It sounds like an oxymoron but there are bargains from Japan. My friends Linda and Karen (the gals from the Korean market excursion) turned me on to shopping at Daiso, a Japan-based chain of five-and-dime stores. Don’t think that you’ll get things for pennies here. Those days are long over.
Daiso is among Japan's class of "100-yen" stores (about 1 USD), so it's similar to the American concept of 99 cents stores. But it's been years since I've scored anything awesome at 99 cent stores. The 99 cents and up ones have better selection. At Daiso, there are $1 items but for the most part the good stuff is at least $1.50!
There are about 2,500 Daiso stores in Japan, and the chain has 60 percent of the market share there. There are Daiso stores in other parts of the world, including the Middle East, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia (even Vietnam!), Canada, and the United States. (The 9 Daiso stores in America are in the Bay Area and around Seattle.)
The one that I shop at is in Daly City, conveniently right off the 280 freeway near a Target at Serramonte Mall. I’ve found all kinds of great kitchen tools (a Japanese scum skimmer, for example), measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, and the goodies at the top of this post. Okay, I paid $2 for each of the larger melamine trays, but the smaller one and the ceramic dishes were $1.50 each.
This stuff isn’t super tough and built to last forever, but it will last for a number of years. Maybe forever if well taken care of. Everything is lightweight and smallish, made for Japanese households. They’re also functional. Toys for kids, stationery, tabletop, false eyelashes, socks, all kinds of stuff, but none of Daiso’s inventory is junky. On my last trip, there was a sale on small nabe (Japanese hot pots) for $2, and a Chinese customer bought 6 of them!
My sister Tasha, who lives in the San Gabriel Valley, mentioned that there’s one of these kinds of Japanese discount stores near her house but it’s not called Daiso. But it sounded like the same concetp. So look for Daiso and Daiso-type stores in areas where there are lots of Asian people. Or, shop online at the Daiso site.
Do you have Daiso experiences or good finds to report?
Or, want to share the address of your favorite Japanese discount store?