Where can you buy a mini dustpan and broom shaped like Mickey Mouse, or his and her ear swabs, anyway? Before moving to Japan I too spent sleepless nights pondering these very questions, and now I have the answer: the 100 yen store!
Dollar stores in the U.S. tend to locate in somewhat dodgy neighborhoods and typically stock…well, junk. Our house in Washington DC sits in a textbook Transitional Neighborhood; go one mile west and you’re surrounded by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Capitol, and stately homes that start in the millions. Travel one mile east and D.C. Police set up checkpoints to allow only residents into certain neighborhoods due to shooting sprees. One guess which neighborhood hosts my nearest dollar store.
By contrast, 100 yen stores are everywhere, and absolutely everyone shops there. There are basic, very utilitarian stores and fancy, aspirational ones. But no matter how slick the stores are (or aren’t), they all share a few traits:
- You’ll find useful things like paper towels, trash bags, small kitchen items, hand towels, and so on
- You’ll laugh at incredibly bizarre items that no one could possibly want or buy
- You’ll buy those incredibly bizarre items, because hey, it’s only 100 yen!
Items at the 100 yen store actually cost 108 yen with tax. This means that frequent 100 yen store shoppers get really good at their 108 multiplication tables (17 x 108 = 1836 yen. Obviously.). Some larger items cost more, but they are clearly marked 150, 300, and so on.
The Daiso is the 500 lb. gorilla of 100 yen stores, and today I stopped by my favorite location (3F above Baytown on Honmoku Dori, for you locals out there). As usual, I went in with a short list that included only two items: two different sized trash bags.
And also as usual, I came away with significantly more items.
As I wandered about I started snapping photos of the different departments to capture the broad variety of life problems that Daiso solves. I’d like to point out the great risk I took in capturing said photos. A sign above the register clearly indicates No Photos, and I can’t even claim that I can’t read it because it’s a picture of a camera with a big red X through it. So you’re welcome, people!
In the weeks and months to come I’ll expound on different departments, different 100 yen stores, and my absolute favorite oddball items. For today, let’s hit some highlights!
The travel department, including my absolute favorite wha….?!? item, disposable underwear:
Only In Japan items, like Double Eyelid Tape, Socks Glue, and arm covers:
Ties in case of ramen-related lunch emergencies:
The ceramics department:
Bags and pouches in every shape and size:
Kitchen and baking supplies:
And the best reading glasses ever. Aren’t they actually/vaguely attractive?
More to come–stay tuned!