With more than 350 stores in over 40 countries, the ready-to-assemble furniture store IKEA hardly needs an introduction. Originating in Sweden 70 years ago, the brand has become an easy favorite for its wide variety, lower prices, and quality products. Currently there are eight stores across Japan. The northeastern part of Japan, Tohoku, received its first IKEA in the capital Sendai on July 17th, 2014. I recently had a chance to investigate and confirm why everyone was telling me it is so amazing.
The store is huge. It is even bigger, or felt bigger, than the US location I visited years ago near San Francisco. However, the third floor is parking and first floor sells just a few food items, contains the cash register area, and includes the large warehouse area where you pick up your products after browsing through the store. Even with only the second floor to explore, you will probably find yourself inside the store much longer than you intend if you stick to the suggested course marked by arrows on the floor. There is just so much to look at. When shopping at IKEA, take a note of the product number of the larger items you want to pick up later in the warehouse. There are notepads around the store, or just ask a staff member for assistance. Product signs, however, are in all Japanese. The store displays the products on shelves and more popularly in demonstration rooms. Walk through living rooms, bedrooms, and more and pay special attention to couches, TV's, children accessories, lighting, office chairs, and...well everything. You are really shopping with your eyes here, so impulse buying must surely happen on a daily basis.
IKEA goes beyond just numerous quality products to offer a whole shopping experience. First and foremost, are the friendly and attentive staff. They can answer your questions and give you some interior design advice. As the manager of the store is not Japanese and there was an English announcement during closing, I suspect some staff can assist in English. There is a children's play area parents can deposit their children while they shop or just enjoy a quiet moment together sitting on the sofas or beds throughout the store. All this shopping making your hungry? IKEA has you covered. There is a restaurant which sells IKEA's signature meatballs, as well as some other Japanese friendly cuisine options. If your wallet feels the burn after too much shopping, the first floor has a cafe which sells 100 yen hot dogs and 50 yen soft serve ice cream.
As many people in Japan don't have cars, or cars big enough to hold large purchases, the store has created delivery and even assembly/set up services. These services cost extra and depend on product size and weight, and delivery date. The service counter to the right of the checkout lanes can explain everything. The store accepts payment through MasterCard, Visa, Diner's Club, JCB, and American Express credit cards.
IKEA is probably not so much a tourist destination unless you want to some cheap tasty food, but it is a treasure chest for students, workers, and citizens living in Japan that want to decorate, organize, and liven up their living arrangements. Happy shopping!