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Thrifting in Koenji: 8 furugiya to find your next favourite outfit

Thrifting in Koenji: 8 furugiya to find your next favourite outfit

As a mecca for fashion, there’s never a dull moment while apparel-shopping in Tokyo (東京). Regardless of styles or genres, shopping for the latest fashion trends is a breeze in Japan's capital city. But if you’re looking for something unique or at a bargain, perhaps you should give thrifting and used clothing a (second) chance.


In Japan, it’s more than common to find a furugiya (古着屋 used clothing store) in a neighbourhood close by. The selection of furugi varies for each chain or stand-alone shop, ranging from high-end brands to wardrobes of yesteryears, as well as past collections from Uniqlo that you might have missed. It’s also a great way to save money—you’d get last season’s in-thing at just a fraction of the original price.


Ragtag, a popular furugiya chain, at Cat Street in Harajuku. (Image credit: MIKI Yoshihito. (#mikiyoshihito) / CC BY 2.0)


But if you want to check a whole bunch of them out, just ask any avid thrifters and vintage clothing enthusiasts—they’d tell you that many of these furugiya tend to congregate in Tokyo’s fashion hub Harajuku (原宿), as well as quieter (but also lively in its own way) neighbourhoods such as Shimokitazawa (下北沢), Kichijoji (吉祥寺), and Koenji (高円寺). Let's have a look at one of my personal favourite areas in Tokyo: Koenji.


Getting to and around Koenji

Koenji Station’s North Exit. (Image credit: michaelvito / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Koenji’s close proximity to Tokyo’s major hubs makes it the perfect residential area for young adults who prefer somewhere quieter but not quite disconnected (read: 田舎 inaka) from the city center. The neighbourhood’s main station, Koenji Station (高円寺駅 Kōenji-eki), is accessible by the JR Chūō / Chūō-Sōbu Line (中央・総武緩行線 Chūō sōbukankōsen) and is just 6–10 minutes away from Shinjuku Station (新宿駅 Shinjuku-eki).


(Image credit: jun560 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The great thing about Koenji's furugiya stores is that they are all located really close to the station, with the furthest that I’ll be recommending being just 5 minutes away on foot. Upon arriving at the station, simply exit via the station’s only two exits—the South Exit is closer to where all the furugiya stores are at, while the North Exit lets you detour via Koenji Street (高円寺ストリート), an under-the-tracks street equipped with snack bars, izakaya, and ramen joints.


(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


But the main highlight of this article is of course the rows of furugiya that await you in both Koenji Paru Shopping Street (高円寺パル商店街 Kōenji Paru Shōtengai) as well as the alleys in Koenjiminami (South Koenji). 


(Map data: ©2021 Google Maps)


It’s unrealistic for me to list down EVERY furugiya in this neighbourhood, and even more impossible for me to list what kind of clothing you’ll find in each shop. So instead, here’s a list of eight shops to help you get started on your thrifting adventures the next time you visit Koenji, including some of my own personal favourites.


1. Small Change

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


One of the first furugiya you’ll spot in Paru Shotengai is Small Change. With two floors, this store carefully curates their selection of high-quality vintage clothes of leatherjackets, retro workwear, and military wear. Small Change also has outlets in Fukuoka, Kyoto, and Nagoya, should you miss the chance to visit this branch in Koenji.


Small Change
Address: 3-45-16 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 3-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 11:30am–9:30pm
Tel: +81 50-3803-2224


2. Albatross 

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Together with their sister shops Slat and Isla, Albatross carry a wide range of used clothing but their schtick would be band t-shirts, motorcycle fashion, and outdoor-turned-street fashion. The price range here is also very affordable—I managed to snag a few staple wardrobe pieces from their shops myself, so I’d say this is a great starting point for first-time thrifters! You’ll see Albatross’s main store first, with their second store just a few steps away.


Albatross (アルバトロス)
Address (First store): 1F Ito Building, 3-45-17 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Address (Second store): 4-6-1 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003 
Access: 4-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 12:30pm–7:30pm (Weekdays), 12:30pm–8pm (Weekends)
Tel (First store): +81 3-3314-5030
Tel (Second store): +81 3-6383-2945


3. Rugged

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


After covering a bit of ground in Paru, take a look at the many furugiya that operate in the neighbouring buildings outside of the shopping arcade. One of such furugiya you’ll find at a turn’s corner is Rugged. If you’re looking for both new local streetwear and used casual wear from late-1980s to early-2000s, Rugged might pique your interest. They also have a shop in Kagoshima if you’re visiting Kyushu!


