Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Kuruma banare (車離れ): de-motorisation

Posted 18 Jan 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category News, Shopping in Japan, Technology, Travel

Lots of cars

While car companies are currently in a terrible financial situation, with sales having slumped in developed countries, most do see light at the end of the tunnel and anticipate a recovery. In Japan, however, the decline may be much harder to reverse.

In 2009 it is predicted that 4.86 million new cars will be sold in Japan, which would be the first time in 30 years that sales have fallen below five million. What is even more worrying for Japanese car makers is that young people – men especially – are far less interested in cars than they used to be.

Car sales demographic

While owning a car used to be a status symbol, Japanese youngsters these days are more likely to be spending their money on the latest mobile phones, MP3 players and other electronic gadgetry than on their first car. The convenience of public transport in urban areas also leaves childless 20- and 30-somethings with little reason to buy one.

So how can car manufacturers make their products more appealing to young Japanese? Perhaps one way forward is for companies to generate more revenue from car-related services than from car sales. A car-sharing scheme could prove popular, especially when coupled with an online “car booking” service that can be accessed from mobile phones. All for a monthly fee, of course.

What do you think will happen to the Japanese car industry?

Related: “Japan auto sales plunge as young lose interest” – The Detroit News

Muji’s 2008 advent calendar

Posted 24 Nov 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Shopping in Japan, Tokyo

Muji has released a quite enormous advent calendar this year. I don’t think there’s enough room on my desk at work for this little beautie:

Each day has its own drawer, containing a piece of the treasure of the Sierra Madre. The 19th contains what appears to be a lozenge of pure gold, as you can see below:

(¥2,100 from Muji. Click here to find your nearest store)

Is Japan Expensive? Part 3: Clothing

Posted 26 Jun 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Is Japan Expensive?, Shopping in Japan, UK

Part three of our “Is Japan Expensive?” series looks at clothing. For most newcomers to Japan who don’t speak the lingo the most likely line of employment will be as an English teacher or assistant, usually with one of the big “Eikaiwas” like Aeon, or through the government-sponsored JET programme. When you leave your home country you’ll have to fit all your worldly belongings in one large suitcase, and of course things can – and do – go missing. There is also the Japanese summer to contend with: 36 degree heat and 100% humidity will leave your once pristine shirts with horrible yellow stains around the armpit area, and thanks to the uselessness of most washing machines here (cold water only!) you’ll find them impossible to completely remove.

Basically, you’re going to need some new clothes.
For this week’s comparisons I’ve chosen either identical items of clothing or similar clothing from similar shops. I’ve only picked three items because, to be honest with you, the list could have gone on forever!

Jeans: Diesel Larkee

Polo shirt: M size, white

  • UK price: £12.00 – from Marks & Spencer
  • JP price: £6.06 (¥1,290) – from Uniqlo

Work Shirt: M size, white with stripes

  • UK price: £25.00 – from Topman
  • JP price: £23.67 (¥5,040) – from The Suit Company

As you can see, all items are cheaper when purchased in Japan. The Diesel jeans might be something of an exception, as Diesel stores in Japan seem to sell jeans for a significantly higher price than rakuten.com does (¥30,000 plus). Is this the same for the UK as well?

The polo shirt from Uniqlo is likely to be of a lower quality than its Marks & Spencer counterpart (probably a cotton/nylon mix), hence the much lower price. I highly recommend Uniqlo for basics (vests, underwear, etc) because it’s so cheap. They also have a spiffing t-shirt campaign running at the moment called UT, which has an equally spiffing website (take a look!). There are some limited-edition Metal Gear Solid 4 tees for sale at the moment (see here).

For work clothes, such as shirts and suits, Japan – or at least its main cities – provide an incredible range of shops to choose from. The Suit Company sells affordable clothing for 20-somethings who don’t wish to break the bank. One of the best features of The Suit Company is the variety of shirt sizes they offer, especially in sleeve length: compared with the average Japanese customer I have very long arms – very much like a shaved orang-utan – which has resulted in one or two disastrous purchases in the past.

