Japan has the second biggest mobile broadband network in the world - with subscribed devices actually surpassing the size of the population - and over one hundred million of its 120 million citizens connected to the internet. It is no surprise then that internet shopping is huge in Japan.
Add to this the deflating state of the Japanese economy, and, again, it's no surprise that the Japanese flock online looking for bargains.
The top site in Japan for finding bargains for goods - mainly new, but also used - is Kakaku.com (literally "Price.com"). Kakaku.com lists retailers and providers for products and services in over 30 different categories, from movie tickets to computers, from cameras, to drinks to moving companies to insurance.
You can choose to list the retailers or providers of your chosen service or product in order of cheapest to most expensive, most expensive to cheapest, popularity, manufacturer, date of sale launch, model and more.
Last week I found myself looking for a new laptop. I went to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara and had a look around at their range of touchscreens. It didn't take me long to settle on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I had a go on it, weighed it in my hand, asked a few questions about it, compared models, and jotted down the price. At about 150,000 yen, it wasn't the kind of purchase I was going to make the same day I first started looking.
I feel a certain burden of obligation to reward good service, and good service includes providing the goods themselves for perusal and trying out before buying. However, out of another sense of duty to myself and my finances, I of course typed it in on Kakaku.com. It was 20,000 yen cheaper there!
I was apprehensive. 20,000 yen. There must be a catch. The company selling it (no.1 in the list when selecting the "from cheapest" ranking) had an address so rural and remote that it wasn't even in Google Streetview. However, its feedback was 97% positive from several hundred evaluations.
I went back to Yodobashi Camera and showed the Kakaku.com deal to the guy who I'd spoken to the day before. I still wanted to buy it from the brick-and-mortar and asked him what advantage there could be to buying it there. The response was underwhelming, and we parted with slightly hopeless grins. Burdens of obligation have their price. I estimate mine at being worth 2,000 - 3,000 yen. This was 20,000 yen we were talking about.
Back home, Friday night, I ordered the Surface Pro 3 from the shop on Kakaku.com. I got an instant email response acknowledging my order, and telling me to wait for another mail with payment instructions. (I had chosen bank transfer, the other two options being convenience store payment or Kakaku.com's own "peace-of-mind" payment system that takes about a 4% chunk of the total.)
Saturday morning, the mail with payment instructions arrives, and tells me if I pay by 3pm it would be sent out that day. I go down to the local post office and send the money using the ATM. I get another mail from the shop about an hour later acknowledging receipt of payment, and another a few hours later with notification of dispatch and a post office tracking number.
The tablet arrived on Sunday, two days after I ordered it, pristine and new and in perfect condition. I added my feedback to the shop's profile on the site. I mean, it's an obligation, really!
Need something from Kakaku.com? The folks at GoodsFromJapan can help.
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