“100 Yen” stores (hyaku en shop) sell a wide range of products for 105 yen per item (100 yen plus 5 percent Japanese consumption tax). Given that the dollar to yen exchange rate hovers right around 96-104 (depending on which way the wind blows, it seems), 100 yen is basically 100 “Yennies,” the Japanese equivalent of our pennies. You might think then that these stores are the direct analogy to our own “Dollar Stores,” but this simply isn’t the case…and thankfully so! The Japanese have reinvented the “dollar store” into something sought out in for most prudent consumers, and particularly for travelers and residents how might be watching every yennie.
There are thousands of 100 yen shops across Japan, ranging in size from multi-story “department stores” to small corners in shopping malls. However, the market segment leader in Japan, Daiso, operates over two thousand stores nationwide and pursues an aggressive domestic and international expansion policy, and now have even established a foot back in the states.
By purchasing products in huge quantities and at big discounts from countries with low production and labor costs (read as China, of course), 100 yen shops are able to offer an amazing range of products at a price that is often below the product’s actual value. Or not.
Here are a few samples from the treasure trove that Jody brought home today for less than $25USD.
12 “polishing” men, what every woman fantasizes about in the kitchen! Hell, I could use their help as well. Although small, I’m hoping that the cliché that “size doesn’t matter” applies equally to dish-washing chores….
This is what we could only imagine as candy disguised as…yes, you guessed it, gorilla boogers. Once we tried ’em, we realized they were candied, dried beans, and not slimy at all. Pretty tasty for mammalian nose-sourced mucus.
These just look plain yummy. Haven’t been opened yet, simply to keep YOU on the edge of your seats….
The Japanese seem to have a fetish with ear cleanliness. At least that’s what shopping at 100 Yen shops would lead one to believe. There are pretty dang nice – lacquered bamboo, decorated with a feather-topped doll, no doubt with spotless ears. These probably can double as chop sticks as well. The order you use them in is completely up to you.
Unknown spices. Or maybe birdseed. We’ll see the next time we try cooking…when we’ll sprinkle some on our balcony to see what happens. As they say, like a canary in a coal mine. Something like that anyway….
Hand-made papers. For origami, of course. That is until my suspicion of not having the patience to learn how to intricately fold tiny pieces of paper proves completely accurate and as an absolute philosophical truth.
How does Daiso do it? How do they sell things for seemingly less than the value of the goods sold?? “Made in China,” of course.
Rice seasoning? Is there such a thing? We will see!
We are both happy about this product – and it’s “4 Effects!” There is no garbage disposal here, only a strainer in the sink. Which, in a word, STINKS. This is working beautifully so far. We’ll see how long it lasts for the pennies it cost. I only hope they used the cheesy tag line “SINK THE STINK” somewhere on the packaging.
“Ice Towel.” Not only do I really not know what that is, although cooled, wetted small towels are often served prior to dining, I have no idea why this big-mouthed crazed character is eating them. A connection to dental health and/or hygiene? I think not.
Wine-flavored jelly candies – what a terrific idea! And what could go wrong? Most everything. The individual plastic wrappers tear and stick to the candies, and there is really little hint of wine given a taste. And certainly no kick, like that from champagne. Fail.
French fries?? One would guess. The Japanese have a thing for fries – they are often served with even gourmet meals here…and are generally quite yummy. These however, turned out more like freeze-dried fries…that have been candied. While not bad, we are both still considering what these could – and should be eaten with. Our vote is still out…and the texture and flavor is just so…oddly appealing.
Noodles are huge here, as huge as Hasselhoff is in Germany. We won’t dip ours in coffee though. Lucky for us the ONLY thing we can decipher on this package is “5-[some Japanese symbol]-6,” which we take to be the cooking time…and not just servings per package.
These I know from living here before! My kids used to love these things. They are super-crunchy, and super-yummy. Except for the seaweed flavored-ones. The other flavors are very hard to describe. On is like a hint of smoked BBQ, one is spicy and playful, and one is more sweet, like a doppelganger of caramel popcorn…maybe. There really are no good analogies; flavors get lost in translation as well!
And finally, one I’m most excited about trying: garlic flakes. Just in time for Halloween, and all those vampire bats that fly around here. Really. There are huge bats that start flying just after sunset. And as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, says, they are the “winged spawn of Satan!”
We will certainly be back to partake of more 100-Yen treasures. There actually is a whole line of Halloween merchandise out in the stores now, something that’s changed dramatically from when I first lived here in 1999. And, if I can ever find the one we frequented back in those days, we’ll come home with a ceramic and pottery dish set that people back home will fawn over.
And the best part?
Each piece is only a dollar….
PS – the bats here are fruit bats, and guess what they eat? But that’s not as good of a story. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!!
See my fellow Okinawan-based blogger for more information on this exact same shop: http://okininjakitty.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/daiso-everything-you-need-no-seriously/
- Day Twenty Five: To Daiso we Go (tatumsintokyo.wordpress.com)
- Dollar Store Accessories: What ¥100 buys you (apple4ladies.com)
- Halloween goods at Daiso 100 yen store (daysofourlivesjapan.wordpress.com)