In conclusion, if you’re of average height, and are not overweight, you will probably have little trouble buying clothes in Japan. Big feet can be a problem, however. Shoe shops usually stock sizes up to 28cm, which is a UK size 9. They do have sizes bigger than this, so you don’t have to wander around barefoot or anything, it’s just that your choice of shoes/trainers will be a bit more limited.

For shoes and trainers, ABC Mart is a good place to start, and if you’re a real trainer fanatic I strongly recommend exploring the streets of Shibuya (throw the map away – exploring is more interesting without one!).

Next week we’ll be looking at the biggest expense of them all: housing and rent.

(Prices calculated using 26th June’s exchange rate: #1 = 212.94)

New York

Posted 25 Aug 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal, Photography, Travel, USA, Weather

The Thinker in Central ParkVery much enjoyed New York, and forgot about the huge amounts of pot holes on every street between JFK airport and Manhattan. Pot holes held no fears for our shuttle bus driver, however, as we stormed through traffic at 80mph. Springy suspension is the daddy!

Our hotel wasn’t bad at all, though some strange latex cover had been put over the bathroom ceiling to prevent ancient bits of plaster falling off and killing customers (I put my hand to it to check, and felt a wedge of plaster resting on it that could have felled an ox). Luckily, the room had a big telly and a huge bed: that’s all I need!

Speaking of TV, it always astonishes me how many bizarre religious commercials crop up on US networks. One of the best was for a “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which went something like this:

The Reverend X wants to place in your hands the “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which he has personally blessed and anointed. Thousands of people around the world have used this Biblical point of contact prayer cloth to receive abundant blessings of financial prosperity.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that the Big Man upstairs (if he is upstairs; he might be in the garage for all we know) would probably not have approved of this one.

Living in a country where customer service has reached an insane level of politeness, the care-free attitude of most sales assistants was absolutely fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, being polite is all very well and good, but to be quite honest it drives me nuts – in Tokyo, I can’t look at a item of clothing in a department store for more than two seconds without someone drifting to my side, then providing me with a detailed explanation of the item in question: Aaargh!

Scrawny bugger in Battery ParkObviously, some people don’t care for the care-free attitude: I witnessed a woman go absolutely ape shit in CVS (Boot’s the chemist’s US equivalent). I guess she wasn’t too happy about their photo developing service, and went off on a particularly gormless-looking girl behind the service desk. The other staff found this highly amusing.

A similar situation occurred in a subway station: Some woman was unleashing every last drop of verbal venom in her guts at an old man. Some of the things she said were unbelievable.

Visited Ground Zero. Now that is a big hole. I vaguely remember going there seven years ago: it was a Sunday and some lads were playing football on the street, right outside the World Trade Center buildings. Anyway, we didn’t linger there long; someone was trying to sell maps and memorabilia shouting: “This is history! Right here!” He could do with working on his sales pitch, as he scared away almost everyone within a hundred metre radius.

MoMA's central hallMade it to MoMA. (I wanted to go the last time I visited New York, but it was being renovated at the time.) It was heaving, and there was so much to look at that it was all quite overwhelming. There was a particularly good exhibition on Soviet Modernist architecture – the New York Times has very good article about it here – and very nice ice cream in the cafe… err, I really should have been paying more attention, shouldn’t I?

Everyone seemed to SHOUT down their mobile phones at any given opportunity, no matter how inappropriate the location, or the conversation. I couldn’t help but overhear one old gadgie make an appointment with his doctor to check haemorrhoids. You’d think if you were discussing something like this, you wouldn’t put your phone on speaker mode, in the middle of a cafe, at lunch time.

Lower Manhatten from the Staten Island FerryTook the Staten Island Ferry. Did you know that it’s free? Well, it is, and is definitely worth doing, although there’s nothing at all to do on the Staten Island side – 99% of passengers on board our ferry went straight back to Manhattan.

For the rest of our time, we didn’t do anything overtly touristy – a bit of shopping, which for me was mostly for books (so so so many book shops – you people living in English-speaking countries don’t know how lucky you are!), and for Ayako mostly – you guessed it – clothes and bags. I’ve never understood why women don’t just want, but need so many bags. What’s all that about?

