Sunday, 6 February 2011

Osaka's Electronic Maze

During our early days in Japan we found ourselves with the challenge of having to quickly furnish and equip our apartment with the usual array of electrical appliances. It was while going through this process we became more than familiar with the ‘Godzilla sized’ electrical stores that dominate many of the major shopping areas. Nothing quite prepares you for the experience of walking into multi-level mega-stores like ‘Yodobashi Camera’ or ‘Labi’. Here, you are immediately hit by a wave of noise and visuals that would totally disorientate most unsuspecting consumers, not to mention the already disorientated foreigner, who can’t read or speak a word of Japanese. Catchy jingles are continually and loudly played throughout the store, subconsciously planting an annoying little tune in your head that is guaranteed to stay with you long after you leave. For those long suffering sales assistants, it must be like slow torture, but they don’t outwardly show it, maintaining their friendly bows and echoed crys of ‘Irasshaimase’(welcome to my store) all day long. While the sounds are distracting, they pale into insignificance to the visual barrage of information that faces you. To us it simply becomes a meaningless mosaic of pattern and colour, but for the Japanese consumer it must truly be a ‘sledgehammer’ approach to selling. Thankfully for us, the prices are clear and presented in English characters, making it easy for us to buy our chosen products. When you eventually reach a cashiers desk, the assistants are gushing over with friendliness and immediately offer you a point card (hugely popular in Japan). This means that with every purchase you can build up your ‘pointo’s’, which allows for future discounts. This provides the incentive to lure you back into the store to endure the experience all over again. Of course, we have been back many times and each time we walk in those doors the sight and sound of these amazing electrical stores instantly brings back memories of our first confusing and exciting days in Japan.

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