There’s no denying that 100 yen shops in Japan are great. They sell everything from soft drinks and chocolate to reading glasses and ashtrays, all for ridiculously low prices, and the quality of their merchandise is surprisingly good.

Of course, not everything is 100 yen (US$1.20), but it’s rare to find anything costing more than 400-500, and the variety of products available is astounding. But with so much on offer at such a low prices, it’s easy to throw things into our baskets without really thinking about how much we’re spending, and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself buying things that I didn’t even know I wanted.

A six-pack of AA batteries for 200 yen? You never know when they’ll come in handy! A pair of mugs featuring the Japanese and UK flags? How could I not? An in-car charger for my iPhone? At that price I’d be mad not to buy one, right!?

But are these things really worth buying? As cheap as they are, in the long run are we actually wasting our money?

Well, luckily for us, Japanese website Zasshi News has, with the help of an extensive consumer survey, compiled a list of items to avoid and things that we should snap up from 100 yen shops whenever we can…

  • 100 yen shop bargains!

Let’s get straight to it! Starting with the good, what shouldn’t we be wary of spending our money on in 100 yen shops?

1. Smart phone cases

There are literally dozens of smartphone-related gizmos and accessories available in Japan’s 100 yen shops. But when we’re spending hundreds of dollars on our iOS and Android devices, is it really worth trying to save a few pennies on a case?

According to Zasshi News’ hands-on experience, absolutely!

When all is said and done, many smartphone cases are vastly overpriced. People, perhaps understandably, worry that their touch-screen portal to friends and the internet might not be properly protected should they opt for an unofficial brand or anything costing less than $20, but today’s smartphones are incredibly durable and, regardless of brand names and logos, a sleeve of rubber is a sleeve of rubber no matter how much you spend.

If you’re looking for a One Piece or Hello Kitty design, you’ll have to visit a dedicated electronics store, but for something plain and simple, a 100 yen shop phone cover will do the job just fine. And for that price, you could buy a couple and rotate them to match your carefully constructed outfit! (My wife told me to say that…)

2. Mobile phone chargers and cables

Those who’ve picked up an iPhone 5 with its ultra-modern Lightning cable port will have to hang fire for a little while longer, but for anything up to an iPhone 4S, 100 yen shops have got you covered. Larger stores even divide their phone accessories between service providers, so you can expect to find chargers, headphones and more for AU, Docomo and Softbank’s own phones as well as Android and iOS devices.

“But surely they fall apart in no time!?” I hear you cry. Well, they certainly won’t replace your official unit any time soon, but they definitely get the job done provided you use them as a back-up. As one researcher in Zasshi’s survey suggested “For times like when I’m stuck at work and need to give my phone a quick charge, my 100 yen shop charger is ideal!”

And, come on, whose official iPhone charging cable hasn’t starting falling apart after 12 months anyway!?

3.  Plates and bowls

In recent years, 100 yen shops have begun selling a variety of crockery in all shapes and sizes. According to Zasshi’s survey, even these bargain cups, plates and bowls last a surprisingly long time and, perhaps due to their simple design, are of very good quality. Particularly for those intending to stay in the country for just a few years, 100 yen shop crockery is definitely something to consider, and it looks good, too!

4. Storage boxes

Simple, cheap, durable. Even 100 yen shop storage crates get the job done, and you don’t have to worry about them falling apart any time soon.

You’ll find all manner of storage solutions including CD/DVD crates, food containers, refuse bins, drawers and chests for clothes and even stationery boxes. So long as you don’t mind making mother nature a little sad, you can find plastic containers of pretty much any size or shape here, costing you a fraction of the price of those in interior or home furnishings stores.

5. Fake eyelashes

Walking through the fake eyelash section in 100 yen shops is like walking through an aisle of sleeping dolls. There’s every style, colour, length and combination of the above, all for what I’m told are incredible prices.

“If I go to a cosmetic store, these things cost upwards of 1,000 yen ($12),” said one 20-year-old eyelash fan, “But the ones on sale in 100 yen shops are more than good enough.”

If having spiders’ legs attached to your eyelids is your thing, 100 yen shops can help!

6. Reading glasses

“Do not use for many hours!”

One of the best things about 100 yen shops is the weird(er then normal) English on their packaging. Past favourites of mine include “it is possible for you to make the wonderful fragrance in the latrines!” from some toilet cleaner, and “Placed on the hot thing this becomes an inferno. Keep off!!” from a pack of dusters I bought a couple of a years ago.

We’re not sure how many of you are in the market for a spare pair of reading glasses, but according to Zasshi News’ survey, you could do worse than dropping a couple of hundred yen on a pair of these, with one consumer saying: “I keep pairs of these dotted around the house- they come in very useful!”

  • “Danger, Will Robinson!” 100 yen no-nos!

But not everything is the bargain that it may appear. As wonderful and enticing as 100 yen shops may be, there are numerous products on their shelves that, with a little more research and shopping around, can be bought for less, or in greater quantity elsewhere.

Let’s check out the ones to avoid…

Cleaning supplies come in big packs and they’re disposable, but according to the survey’s responders,those available in 100 yen shops aren’t the great deal we may initially think, with one clever consumer suggesting that “Supermarkets often sell these things in much larger packs for just a little more money. And in some cases they’re actually cheaper than 100 yen.”

Many 100 yen stores receive packs of products like floor-wiping sheets and tissues that contain fewer sheets than those sold in supermarkets, meaning that shoppers are actually getting less for their money than they might normally. Chocolates and sweets, too, often come in smaller sizes when bought at 100 yen shops, and are available for less at convenience stores and supermarkets, so don’t be caught up in all the excitement of “everything-for-just-100-yen!” and start filling your basket up.

“Supermarkets’ own brands are often cheaper than the discounted packs of wet tissues and dust sheets,” said another savvy shopper, “just because this is a 100 yen shop doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal.”

Well that’s us told!

Other 100 yen purchases to avoid include tights and stockings (“they’re really thin and rip incredibly easily”), sticky tape (“it’s simply not very sticky…”), batteries that die almost straight away and ball-point pens (“sometimes they don’t work at all and they run out much faster than those sold in stationery shops.”).

Some very good advice here, we’re sure you’ll agree. When it comes to things like pens, sticky tape, tissue paper and the like, we often make the mistake of thinking that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money. In some cases that’s true, but with a little bit of shopping around, we can often find better value elsewhere, and while 100 yen shops’ products often seem cheaper at first glance, due to the small packs they stock, we may actually be losing money by buying them.

One thing’s for sure, though, there are few places that sell packs of portable toilets for a mere 100 yen! Never be caught short on the train, bus or in traffic ever again! Peace of mind for a single silver coin. Now that’s a bargain!

Photos: RocketNews24

Source: Zasshi News