Japan, being as rich in gorgeous landscapes as it is, boasts many outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not surprising to run into a group of old folks smiling happily as you and they traverse mountains. (How they do it, I have no idea.) The vast opportunities enticed me before I even left Seattle – I was going from one great outdoor playground to another (especially Shizuoka!). I knew I couldn’t bring all my gear, considering I was just trying to pack the basics (and NOT ship over boxes and boxes). I rationalized that the basics were all I needed to start with and the rest could be shipped later or bought in Japan.
Finding outdoor gear proved a challenge at first with my lack of Japanese ability, and not knowing how to search for it. Asking people didn’t get me very far.
So it was rather lucky that I happened across an outdoor store while biking around my town one day. Seeing Columbia and Coleman and all those other familiar brands was shocking – they have these brands in Japan? Yes, and quite common too, I eventually learned. The next two years in Japan led to even more discoveries and resources, which I’ve compiled for you here.
Though I’ve tried to make this list as comprehensible as possible, it is impossible for me to know about every single store and shop around Japan. I’ve tried to cover the main ones here, but there are probably smaller local shops near you. A search through the major brands’ sites will give you some idea about local shops, as will a search on Google maps. Try keywords: アウトドーア (outdoor), スポーツ (sports), ギア (gear). I always get the best results with "sports" though.
*Also, I am not affiliated with any of these companies, brands or stores, nor am I recommending any particular brand or store over another – this is simply a list of my findings.
*Keep in mind that most of these sites are in Japanese, so use an online translator, Rikaichan or Rikaikun, and/or online/computer dictionary to help you if needed. Also remember that some shoe sizes may be difficult to find in Japan.
how to find outdoor gear in Japan
brand shops (online stores and/or distributor locations)Coleman - (Japanese with some English headings) Online shop and outlet shop locator. Gear.
Columbia - (Japanese with some English headings) Online shop and store locator. Clothing, shoes and some gear.
Helly Hansen - (Japanese with English headings) Online shop with store locator. Clothing and gear.
Karrimor - (Japanese with English headings) Store locator. Specializes in bags and packs.
Mammut - (Japanese with English headings) Store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Marmot - (Japanese with English headings) Online shop (Japanese) and store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Merrell - (Japanese with English headings) Store locator. Shoes.
Mont-bell - (English) Store locator. Clothing and gear.
North Face - (Japanese with English headings) Online shop and store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Patagonia - (Japanese, but can look at the products in English, although need to switch back to Japan to order from the Japanese store). Online shop and store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
distributorsABC Mart - (Japanese) Some selection of outdoor and sports shoes.
Amazon Japan - (Japanese/English but most descriptions are in Japanese) Clothing, shoes, and gear - various brands.
Base Camp Outdoor Shop - (Japanese) Online shop. Clothing, shoes and gear.
ICI sports - (Japanese) Online shop and store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Koujitusanso (好日山荘) - (Japanese) Store locator and online shop. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Murasaki Sports - (Japanese with English headings) Surf and skate clothing and gear. Street clothes are more on the “youthful” side (think Abercrombie).
Namche Bazar - (Japanese) Online shop. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Pearl Izumi - (Japanese) Store locator. Specialize in bike clothing and gear.
Planet green Real Outfitter - (Japanese) Online shop. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Sports Authority - (Japanese) Online shop. Clothing, shoes and gear.
Local stores - Chelsea pointed out in the comments that a store called D2 sells gear (Thanks, Chelsea!). They are located all over Japan. However, many local home-type stores or stores that sell a little bit of everything (think Wal-mart or something like it) often sell basics in camping/outdoor gear, such as Coleman products.
area-specificOshman’s (Greater Tokyo area) - (Japanese) Clothing, shoes and gear.
Swen (Shizuoka/Aichi) - (Japanese) Store locator. Clothing, shoes and gear.
U.S. military bases - Mike mentioned that flea markets and thrift stores such as Americaya near military bases are a great source (Thanks Mike!). I haven't gone myself, but if you live near a base, may be worth a look.
overseasREI - Well, Americans should know this one. International shipping, but usually expensive. Will not ship some brands overseas, such as North Face. Clothing, shoes, and gear.
Sierra Trading Post - (English). US based. Outlet store with excellent deals. Overseas shipping is reasonable, considering how cheap the stuff is. Clothing, shoes and gear. (This is one of my personal favorites.)
Have any to add? Leave me the name (and link if possible) in the comments or via the contact page.