There are so many stories to tell here, it’s just a matter of having the time to put them in print. Today I went out provisioning for the coming week, reminding me that I wanted to share a bit more about the shopping ‘experience’ in this part of the world.
While I hate to be critical of cultures not my own, the Japan I have seen so far seems to lurch between the stunningly beautiful (natural wonders, historic sites and artifacts; fine and applied arts), the nondescript (my campus, most of the residential and business buildings) and the truly garish and riveting. My post today will share some of the latter; I have another whole set of photos queued up about a temple visit which will return us to the former. And of course I haven’t lost sight of the fact that I do want to talk about my students here this summer; let me be clear that I have met some truly remarkable young men and women and it has been an honor to share time and thoughts with them.
But back to the show. The grocery store described below in a previous post is part of a large complex of Japanese franchaise stores, among them a electronics outlet, a clothing store, a drug store, a set of little shops, and the Daiso, or 100-yen store, similar to the Dollar Stores in the US. (100 yen equals 80 cents.) Unlike the Dollar Stores, many of the items in Daiso are quite high quality and useful; today however I’ll focus on some of the delightful oddities I have found.
First, a look at the interior itself. It’s a bit of an overload; one has to walk around for a bit to get oriented:
We’ll start with something not too out of the ordinary; I-phone covers. These are in traditional Japanese motifs, and frankly, if I had an I-phone, I would buy one, just because I really like these:
Next we move on to an item that has interesting design features, but frankly I’m not sure what the utility is. Soap dish? Paperweight? Large doll house furniture? They stand about five inches in height.
Japan, as you’ve seen, is really good in the admonitions and instructions department. Here’s the DIY section, complete with warnings some of which I can’t quite puzzle out…
Now we start tip-toeing into the “okay, I’ve really never even imagined this before” department. I’m captivated by the idea of colored Q-tips…but black?
I laughed out loud when I saw this following item, and yes, I had to buy one – for 100 yen you can’t go wrong and there might be a moment where this comes in very very handy:
Finally, standing in the check-out line, you might be suddenly very thirsty and reach for one of these refreshing beverages:
Once loaded up with all the goodies you never knew you couldn’t live without, it’s time to explore the rest of the complex. The next stops are familiar favorites, just with a twist. First, a photo shop that demonstrates a kind of marketing overkill that I don’t quite understand:
Here’s a local restaurant, ready to serve you whatever you desire. The unfurled blue banners over the front entrance symbolize that the establishment is open and ready for business:
Next a couple American brands slightly reconfigured for the local market:
…and I’m particularly charmed by how the Colonel displays his cross-culture sensitivities:
But every once in a while, there’s just a reminder that “you aren’t in Kansas anymore.” Most of us are familiar with how Asian material culture uses English as decoration, often incomprehensible for native speakers. It will take a while, however, for anything to meet and exceed this name for a set of second-hand shops:
So just a peek at my weekly ritual. Let me know if you need me to pick up something you now know you can live without.