Keep Calm and Continue Shopping! 5 Things You Should Know Before Shopping in Japan
Have you ever gone shopping in Japan before? It is often said that customer service is excellent and Conbini (convenience stores) are just about everywhere in Japan, however, some of the shopping customs can be strange and even kind of shocking to those visiting for the first time.
The GIF from the MV of LADBABY singing about shopping at conbini, “C’est si bon Kibun”
These situations may depend on what kind of shop it is, so I note the type of shop at the end of the lead sentence.
1. Don’t be startled by shop staff calling out “Irasshaimase” [Anywhere]
“Irrashaimase” means “Welcome to the store!”, and you can hear it at any store or restaurant, from Conbini to high-class boutiques. In places like large department stores, shop staff may even bow (they are trained to bow a certain way as well) when they say “Irasshaimase”!
At ramen shops, izakaya, or rather noisy places, the “Irasshaimase” tends to be louder and more repeated as people working there are mostly masculine guys with knives in their hands and standing over hot stoves (sooo hot!) and they think making noise gives off a vigorous impression. Some staff say”irasshaimase” so often that it becomes broken and sounds like “Rasshaiaseeee” or “Asshaiyaseeeee”.
Thus, the way of saying “Irasshaimase” is different depending on the shop. They’re welcoming you by saying the phrase but you don’t need to be afraid of it or feel awkward by not knowing how to react. They don’t feel sad or angry not getting reaction to the visitors, so just ignore it, or just smile back will be good enough! Do not say “Irasshaimashita” in response because that sounds arrogant and you might secretly get bad service.
2. Shop staff will walk you to the entrance of the shop when you buy something [Clothes/Fashion shops]
When you buy clothes, shoes, accessories…fashion items at the store, shop staff will say “I’ll walk you to the entrance of the shop”（Iriguchi made Ookuri shimasu). The only reaction you can take is to say “Thank you”, otherwise shop staff will feel awkward. They do this to protect you from ninjas who might steal your purchase before you leave the store. Not really, but why not imagine something cool?
This custom is to be said to have begun in the Edo period and still happens everywhere, so Japanese people don’t think that it’s “a useless custom and should be abolished!”.
This is similar to the custom where gas station attendants will guide your car onto the road and keep waving to you until the car becomes invisible. In Japanese business, there is a traditional phrase “The customer is king”. These customs might be a result of that. Even if you may feel uncomfortable, let them make you feel royal for once!
3. Condoms will be wrapped opaque bag separately from other stuff [Anywhere]
When you buy condoms in Japan at conbini (convenience store) or drug stores, you will be treated very delicately…! For example, if you buy a pack of condom, onigiri, and a bottle of water at conbini, only the pack of condoms will be put in this kind of opaque bag, as if it is very important thing…!
Japanese people know this custom, therefore if you are witnessed by someone that you have the opaque bag from conbini, it is obvious that you bought condoms. It’s like how in some countries, adult magazines or alcohol will be placed in a similar kind of bag. As the shop staff is wrapping it, you may feel very awkward as it makes it more obvious that you’re buying condoms even though you’re not buying something dangerous or bad. Not just condoms, sanitary goods are also wrapped with opaque bag. Be proud for being responsible and hygienic!
4. Crazy for wrapping! [Anywhere]
Although it is well known that Japan loves fancy wrapping, but it even happens to a lesser degree in everyday life! It’s not only for expensive gifts! Every day is like Christmas!
Here are some examples
Fried chicken : A single piece of fried chicken at conbini comes out like this! Tear where it says open and you can eat the drumstick or thigh without getting your hands greasy!
A bottle of wine : This might not be really unique to Japan, but the point is, they even do it even at regular super markets! A bottle of wine will be wrapped with cushioning like this so that it won’t broken easily.
Soft drinks at fast-food restaurants : This often happens at fast-food franchise stores. They put everything in a bag, even a paper cup of juice! And they put the bag in a bigger bag.
A Shopping bag : When you buy clothes, shoes, or whatever, most of the cases it will be put in a shopping bag. After that, the handle will be taped so that the items in the bag won’t come out accidentally!
Although this culture of wrapping everything has a positive side that it shows care for the things, however, there’s also negative side of wasting paper and plastic for just for the sake of appearance.
5. Every place has their own point card! [Anywhere]
If you go to conbini in Japan, you will be definitely asked “Do you have a point card?”. Each conbini and every smaller shop has their own point card, so if you answer “No, but I want one” each time you are asked whether if you have a point card or not, your purse/wallet will become packed with cards!
However, of course it could be useful. In the case of the T-Point Card, which has the largest share in the Japanese point card industry, you can get 1 point for every 100 yen spent and use the points for discount. You can get the point at Family Mart (national chain conbini), TSUTAYA (CD/DVD rental shop), restaurant chains such as Gusto and Jonathan’s, and so on. The points can be used as money and if you have enough points, sometimes you can get things for free.
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