Address: 4-24-5 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 3-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 12pm–8pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Tel: +81 80-3752-5806


4. Bernet

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Bernet is a haven for those who are into the vintage “grandma” or cottage-core aesthetic that thrived in the 1950s/1960s for ladies. Handpicked and sourced from Europe and the USA, the prices here average at around ¥10,000. Considering the high-quality and great condition of these clothings, the price tags here are pretty affordable. They also have an outlet in Harajuku and an online shop


Address: 101 Hozan Building, 4-24-11 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 2-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 1pm–8pm (Weekdays), 12pm–8pm (Weekends)
Tel: +81 3-6304-9200


5. Top of the Hill

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Next to Bernet is Top of the Hill, a furugiya that also sells a variety of used, vintage, and imported clothing, with a flair for Americana Bohemian fashion. With outlets all across Japan, including one in Sapporo and Fukuoka, you won’t be able to miss checking out their stores. Even if you can’t head down to their shop, check out their online shop which also features lookbooks on how you can style your used clothing in today’s trends.


Top of the Hill
Address: 104/105 Hozan Building, 4-24-11 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 2-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 11am–8pm
Tel: +81 50-3816-0100


6. unstitch

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Compared to other furugiya, unstitch may not look like much—but inside this small and unassuming unit stores many high-fashion goods that have gone out of season. You can expect to burn quite a big hole in your pocket, but we’re talking about branded and high-quality clothing that are in pristine, or even unused, condition here. Locals can also trade-in their clothes here which go through a strict evaluation and quality check. It’s rather intimidating to step foot into a shop full of clothing more expensive than your airplane ticket, but it’s a worthy experience nonetheless.


Address: 3-45-13 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 4-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 12pm–6pm (Shortened from 12pm–8pm due to COVID-19 countermeasures)
Tel: +81 3-3317-2188


7. Whistler

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Probably one of the more eye-catching furugiya around Koenji, Whistler offers vintage and used clothing imported from the USA from the 1940s to 1960s for men. As you can probably tell in the image above, they specialise in footwear like leather shoes and boots, as well as military wear and jackets, while also being well-stocked with flannels, vests, and Hawaiian shirts. Their sister shop, chart, is just right around the corner in the same building. 


Address: 1F & 2F Misato Building, 4-30-8 Koenjiminami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 3-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 12pm–9pm
Tel: +81 3-5377-1911


8. Re’all

(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Last but not least in our list is Re’all, one of my personal favourites. Tucked in an unassuming alley without any big storefront sign, I didn’t notice Re’all until my last visit to Koenji. You’ll find used sneakers and leather shoes that are kept in great condition, vintage military wear and casual streetwear, as well as denim jackets and jeans. After all, used jeans are the most comfortable pairs you’ll ever own! If you want something from their online shop but can’t quite head to Japan to get it, worry not, for they provide international shipping worldwide.


Address: 1F 大雅堂マンション 4-29-13 Koenjiminami, Japan, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Access: 3-minute walk from Koenji Station
Opening hours: 12pm–8pm
Tel: +81 3-6454-6802


Thrifting 101 in Koenji

My kind of heaven. (Image credit: Sue Lynn)


The above is merely a small handful of what Koenji's furugi culture has to offer. But since we’re on this topic, allow me to impart four personal tips while thrifting in Koenji. This should be handy because you’d probably be spending hours, if not an entire day, just wandering around the neighbourhood!


Firstly, if you already have a piece of clothing in mind, check out at least 2–3 shops before deciding on your purchase. Chances are you’ll find one that’s uniquely meant for you, and you’d be surprised at how competitive the prices are and how much variety you’ll get, so don’t settle for less! 


(Image credit: Sue Lynn)


Secondly, Koenji is also home to some of Japan’s beloved second-hand and furugiya chains such as Don Don Down Wednesday, Treasure Factory Style, and 2nd Street. They aren’t as aesthetically-curated as the shops listed above, but you should definitely give these a visit if you’re on a tighter budget. 


Number three: While it’s true that the more shops you see, the better the idea you’ll get for your outfit, don’t hesitate to lock it in when you have found The One™. Many items in furugiya are one-of-a-kind that you’ll probably never chance upon again! I’ve had several missed opportunities that I still think about even till today, so please learn from my mistakes.


Koenji Awa Odori Festival. (Image credit: michaelvito / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget to take a break from all the browsing and shopping and fuel yourself with food and drinks! Food options are abundant in this area, and this is also a good chance to check out the northern area of the neighbourhood Koenjikita (North Koenji). In late August, Koenji is also particularly popular for the neighbourhood’s local rendition of the Awa Odori Summer Festival (高円寺阿波おどり Kōenji Awa odori), the biggest of its kind outside of Tokushima Prefecture. Join in the fun if you’re ever visiting Koenji then!


As you can probably tell, there’s so much more to thrifting in Koenji than what I can write in a single article. Let me know if you’re heading there—I’ll be sure to pray to the Thrifting Gods to bestow you luck in finding your next favourite outfit in Koenji!


Header image credit: Yuki K.


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