Some people say I’m cheap (as in “she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money” and not as in “red lipstick, fishnet stockings and a push-up bra”). Personally, I’d prefer the term “budget minded” or “frugal” but whatever. I can live with cheap.
I’m cheap because I’m also chronically poor. And if you are poor, it’s only logical that you don’t have a lot of cash to throw around. Why I’m poor is a whole another story. My husband says that perhaps if we traveled less we’d have more money to spend on other things. I nod in agreement, and then we both come to the same conclusion – we’d rather travel.
But every so often, even if you are a perpetual traveler, you need to buy stuff. And every so often, even a perpetual traveler needs to settle down for a while. And with settling down come additional expenses like spoons and sofas and skillets and even an occasional cake pan or two. (I refuse to live out of packing boxes and sit on milk crates – been there, done that and I’m too old and cranky for that kind of life now.)
So yeah, every once in a while even a chronically broke tightwad needs to go shopping.
And where do tightwads like me go shopping in Japan? To the Off Center, of course.
In the beginning there was Book Off – a used book store. There’s even one in New York, on 41st Street between 5th Ave and Madison. They have used books and other media (also in languages other than Japanese), all in pretty much excellent condition. I know because I sold them a truckload of my stuff when I was leaving town.
There are Book Offs in other cities in the US and also in France, Canada and Korea.
But I think it’s only in Japan where Book Off became a whole “Off” institution.
There’s “Off” everything now – from clothes to furniture to electronics and pretty much whatever else you can think of in between. All used, all in excellent condition (if not, junk is clearly marked as such), and all cheap.
Last week I went to my local “Off” center, no reason - I was in the neighborhood, that's all, and bought three dresses, which just happened to be new. They still had the original tags on them – that’s pretty common in Japan. Japanese ladies like to shop and then never even wear the stuff they've bought. After one season they realize “oh crap, I won’t be caught dead in those old rags”, get rid of them and promptly go shopping for new, more fashionable things.
Well, I don’t mind wearing last season’s styles. Besides, I still have clothes from fifteen seasons ago, so last year’s is practically brand new and fresh off the runway to me. And the dresses are simple and black, anyway. And black never goes out of style.
Anyway, they cost me the equivalent of 15 bucks (US), they fit and I look nice in them. And that’s really all that matters, right?
To balance my addiction to the local Off Center, the next day we went to the outlet mall in Sano. They had advertised massive sales, but in reality, while the sales were indeed there, only some of them were of the 75% off variety. Luckily, they were at the stores where I normally shop for on sale stuff anyway: French Connection UK, Columbia Outerwear and a few others.
FCUK was this season's Sano sales winner, hands down. Their pants are lovely, black, fit nicely, and damn, they were only 3000 yen! I'm not going to say how many pairs we've bought, OK? - I need to preserve my tightwady image. LOL!
Still, I am not sure I would go to Sano just for ordinary not-on-sale shopping. Nah, definitely not. Cheapskates like me normally shop at UniQlo and for other needs visit the Off Center or 100 yen stores. Yes, we’re THAT cheap in this house!