How to shop for secondhand Japanese alt fashion

Getting into Japanese alternative fashion, like lolita fashion, is like jumping down the rabbit hole. There are so many directions you can take. From making your own clothes to indie US brands to indie Chinese brands to, of course, buying from Japanese brands. One often repeated piece of advice is that if you can’t afford to buy things new, shop secondhand. Even I’ve said it before! However I realized that I’ve never gone in depth about how these sites work. Without further ado, here is a deep dive into how to shop for secondhand Japanese alt fashion.


Shopping western sites for Japanese brands

Mercari, Depop, Poshmark, eBay, Vinted

This option is great because you won’t need a shopping service. You can interact with sellers the way you normally would. You will need to research the particular brands you’re interested in, but that should be fun research! These items will usually ship much faster than purchasing from Japan, depending on the seller’s location and the method of shipping.

The downside, of course, is that these items will often be more expensive than purchasing from the Japanese secondhand market. Sellers may also be intentionally or unintentionally selling replicas, which may be hard for newbies to spot. Still, for people just starting, this is a great way to try these clothes without the hassle of a shopping service.



While not more difficult than using western secondhand sites, a person new to Japanese alt fashion might not be familiar with them. Lacemarket is specifically for lolita/ouji/EGA, while Keimarket is for other Japanese alt fashions, like gyaru, fairy kei, or Decora.Essentially, sellers list their items on the site and buyers can purchase or bid on items. These transactions are not conducted through Lacemarket, but through Paypal for the protection of buyers and sellers. (I have posts about how to buy and sell if you’re feeling nervous.) You can interact with sellers directly within the website without a shopping service. That means you can ask question or for more pictures. These items will usually ship much faster than purchasing from Japan. The downside to this method is that the selection is usually limited. Plus the prices are often higher than the Japanese secondhand market.

Curated secondhand sites

Closetchild, Wunderwelt

These websites are curated secondhand sites that sell Japanese alternative clothing. They do not require a shopping service and will ship directly to you. Wunderwelt does have English speaking staff who can answer questions. Closetchild does not, but they accept foreign credit cards. Plus, their site is not hard to navigate with the help of Google translate. These sites sell genuine pieces, so you don’t have to worry about getting a replica. They also tend to list accurate measurements and detailed photos, so it can be easier to decide whether a piece is worth the price. These curated sites tend to be cheaper than purchasing from western sellers, but more expensive than buying directly from individuals within Japan.

The biggest downside is that shipping from Japan can be expensive, so it may be best to do a group order or a larger order, rather than ordering one piece at a time.


Japanese secondhand sites

Mercari JP, Rakuten/Fril JP, Yahoo! Japan Auctions

Shopping the Japanese secondhand market is almost always the cheapest way to get authentic Japanese brand. Clothes are often in excellent secondhand condition and the prices are much lower than even curated shops.

These websites function exactly like their Western counterparts except that they are meant for Japanese users. The biggest hurdle is that these sites will not accept western credit cards and often will not even allow you to sign up for an account without one. These sites are also entirely in Japanese, so they will require Google Translate or working knowledge of written Japanese. You will also have to conduct your searches in Japanese. (But I’ve also written a whole blog post to help out with that!)

It’s also important to note that some of these sites are auction sites (like eBay) and some have items in a “Buy it now” format. Japanese auctions work a little differently than western auction sites (specifically, they have features that discourage sniping), so it may take some time to understand how they function.

Shopping services

Shopping on these sites will require a Japanese shopping service, which acts as a middleman for completing your transaction. Examples of shopping services include Buyee, FromJapan, Japonica Market, Japan Shopping Service, and Zenmarket, as well as in person shopping services like Mintykismet or Sunflower Shopping Service. I’ve reviewed some shopping services on my blog before, but there are many to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

In general, a shopping service may ask a seller questions about the item you are interested in, purchase an item that requires a Japanese credit card, receive an item that will only ship within Japan, inspect an item to ensure that it does not have undisclosed damages, and ship the item from Japan to you. They will charge you the actual cost of the item, as well as a commission and service or transaction fees. They also may have optional services like repacking or quality checks.

The order flow for each service will vary but in general you will send them a link to the item you want to buy, including any size or color options. Most of these services will require a deposit or initial payment upfront, which will be refunded if they are unable to secure your item. The first payment will usually consists of the actual cost of the item, including transaction fees and shipping costs within Japan. The shopping service will confirm your order and then confirm whether they have successfully purchased your item. The item will be shipped from the seller to the shopping service, where they will process it in their warehouse. Most shopping services will confirm receipt of your item and allow you the chance to ship it immediately, or to store it for a short period for free (typically 45 days).

Shopping services seem intimidating and complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to go back to any other way of buying. The selection and deals really can’t be beat!


China has a huge appetite for lolita fashion, so obviously they want to buy and sell secondhand items too! Their site of choice is Xianyu, a site similar to eBay that contains all kinds of secondhand goods, including lolita fashion. If you’re interested in buying indie Chinese pieces secondhand, this is a great site to look on. However, there is also a ton of Japanese brand on Xianyu. Like Japanese secondhand sites, a Chinese credit card is required. Using a Chinese shopping service is the best way to order from Xianyu. Examples include Chinese Lolita Updates (on Facebook) or Spreenow. The process for purchasing will be very similar to Japanese shopping services and will vary between shopping services. Xianyu is the best place to look if you missed a Taobao release and want to find it secondhand!

Ultimately, there’s no wrong way to shop secondhand. Whether you value convenience or a great deal, all of these are great options for fans of Japanese alt fashion. 


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