shirts, dress pants, bras, underwear, socks, towels, bedding, cushions, hats, sunglasses, shoes, slippers a small isle of toys plus some candy and batteries near the register to round it all off.
The special thing about Shimamura is that everything is different, and finding the same shirt in a different size can be hard. Uniqlo will have 1,000 copies of the same shirt in 5 different colors, Shimamura, on the other hand, will have 1,000 different shirts. When shopping there I first find stuff in my size and then sort out what I want to buy. If you're a 4L or 5L size guy you might be out of luck for pants, but there will be some shirts, socks and underwear that will fit you.
It’s also super cheap and better quality than what you might find in a 100 Yen shop too. Last time I was there I got a nice pair of black dress pants for ¥1,850 and some dress socks 2-pair for ¥200. I buy all my belts and room slippers at Shimamura. As for getting stuff for your apartment Shimamura is great. I get lots of my towels and bedding there. Also, if you’re looking for some cheap Engrish t-shirts to take home for omiyage, this is the place.
Getting to a store near you might take some work however as many of their stores are best accessed by car. Near Kobe there’s a store in front of Shin-Nagata station on the JR and Kobe Subway lines and a larger store down near the Awajishima bridge in Tarumi-ku. You can find one near you on their homepage (in Japanese).
A store similar to, but not as good as Shimamura in my opinion, is called Itogofuku. I got my mom and sister towels and bedding there when they came to Japan for a few weeks. You can find their stores via their homepage (in Japanese).
Of course if you can't read Japanese feel free to send me an email or comment to this post and I'll help you find a store near you!
This post was in the August Japan Soc Blog Matsuri. You can see other posts about being frugal in Japan at frugalistajapan.com