I would ask myself, "If I needed "X" in the states, where would I go to find it?"
The answer is always the same: "Target"
But of course, there is no Target in Japan. :(
Don't get me wrong, we've managed okay and been able to find most everything we've looked for. It just took extra thought to do so.
Most recently I was looking for a picture frame for a gift and thought, I can't be the only gaijin to have no idea where to find stuff. So incase there are any fellow confused gaijin reading this blog, I bring to you
"Where to find stuff in a land without Target."
Nitori is great for furniture and miscellaneous household goods. Its pretty much a one stop shop for things to get your apartment set up. They even have example rooms, like Ikea, to give you ideas. The prices are very reasonable too. Unfortunately for us, we didn't realize going to Nitori was more economical than going to the secondhand stores. And unlike the secondhand stores, when you were done shopping at Nitori, all your stuff matched! We've even found for things like hangers, its cheaper to shop here than the 100 Yen shop.
Go to Nitori to find:
Furniture, household organization stuff, laundry accessories, bedding, curtains, rugs, hangers, picture frames, decorations, dishes, etc...
any denki (electric) store
Last winter we quickly realized not having neighbors on the floor below us meant our apartment was much colder at night than the previous year. We needed an electric blanket and we needed it NOW! Only, we were at a loss about where to find one. I searched Nitori since they had become my new go to place for home goods. Unfortunately, out of the many blankets they carried, none were electric. I was so happy when I stumbled across them while wandering the local denki store. I probably should have guessed I'd find it there. After all, denki mofu (Electric blanket), denki ya (electric store).
Here are some other things you can find at a denki store like Yodobashi Camera, Kojima, or K's Denki:
computers and accessories
cameras and accessories
printers, printer paper, and ink
blow dryers, curling irons, flat irons
headphones, speakers, music players
100 Yen Shop
I like the Dollar store in America, but I LOVE 100 yen shops like Seria, Daiso, and Can-do. Our local 100 shop has become an invaluable resource for kids' English class, craft parties, and other odds and ends. It's hard not to come away with a basket of stuff when you walk through a 100 shop. My favorite 100 Yen purchase has been my dishes. 18 months and still going strong.
I can't even begin to list all the awesome stuff you can find at a 100 Yen shop.
Shimamura, GU, & Uniqlo
Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. If I need clothes at a reasonable price I head to one of these 3 stores. Now, given, I'm much bigger than the Japanese these clothes are designed for, but for the most part I'm able to find stuff that fits for not too much yen. I've even managed to find shoes that fit my big ol' American feet at Shimamura. It was a happy day indeed!
I should probably add that I'm in no way being paid to advertise for these stores and my opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect other A2 missionaries. Although I'm sure one or two share my love of 100 Yen shops. :)