A trip to Daiso

Each day we plan at least one outing that gets our new grandson and his mother out of the house. It might be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or a bigger adventure. As our daughter heals from the effects of having given birth through surgery and our grandson grows and strengthens, the size of the adventures grows. Yesterday we decided to make a trip to a store that has become a tradition for many visitors to Japan: Daiso. Sometimes called the 100 yen store, it is roughly equivalent to the various dollar stores that are all across the United States. There is a lot of merchandise available at low prices. Some of the merchandise isn’t the highest quality and there are certainly many items that can’t be found in such a store, but it is a good place to shop for a few gifts and souvenirs.

Among the items we like to bring home from Japan are chopsticks, fans and origami paper. Daiso is a good place to pick up all of these items. There are more expensive and higher quality versions of all of those products, but the less expensive ones make fine reminders of a trip to Japan and good gifts for those who are at home. For example there are expensive hand painted rice papers that can be used for origami, but paper to teach and learn the basic folds of the ancient art can be virtually any piece of paper that is square. The paper cranes made famous by the historical novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes were folded from medicine wrappers. Paper, along with most other items, was in short supply following the Second World War in Japan. Sadako used what was available. The cranes which are displayed in the Hiroshima museum are tiny, though most of the cranes at memorials and other locations are folded form paper that is a bit larger and therefore a bit easier from which to make the shape.

For those of us who fold a few figures from memorized steps or from a craft class a few sheets of simple paper are just right. Packages of sheets of paper fill most of an aisle at the Daiso store and can be bought for 100 yen each. Because we have access to the military APO postal system through our daughter, it is simple to mail home a small box with items from the store, so a trip to Japan is a good time to stock up on origami paper for ourselves and some to share with friends at home.

It is the same with chopsticks and paper fans. There are fancy and expensive versions of both products available, but for everyday use and for gifts to family and friends, less expensive versions are completely adequate.

Like the dollar stores at home, Daiso seems to be very popular among the Japanese people. On each visit we see people of all ages making their purchases in the large and well-lit stores.

A trip to Daiso was a fun outing for our family yesterday - just the right size for the amount of energy we had. The weather continues hot and humid here and it doesn’t take too much time outside to be feeling hot and tired and ready to return to the comfort of our daughter’s air conditioned home.

Being with our grandson is a reminder of how our life became more complex when we became parents. Each outing is a logistical challenge. If it were just adults, we’d grab our purses and wallets and head out the door. The baby, however, required a car seat and a diaper bag and perhaps a stroller or at least a special pack to carry the infant. It brought a smile to my face to see the back of our daughter’s car filled with all kinds of baby items. It made me remember the checklists of items we had to take along for each outing when she was a baby. We had to have the right special toys and the right extra clothing and a number of other items. It is no wonder that our son and daughter in law, who have three children, both drive mini vans. Space to haul things is part of being a parent.

A trip to Daiso isn’t the same kind of cultural immersion as say, a visit to the Hachinohe fish market. Daiso bears a lot of similarities with stores that can be found in the US. The fish market, on the other hand is so uniquely Japanese that at least here in Japan a google search turns up websites that are entirely written in Japanese.

One of the fun things about being here in Japan is that when we have location services turned on with our computers, Google searches often do not result in English language web sites. Sometimes I turn off the location services so that I can more easily find web sites in a language that I can read. Still, being immersed in Japanese, even when I cannot read or understand the language, is part of being in Japan and I don’t want to avoid the language entirely. That is another fun thing about a visit to Daiso. The clerks who assist customers use Japanese as their primary language. While most hotels and many restaurants employ people who are fluent in English, such skills aren’t required to work at Daiso. English language classes are part of public school in Japan and most people have a good basic understanding of the language, but opportunities to practice and become fluent come primarily from travel and not everyone has the luxury of international travel. We are not fluent in Japanese and are dependent upon those who are able to speak English. However, we enjoy going to places that are distinctly Japanese where we are immersed in the language and culture and surrounded by those who are not speaking English. Daiso works well for us. We understand enough to make simple purchases and even when we can’t read all of the signs we can make simple purchases knowing the price range of items in the store.

All in all, our trip to Daiso was just the right size adventure for a Saturday afternoon.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!