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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Shopping Wisely in Japan

[From July Issue 2010]

It was once said that Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in, but that has drastically changed. Since Japan is now in the middle of a recession, inexpensive commodities are not only being sold in Tokyo, but across the nation. Depending on how you shop, it’s very easy to buy inexpensive merchandise. The best way is to visit discount stores and specialty shops.

Many people buy electrical appliances at big discount stores including “Yamada Denki,” “Edion,” “Bic Camera,” “Yodobashi Camera” and “K’s Denki,” which are scattered across the nation. Some places, like Tokyo’s Akihabara and Shinjuku areas, have lots of big discount stores. Although most of their merchandise is inexpensive, it is always better to check the prices at several stores before you buy, as prices can vary from place to place.

In the clothing market “Uniqlo” remains the most popular because of its durability, nice design and reasonable pricing. However, to compete with Uniqlo, famous overseas brands such as Sweden’s “H&M” and “Forever 21” from the USA, have started doing business in Japan and are becoming popular with young women.

“Tokyu Hands” stores are very popular. They are one-stop shops where well-designed, do-it-yourself, home and lifestyle products are available. “Loft,” which sells mostly sundries, is also another popular, variety goods store. “Don Quijote” is the most famous of the discount shops. They are filled to the rafters with items, some even hanging from the ceiling, making the stores resemble a jungle.

Furthermore, 100 Yen shops are also very popular. You can buy items ranging from stationary to the household goods and even watches for only 100 yen. For the price, the quality of the items is good, with almost no difference compared with regular-priced items. And because everything is so affordable, it makes purchasing easier, even for those who have no intention to shop to begin with.

While most English product-words are now understood by store staff, some exceptions – refrigerator (reizouko), washing machine (sentakuki), vacuum cleaner (soujiki) and rice cooker (suihanki) – still exist. It is also recommended that you learn the word “hoshousho,” or guarantee, which usually comes with most items. Recently, as the number of foreign customers is increasing, many big discount shops now also employ English and Chinese speaking staff.

Color is always an important element in clothing, and most Japanese understand the common English words for white (shiro), black (kuro), red (aka), blue (ao), yellow (kiiro), green (midori) and purple (murasaki). Traditional Japanese words such as “haiiro,” “daidai,” and “momoiro” are not used much anymore, having been replaced by “gurei,” “orengi,” and “pinku.” With sizes, you can say “ookii” for large, “motto ookii” for larger, “chiisai” for small and “motto chiisai” for smaller.


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