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GirlTalk Japan -- A Mini Guide For Women


She Loves to Shop...

Jennifer Scerbovic is a Canadian Journeywoman who has lived and worked in Japan. She's kindly sent us her personal shopping tips so that other JourneyWomen can benefit from her research. Prices might change but her overall advice remains both practical and enlightening. Jennifer writes...

Travellers cheques a good idea...
Let's start with the most important tip of all. If you try to use your credit card, shopping in Japan can be a very trying experience. In most major cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima) you'll have no problems in the major department stores like Matsuzakaya, Mitsukoshi, Sogo, Jusco, and in most chain stores (Body Shop, Gap, etc.), but you will not be able to use it in almost all other places. Most smaller stores do not have credit card machines, and staff will be surprised and flustered if you produce your plastic.

Ed. note:
While it makes a lot of sense to carry travellers cheques in Japan, travellers should always, also, have a good supply of yen, especially when going into the smaller towns and villages. Happily, ATM machines have made an appearance in larger Japanese cities but make sure to check with your bank at home for a list of their locations and withdrawal procedures. Remember without your ATM pin number, you cannot access cash so be sure to store that number in a secure place. I actually store mine in two separate places just to be sure.

She bargains for electronics...
One of the best places in Tokyo to shop for electronics is in the Akihabara district. If you speak Japanese, you can play the stores off against each other, and usually talk them down in price. Most of the clerks do speak a little English, though, so you will be able to bargain in English as well. Use a note pad to write down prices when bargaining -- this makes it easier when trying to make yourself understood.

Ed. note:
While you can bargain at flea markets and some electronics shops, prices are generally fixed everywhere else in Japan so guide yourself accordingly.

She seeks small shops...
Unless you want to spend a mountain of Yen on a designer scarf or bag for yourself, only go into the larger stores for curiosity. The best buys are found in smaller shops, close to temples, on side streets, away from the main strips. Another excellent place for shopping is the Japanese equivalent of a Dollar store -- the 100 Yen shop. The turn-over of inventory in these shops is quite high, so stock can change every 3 or 4 days. These shops are excellent for buying chopsticks, rice bowls, chopstick rests, lacquered soup bowls and trays, dust-collecting knick-knacks, and, oddly enough, really good Tupperware.

Ed. Note:
Think creatively when shopping in these little places. I bought an inexpensive set of eight beautifully designed Japanese tea cups in a grocery shop but I've never used them for serving tea. Instead they are perfectly sized for portions of berries, yoghurt or sherbert. My guests love them!

Her very sweet gifts...
Want to find "sweet" inexpensive presents for family and friends? You can stop into a local convenience store (with names like 7-11, Circle K, Family Mart, Sun Every, Sun Kiss). I always pick up Japanese versions of Snickers, Kit-Kat chocolate bars, and whatever else with Japanese characters written on the packaging. I also take home a collection of purely Japanese treats because my pals get a kick out of the really bizarre English names that most treats have. For example, a new chocolate on the market comes in a small box with each chocolate individually wrapped and labelled with "Melty Kiss". Another good one is "Collon balls". Being North American, I don't pretend to understand any of these titles. I just simply enjoy them.





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