Moving to a new place must cost you a lot, especially if you are coming from abroad. However, many Japanese apartments are not fully furnished, so you must buy furniture after relocating. Considering your stay in Japan is contemporary, buying expensive home goods may not be worth it. So, what is the best solution?
Buy second-hand goods!
Thrifting has become popular in recent years, particularly among younger generations. While it may be considered a trend in some ways, thrifting has been around for decades and has always been a way for people to save money and find unique items.
One reason thrifting has recently gained popularity is a growing interest in sustainable living. Thrifting allows people to reuse and repurpose items rather than buy new ones, which helps reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of consumerism.
Japan, in particular, is one of the best places for buying used goods. With a culture that values minimalism and cleanliness, many Japanese people take great care of their belongings, so it’s possible to find items in excellent condition. A lot of second-hand items also came for expatriates, so those were used for a short time and still in pristine condition.
Guide to Buy Second-Hand Furniture and Appliances
There are a few things to consider when buying used goods.
First, know where to look. For example, if you are a student, there is usually a sale near graduation in the student dormitory. Throwing big things in Japan costs money, so many people want to give away furniture or sell it cheaply when they move out. There are a few different places to look for used furniture in Japan, both in-person and online shops. Each option has its own perks regarding the following points.
Second, check the condition. When buying used furniture, it’s important to check that the item is still working before making a purchase. Inspect the piece thoroughly for any damage, such as scratches or dents, and test any moving parts, such as drawers or doors. If you buy online, you can ask the seller for more detailed photos or information about the item's condition.
Third, consider transportation. Keep in mind that you will need to transport it to your home. Make sure to measure the piece and your vehicle or public transportation to ensure that it will fit. You can also consider using a delivery service. If you buy items online, make sure to check the seller's location. Then, contact the seller to arrange to pick up or postage.
Physical Store Options
Going to a physical store will give you some advantages. You can check the condition better by seeing it directly before making purchases. However, transporting big furniture such as a bed frame may be difficult without private vehicles. Some stores may not offer delivery, too, so your transportation choice is very limited. The other downside of purchasing in stores is that you may not find suitable items for yourself even after hours of commuting and browsing as the stock there rapidly changes daily.
The “Off” brands
Picture: Hard-Off Japan
Book-Off, Hard-Off, Hobby Off, Mode Off, Liquor Off, Off House, and Garage Off are second-hand chain stores in Japan. They are easy to find and affordable. There are more than a thousand physical stores across Japan in total, but the most common are Book-Off and Hard-Off. Here are what you can find in those stores:
Hard-Off: electronic goods, cameras, musical instruments, and sometimes bicycles too
Book-Off: books, DVDs, CDs, video games
Mode-Off: clothing, accessories, shoes
Hobby-Off: figurines, collectible items, merchandise
Liquor-Off: alcohol beverages
Garage-Off: bicycles, camping gear, car parts, yard work items
Off House: Furniture, household items, lighting fixtures, appliances, interior, clothing
The huge benefit of shopping from the Off brands is that they have many items to offer. They also curated the goods, so everything is still good for use. They usually put a note if there's slight damage, or you can ask the staff. Sometimes you can find different stores next to each other so you can browse multiple items in one shopping trip. For example, you can look for home appliances in Hard-Off and clothes in Mode-Off next door.
Local Ward Recycle Centers
Picture: Furnitures on sale in Minato City Center
In Japan, you can’t just throw things out when moving out. Instead, you pay to have someone from the city hall dispose of them or bring them to recycling centers if it’s in good condition. Then, they will sell those items at a low price.
The recycling centers in areas with many foreigners are the best for used furniture hunting. You can find fairly new items at a bargain price. If you live in Tokyo, check out the Minato, Shinjuku, Chuo, Chiyoda, or Setagaya recycling centers. If you want to find recycling centers in other areas, simply google リサイクルセンタ− and the ward or city’s name.
