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"These high prices have me hallucinating bargains.."
- Hsien-Hsien Lei

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What is there to like about Japan?
by Hsien-Hsien Lei, 23, Nagoya, Japan
Sep 24, 1999

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I do not like the fact that shopping is not as enjoyable here as it was in Taiwan or the U.S. because prices are so outrageous! I bought one avocado the other day for US$3, saw one kiwi being sold for US$1, and checked out CD's sold for US$25-30. When we eat out, dinners for which I would have paid US$20 are US$50 here. I met a Japanese woman who trained in France for a year and opened a lunch restaurant in Nagoya. Her lunch menu has two set menus, one for US$48 and the other for US$62. Her restaurant only seats about 10 people each day and is operated out of her home so at these prices, her profit margin must be incredible. I may volunteer to wash the dishes one of these days in exchange for a free lunch.

These high prices have me hallucinating bargains. One of my husband's colleagues mentioned that after 4 PM each day, the shops begin selling their prepared lunch box meals very cheaply. When we went to see if this was true, we were very excited to see 100 yen (equivalent to about US$1 after tax) stickers on all the lunch boxes. From boxes with rice and tempura to boxes with grilled fish, they all looked like they cost only 100 yen! This price was in sharp contrast to the usual US$6 to US$8 for one of these meals. We chose three different ones to bring home and as the cashier was ringing them up, I prepared 315 yen, the price of three lunch boxes after tax. When I looked up, the register displayed over 1400 yen. It was then that I realized the 100 yen stickers indicated a 100 yen DISCOUNT not a 100 yen PRICE.

To prevent more mishaps, I plan to study Japanese. Although I can read a great deal of the Kanji characters that are based on Chinese, I cannot read the Kana syllabaries. And while many Japanese words are borrowed from English, most local Japanese can only understand the Japanized English words, such as Bando-Aido for Band-Aid. I am also planning to learn more about Japanese culture and have been offered opportunities to learn tea ceremony, ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), ceramics, tie-dyeing, and portrait painting. I also plan to travel, of course, and one of my more immediate trips will be to Toba, to see the underwater aquarium and famous Japanese pearls. I will also be meeting more people including ex-patriate wives and alcoholic salarymen. So, there is definitely more to come from Nagoya, Japan.

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