Buy K-drama & K-pop merchandise in Tokyo’s Koreatown

By Monday, July 20, 2015 5 2

W

hen it comes to owning a physical piece of your fandom, none take this more seriously than the Japanese.

I experienced this recently on a visit to Japan, and Tokyo’s “Koreatown”. The sheer volume and variety of K-drama and K-pop merchandise on offer there nearly made my eyes pop out.
It was so overwhelming I just had to share it! ^_^

UPDATE MARCH 2017
On my last visit to this area; I unfortunately found that two of the best stores in the area are no longer there.
Number 2 (Gangnam style) on the map is now a restauraunt. And number 6 (Korea Plaza) is gone.
There is still more than enough going on in the area for it to be worth paying it a visit. Korean food and cosmetics are on the rise in the area. Go explore!

Where do I find it?

Korean drama and music are so popular in Japan that there’s more K-drama and K-pop-related products for sale in Tokyo than you will find even in Korea itself. So if you’re going to Tokyo, and you’re a fan, this is an opportunity you really can’t miss!

koreatownmap-v2(Click the map for a full size view.)

The area known as Tokyo’s Koreatown is concentrated around Shinokubo (Shin-okubo) subway station.

Explore the main street, Okubo Dori, and the small alleyways that branch off of it. You should also check out the alley going south, marked in green on the map. And to the left and right, on the street where the alley ends. These streets is where the bulk of the Korean restaurants, supermarkets, cosmetics shops… and all of the hallyu idol shops are located.

Even if you only walk up and down the main street you will find more K-drama and K-pop stuff to buy than you (and your wallet) can handle.

What kind of stuff can I  buy?

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Click the images to see larger versions.
1. Fans 2. Visual guides 3. A mix of yummy goodies 4. Stickers & Posters

The most common goods include:
Keyrings, posters, pictures (sold as single images), postcard & sticker sets (my personal favorite!), calendars, stickers for your subway pass or other credit card sized cards, other kinds of sticker sets, notepads, plastic folders, coffee mugs, coin banks and badges.

You may also find:
Fabric banners, small pillows & larger body pillows, pens, mouse mats, jewelry, hair accessories, t-shirts, caps, backpacks, canvas tote bags, make-up cases, nail art stickers, passport covers, credit card holders, tissue holders, CD/DVD-holders, fans, clocks, compact mirrors, Korean school uniform badges, star magazines and visual drama guides (only available in Korean, Japanese and Mandarin).

CDs & DVDs
There are CDs, such as OST Original Soundtracks and official albums a-plenty. As well as (what I’m sure is) illegally recorded concerts, interviews etc.
There are shops packed with pirated DVDs of K-dramas. Cheap (around 2000 yen for a 20 episodes show) , but illegal and only subtitled in Japanese. There are also official and unofficial DVDs with concerts (also only subbed in Japanese).

Custom stuff:
If you can’t find the star or group you want; there is an idol shop called “Gangnam Style”, on the 2nd floor of a cosmetics store on the main street, that will custom-make things for you. (Star number 2 on the map.)
They will print any star you want on a variety of things, such as coffee mugs, posters, pillows etc.

Who will I find related to K-drama?

kdramapod-tokyo-koreatown-sets kdramapod-tokyo-koreatown-pillows kdramapod-tokyo-koreatown-banners kdramapod-tokyo-koreatown-jgs
Click the images to see larger versions.
1. Post-it like notepads 2. Pillows (Oh my!) 3. Fabric banners 4. Ok, now it’s getting weird

In short:
Hallyu stars who are big enough to be popular in, and outside of, Korea.

In more detail:
You will only find the top male K-drama actors here. The easiest to find are, among others:
Lee Min Ho, Jang Geun Suk, Kim Soo Hyun, Lee Sung Gi, Park Yoochun, Hyun Bin, Kim Woo Bin, Jo In Sung, Lee Jong Suk, So Ji Sub, Jang Hyuk… You know, all the acting power houses of Korean drama.

You will find pretty much the same selection of popular stars in all of the shops. The stock revolves around 90% the same people, from shop to shop.

Something that made me extra happy was seeing several stars that don’t get any love (or merch) back home in Korea.

  1. Well known, but less explosively popular actors.
    Like for example Choi Jin Hyuk, Yoon Shi Yoon or Ji Hyun Woo (who is actually bigger in Japan than in Korea).
  2. And stars over the age of 30.
    In Korea it’s mostly the 20-something flower boys who get all the merch.

Once upon a blue moon – you may also find some pictures of female stars like Ha Ji Won and Kim Tae Hee. But the overwhelming focus is on the male actors.

Who will I find related to K-pop?

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Click the images to see larger versions.
1. Official CDs 2. CD/DVD-cases 3. Canvas totebags & pouches 4. Backpacks, T-shirts, Caps

Like with K-drama merch, you will most likely find the same groups, over and over, in the various idol shops.

