Shopping in Shibuya and Shinjuku

I love the variety of goods on sale in Japan. Take non-alcoholic drinks, for example. In Australia you can go to any shop and you have the same drinks available. The flavours are always the same, the variation is basically if the fridge is a Cadbury-Schweppes, Pepsi or Coca-Cola fridge.

In Japan visits to different convenience stores in different regions reveal a variety of drinks on sale. Hence the hunt for Gokuri Grapefruit juice. I haven’t seen it in Tokyo since 2007, but I found it in one shop in Fukuoka, one vending machine in Matsue.

It’s a myth that Japan is really expensive, at least in comparison to Australia. Yes, it has become more expensive for Australians travelling to Japan thanks to the drop in the value of the Australian dollar in comparison with the yen. However, it’s probably not fair to use that comparison, because the effects of that change in value have not really been felt by consumers within each country, especially with the recession keeping a lid on prices. So if we continue to treat the exchange rate as about parity then the prices in Japan are often cheap in comparison to Australia, especially when you consider the quality of the product over the quantity.

In Australia we usually value quantity over quality. You might spend the same amount of money on a single apple in Japan as you might pay for half a dozen in Australia. But after you eat the giant Japanese apple you might realise that the flavour and texture of the fruit beat that Australian supermarket apple hands down.

Today was a shopping day for us. We caught the Yamanote line down to Shibuya. First stop was Shibuya 109, multiple levels of young Japanese female craziness packed into a tiny space. Shops like Glad News and Titty & Co. It was overwhelming.

Also overwhelming were the choices at Loft. Shibuya’s Loft (there are branches elsewhere, including Osaka) has 7 floors of everything from stationery and cosmetics to gadgets and furniture. Just selecting an alarm clock was an ordeal as so many of them looked so cool. You would pay $100’s for such items in Australia with their northern European minimalist looks or wow factors, but the prices really aren’t too bad. Loft is the kind of place that makes you want to throw out everything you own and redecorate.

We had to escape Loft partway through in order to feed Alex. Loft’s sibling department store, Seibu, has a totally different atmosphere with staid and expensive clothing. Needless to say, it was beyond our budget.

After a dinner of Japanese curry we set off back to Shinjuku. Alex was getting unsettled, but once we were outside our little tv addict spotted the huge screens on the side of the buildings and his eyes opened wide. He loved the lights of Shibuya and Shinjuku, but it seems he hates the crowds on the Yamanote line, crying his eyes out a few times now.

We fed and changed Alex back in the hotel room, then returned to the streets of Shinjuku to make the most of the night. The Takashimaya department store, and Tokyu Hands, were both closed by 8:30pm, but a few other stores, like Gap and Tower Records were open until 10pm. More limited edition John Williams soundtracks for me!

Feeling very sore after carrying Alex in the Baby Bjorn. I don’t regret leaving the stroller at home as it would have been more pain than it is worth to lug it around, but I think I may have hurt my shoulder a bit tossing luggage into the overhead storage racks in the Shinkansens and now it aches. Still, it is good to snuggle Alex so close to me during the day. It will be strange not to have him close by when we return to Australia.

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