In yet another attempt to equip you with useless information regarding Japan to use in discussions over coffee with your coworkers, and hereby add to the collection : Japanese department stores!
Well, first of all a little anecdote from the other day. Me and my girlfriend and a couple of friends were heading down to Ginza for some light lunch or snack (originall lunch, but Ginza is pretty crowded on Sunday afternoons, so by the time we actually got there, it was just a little bit too late for lunch, and a tad early for dinner… aaaaanyway)
So we arrive at Takashimaya (one of the largest upscale department store chains in Japan) and we are given directions to their off-site parking lot (I think the regular one was full) which is about 400 m away from the store. We felt it was a bit far away and first hesitated going there, but with the traffic and so on we figured it was pretty crowded wherever we went. Anyway, we get there and it turns out they offer free shuttle service to/from the store! Wow! And I’m not talking regular shuttle as in a minivan or something (although for bigger parties, I do believe they had that too), but a regular darn limousine that we got to ride to the store, and then picked us up after we had done our shopping! Wow, talk about getting a touch of the lifestyle of the rich and famous! It felt really great, but considering the measily sums of money we actually spent in the store on that visit, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for them. But on the other hand, the goodwill they gained in my eyes is worth a lot. Next time (or sometime in the future) perhaps I will spend a small fortune there, who knows!?
On the topic of Takashimaya, I noticed something else this time. There are virtually no cashiers in the store! When you browse through the store, the sales clerks are walking around the store offering help, and if you choose to buy something they will take care of everything without you having to carry the goods anywhere. They collect what you want, take your money or credit card, ask if you want any wrapping etc. and disappear for a few minutes, then reappear with the goods wrapped and bagged! Very very classy.
Oh, and finally, I give you my Japanese Department Store Ranking. Ranked in terms of luxury and classyness.
First of all, I only rank the ones that are big in Tokyo. Otherwise you would have to add Hankyu and perhaps Hanshin to the list as well. Wako is downright intimidating in its luxury. Allegedly, this is where the Imperial Household does its shopping. I say “allegedly” because I’ve never seen a member of the Imperial Family do their shopping there; on the other hand, I guess they will send someone to do their shopping so you would not know who they were… Anyway, this place (it’s in Ginza) is just so darn classy, it’s scary. It’s like walking in to Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue in New York – you feel you are not quite worthy of being in there, so it feels almost like you’re wasting the sales people’s time being there.