100 yen shops (100円ショップor hyakku en shoppu) are discount stores that sell a wide range of products for the bargain price of only 100 yen (plus 8 yen consumption tax). Yes, EVERYTHING from snacks, stationery and tableware to kitchen goods, cleaning products and even make-up can be found here. The general rule is if you can't find something you are looking for, no matter how offbeat, you can probably find it at a 100 yen shop.
Surely products sold this cheap must be rubbish quality, I hear you cry. No, actually. The standard of the products vary, but is generally pretty decent and well-worth what you pay. While not a lifelong purchase, most items will last for a good length of time. I have very rarely bought something that has actually broken, although sometimes you may just end up with an item you weren't quite expecting.
There are thousands of 100 yen shops across the country, and range in size from multistory stores that sell absolutely everything to smaller shops that sell a limited selection of basic goods. The biggest chain is Daiso, which can now also be found in the US.
One of the larger 100 yen shops in Tokyo is Daiso Harajuku on Takeshita Dori—a well-known tourist spot in the Harajuku area. Keep your eyes peeled while walking around the city and you are sure to find one every couple hundred meters or so.
100 yen shops usually sell their own branded goods that generally can't be found in other stores. As well as the usual wares, the stores stock a good selection of seasonal items. Going to a halloween party and missing that vital final piece of your scary outfit? No problem. Pop into a 100 yen shop and they are likely to have it. It's valentines day and you forgot to buy your male colleagues chocolates—as is customary in Japan—don't worry, the 100 yen shop will have something you can give them.
Need to buy a last-minute souvenir for a family member or friend? The 100 yen shop is one of the best places to visit when looking for gifts and you are sure to find something cool, quirky or just plain weird to take home.
While Japanese supermarkets are known for their over-priced fresh fruit and vegetables, the Lawson Store 100 chain sells a wide variety of food items and even a range of fresh fruit and vegetables priced. Not everything is priced at 100 yen, but is still a lot cheaper than your local supermarket or convenience store. Although not as common as your average 100 yen shop, these stores really are amazing value, even for those not on a tight budget.
Beware that quality and choice varies between stores, so find one with a good selection. The stock often varies so you sometimes might not be able to find your favorite product. Oh, and they are open 24 hours a day, of course.
For more info:
Lawson 100 store http://store100.lawson.co.jp