Friday, March 19, 2010

A walk through the Beverly Hills of Tokyo*

Took a quick walk down to the Denenchofu Precce at lunch. It is the closest grocery store, so I chose to pay the absurd 20-30-40% premium for the same food I could get elsewhere at a regular Tokyu. (Except that Precce does have fresh skim milk with a use-by date over a week away. When I lived in Kanagawa near Kajigaya station, their same-brand skim milk arrived with a maximum 3-4 day use-by date. Methinks that it was old unsold milk from places like Denenchofu. Here ours disappears after it has been on the shelf for 2 days.)

The walk was pretty much uneventful. I tried to cross the crosswalk in front of the Family Mart behind the illegally parked truck and so I waited in the middle of the crosswalk for the line of cars to blow right through it. Again, illegally, but it's not like the local koban-sitters are going to give a rats arse. It's better that way anyhow, otherwise, I would have been confused like I was yesterday while walking home from Okusawa, when I had absentmindedly stepped into a crosswalk without stopping and waiting for all traffic within killing range to clear. Damn if a guy on a motorbike didn't suddenly appear. AND STOP!!! Good god, I wondered, what is going on? Why is he stopping? I had just barely entered the crosswalk and wasn't even on his side.

I waited. He waited. If I went ahead and tried to cross, would he then decide to go and run me down? He was still waiting. Cautiously, I crossed while bowing a thank-you-for-obeying-the-law bow to him. I see that kind of bow often and I fully understand why it is done.

I arrived safely at Precce and began shopping. Suddenly, as I began the usual dance with a someone who would jump to my right when I moved right and to my left when I moved left, I looked the person in the eye and she smiled. Panic!!!! Someone whom I don't know looked me directly in the eye and smiled. What do I do in situations like this? I grabbed for my wallet. Still there. I thought of saying, "No, this is not an opportunity to practice your English on me," but then I recalled that darned near everyone in Denenchofu seems to speak English well already.**

Just as I was about to flee out the door screaming, I noticed that she appeared to be one of the Germans who populate the local area. "Excuse me," says I. "Excuse me," said she. Crisis defused.

Then I got up to the register. The clerk was busy reading aloud every price of every item in the basket of the lady ahead and then wrapping nearly everything individually in small clear plastic bags. (Despite the stupid TV ads, you cannot get out of having everything wrapped at the Denenchofu Precce. Tried it. Failed. Thinking there must be some special grocery store keigo, I later had my wife try. She failed too. You would have to tell the clerk not to wrap every single item every single time she touched one. Forget, and she'll wrap it.)

After her total was rung up, the lady in front decided it might be about time to dig her wallet out of her bag. Ten minutes later she found it and, apparently having nothing bigger than one-yen coins, proceeded to take the next 3-hours counting them out. She could not count very well.

Finally, after more bows and thank yous, it was my turn. The clerk*** bowed, welcomed me, and rang up my order. She was less thorough with me, as she did not try to wrap every single item individually. Wow, this is a change, I thought. She dropped my hot tempura lunch into the bag, followed by a few other small items (they never, ever bag a purchase for a customer unless he/she has only a few items and they are feeling rather energetic.) Then came the ice cream sandwich. She wanted to know if it was alright to put it in the same bag as the hot tempura. Been through that before. How do I respond in Japanese with such extreme sarcasm that her ears melt and she never, ever, asks such a thing again?

At last, I got out of there---serves me right for giving that overpriced ripoff chain my money---and began the walk back home. Oh goody, the Denenchofu Private Girls School apparently was out early today and huge throngs of the fine young ladies were hogging the entire sidewalk. I knew that it would be almost impossible to get by them without being banged, shoved, and trampled, so I headed the other direction. I crossed the street and waited at the intersection for the light to change. (Nobody actually does that in Denenchofu, the preferred method is to just blindly cross the street without a glance.) As I entered the crosswalk, an imbecile in a Benz turned left into my path, kindly stopping just before the bumper impacted my leg.

I went directly to local over-priced liquor store and picked up a bottle of Old Crow to go with the soba tea Ms. O had given me last week. Strangely enough, I rarely drank until last fall. How did I ever avoid it?

*Yes, I have heard Denenchofu referred to as the "Beverly Hills of Tokyo." It's a nice area, but I gotta say that, except for the celebrities, I doubt it has much in common with Beverly Hills. That might not be a bad thing.

**Somewhat exaggerated.

***They are exclusively women at the Denenchofu Precce unless you get there on a special day when they are training/breaking in young males. I would guess they are future managers and not cashiers.

Edited for semi-clarity at 19:42


  1. "He---, onaji fukuro ni? Nan da, korya? Aisu-fū tenpura ga ninki ka dō ka tte no yoron chōsa? Ore ga sono te ni noru mon ka yo!" *glare*

    ...then again, maybe that's not exactly sarcasm. I tend to go more for the "kowai gaijin oyaji" approach.

  2. The kowaii gaijin approach doesn't work for me. I do like the ice-tempura part though. That might at least entertain me while asking her.

  3. Note that I cannot spell Japanese either: kowai gaijin..

  4. Mmm, one vowel away from being a "cute foreign gramps". Dangerous territory there.