Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don, Don, Don, Dooonki!

I can’t believe I haven’t written about Donki in my posts about my recent trip to Japan! How could I forget about Donki?

I’m referring, of course, to Don Quijote (Donki, in local parlance), the Japanese chain discount store with locations in Japan and Hawaii – this store can kick Wal-Mart’s butt any day. I suddenly thought about them yesterday, when the company’s song (which plays on a loop in the stores) popped up in my head, unbidden – must be the subliminal advertising working. It goes:

Don, Don, Don – Dooonki! Don Quiiii-jote!

Upon further research, I’ve found that they actually have a Wikipedia page, as well as an English version of their site, although there isn’t much there besides a cute picture of their mascot, the penguin - but it escapes me as to why they didn't use a donkey instead.

What I love about this store is that they sell absolutely everything at a discount, but the quality is really decent, especially since many of their goods are brand name. If there’s anything you need that you can’t find at a 100¥ store (which I also love), it’ll be at Donki, at a discounted price. They have cheapie, no-name goods, right alongside Calvin Klein undies, T-Fal cookware, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Rolex watches (no, really!), Givenchy scarves, Chanel makeup, Dior jewellery, LV bags...I once saw a brand new Kelly bag (albeit a model in just basic, boring, tan leather) at a Donki store for the low, low price of 3.6 million yen. (sarcasm)

Why do they have all these authentic luxury goods available? Well, first of all, they aren’t cheap, even though they’re technically on sale. Luxury goods are typically more expensive in Japan because they’re usually imported. But most importantly, the turnover for such products is very quick. In Tokyo, like in many other Asian cities, it’s not good enough just to be rocking designer duds – what you’re wearing and using has to be in season. That’s why a lot of office ladies carry classic monogram bags – it’s way harder to tell which season they’re from, they’re more timeless – and you can bet your passport they are real. It’s the culture. Same goes for Hong Kong.

If you’re claustrophobic, you might not enjoy yourself there, because there is stuff absolutely everywhere. Space is precious in Japan, and so the store is stuffed to the brim with merchandise, on shelves climbing up the walls, towering over people in rows in the middle of the store, and there are hanging signs everywhere that’ll brush your head if you’re taller than, say, 5’8”. And because everyone loves Donki, it’s gets really crowded in there – you have to be patient with the traffic inside, because the aisles are narrow.

When I go to Donki, I stock up on food items that I can bring back, like candy (Japanese candy is the best!), spaghetti sauces and instant curries, which cost significantly less than what I’d have to pay to score similar products, with less choices, at J-Town in Toronto, this huge emporium of imported Japanese goods - if the ticket to Japan is just not feasible, J-Town is a perfectly good option. They also have an awesome toilet, if you ever happen to go there.

Now if only Donki would expand to Canada! Below is a video of someone making their way inside – claustrophobics, beware!

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