They come in several guises, all of which are great sources of bargains.
- Book/manga/CD/DVD/game places
Often just one shop selling all of the above, such as BookOFF. A LOT of stuff here is 105yen, including all your favourite manga tankoban, classic computer games (although rare ones can be CONSIDERABLY more expensive), books (often including English-language ones) and CDs (also many English/American releases). DVDs, BD and VHS (yes, VHS, and even LD, too) can also be cheap, but as this is Japan you may also find yourself staring at a copy of Nanny McPhee for 4,250yen.
Places like BookOFF will usually have a wide selection of games, including NES and original Gameboy cartidges. If you want a better selection though, I'd head for a specialist place like FamicomWorld in Nerima, Tokyo, or the chain of stores called something like BandaiShouten. Look for 買う・売る (buy and sell) signs to find less well-known stores.
- Mystery stores
In Gunma I found another two additions to the OFF series of shops - HardOFF and HouseOFF. I'm not sure what the difference between HardOFF and BookOFF is... I think the former is basically the latter without books or manga. HouseOFF was a junkyard of crappy cast-offs from people's attics, and fell into the (lower end of the) last category:
- House shops
Often with names like Second Street, Second Land etc, these places are a goldmine for cheap household electronics - ceiling lights, TVs, media players, white goods, sofas, air-con units etc.
We needed a new fridge. Long story short we found it as new, just over half the new price in one of these stores.
But one thing which should not be recommended is the clothes section of these places. Japanese fashion is, let's be clear, drastically different from your home country. And yet somehow the clothes here are even worse. Unless you want to look like an Eastern-European fashionista from the 80s who couldn't afford real shoes so made some out of cardboard and drew on his own laces, this is not the place for you. Stop for the photo opportunity with the huge fur coat, leopardskin hat and pink shorts, but draw the line there!
Another odd thing about these places is that they seem to buy and try to sell completely unsellable objects - stained soft-toys, chipped cups, battered alarm clocks... what's the point?