setting up house (or should I say shoe box?) and the 100 yen store

For some students at Yamasa living in Okazaki is the first time they've lived out of home. Setting up house is always exciting, but not so much when everything seems so unaffordable. The answer to this is the 100 Yen store. I t has most of the things you need, excluding big things like futon and electrical products, of course.

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As a foreigner, the 100 Yen shop is interesting because it has a lot of those funny things and useless inventions people have written books about and that Japan is infamous for. I recently splashed out on a product called Legmate - Fond de Teint Pour Jambes. Easy Comfort Stockings / Natural Colour for Legs. Great I thought. There's no way I'm going to sun bake in this heat. (Not that there is any pressure whatsoever here to have a suntan. Quite the contrary. You have to be in Italy,or even Mexico judging from Tania's liberal bastings of baby oil at the Minami Koen pool.) So I got home and tried it. A white mousse that is completely invisibe on my legs. It sure is natural. No doubt about that. I thought it was a pretty good joke for 100 Yen. I sent an inflatable tissue box holder to a friend for his birhday last year. It was such a hit! I don't think the drastically reduced, yet still outrageously expensive designer shirt I've got him this year will be received with the same amount of surprise and enthusiasm. Some things just can't be repeated....

The 100 Yen store is great for presents to take back home. From Japanese tableware, traditional wooden toys, masks, indigo pouches, to Hello Kitty, Winnie the Pooh and Disney merchandise.

where are they?

The closest one is in the Nakai Home Centre, on Route 248 and practically next to the villas. It's not huge but it's a handy. While you're there, have a wander through the Home Centre itself. I bought my iron for 1200 Yen and my CD/ cassette / radio for under 5000 Yen here. Both came with a one year guarantee.

There's a big one in the Domy Super Center near Minami Koen. All you need for the summer camping period. Picnic sheets, nets for catching butterflies and gas pressure cans for your camp stove (I use one every morning for making my expresso).

A very good one in the Cibico building downtown. It's upstairs in the back section. There's another in the Eru Eru Centre which my friend Abby took me to once. It was a pretty crazy bike ride, there was the threat of rain and we got a little lost so I'm sorry I can't tell you how to get there. I do remember it's on the other side of the train tracks.

Selling many items I haven't seen in any other is the Daisou Seikatsu Zakkakan in Ueji. It has a huge selection of cosmetic products and is on the same road as Nafco but about 10-15 minutes by bike in the opposite direction. That sounds like a long way, but it's a very flat and easy bike ride. If you live in R esidence U it will take you about 10 minutes to get there. That's if you don't stop at either of the 2 huge pachinko parlours on the way. One is called Big 1 and the other is called Zent. Its expanse of concrete wall changes colours at night. The 100 Yen store is on the Zent side and not much further along. You wont miss it. It's about as big as the Cibico one and quicker to get to if you're going by bike. It's at a traffic light (not a major intersection) , across the road from another Domy supermarket with a huge sign out front that you can see from a distance.

Nestled in the background of this corner is an unusually pretty little convenience store appropriately called Puchi House. If you take your roll of film there it will cost you about 600 Yen to have your photos developed. I paid 603 Yen for 24 exposures. It costs at at least 1200 Yen up anywhere else.

If you're keen to take a train to Toyota, there's one in the 10 Face building that annexes the Sogo Department Store. Take the local train. It's quite slow but an interesting trip out of Okazaki. Take a look at the Saty Department Store too if you've gone for shopping. Keep in mind that this is not the city if you'e after serious fashion. Carlo Levi, the great Italian wrote "the future has an ancient heart". Toyota is a modern city; I thought of the future as I walked along the pedestrian bridges, but alas felt no pulse of a beating heart.