You are most likely to find:

  • B1A4
  • B.A.P
  • Big Bang
  • EXO
  • JYJ
  • FT Island
  • Infinite
  • Shinee
  • Super Junior

And perhaps some 2PM, Beast, BTS, CN Blue, GOT7, TVXQ, VIXX, Winner and others.

To a far, faaaar lesser degree; there are some girl groups on offer.
For example:

  • APink
  • Girl’s Generation
  • Miss A
  • T-ARA

What will it cost me?

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1. Small side-alley shop 2-3. Giving you an idea of the size & selection of larger shops

Tokyo is notoriously expensive. So if you’re thinking that you may have to give up food for a while or sign away your firstborn child in order to get your hands on some of this stuff… you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The prices in Koreatown are pretty reasonable.
(It’s cheaper than buying stuff in Korea. And the Korean shops have nowhere near the variety of goods and stars.)

These are some price examples (July 2015 – 100 yen = $0.80 / €0.74) :

  • Postcard and sticker set – 500 yen
  • Large banner, in fabric – 500-1000 yen
  • Sheet with stickers from popular dramas – 200 yen
  • Keyring – 300 yen
  • Single photo – 70-150 yen
  • Medium sized poster – 500 yen

Prices can be slightly cheaper in the side alleys and the shops furthest from the station. The difference is minimal though. So I’d recommend to simply get what you want, when you find it. There’s no guarantee you’ll find that exact item anywhere else.

What about J-drama, J-pop and J-rock stuff?

You won’t find that here. No.

I was told that you can find J-drama merch at the TV-station’s gift shops and in areas popular with teenagers, like Harajuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara.

Well… let me tell you; it was a complete bust.
The TV-station only had merch for its animated shows. In the other areas I only found 1 or 2 shops, with nearly non-existent stock.

Your best bet:
Next to JR Harajuku station there is a street called Takeshita Street. Well known for being crammed with teenage shops selling clothes, accessories and all kinds of kawaii goods. Here I found the biggest concentration of J-idol shops in Tokyo.

2 shops with a small selection (nothing like the huge variety in Koreatown) of keyrings, fans, pens, posters, jewelry and phone covers.
4 other shops were only selling photos/posters. (Based on poor quality paparazzi photos.)

The selection was huge. But the glamour of the stars were completely lost in the photos. They were all taken at sweaty concerts or while out on the town.
Apart from some of the photos being downright unflattering… in some of them – the star was visibly annoyed with having his picture taken. It really put me off.

I don’t know why there is nearly no J-drama merch when there’s sooooo much animé product all over the place. It’s a mystery to me.
My first thought is that there must be some kind of legal issue, which stops people from opening idol shops for Japanese stars.
If you, reading this article, have some light to shed on this issue (or a tip of a well stocked J-idol shop that I’ve missed) I’d be very interested in hearing about it. Comment and let us know!

Anything else?

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1-3. So much stuff. I can’t even… my mind is overloading!

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to Korean food in the area. There’s a Big Bang themed restaurant, and most of the other restaurants also have TVs on that blast K-pop videos while you eat.

You can buy common Korean street food like tteokbokki (spicy sticky rice cake) and hotteok (small hot pancake with sweet filling). Yummm!

There’s also Korean clothes stores, supermarkets and cosmetics.

The best Korean cosmetics store in the area is The Face Shop-store (located on the second of the two main streets, to the south). Which is just like shopping at one of their stores in Korea.
As for other name brands (Nature Republic, Missha, Tony Moly, Holika Holika); the selection is very limited. They are only available on the odd shelf in shops that sell a variety of brands. Often on the second floor of these shops.

Update: July 2016

Unfortunately this area seems to be in a bit of a decline.
On my third visit I found almost no K-drama merch at all. 95% is now centered around K-pop, is seems. It’s still worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. Especially if you’re a K-pop fan. But just be aware that if you find this article and visit 6 months, a year or more later… you could find something very different from what this article describes.

 K-drama Addiction Therapy

Lastly, if you Googled and happened to stumble across this article;
You should check out our “K-drama Addiction Therapy” podcast! It’s all about K-drama.

You can listen to two K-drama addicted hosts discuss the latest K-drama shows (and old favorites) right here via the site, or download, for free, via iTunes.

Hope you enjoyed this guide to Tokyo’s Koreatown.
Fighting!

5 Comments
  • eriinnye
    July 23, 2015

    Really nice article!
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us ;D

  • Sherlyn Tan
    September 7, 2016

    For the official CDs picture, what is the name of the shop that sells it?

    • Sofia
      September 8, 2016

      That was a picture from the generous CD section at “Korea Plaza”. Which is both a CD/DVD and book shop. The location is included on the map.

  • Kim Lian
    November 1, 2016

    May I know estimated how much does one cd album cost?

  • Jennifer Huo
    April 19, 2017

    Thanks for your post!! I noticed that your July 2016 update said there’s barely anymore kdrama merch there … is that still true now? Would Korea Town be still worth going for a kdrama fan ….

Leave a Reply to Jennifer Huo Cancel reply