What do a pot plant stand on wheels, a pyrex pie dish, a shoehorn, a china mug, a tin can, 40 clothes pegs, a plastic bowl and sieve set, 4 CDs, a pack of dental floss sticks, a pair of socks, a pair of batteries, a roll of masking tape, a large cutter knife, an aluminum ruler, and an art file all have in common? You guessed already: 100 yen.
Virtually no neighborhood in Japan is without its 100 yen shop. As of today that’s an 83 cent shop. The range of goods on sale is as wide as any department store: storage racks, sewing sets, gardening tools, kitchenware, seasonings, instant noodles, soap, mirrors, cane baskets, stationery, snacks, sweets, vacuum packed foods, waste paper baskets, cosmetics, office files, pens and pencils, underwear, socks, bathroom goods, kitchen utensils, dishes – you name it
They tend to be slightly out of the way. The one nearest me is a relatively small place above a grungy old supermarket, up a difficult to find staircase; but the several times I’ve been there it is always bursting with goods and being wandered around by at least half a dozen other bargain hunters.
100 yen shops are a thriving business in Japan, especially with the economy having been in the (relative) doldrums since the mid-ninties. One of the leading companies is ‘Oh Three Co. Ltd. which runs ‘100 yen shop Silk’ with 259 stores nationwide, and an annual turnover last year of about 133 million dollars (14,150 million yen). Other leading 100 yen retailers in Japan are Daiso, Cando, Seria, Watts and Kyushu Plus. The secret to their success is bulk buying from foreign suppliers, particularly in China. A cursory look at the labels reveals an overwhelming Chinese input.
One thing that will keep you in a 100 yen store much longer than you ought to be is if you start looking for that ‘something nice’. Stop it! Everything you can buy basically works, but it goes without saying that it’s generally stuff you want to simply work, and not stuff to express your personality through.
Finally, FYI the Japanese 100 yen coin (pictured here) is a cupro-nickel coin with a reeded (i.e. milled) edge, of which 204,903,000 were minted in 2004. It features cherry blossoms on one side and the number ‘100’ plus the date of minting, on the other.
Check out the Japan Mint homepage.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005