[From October Issue 2010]
In May 2010, approximately 1,200 people lined up in front of the Apple Store in Ginza, Tokyo, on the day the iPad was released. Some of them were even queuing the night before. In other countries this might have been something of a one-off, but in Japan, it is not unusual to see a long line of people waiting in front of a store on opening day or if it is popular.
For example, at GRANSTA in the underground level of Tokyo station there is a variety of famous shops, many of them selling food items. At one of them, the Nihonbashi NishikiHorin, there is a long line of customers daily. These people are waiting to purchase the karintou (traditional deep-fried sweet made of wheat) snacks. Before, it used to be a two-hour line-up during the afternoon to evening business hours. However ever since the shop added a second cash register, the line-up has gotten shorter, but you still have to wait about 15 minutes. Because the shop is located within the terminal, the line starts a short way from the storefront to avoid obstructing pedestrians. Staff then come and guide you to the storefront when it’s your turn.
At Mensoubou Mutekiya in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, the long line full of students and young couples surrounding the store is an everyday sight. The weekend and holiday lunchtime period is the busiest, with approximately 50 people in line waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour.
SASAKI Daisuke, a college student waiting in the line with a friend says, “I wanted to try this popular ramen at least once. If you’re in line with a friend, you can talk while you wait, so it’s stress free.” Many people in line found out about the ramen on a weblog or by word-of-mouth.
How do non-Japanese see these long waiting lines? Steve WHITE, a Canadian says, “Westerners are often not as patient as the Japanese, and not as interested in new things. So these long lines seem very peculiar to us.” Japanese people have a tendency to feel comfortable when doing the same thing as everyone else. However, you need to have a clear reason to join a line. It may be to confirm a friend’s recommendation, or to acquire a limited edition product. Recently, there are some people who even “enjoy the wait.”
Ca, an office worker who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture, introduces shops that are the talk of the town on her weblog “Oishiimon! Essay Ver. 4.” The entries are written in simple and easy to understand text, and the clear photos are mouth watering. Ca says, “I would like to try the places that I found for delicious things even if there is a long line.” The places that she introduces always have a long line. Ca’s weblog is so popular that it has even been introduced on television, while recording 1,000 page views in just a few hours.
TANAKA Chisako is an office worker who uses Ca’s weblog for reference. “Weblogs are just one source of information, but I would like to go and see for myself. I enjoy discussing whether the wait was worth it or not with my friends,” she says.
Text: MUKAI Natsuko