Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, October 29, 2007

2007: A Splash Costcodyssey

I needed to go to Costco.

In fact, I REALLY needed to go to Costco. Not only did I need to stock up on some items not usually available at the local supermarkets (at least not without having to forfeit a vital organ), but Halloween (Samhain, "Harvest Festival", whatever) was coming fast. Kids at Ye Olde Academy were already starting to barge their way into the English department office after school yelling, "Trick or treat!" Trying to deny them was like trying to keep a school of pirahnas off of a wading cow; you could hold a few of them off, but the others would have their mitts in the jelly bean jar in an instant. And that was almost a week before Halloween. It was clear I wouldn't stand an Avon lady's chance in Kandahar of surviving the feeding frenzy on the 31st if I didn't have a decent stock on hand.

As it turned out, my wife had to go with her school's volleyball team to a practice meet for most of the day on Saturday, so that left me and the kids with nothing to do. It was a good chance to get the necessary mission out of the way. As soon as we were all finished eating breakfast and cleaning up, I loaded myself and the kids into my BLUE RAV4 and headed southwest.

The weather forecast had warned that it would be a rainy day, and they were right. There was a bit of rain falling when we headed out, but not bad. Visibility was good, and there was little standing water on the pavement, but I still figured I'd forego my usual fast pace and travel at a nice, easy cruise. By the time we passed the Narita exit on the freeway the rain had increased considerably. When I pulled off at the Makuhari Messe exit it was a raging downpour. It was a good thing that Costco was relatively uncrowded; I was able to park inside the garage instead of up on the roof for the first time ever.

Thanks to the lack of crowds, shopping went quickly and easily. I already had a good idea of what I wanted to get, so I didn't need to muck around much. Inevitably, I saw a lot of items that were too tempting to pass up, so I wound up with a bit more fluff in my cart than I'd planned (Costco's most severe danger). The only disappointment was the Halloween goods. There weren't any. I was told there were lots the week before, but they had already been replaced with Christmas stuff. Oh, well. I was still able to get pumpkins and candy, the main point of the trip in the first place. I finished the shopping, paid (almost a week's salary...AAAAH!!!!) for the lot, and jammed it all into the back of my car by around noon, far sooner than I'd expected. In fact, that gave us a bit more time to play around with, so I suggested to the kids that we have lunch at Subway (warm, cheesy fanfare) ...the first time in ages. Needless to say, they were pretty excited.

The only Subway outlet that I knew within a 20-kilometer radius was the one I sometimes go to over in Sakurai City, but that was a bit out of our way. Figuring there had to be a closer one, I fired up the R2 unit navi system, and it told me there were several within 10 kilometers. I locked onto the closest one, which was only one kilometer away, and drove out of the parking garage...into a screaming cloudburst. Visibility was basically spit (well, rainwater, anyway...) so I just followed the navi system blindly. It led me to the complex of shopping malls in the center of the Makuhari Messe area, so I headed for the parking garage that was nearest the Subway's indicated location. I then spent something like ten or fifteen minutes circling around until I was able to grab a free parking space. Then we got out of the car and quickly found out that:
  1. There were no connecting passages between the various shopping malls, and even the bridges linking their upper floors were open to the elements. Needless to say, we got soaked.
  2. The Subway had recently gone out of business and had been replaced by a Tully's Coffee.
We were bummed (and wet) but not defeated. We went back to the car and spent almost five minutes threading our way back out of the labyrinthe of that parking garage. Then I asked Sir Navi for the next Subway on the list. It showed there was one a little over three kilometers away, so I headed for it. Of course, "three kilometers" was definitely "as the crow flies", and the maze of twisty, little roads, all alike, that we wound up on ("plugh") made for considerably more travel distance than that. We finally spotted the Subway (yaaaaay!) embedded in the back of a large Jusco shopping center, so I pulled into its parking garage...and spent a good fifteen minutes circling through its labyrinthe of a parking garage until I gave up and parked on the roof. When we left the car and sprinted for the store entrance the rain was coming down in sheets.

I tell you, those Subway sandwiches were wonnnnnnderful...

We ordered one more foot-long sandwich to take home to my wife, and we headed back through the store to get to the car. Of course, the kids spotted a video game arcade along the way, and they just HAD to play one game of "DragonQuest Monster Duel" before we could go. (Otherwise there would have been a disastrous conjunction between critical points of six hundred sixty-six different planes of existence that would have summoned Satan, Sauron, Morgoth, Lord Foul, Arawn, Juiblex, Slaanesh, Gargamel, Nyarlathotep, Mullah Omar, PeeWee Herman, Soft Cell, the Strontium Fuller Brush Man, and maybe something even worse! Perish the thought!) Naturally, there was a whole line of kids backed up behind ONLY ONE MACHINE IN WORKING ORDER. That at least gave me time to look around in the bookstore and musical instrument shop, but by the time we got back to the car it was getting dark.

