Whether you’re coming to Japan as a tourist or a new resident, getting into the island nation usually means taking a plane. With luggage space at a premium, odds are you haven’t packed more than two or three pairs of shoes, which is fine for a running start in the country. With all the walking involved in public-transportation-embracing Japan, though, wear and tear are going to set in before long, and you’ll find yourself in need of a new pair of kicks.
Odds are, though, that you didn’t come all the way to Japan to blow your travel budget on new shoes. If you’re just getting started as a working professional here, you’re probably also a little light on cash. So to keep your feet comfortable, outfit stylish, and wallet happy, today we’re taking a trip to one of Tokyo’s best-kept secret bargains, the Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center, to pick up a selection of footwear at less than 990 yen (US$8.40) per pair.
Despite the impersonal-sounding name, Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center (or Tokyo Kutsu Ryutsu Senta, as it’s called in Japanese) isn’t actually a wholesaler. It’s a chain of discount retailers with large stores, usually just outside the most crowded parts of central Tokyo.
We tapped our Japanese-language correspondent Yoshio for this assignment, for two very good reasons. First, there’s a Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center branch near his home in Nerima Ward. And second, some of our coworkers have started pointing out that he wears the same pair of beat-up shoes just about every day to the office (they decided not to mention that he keeps wearing the same pair of jeans, too, since it’s best to deal with issues like these one at a time).
With a price cap of 990 yen, we sent Yoshio out to find Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center’s 10 best pairs of shoes. Here’s the report he brought back.
10. Gosty Black Sandals (790 yen)
I’m not sure if these are big sellers. They were a little dusty, so I think they’ve been sitting out on display for a long time. Since they’re a little on the heavy side, I think they’re best as shoes to wear around the home, like room slippers, or at the office.
9. Star trademark boots (990 yen)
These are actually boots for kids, but you might be able to get your feet into them. The insoles are a little hard, so you’ll probably need to slip in some additional pads if you’re planning on a long walk in them. The rounded toes give it a really youthful look, maybe too youthful for some people.
8. Leopard print shoes (745 yen)
A pair of women’s shoes. Out on the shelf, they look kind of chintzy, but when you slip them on, they’re actually cute. The soles don’t have much grip, though, so be careful when wearing these.
7. Admiral sandals (990 yen)
I couldn’t tell if these were authentic or knockoffs, but they have the logo of British sportswear brand Admiral. Either way, at this quality for this price, they’re totally worth it!
6. Atras deck shoes (961 yen)
These comfy and simple slip-ons go great with jeans and are available in either white or navy blue.
5. Blue cute shoes (990 yen)
Understated, but with a few splashes of color to offset the jeans or khakis you pair them with. Just the sort of footwear for when you’re sipping your coffee while sitting in a Starbucks in a trendy part of Tokyo with a doya-gao look on your face.
4. Tabi Jidai traveler’s shoes (961 yen)
Unlike the leopard-prints, the bottom of these have plenty of grips. They’re also comfortable, and the white and black stripes along the tongue are pretty snazzy.
3. Keds check shoes (961 yen)
No, I didn’t grab another pair of kids’ shoes. These are Keds! Can’t believe you can get such a playful-looking pair of shoes for this price.
2. Keds lace-up shoes (990 yen)
Keds makes the list again. These versatile deck shoes will come in handy in the summer, especially the red, white, and blue version on July 4.
1. Atras lace-up shoes (961 yen)
Finally, the best sub-990-yen pair of shoes at Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center is these lace-ups from Atras. Once again, they’re simple enough to wear with just about anything, and that red character line on the black pair is a nice touch. At this price, I might buy two or three pairs and wear them in rotation.
Bonus selection! Adimouse ladies’ court shoes (1,990 yen)
Written on the tongue, in English, is “The best shoe for all conditions. Original brand.” Out of all the shoes I tried on, these were the most comfortable, and –
Whoa, easy there young Yoshio Rockefeller! No one said anything about stepping up to shoes that cost almost 2,000 yen! Come back and talk to us again after payday.
Related: Tokyo Shoe Distribution Center store finder
Tokyo Kutsu Ryutsu Center Kami Shakujii branch / 東京靴流通センター 上石神井店
Address: Tokyo-to, Nerima-ku, Kami Shakujii, 2-18-16 Albion Shakujii, 1st floor
Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m.