Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Yamada-denki experience

The building sits on a major street in Utsunomiya, a few minutes from the train station. If it weren't for the large neon sign proclaiming "E.C.D. Every Day Discounts" and the large tower which can be seen for blocks around with "Yamada" emblazonned accross it, you'd think it was another office building. As I park my bicycle next to the dozens of others, I catch the faint sound of crowds bustling and begin to wonder whether my trip would have been better scheduled on a Monday rather than a Sunday. Taking my courage in both hands, I enter through the magical automatic doors and am immediately envelopped by a crowd of shoppers eagerly waiting in line for one of 3 or 4 machines of some kind. Clutching their Yamada-denki pointo cahdos, they must be waiting to get a prize of some sort for their loyalty to the Yamada gods.

Seeing no escape from the throng but to head upstairs, I step on to the escalator and enter the wonderful world of Yamada-denki, one of Japan's largest electronics retailers. As I step off the escalator, I am immediately attacked by a screaming hyena of a woman trying to pawn off some flyers. I immediately recite my anti-flyer-person spell: "Nihon-go wakarimasen" (I don't understand Japanese) and she moves on to the next unsuspecting victim. As I take a moment to recover from this close encounter of the advertising kind, I look around and can immediately see that this is not like any electronics store I've ever been in.

The first thing which jumps to me eyes are the countless staff members greeting shoppers with their siren-like calling of "Irashaimase!", a Japanese hypnotic trick I must be immune against. As I begin to walk the aisles, I can't stop wondering how to classify this place. To my right is a selectiong of computers with huge flat panel monitors, to my right is a high-end watch retailer (high-end meaning up to and including Rolex) and straight ahead I can see a section dedicated to motorcycle accessories. As I wander aimlessly looking for the digital camera section, I face a constant barrage of cute girls in uniforms trying to give me advertising in many different formats. This platinum blonde girl is handing out napkins, while that brunette is handing out some kind of enveloppe with no markings on it whatsoever. My spell seems to be working as they start avoiding the Gaikokujin wandering in their midst, until one spots me and stands directly in front of me flailing a paper fan with Nikon prominently dysplayed accross it. Since there is no Japanese on this one, I feel obliged to take it and am finally granted access to the Digital Camera section.

As staff members offer to help me one after another after another, it takes me some time to find what I'm looking for, a memory stick for my camera. Unfortunately, the 1Gig sticks are a little more expensive than I had thought and I don't want to make a snap decision and buy a 512MB stick right away so I decide to simply browse through the store.

I find myself back in front of the escalators yet again after passing through the televisions and taking a left at the car cleaning section. On a whim, I decide to head up to the next level and once more fight my way through advertising ladies, this time trying to change me from a Docomo subsriber to an AU subscriber... and this time, a large monkey seems to be in on the gig too. Once I enter the aisles again, I find myself confronted with yet another camera section with the same goods at the same price... after verifying that I am in fact on a different level I continue my perusing. I must admit there is quite an extensive selection of computers, cameras, MP3 players and gadgets around here but I do not require any of them.

Before fighting my way back downstairs, I decide I should make an offering to Yamada-denki and pick up a few items I don't really need. After working my way through a cash register, I embark on the escalator again for the trip down. As I get to the first level, the crowd around the odd Yamada-denki pointo cahdo machines has doubled in size and I may have to forcibly make my way off the escalator. As I prepare to charge through the crowd in my best football player impression, the Gaikokujin magic once again takes over and the crowd parts for the big white guy coming down the escalator and immediately envelops the few natives who tried to make a break for it.

And just like that, I'm back outside on the street next to my bicyle. Cars are passing on by, the birds are chirping, and people are standing around the 7-Eleven accross the street totally oblivious to the madness and chaos occuring so close to them.

And that was my first trip to Yamada-denki, an odd cross between Best Buy, Future Shop, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and Sears and a realy loud Bingo parlour. It was an interesting experience, cost me about 2200Y and 30 minutes of biking... not a bad tradeoff I think.

Anywho, I'm off to Modern for dinner with some folks... tomorrow I will strap on the ol' Sony DSCW1 and some lenses and finally do some exploring in the 'hood. The weather seems to be well suited for it, under 30 degrees for the first time in a few weeks!

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Anonymous S'mee said...

So, what was it like being Japan's version of Moses? I don't think anyone really understands what a sea of people can be (unless trying to Christmas shop 1 week before the actual holiday). Still, you parted the ways without effort. Nor did you get your feet wet. Sounds like you are starting to find your rhythm.


11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont think they are saying sumimasen, its probably irrashaimase.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Contamination said...

Those Point card machines are a kind of slot machine activity. If you insert your Yamada Denki Point Card in you have a chance to win up to 4000 points. And remember the exchange rate of 1 point to 1 yen, it is pretty sweet. Also even if you don't win anything, you get 100 points for just playing and you get 3 chances for every time you buy something.

So I just walk in, run my points card into the machine and get my 100 points and walk away and come back another day to get ANOTHER 100 points and then buy something. It's even better value if you have more than 1 Yamada Denki points card in your family and I have found myself swiping 3 cards that were not my own on one trip.

Being handed 100y for walking through the door? Yes Please!

9:54 AM  

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