Beauty / International Travel / Japan / Shopping / Tokyo

Buying Glasses Cheaply in Tokyo

First off, I will say I love glasses made in Japan or Korea because they actually fit my face!  For those lucky enough to be unaware, Asian faces face a couple of problems when confronted with American or European frames—(1) they slide down our noses constantly, and (2) big frames sit on our big (mothefucking) cheekbones and move up and down when we smile.  Asian frames fit my face better because the nose bridge is built in higher.

I decided to buy glasses in Tokyo because Japan has a much lower cost for glasses than the United States because, in Japan, an optician can administer a basic vision test and fill your glasses prescription.  In case you have a thirst to know why, I will tell you what my First Amendment professor (2nd year of law school, my god, I learned something albeit unrelated to law) said.  He told us the optometrist lobbyists in America are really strong and have successfully lobbied to prevent opticians from filling glasses without a prescription ordered by an optometrist!  This means that Americans, unlike Japanese, need to pay an optometrist to have an eye exam every time we want a new pair of glasses.

Since I don’t currently have eye insurance, I decided to take advantage of my location in Tokyo and buy two new pairs of glasses.  Here’s a review of my (very positive) experience:


Zoff Park.  Zoff is a chain eyeglass shop in Tokyo (no contact lenses available here).  They have a huge selection for men and women, great prices (most frames are only 5000-yen), and truly superb service!  The price of any frame includes the price of lenses and basic vision test!  The only time you pay more than the listed price of the frames is when you need some special service, i.e., one of my friends is like legally blind (-9.0 or something), so she wanted her lenses mad compressed–that costs extra.

Once you pick out your frames, you immediately are taken aside to have a vision test done; no appointment needed!  I describe the basic vision test in more detail below, but I will say I felt reassured that they were thorough in checking and verifying my prescription — after determining my prescription from the vision test, they showed me exactly what the prescription would look like by putting lenses in test glasses.  Don’t know what test glasses are?  These things:


Once I was satisfied that the prescription they recommended was correct, I simply sat and waited for 30-minutes and my glasses were done!  They asked me to put them on and give a final check to make sure everything looked A-OK.  They also provide a free glasses case and kindly cleaned my old glasses as an added little service ^-^!  Love it!

Japanese Vision Test.  The people at Zoff Harajuku speak pretty passable English, so I recommend you visit that location if, like me, you don’t speak Japanese.  The basic vision test has two parts:


Test 1.  They simply show you a variety of c’s as seen above.  You simply point which direction it’s facing and that indicates to them if you need a higher prescription or not.  It’s great because you don’t need to read any Japanese characters.

Test 2.  I can’t find a photo of this one, but it’s kind of funny because there’s a split screen (red and green) and the left side has a 6 and the right side has a 9.  They keep changing the lenses and asking you, “Six or Nine?” ^^ #immatureAmerican

Frames.  For me, I paid 4000-yen ($50 USD) for a pair numbered ZC01007 in E-2.  They’re a fun red hipstery (I hate to think I own something hipster, but let’s call a spade a spade, I suppose) glasses:


P1070454That Zoff carries this type of novel plastic frame is a testament to its wide selection.  There are tons of thick-framed, colorful and stylish glasses, as well as more professional and traditional frames.

Speaking of, I also got a 9000-yen pair ($100 USD) of Zoff SMART glasses for work (and play, apparently), which are numbered ZK11012 in C-1A :

IMG_0128Zoff SMART frames are among the most expensive pairs in the store and they’re only about $100 USD, so not even pricey.  They cost more because they’re more flexible and lightweight — built for comfort and durability!  🙂

American Alternative.  For in LA, you can buy made in Korea frames for under $100 at Harvard Optometry in Rowland Heights.  Obviously, you must pay more for the vision test and to fill the lenses.



10 thoughts on “Buying Glasses Cheaply in Tokyo

    • Yes, I had to check several Zoff stores before finding the Harajuku one, which has English speakers! They’re not fluent, but it’s enough to get the job done. I never feel any entitlement or expectation that people speak English in another country to cater to me, but I’m very grateful they do at Zoff Harajuku! I’m a very happy customer, a year later I’m still wearing and loving my glasses from them.

  1. Thanks for this! I’ve been looking for a store to go to and found zoff, but I was confused to if the lenses cost separate from the eye ex etc so this really helped! :3

  2. You also did the lens or just the frame ?
    I understood you did both…I’m asking just in case, because I need to do glasses,too…

    • The price includes basic lenses. My vision is only around -1.5, so regular lenses are ok for me. If your vision is worse and you need them compressed, then that’s an extra charge, not sure how much. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  3. Guess you didn’t have an America’s Best in your neck of the woods; two pairs of eyeglasses with vision exam included. Dirt cheap ($39.99 back in the day but it’s gone up to $59.99). I’m in Tokyo (actually Chiba) and have been in Japan since February 2010.

    • I’m not familiar with America’s Best, but that’s a great deal!!! I’ll make sure to look it up if I’m ever in Chiba! Thanks for the tip!

      • Oops… America’s Best is in the states but not in all states (guess you don’t have one in L.A.) and the eye exam is conducted by a doctor not a tech. I ended up going to Jins in Nihonbashi. Lucky me, the store had just opened so they were having a sale. 3,980 for lens, frame and eye exam. I’m not too sure about eye exam. I went back with glasses from AB and Jins told me the prescription was way different from what their techs came up with. (I had two exams. Everyone was super nice and didn’t make me feel bad although it was my fault for not knowing anything about my prescription! =p)

  4. Hi Nikkibi,

    I often went to Japan for business before retirement. Represented many Silicon Valley and Japanese technology firms. Your article was quite interesting, sinceI recently tried ordering glasses online. It was a difficult experience since I was not able to see the product until it arrived. Brand name products are available online, but their cost structure are very tightly controlled due to one (French) company that makes all the brand name products.

    Why has a company such as Zoff not entered the U.S. Marketplace? If the products are well made, not the case for many online optical online stores in the U.S.; a ready marketplace should be available. I live in Silicon Valley, and the populate is growing with Asians, but this should not be the only market sector that would be available. It would appear that many different styles are available at most shops, and this would be one of the key elements. Many styles, high quality, and a cost structure that can beat any competitors in the U.S.

    I would be very interested in your comments.

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