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Saturday, June 27, 2009

JAPAN LITE

Japanese hardware stores — hard, 'anyware'


Australia has Bunnings and the U.S. has Lowe's, do-it-yourself super stores that sell anything you could ever need for remodeling your house. They are hardware stores, timber yards and home decor shops all in one.

Japan, however, still has no such superstores, perhaps because Hello Kitty has cornered the market on most products anyway. How can you compete with Kitty-chan two-by-fours?

As a result, if you choose to remodel your house, you'll only find a limited number of materials available at your local hardware store or home center.

There are several of these stores on the mainland that we visit regularly. The stock at these stores can be summed up in one phrase: "There's nothing!" At least according to my Australian husband.

I think there should be a sign outside all Japanese hardware stores that says, "No Australians." Australians have long been known to be DIY experts. Letting them into these faux hardware stores is just cruel. The experience can reduce an Aussie man to tears. It's so insulting, they feel as if they are being treated like cave men.

Don't get me wrong. The staff inside these stores are all happy, smiley people. This is merely because they have no idea how bad their stores are. Every day, these stores ruin millions of people's weeks by not having the supplies that will let them finish their projects.

Furthermore, the staff members really doesn't know much about the products they sell. After all, they just work there. I, on the other hand, have been in these stores zillions of times, and know exactly where everything is as well as where everything should be, but isn't.

Allow me to be a foreign staff member just today to give foreigners a tour of a typical hardware store. Just a moment while I put on my white gloves and find my white flag.

Okay, here we go. Please come over this way to our aisle full of metal fittings such as hinges, drawer handles and clasps. As you can see, we have a wide variety to choose from, as long as you don't want more than two pieces of any one style.

You didn't mean to put all the handles on those kitchen drawers today, did you? Perhaps I could recommend that you complete two drawers today with the two handles we have in stock, and finish the rest of the drawers next week when your special order comes in.

In the next aisle, we have paint. As far as house paint goes, you can choose any color you want, as long as it's one of these four colors.

C'mon, you must have learned in school how to mix colors. You can do it! If you think this is taking do-it-yourself a little too far, perhaps you should be building a log cabin instead.

Conveniently located next to the four paint colors are paint brushes and rollers. Look at the rows and rows of brushes! They get as small as you want, even these special micro paint brushes for aphids.

Bigger ? Why would you want bigger brushes? Sorry, we only make things smaller, not bigger.

If you see something you like, be sure to come back to this same aisle next time you want to purchase it. We can't guarantee we'll have exactly the same thing, but we can guarantee we'll have something completely different. Probably in a different color too.

Now, over to this side of the store where we feature second-rate materials at twice the normal price. Remember this aisle number. I know you'll be back here often, as most of these parts will need to be replaced within a week or two after buying them.

Over here we have shelves of refills for all your liquid soaps, cleaners, etc. Each refill packet offers less volume and is more expensive than buying a whole new bottle. We hope you'll help us be environmentally friendly.

If you really get frustrated shopping in our store, I recommend relaxing to the background music we provide.

Unfortunately, it is usually The Carpenters. As if listening to a band called The Carpenters inside a useless hardware store isn't bad enough, there's another major drawback. Once you hear The Carpenters, you have to spend the entire day with them. Their songs have that annoying habit of sticking in your head.

That's our hardware store for you. Yep, it's hard. Plus, it'll ware you down.



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