Buying glasses can be a truly daunting task even in your own native language. Especially for those living in Japan, it can be even moreso; the technical terminology that was difficult to parse in English becomes utterly incomprehensible in Japanese, and many wonder if it’s even worth the bother. However, unlike in the United States, buying glasses is a relatively painless process, and if you do it right, it can also be much, much cheaper.
Where can I buy them?
Generally speaking, the internet is actually a pretty good place to find an English-speaking optometrist in Tokyo. However, finding an actual optometrist is generally unnecessary if all you need is a new pair of glasses. Unless you have issues with your sight that are new and strange (in which case, absolutely go to the optometrist), you should be able to stop at any store and take care of everything you need within an hour. At stores such as Owndays, you can also get your eyesight checked and prescriptions issued. This process is generally quick and painless, as all of the equipment for eyesight checking is present on-sight. This is not uncommon for glasses shops in Tokyo, so it comes down to finding one where you like the atmosphere, frames, or the service. Though you’re supposed to get new glasses once every 2 years or so, those living in Tokyo long-term will be able to try different shops.
What will I be getting?
Once you’ve found your shop and you have your prescription, it’s time to focus on the most important part: the frames! Your glasses frames are a great way to express your style in any situation. Luckily, frames are much cheaper in Japan than they are in the United States, and a pair of glasses with a stylish set of frames can be as little as 7000 yen (~61 USD). Special, limited-time frames will be more expensive, and add-ons like UV-cut and anti-blue light lenses will each add a bit more, but it’s entirely possible to walk away with a new pair of glasses for less than $100. Once you’ve chosen your frames, depending on your prescription, it’s entirely possible to walk out of the store with a new pair of glasses that day. You can often expect the fitting of the lenses to the frames to take 30 minutes to an hour, the perfect amount of time to go grab a meal or play some games at the arcade. If the lenses you need must be custom-ordered, then you’ll likely need to wait a week or two for the order to process and the new glasses to arrive, but unless you’re looking for bi/trifocals or glasses for the legally, hopelessly blind, then they should have what you need in-store. Once you have your new glasses picked out and your case in hand, you pay for your purchase as you would at any store.
The process of buying glasses is surprisingly painless, which comes as a serious relief in a country where most other healthcare (and most other things) come with a mountain of bureaucracy. As long as you keep your wits about you (and don’t bump into anything), you’ll be seeing straight in no time!