The journey home was scary. It was one thing to be trapped in traffic in one of the downtown districts of Chiba City during rush hour. It was something else altogether to be driving on the freeway in gale-force crosswinds and rain that might as well have been spray from a fire hose. Anytime a truck or bus came within fifty meters we were caught in a cloud of spray that made visibility more or less zero. All I could do was creep along keeping my eyes fixed on the lights of the car in front of me and hope he was in his lane. It was a damned good thing that we lost almost all of the traffic once we got past the Narita exit. Even then I had to deal with my car bucking like a bronco every time we went across a bridge and got caught in that crosswind. We were thankful to arrive home in one piece, though lugging the goods from the car to the house wasn't fun. A jet-ski probably would have sped things up, but I don't happen to own one.

It wasn't until after we got everything in the house, peeled off our soggy clothes, and turned on the TV that we found a typhoon warning was in effect. I guess that's what I get for not reading my newspaper. Oh, well. Another Saturday, another tale to blog about. Besides, I'm ready for Halloween!


  • Happy Halloween! Anybody going to dress up over there?

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 11:11 PM  

  • Hey thanks for going to Costco and not Walmart. They actually treat their employees well.

    It's sounds like Halloween is picking up in popularity in Japan especially as a school type of event. Let us know how it goes and what kinds of things you and kids are into.

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 1:35 AM  

  • Geez, I hate driving in...driving rain! Thank goodness it rarely happens here! Although black ice can cause even more problems...

    Hope the wife enjoyed the sandwich!

    By Blogger ladybug, at 4:02 AM  

  • Wow, I remember driving two hours to Utsunomiya to grab a Subway sandwich and then two hours back. I also remember going to Shibuya for Arby's on several occasions. Then one day I went there to find it had been replaced by a bakery...Japan has a bakery practically every kilometer and the one Arby's I knew of got turned into one. Needless to say that still kind of annoys me. Is Makahari Messe different from Makuhari Messe or am I just remembering it wrong? I went to the Tokyo Motor Show one year and I thought it was at Makuhari Messe. Then again it was (gulp) over a decade ago so I could be misremembering...

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 5:40 AM  

  • I can't make a left turn in Seattle without running into a teriyaki resturaunt.

    That goes for coffee houses too.

    Typhoon eh, well, good luck during the storm season. It will probably get windy here too.

    By Anonymous dave, at 7:48 AM  

  • Don
    We're going to try. Chuck and I are trying to get the whole 7th grade staff to dress up, but I'm not betting any money on it.

    I haven't seen any Wal-Marts here in Japan yet, but I know what you mean. My father worked at the Newport Wal-Mart part-time for a while after retiring from his teaching career. He said he liked working there, but they didn't treat him all that well.

    Black ice? Arrrrrggghhh...

    She was ecstatic, thanks!

    It is Makuhari Messe. (slaps own face) Sorry about that. I'll correct the post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    I was happy when Burger King came to Japan in 1991 and furious when it got bought out by Lotteria (a Japanese hamburger chain that is basically recycled surplus school cafeteria food) in 1995. I hear BK is coming back, though. (WHOPPERS!!!!) We actually had a Wendy's open up down in Kamisu a year or two ago, but it has already closed down...before I ever got a chance to go there! No surprise though; it was in a rotten location.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:50 AM  

  • Dave
    Strange...we don't have that many teriyaki restaurants here in Japan! Coffee houses aren't quite there yet, but Starbucks and now Tully's are multiplying rapidly.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:52 AM  

  • Wow, a typhoon. Did it pass near or far?

    You have SO many shopping centres to choose from, and so many American chains, more than in the UK (no fair!).

    We have Subway; Wal-Mart bought the ASDA chain. There is now a big Whole Foods here (do you know that one?), but what I wouldn't give to get a Target!
    I don't know much about Costco, but I think they owned the World Market chain we used to go to in Tx, and there were Costcos in the NYC area.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 11:30 PM  

  • So halloween going 'global'
    or does Japan still have it's own version

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 3:31 AM  

  • PS - I must confess I too think those "Subway" sandwiches are delicious. I don't indulge often, but I guess that's what makes them a rare treat.

    We have a couple in Cambridge - one very busy all day - anotherone stuck in a not so busy corner of town. But yeah seems we are all learning to eat on the hoove.

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 3:33 AM  

  • Moody said.... "circling around until I was able to grab a free parking space"

    "no connecting passages between the various shopping malls"

    "fifteen minutes circling through its labyrinthe of a parking garage until I gave up and parked on the roof"

    "A jet-ski probably would have sped things up"

    Ah, the modern automobile. A technological marvel of speed, comfort, and convenience!

    Somehow I no longer have an urge for either Costco or Subway Sandwiches. :^)

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN! anyway.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:52 PM  

  • We don't have Costco nor Walmart here but Jusco outlets have multiplied across the country and they seem to be doing really well.

    Happy Halloween.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:50 PM  

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