Japan’s 100 yen store is a frugal shopper’s paradise —and an unlikely tourist destination.

P42-2“You said ‘100 yen shop’ again, Mommy,” my daughter laughed. It took me a year to quit referring to the dollar store as the 100 yen store. My children thought this was hilarious, perhaps in part because I spent way too much time in them!

Daiso is Japan’s largest 100 yen shop chain. With 2,500 stores across Japan and roughly 1,500 international locations, Daiso is hugely successful, in part due to its effort to create and import quality goods. Yes, we’re talking about a 100 yen (approximately one dollar) shop—but the idea is to get the most out of that 100 yen.

Browsing online, you’ll find numerous websites discussing how to integrate 100 yen shop products into your lifestyle. I’ve read magazine articles featuring Daiso’s cleaning products, beauty products and school supplies, and I’ve seen TV programs featuring the brand’s shelving units and closet organizers. My mother-in-law’s favourite product is an egg cooker that makes perfect sunny-side-up eggs without oil. In fact, she recently pulled out a whole list from her handbag and proceeded to go through the 100 yen products she thought most useful.

Speaking of TV programs, I recently watched a show about a popular entertainer who was given a glue gun, a drill, a small amount of cash and an empty apartment. She was tasked with making the apartment more comfortable and inviting. Using 100 yen products she glued, drilled and decorated the apartment with towels, flowers and bits of patterned cloth. The results were impressive; she managed to create a more livable, cosy environment while still being frugal.

If there is one thing that Japanese people love, it’s convenience—and 100 yen shops are full of knick-knacks begging to make your life easier and more enjoyable. From strainers and paddles to polish rice (a process necessary to improve the flavour!) to racks, stands and zippered bags that make doing laundry a breeze, chances are the day-to-day things you need can be found adorning the store shelves.

The bento section is my favourite. There, you’ll find hundreds of colourful paper cups, dividers and containers to help you mould your rice into adorable animal shapes, making your children’s and spouse’s lunches almost too cute to eat!

As a teacher, I spent a small fortune on glue, stickers, construction paper and prizes that I wouldn’t have been able to afford at regular prices. And with products like unique wall hangings and small patterned dishes, the 100 yen shop turned out to be the perfect place to shop for souvenirs before leaving Japan and returning to Canada. I made sure to stock up on novelties that can be hard to find in Western countries, such as face-blotting papers and calligraphy brushes.

If you find yourself in Japan someday, be sure to put the 100 yen shop on your list of tourist destinations. No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll have fun browsing the aisles full of rare and quirky items … and chances are you won’t leave empty-handed!


SHELLEY SUZUKI is a long-time teacher of English as a Second Language in Canada and Japan. She currently runs an English school via Skype and is pursuing a teaching career, or whatever other interesting opportunities may come her way. She appeared on the Japanese TV show Okusama wa Gaikokujin (My Wife is a Foreigner). She hopes to become a children’s book writer and illustrator when she grows up.

Illustration by Chieko Watanabe