Let’s Visit IKEA Japan, or “Mītobōru, Onegaishimasu!”

IMG_4348In true expat fashion, the kids and I headed to Ikea in Kohoku yesterday for yet another piece of Only While We’re Here furniture. Frankly I’m surprised that anyone here needs to buy any new Ikea furniture at all, given the brisk trade of second-hand Ikea furniture on the local moms’ Facebook group–but there it is.

A quick note on pronunciation. English speakers say it eye-KEE-uh, but here in Japan it’s EE-kay-ah. It may sound odd, but the Japanese pronunciation is actually closer to the original Swedish. I found this You Tube link with the Swedish pronunciation, so if it’s on You Tube then it must be true!

Before heading to Ikea the first time I scoured the Ikea.jp website, where I was delighted to see an English version. This will be just like shopping at Ikea back in the U.S., I thought. Then I walked into the store and saw this map.

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OK, maybe not.

I can read enough Japanese very slowly, so I probably could have deciphered the map. But honestly following the path would have taken about the same amount of time, so that’s what we did. Thankfully the store was quite empty on a rainy Tuesday, so we didn’t have to fight the typical crowds.

A lot of Ikea looks the same as in the U.S., like the lighting and chair departments:

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…the meatballs, natch (in our family this is the Meatball Tax, because we can’t visit Ikea without ordering a plate)….

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…the As Is room….

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…tags sending you to the correct aisle and bin of the Self Serve area…IMG_4328

….the Swedish Food Market…

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…and the random tableaux that make you want to furnish your house like an Ikea showroom.

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So what’s different? Japanese style curry at lunch….

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….vending machines for ordering food in the Bistro (we love our vending machines in Japan!)….

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…self-serve cutting in the fabric area, where this sign allegedly tells how to cut, weigh, and tag your fabric….

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…the opportunity to catch up on sumo results while packing up Swedish Food Market purchases with newspaper….

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…and my personal favorite, the sign proudly declaring Iran as the country of origin for the Persian rugs. Until just a few months ago the U.S. banned the import of rugs from Iran, and President Obama signed an executive order back in February lifting the embargo. So maybe U.S. Ikeas sell these now as well. [I remember buying rugs in Bahrain in 1998 and getting slightly-too-vehement assurances that the rugs hailed from Turkey.]

A few other quirks to Japanese Ikea? The free shuttle bus ferries customers to the nearest train station. I didn’t see any flat packs going on the shuttle, so I’m guessing that carless customers use the home delivery service a lot.

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Speaking of cars, Japanese drivers love to park nose out–even at places like Ikea and Costco where frankly it would be nice to have the trunk end available for easy loading.

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After a quick nap near checkout and a snack from the Bistro, it was time to head home.

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See you next time, Ikea Kohoku!

P.S. Not a selfie while driving! Tessa sat in front and snapped this. Because Safety First!

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