Moving to a new country is strange and exciting but so expensive. When I first moved to Tokyo, I lived in a dorm for a couple of months. The room itself was fine but all the furniture was mismatched and kind of beat down. I was really looking forward to moving out and getting my own apartment. I imagined filling it with delightful soft things and charming furniture. Little did I realize how expensive that would be. After I was done actually moving, handing over key money, guarantor’s fees, fire insurance and changing the locks, my budget for making my place actually habitable, like getting a futon for instance, seemed crushed.

I’m quite pleased with the fact that I managed to get pretty nice furniture for virtually nothing. I combed a couple of websites and kept an eye out for anything that I needed. In fact, I did so well that I ended up treating myself to nice new stuff to make my apartment super cute.

Search Craigslist and other Secondhand Websites for Great Bargains

If you’re looking for good stuff, the first place I would suggest is Craigslist Tokyo. It has an English website as well so you don’t have to know Japanese. It’s also very well organized with different categories for appliances, electronics, furniture and free stuff. Always check out the Free category first if you’re looking for something. A lot of people upload pictures of their stuff there with their contact info, especially when they want to leave Japan and go back to their home countries. I got my kotatsu, microwave, heater and some really nice Ikea shelves for free from Craigslist.

Of course, transporting these things can be a pain. The microwave oven that I got was huge and I had to lug it all the way from Harajuku to my place with the help of my very patient and much stronger friend. Some people do worry that weird people are on Craigslist and that is true. Fortunately, all my exchanges have been positive. Just keep your interactions in the daylight hours and bring a friend along if you’re worried. If You can also check out websites like Treasure Factory, Dopeland and Mogland. They are in Japanese however, and can be a little hard to navigate at times.

Facebook Groups Can Also Be a Great Source

Facebook also has a lot of groups that you can join if you are looking to get something. Groups like “Mottainai Japan” and “Sayonara Sale” have pretty strict rules and everyone gets verified by the administrators before they can join. The Facebook groups are less open that craigslist, meaning while you may not get the variety, the sellers are usually giving away nicer things that aren’t too beat up. The Facebook groups are also a better place to get rid of things than Craigslist. If you have any item that you want to sell or exchange in order to get your furniture, you’ll have better luck advertising on Facebook. The community is smaller and it’s easier to get more eyes on the thing you want to sell.

Check Out Some Stores IRL

The “Off” Chain is Everywhere

You have also probably seen the “Off” stores in Tokyo. “Book-Off”, “Mode- Off” and “Hard-Off” are all part of the same chain of stores that sell discounted and secondhand things like books, clothes and electronics. The “Off-House” store is also part of the chain. You can get household things like pots and pans, appliances like electric kettles, fans and washing machines as well as storage containers. It’s easy to get distracted by shiny things in an Off-House and spend a lot of money here. Go with a strict budget or list of things that you can’t do without. Though Book-Offs are quite common, the Off-House stores are relatively fewer. That being said, you can usually find one within easy commute. You’ll have to inquire in the store about the delivery options available.

Vintage and Recycle Stores in Tokyo

There’s a lot online about visiting “recycle stores”. But you need to be aware that there are two types of recycle stores: the vintage store and the secondhand store. As you probably guessed by the name, vintage stores have higher end furniture, usually associated with art movement or a certain period, and they are not cheap at all. The secondhand stores on the other hand are what you would prefer to visit if you are shopping on a budget. They keep everything from washing machines to shoes. Lately there seem to be fewer and fewer of these secondhand stores but it’s good to check one out if you ever stumble across one.

Typical Furniture Stores

One you’re done with the stuff you need immediately, peruse places like Nitori and MUJI. They have sales at points throughout the year and you can pick up stuff like towels and bedding linen for much less than usual. Also check out 100-yen stores like Daiso, which also have very nice quality yet economically priced items for your house.

The great thing about living in Tokyo is that you can find something at any price point. Just scroll through a couple of websites and you’ll be able to find almost everything you need, sometimes for free.

Written by Amena Rahman