Showing posts with label Shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shopping. Show all posts

Monday, February 22, 2010

I "heart" Brazilian Supermarkets

My friend just called and told me she was on her way to a Brazilian restaurant in Moka. And that resulted in two things:

1. me getting very hungry, and
2. this blog post.

Funny, because just yesterday I was reading on some other blog a bunch of useless, racist drivel about Brazilian Japanese (no link, because racist nonsense shouldn’t be advertised). And the day before I went shopping at a Brazilian supermarket in Moka (bought pickled beets, sausages and Inca Kola).


Takara Brazilian Supermarket in Moka

So, yes, in case you didn’t know, there are Brazilians living in Japan. Quite a few of them. And Peruvians. Also quite a few of them. And Bolivians and other South Americans, but not so many of them.

How did they get here? By plane, presumably. And yes, they are of Japanese descent, but it might be hard to realize by looking at some of them.

The story goes like this: back in prehistoric times, sometime around the beginning of the 20th century bunches of impoverished Japanese peasants were enticed to immigrate to Brazil. And so they did. Until 1941 almost 190 000 people left Japan in search of a better life in Brazil.


The immigration from Japan to Peru had started even earlier, back in the late 1890. Anyway, fast forward to the end of the 20th century – that’s when the descendants of those Japanese, in order to escape the instability of Latin America, came knocking on the door of their “motherland”.


A small mercado in Kanuma

Those “returnees” are known as “dekasegi” and while many do struggle in Japan, because even though they may look Japanese, culturally they are not, there are also many success stories. But you don't hear much about those successes, because really, like, who cares?

You just hear about those who lost their jobs due to the economic downturn and about the Japanese government’s scheme to pay them some laughable amount of cash and send them back to wherever it is they came from.


But where were we? Ah yes, Brazilian supermarkets. Yes, these people need to eat, and I for one, am very glad for this fact. Since this is not Tokyo and I can’t just hop to a local import food store, I am very grateful for our local Brazilian markets. Because they stock all sorts of stuff, and not only from Brazil. And while I am very happy in Japan, every once in a while I crave pickled beets or proper chorizo, and yes, even Inca Kola.


And now, if you excuse me, I have a lovely beet salad to consume.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I "heart" konbinis

Two words for you: convenience stores. Actually, only one word if you say it in Engrish (or Japanese – depending how you look at it) – konbini.

Family mart

Japan does them like nobody else. They’re everywhere, easy to get to, sell all sorts of stuff, they're clean, efficient, and well, convenient. Konbinis were the one thing about Japan I missed the most when living on the northern outskirts of Europe.

But they’re not just simple convenience stores. They’re conveniently convenient stores, too. And not just when it comes to melon bread and adult manga. Want to pay your car insurance and electric bill? No problem, you can do it at your local Lawson.

Lawson 2

Want to shop on-line but don’t have a credit card? Or have a foreign credit card and don’t want to get whacked with massive currency exchange fees? No worries, you can still shop on-line and then pay for the goods at a convenience store. That’s how I bought my new MacBook – paid for it at 7-Eleven.


Want to withdraw money but can’t find an ATM that would accept your foreign bank card and there’s no post office around? Just head to the nearest 7-Eleven. Their ATMs do what many Japanese banks’ ATMs are unable to do – process a transaction on a foreign bank card.


We have two konbinis within 300 meters of our apartment building. One is a Lawson’s and the other 7-Eleven. There’s a Sunkus just a few minutes further up the road and a Family Mart, if you decide to walk in the opposite direction.

Daily yamazaki

Not every konbini is open 24/7 (regardless of what some misguided visitors may tell you), but most open early and stay open until late. A huge contrast to a certain European city where the only thing still open around midnight was one lonely gas station.

And now, if you excuse me, it’s time for my late night walk to Lawson’s to get me some caramel ice cream. See you later!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When a Cheap Person Goes Shopping in Japan

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.

Off center

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.

Sano outlets

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!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cool Gifts - Made in Prison

Prison cell phone holder Are you tired of the same old gifts from Japan? You know, the kind that all gaijins buy at the airport and think that people back home will like - tacky yukatas pretending to be kimonos, chopsticks, overpriced tea sets, fans that are in reality made in China and so on…

This time I thought I’d try something new. Actually, I didn’t even think, it just sorta happened.
We went shopping and run into a massive market (inside our local shopping mall) selling items made by inmates doing time in various Japanese prisons.

The selection was simply mind-boggling, from really fancy coffee tables, to pillows, to kitchen stuff, to quite nice paintings and carvings of Hokkaido nature, to soy sauce (yes, organic and made by prisoners) and udon noodles. There was even scented soap, which totally creeped me out, especially since I just finished “The Reader” earlier that day. (By the way, I hated the English translation of this book, it’s stiff and inconsistent.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any T-shirts. So, instead I got this cute cell-phone holder, which I’m using as a case for my make-up compact. Yes, I got it as a gift, but then decided to keep it, because I am THAT selfish.

The holder was made by kids doing time in juvie in Hakodate. I want to contact this prison’s administrator and suggest they start making T-shirts and tote bags. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shopping and sleeping part 1

My last post made me think about airports in general. There are some that I love, there are some that I hate, and finally, there are some that I’d rather chew my leg off and bleed to death than visit ever again. In other words, I’m just like most travelers.

But unlike most travelers, I rate my airports according to a super-sophisticated, scientific methodology. It’s extensive and complex, and took years to perfect, but fortunately, it neatly comes down to two easy to grasp points: shopping and sleeping.

(Eating is not all that important to me, as long as there’s a soda vending machine nearby and a place to buy a bag of chips, I’m all set.)

Shopping is self-explanatory. I love to shop. It’s hands-down my most favorite activity. And because I’m lazy by nature, I don’t want to go far to indulge my need for designer sunglasses and skin creams.

Some airports, simply based on their proximity to shopping nirvanas of New York or Paris, you’d think would be magnificent places to buy, buy and then buy some more. Sadly, you’d think wrong.

Paris CDG is a vile pit of dirt with pedestrian selection of big-name brands. The airport shopping options seem to cater almost exclusively to Russians and Chinese, who push and shove and scoop up make-up on sale like it’s going out of style.

New York airports are shopping disasters not even worth mentioning here.

And then, there are the likes of Dubai and Narita. As far as I’m concerned, Dubai is as close to paradise as one can get. What am I saying? Dubai IS paradise. A 24-hours a day, 7-days a week shopping paradise, all within the comforts of your departure gate. And there’s even a Baskin Robbins there. Yes, I’m sure the rest of Dubai is also lovely, but why bother? I can satisfy all my needs without ever visiting the city.


After several years of living in a third-world country without a donut in sight, this proved to be an orgasmic experience.

Narita, on the other hand, is Narita, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Japanese, right?

Unfortunately, when traveling to Seoul this summer, I won’t be transiting through either Dubai or Tokyo. Not even Paris. I’ll have to make do with Helsinki. Which leaves me with a serious problem, and anyone who’s seen the airport shopping options in Helsinki will understand my pain…


Dubai, oh how I miss thee, let me count the ways... Chanel, Dior, Michael Kors, Prada...

Next time, we’ll discuss sleeping in airports.