Shopping is Magically More Fun in a Foreign Language

by Colleen McCullum, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant in Japan

Colleen soaks in the culture of Japan.

It’s lovely having a train station just a couple minutes’ walk away. Just a quick stroll, hop on a train, and I’m on course to easy shopping in Japan. I went on my first solo trip to buy a shirt for gym class. Getting on the train was simple, thankfully. A couple stops later, I got off at North Center (that’s a translation). I’d been here once before with my host sister, my first week in Japan. Now I didn’t have the practiced guidance my host sister offered, but I vaguely remembered where the mall was. The fact that I reached my destination without any trouble isn’t nearly as impressive as it sounds, since all I did was turn to the right as soon as I exited the station, and then headed toward the giant building graced by a poster of Bugs Bunny. The movie theater there is apparently owned by the Warner Brothers.

The walk to the mall (called depaato in Japanese, short for department store) was wonderful, minus the unbearable heat and the sensation of swimming through jelly. I felt the unidentifiable sense of being part of something. The giant Ferris wheel looming overhead, the bustling people around me, the steady breeze determinedly relocating hot air. I was a part of it all.

I had to suppress the urge to perform a victory dance when I made it inside the building, both in celebration of my success and in reverence of the air conditioning. Instead, I remained straight-faced as I roamed the monstrous area. Japanese buildings are all small and tall, and this particular example boasted five floors. I only went through three before my exhaustion, combined with the fact that I’d already bought a cheap gym shirt, begged me to go home.

The stores all play music, of course, but the odd thing was the musical genre. I expected Japanese pop. Instead, more than half of the stores were playing American music. According to my host sister, American music is popular among Japanese youth. I heard Ryan Cabrera, Madonna, Queen, Britney Spears… Rap and pop and rock, you name it.

The store clerks are all amazingly polite, and when you make a purchase, they put your things neatly in a bag, and use a tape patterned with the store symbol to seal the bag. Some stores have trays that you place your money in, and they take your money from there. I wondered if it was for the sake of preventing the spread of germs, but they usually gave me my change directly, so it seems a bit unproductive. I’m sure there’s a clever and logical reason for the use of the tray, but I have yet to stumble across it.

Having been victorious in my journey, I once again stepped out into the oppressive heat and headed home.

5 thoughts on "Shopping is Magically More Fun in a Foreign Language"

  1. Mrs. Bogart says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Hopefully the weather will cool off soon. I remember those days in Okinawa with 90 degree temperature and 100% humidity! Are you missing the cool nights of Colorado Springs?!? Sounds like you are adjusting well. I look forward to your next post.
    Yours truly,
    Mrs. B.

  2. Hi Colleen! Mrs. Briggs here in College/Career. What a wonderful blog. I very much enjoyed reading about your shopping adventure. It sounds like you are the perfect person to be in Japan. Enjoy!! Looking forward to having you as a senior next year at LHS.

  3. Sabrina Witt says:

    Natsukashii…you are so good at putting your readers right where you were at the time…your story brings back memories! Shopping in Japan is a unique experience and the myriad items, all carefully layed out, each with its own charm and function, are too tempting to walk by.

  4. Tammy Childs says:

    Hi Colleen —

    I love the updates; keep them coming. You have a gift for capturing your unique and wonderful experiences with the written word, and I am so glad that you are able to share them with all of us back at LHS! Enjoy your wonderous adventure!

    Mrs. Childs

  5. Lois-Ann McCollum (Colleen's Grandmother) says:

    I love hearing about my granddaughter’s activities in Japan. It’s also nice to see a picture of her.

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