Shopping in Ricefields
I still remember my first visit to a Japanese
I stood there thinking that this was a joke that didn't
need a punch line.
In the US, you see, I was a mall-rat.
Most of my shopping was done in these sanitized, climate-controlled, pleasure domes.
Magazines, photo supplies, clothes, music, movies, greasy food - everything I needed or wanted was under one roof.
What I didn't buy at the mall, I picked up at supermarkets or chain stores.
An occasional mail order was about as exotic as my shopping got.
That all changed when I moved to Japan, where my shopping experiences fell into one of two categories - Difficult or Bizarre.
The first time I tried to buy toothpaste would qualify
as difficult shopping.
A bizarre experience, on the other hand, would be the
night I purchased a cold liter of Asahi beer from a vending machine that
sat within eyesight of a high school.
Still, these vending machines are just the tip of the
In my neighborhood, for example, I can buy ethnic jewelry, a plastic Godzilla, hats of all varieties, Avon products, roasted chestnuts, steamed buns, octopus balls, beer, and sake - without ever entering a store or seeing a receipt.
In Asia, the shopping experience becomes more
interesting than the actual items for sale.
You might wonder if any place remains unsoiled by the
hands of capitalism.