Loves to Shop...
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...
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.
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.
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
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.