Anyway, we’re back in Japan, where it’s currently 35ºC and the humidity is disgusting. Back at work, which is the same as usual (I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever finish the project we started eight months ago), and… well… yeah, that’s about it really.

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your summer, wherever you are! I’ll be back with more stuff soon.

Supermarket Espionage #1

Posted 27 Jan 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Food, Only in Japan, Tokyo

Staring into other people’s shopping baskets while queuing at the supermarket checkout. Everyone does it, in fact it’s almost impossible not to have a sneaky peak. I mean, what else is there to do? Read the ingredients label on your Sharwood’s Tikka Curry sauce jar?
You can learn a lot about someone from the contents of their shopping basket, at least on a somewhat primitive level – e.g. three big boxes of Frosties = a house-full of ADD sprogs – but there are times when absolutely no concrete information can be gleaned. It’s at this point imagination is called upon to step in and fill the breach.

Let us begin…

Supermarket Espionage #1

  • Subject: Female, approx. 55 years old, wearing oversize pea-green overcoat. Looked a bit like “Postman Pat”.
  • Basket Contents: 5 grapefruit, 4 small cartons of fresh cream.
  • Conclusion: Born into a rich merchant family in Yokohama, at age seven she turned to a life of crime, robbing labradors of their pocket money in order to feed a highly destructive Sherbet Dip addiction. Disowned by her parents aged eleven (they lacked the inner courage necessary to come to terms with her “moral turpitude”), she had no option other than to seek refuge in a shelter for eleven-year-old middle class children (of which there were many in those days). It was here, while struggling with her Sherbet dependency problem, that she was introduced to the healing powers of the grapefruit. Legend has it the grapefruit was used by the goddess Shiva, daughter of Steve the Cobbler, to heal warriors plagued by “cripple jaw” during the Manchurian War. Coupled with fresh cream, it’s healing powers were magnified tenfold. It is said any army who carries the “grapefruit and cream” before it is invincible. And so, she took to buying these two commodities every day. Her Sherbet addiction swiftly concluded, from that point forth she vowed to never live another day without eating both in unison.

Moving On

Posted 26 Nov 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Food, Japanese Language, Only in Japan, Video, Weather, Work

Yes indeed, after eighteen months of teaching at A Big university I will finally be moving on to pastures new come the end of December. Learning some Japanese seems to have paid off and I’ve managed to secure a job in central Tokyo doing interesting stuff (well, interesting for me, at least). My new company wants to employ me for at least the next five years, so it looks like I’ll be in Tokyo for quite a while yet. But… it’s very possible I’ll be making business trips between Japan and the UK (as well as Australia, South Africa and Singapore – cool!) over the next few years, so I’m sure I’ll get a chance to see at least some friends and family sooner rather than later!

In other news:

  • Bought a new sofa last week, which arrived this morning and is sweeeeeet. Lying on it feels like being back in the womb.
  • The weather has turned: It’s now most definitely cold. The upside is that almost every day is incredibly clear and bright; I can see Mt. Fuji from my office again!
  • Christmas has arrived. It’s impossible to go shopping without being bombarded by Xmas songs, tinsel, horrendous plastic reindeer and lights, so so many lights. But – what with Japan being not being a Christian country and all that – Xmas Day is in fact a normal working day. So what’s the effing point? Ey?
  • Have a Japanese exam next Sunday and have come to the conclusion that I haven’t studied anywhere near hard enough recently. Oh well…

Today we decided to have dinner at home for once (we usually eat out on Saturdays). This is what we bought:

Seafood Feast

Now that’s what I call fresh! Cooking them proved a bit of a heart-wrenching experience (word of advice: never grill shrimp unless you are 100% sure they are dead first), but as you can see, the end result looked pretty good, and the taste wasn’t bad either. Recently I’ve been trying to at least put some effort into cooking. I think everyone has the impression that everything in Tokyo is ridiculously expensive (melons more expensive than human kidneys and so on…), but to be honest I would say the UK is probably even more expensive these days, especially when it comes to restaurants… But anyway, it’s late and I’m in dire need of sleep. Ciao for now.