Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Met My Boyfriend at IKEA Tokyo

Yes, that is a photo of me and a Japanese man who is either asleep, but more likely drunk (note the beer).

Now, a sleeping or drunk Japanese man is not particularly noteworthy on his own. They are always sleeping or drunk on the subway here. However, what is of interest is that the photo of the passed out man was taken at IKEA in Japan. Not the ideal place to get trashed, but he seemed to be enjoying it.

Sandra, Jay and I decided to visit Japan's first IKEA the week it opened. Talking to a staff member, we were told that at 9:30 am the day of the store's grand opening, not a single person was in line. He admitted that at that point IKEA executives began to panic, but they were relieved when at 9:50 am over 4,000 were in line. By end of day one over 35,000 IKEA-loving Japanese had cruised through the store.

Now, you're probably asking why we went to IKEA since we have IKEA in Canada. Mainly we went because I love any opportunity to watch the Japanese whip themselves into anything resembling a fury. Strangely, this never seems to happen. Calm and compliant behaviour is the norm here, but I must say that the IKEA experience was as close as I have seen any of the Japanese get to any sort of frenzied behaviour. I guess that cheap furniture does that to people, especially in a country where it is not uncommon to pay $300 (Cdn.) for two gift melons.

I was also excited to see if IKEA in Japan was any different than IKEA in Canada, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice mix of consistency and differences.

Things That Are EXACTLY the Same at IKEA Japan and IKEA Canada

1. Snake Pit - Scary oversized stuffed snakes that make you wonder who buys these things.
2. Same Old, Same Old - Same couches, tables, curtains, shelves and accessories.
3. But All I Wanted Was a Candle... - Same oversized bags for you to carry all the crap that you didn't mean to buy when all you really wanted was a throw pillow, a cool dish and a few Swedish meatballs. Like you REALLY needed that blanket that doubles as a dart board.
4. Getting Lost - The mazelike layout, including arrows to direct people (not required because the Japanese are not prone to trying to "go against the flow" in any sense), ensure no escape until you've seen the whole store.

Things That Are KINDA the Same at IKEA Japan and IKEA Canada...But Not Really

1. Kiddie Holding Pen - Known as the ballroom in Canada, in Japan it is called Smiletown. Basically the two are the same -one room filled with screaming children jumping in vats of large plastic balls which are probably coated in a thin layer of urine.

I am also sure that, just like in Canada, in Smiletown there is at least one six-year-old girl stealing balls, frantically stuffing them into her snowsuit when staff members aren't looking, because her father told her that, "If every time we go to the IKEA ballroom you take at least one ball home with you, soon you will have your own ballroom in the basement." Oh wait...maybe that was just at the Nepean IKEA...DAD!

Being a ballroom connaiseur myself, I thought that the Japanese room was nicer, primarily because it is new and likely relatively urine-free...for now.

2. IKEA Loonie Dogs - In Japan these things cost 100 Yen, which is the equivalent of a Canadian dollar. This is where the similarity ends. I had to buy a ticket from a small vending machine-like device to exchange for the 100 Yen Dog. I then had to proceed to strange ketchum and mustard dispensing udders that hung from the ceiling.

And yes, this thing looked absolutely disgusting but -this will come as no surprise to those who know me well enough to know that I am always eating - I ate it anyway because I was hungry.

3. IKEA cafeteria - Just like at home, the IKEA Japan cafeteria serves up what I assume is Swedish comfort food, including Swedish meatballs, salmon and reindeer (ok fine, no reindeer, but that's what I picture the Swedes eat every day at home).

In the Ottawa and Toronto stores the cafeterias are relatively small, but in Japan the cafeteria is enormous. The day we were there it was filled with young Tokyo-dwellers chowing down on full meals of Swedish foods- meatballs, rice, potato, salad, buns, deserts and beer?? Since when do people drink at IKEA? And who would think of drinking so much there that they actually passed out?

In Canada I always thought of the IKEA cafeteria as a place where people stopped only if they became lost in the store, stopping briefly for directions to the exit and to eat meatballs to restore their energy for the marathon trek out. In Tokyo the people we saw seemed genuinely excited for a full IKEA meal and didn't seem to mind spending money to get it (soooo expensive!!). In Japan, I guess that Swedish food is hip. In fact, I actually think some people came to IKEA just for the cafeteria food. Since when did it become cool to eat at IKEA?

Things That Are TOTALLY Different Between IKEA Japan and IKEA Canada

1. IKEA Japan Fornicating Stuffed Rats - Not sure why stuffed rats would be a big seller at IKEA in Japan, especially when positioned having sex in a large bin of other stuffed a stuffed rat orgy.

I also wonder why we don't have them in Canda. I assume this item did not test well in the Canadian market. Parents' comments probably included feedback like, "Humping rats are not ideal toys for my child!" or "The new IKEA Kaamoi Suitraa Rats are not funky enough for my kid."


Blogger iforgetpasswords said...

Hey, IKEA put me through university - it RULES!!! Glad to read they're spreading Swedish joy in Japan!! GO IKEA!!

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heeeyyy....I have one of those rats!!!!!!!!!... Got it at the Toronto IKEA. He was not humping anything however...I feel jipped. I will send pics to your email for proof... :(

8:34 PM  
Blogger FritzDawg said...

Another great 'blog' ms. rollins!

I'm holding a copy of your "travelblog" that was published in the Globe and Mail today (Saturday May 6th). Amazing job! Very entertaining and very well written - not sure if you've seen the picture they put in for it though - apparently you've gained 100 pounds (and only in the hips) - have you seen it? If not, i'll try to scan it and put it on my blog.

travel safe! and congrats again!

4:38 PM  
Blogger Angelina said...

What I loved about Japan was the awesome bread. It is so thick and wonderful!!! Have fun.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


IGG here, TO in the house. ugh, did I just write that? Listen, read your article and passed it on to the gf and the parents. They all say hi. Hope you are doing well bosslady and that you never run into monkeys in a frenzy again. Ciao for now...

10:55 AM  

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