By Dan Traylor
I don’t fully understand the language, I don’t fully comprehend the marketing strategy and I certainly don’t know what that thing is for! Shopping in Japan is an assault on the senses and for someone with their foot planted firmly in the anti-consumerism camp, it’s something of a cultural exception to the rule I make when it comes to the stores in Japanese shopping arcades.
Case in point, in between an evening meal of ramen and a sojourn into a night of drinking beer and stumbling to the train station, my attention was drawn to a rather large and unnaturally blue penguin. The store was Don Quijote and the multi-leveled building sold, well, seemingly everything.
I was traveling with the regional partner of JapanTourist who, while I was distracted by the Darth Vader display next to the vacuums, ducked into one of the many areas to find some cans of beer from a small, local craft brewery. By the time he returned I had already moved on to playing a game of badminton on the Super Nintendo system (circa 1988) around the corner before we headed to the next floor.
Ever feel like buying a bike, dried mango or enough equipment to make you an honorary member of your local swat team? Well you can fulfill all such inclinations at this shop — and I think that is the point. The shop is almost as much of a spectacle as it is a practical experience. The store is something that strikes me as a necessary, if not completely strange, experience while visiting a city like Sapporo.
Part of the fun of stopping at Don Quijote’s is the sheer volume and variety of items on display. Even if you are adverse to shopping in general, the store is crazy enough to lure in the most ardent of anti-shopper. And while it’s always fun to take notice of the silliness, there is also a practical element involved. You may walk out of the store with a robot slash alarm clock that up until twenty minutes ago you thought you’d never needed — or knew existed. But you also might walk out with batteries, laundry detergent or a microfiber cloth to clean the lenses of your camera.
Practical or spectacle, a store like Don Quijote offers its visitors items and attractions that fall under both categories. Perhaps the next time you see that unusually large, blue penguin starting at you from the billboard atop the entranceway it’s best you pop inside for a quick look. You never know what you might need – or don’t need.
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