When I first got here, such a thing did not exist. There used to be a national attitude along the lines of “if it isn’t expensive, it isn’t the best, and therefore isn’t worth having.” But this has changed. With the continuing stagnant economic situation, 100yen Stores have cropped up all over the place.
Unlike their American cousins, Dollar Stores, which are crammed with a bunch of useless junk nobody could possibly want, 100yen Stores are a haven of everyday, useful items. After all, we don’t have American-style airplane hangar-sized discount stores. Seiyu department stores have teamed up with Walmart, but while their layouts now look like Walmart, they sell the same Japanese staples that all the other stores sell, so they’re just plain creepy. But they do sell Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and thereby redeem themselves somewhat.
100yen Stores range from tiny warehouse type buildings to clean, bright supermarket sized emporiums. The one I went to today was massive. My Achy Breaky Heart was playing in the background. Today’s haul included:
A cutting board, a camisole, one pair each ear buds and gardening scissors, two hair scrunchies, a packet of individual coffee drippers, cotton gloves, a wine glass and a rubber ducky. Maybe the ducky doesn’t really qualify as “useful”, but it makes me smile, so I think it counts.
All this bounty clocked in at just over $10. Alas, they didn’t have the lemon zester that I was looking for, but they did offer to order it for me. Ya gotta admire a country that still takes service seriously.
100yen Stores are sanctuaries of sanity in a country that is otherwise so painfully overpriced that one hesitates to even look at price tags for fear of offending shopkeepers with our gales of laughter…sometimes. Other times I feel a bit insulted. I want to look into their eyes and ask, “Do you really think this is worth that much? And more than that, do you really think I’m stupid enough to pay that much?” Just yesterday, I popped into a “recycle” shop that was selling old Flintstones juice glasses at 1000yen a pop. Seriously? I think even Fred and Wilma would be offended.