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.
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.
cash for Bullet Train...
I just got back from
Japan and have a few observations for you. First, if you are Canadian
and want to use an Atm machine. the only one I could find that worked
for me was in a Citibank. Not only was it in English but I could
use my bank card as long as I transferred funds from a chequing
account. Some of the big department stores take Visa but when I
tried to pay for tickets on the Sankenson (bullet train), they wouldn't
accept my Visa. So, be sure you have enought cash on hand for transportation.
Lynda in Canada
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 them!
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.