Some recycling centers have a page on their city website so that you can find more information there. Check if they have parking lots or offer delivery service options. You can find pictures of items they sell as well.
Picture: Treasure Factory
Treasure Factory is a one-stop shop for second-hand goods. It is filled with a vast array of items ranging from clothing, figurines, video games, and musical instruments to furniture and home appliances. You can browse the store for a long time to check all the sections to find affordable treasures and gems.
To find Treasure Factory nearby, go to its official website. You can search by area, line, or station name. Although most Treasure Factory stores are general recycling, some have a specific category. For example, TreFac Sports (トレファクスポーツ) specialize in sports and outdoor gear, TreFac Market (トレファクマーケット) in furniture, and TreFac Style (トレファクスタイル) in fashion items.
Online Store Options
For those who prefer buying things from the comfort of your home, we got you! We list some sites to purchase used goods directly from the previous owner. The main benefit is that you can negotiate with the seller, unlike if you buy things in the store.
In Japan, it’s common to negotiate the price when buying used items. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller if they are willing to lower the price, especially if there are any defects or issues with the piece. Many want to empty their apartment quickly before moving out of the country, so they are not looking for profit. However, you have to be respectful and avoid lowballing the seller.
Mercari is the biggest C2C marketplace in Japan. Although the app is only available in Japanese, you can easily navigate it. You can type the items you want or go through the categories. Each post has pictures and descriptions of the items, and if you want to negotiate, a comment section is available. However, you may need Japanese skills to communicate with the seller. If lucky, you can find other international residents and use foreign languages.
Here are some things to check when you want to make a purchase:
Sellers in Mercari must write the condition of the product. The default options are new (新品), unused (未使用), close to unused (未使用に近い), and no noticeable imperfections or dirt unless you look very closely (目立った傷や汚れなし), a few noticeable imperfections or dirt (やや傷や汚れあり), clear imperfections or dirt (傷や汚れあり), and bad condition, generally damaged (全体的に状態が悪い). If the seller doesn’tdoesn’t provide more explanation, feel free to ask for details or a clearer picture in the comment.
Check if the price listed includes the shipping cost or not. 送料込み means free shipping or shipping included. 着払い means cash on delivery (COD). If it’s COD, you won’t know how much the shipping cost is until it arrives, and sometimes it can be very expensive.
You can discuss what delivery service you want to use with the seller. If you want a cheaper option, use Japan Post. However, it is untraceable shipping, and there’s a risk of losing the package.
Always read the description written by the seller to check if you can immediately buy it or not. If you find sentences such as 即購入OK or コメント不要, go ahead and purchase it. If you find 購入禁止 or コメントしてお願いします, you have to comment first and wait for the seller’sseller’s response. Ignoring this rule can make sellers block you.
Payment in Mercari can be made through convenience stores, credit cards, or other electronic payments. It’sIt’s easy and secure because your money won’t be released to the seller until you receive the package. Mercari also has an integrated mobile payment service called MerPay for faster transactions.
Facebook is an excellent platform for selling and buying purposes. Posts on your own account may only reach a few audiences, but posting in specified groups will connect you with a whole lot of potential buyers. That’s why people sell stuff in Facebook groups.
There are some Facebook groups for selling and buying preloved items. The big ones are Tokyo Garage Sale and Tokyo Sayonara Sale. You can also find smaller groups specific for expatriates in other areas or based on nationality. The best thing about these groups is that people mainly use English or other foreign languages.
If you find something, you like to purchase or negotiate, leave a comment on the post or immediately message the seller. However, people selling on Facebook usually ask you to pick them up from their place or arrange to meet at the nearest station. Also, you must be careful when doing online transactions through Facebook because there is no safety system like Mercari.
Now you are ready to do some used furniture and home appliances hunting. Once you’ve purchased, take good care of those items to ensure they last for years. This can include regular cleaning, polishing, or maintenance, depending on the material and type of furniture. That way, when the time to leave Japan comes, you can resale these items again!
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