Tokyo Damage Report

how not to buy furniture in Japan




APRIL 28 TH: go to major department store TOKYU HANDS and look at furniture. You notice the huge sign reading “ATTENTION CUSTOMERS: NEXT WEEK IS GOLDEN WEEK SO YOU SHOULD BUY NOW.” Unfortunately, this handy sign a) exists only in your mind, and b) only exists in your mind in the future, when you realize what an ordeal is to come.

Since the sign does not exist in reality on the 28 th, you don’t buy anything, as you want to check out prices at competing furniture stores.


May first: move to a new house.


MAY 1st : realizing that all other new furniture stores in Shinjuku charge like $2,000 for a table, return to TOKYU HANDS. At TOKYU HANDS, you buy furniture by grabbing a small slip of paper off the top of the display model, which says something like “dining table, #bwf3004”, and taking it to the counter. But now it is “Golden Week”, which means that the furniture factories are all on vacation, and you can’t get your furniture before the 13 th ? basically you picked the one week of the year that you should never move, to move. After they tell you it will take 12 days, you explain that you just moved into a expensive-ass apartment with no furniture in it. and you mention that you would love to wait 2 weeks for your furniture PROVIDING THEY PAY THE RENT ON YOUR UNLIVABLE APARTMENT FOR 2 WEEKS. This proposal is not met with enthusiasm. Realizing that you catch more flies with sugar than, um, steak? Poop? (I forgot how this old saying goes ? but it doesn’t matter, because it’s a stupid saying: you can attract flies with ANY DISGUSTING ROTTEN FOOD. That’s why we want to catch them in the first place, the filthy bastards) anyway, deciding to be more friendly, you propose to the clerk that you take the slip of paper marked “TABLE” and eat off of it for 2 weeks, while sitting on the slip of paper marked “CHAIR,” and maybe that will be so fun of a lifestyle that you won’t even come back and buy the damn furniture at all.


MAY 2 ND: go to like 6 used furniture stores all over Tokyo. From the contents of these used stores, one can deduce that the average Japanese home contains 200 bookcases, 100 chest-of-drawers and armoires, and like everything-else-except-couches-and-dining-tables. Maybe they all eat inside an armoire. (any couches they DO have are like 20 feet wide ? as if when Japanese people move, they combine all their cast-off couches into one super-Voltron couch and then sell THAT). The Ookubo used furniture shop is full of Yakuza with wife-beaters and track suits, who seem to be buying half the furniture in the place (maybe they are opening a new clubhouse). This results in a lot of REALLY awkward “excuse me”s as you try to salmon-like swim against the current of exiting furniture, and enter the store.


MAY 3D:you return home exhausted from work, when you get a call from your special friend/room-mate: “come back to TOKYU HANDS!! I’m there now and they said we can buy the display furniture and take it home!” Drag yourself to TOKYU HANDS, go back up to the 4 th floor, and locate your special friend/room-mate, and go to the furniture department, where they tell you that that rumor is totally not true. Go back home together and eat dinner off of the floor using squeegees.


MAY 8 TH ; Golden Week is now over, the factories are open, used stores are useless and other new-furniture stores charge you a kidney for an end-table. Go BACK to TOKYU HANDS, and try to order furniture again. After spending an hour picking out a thousand dollars’ worth of stuff, and filling out the appropriate forms, the clerk informs you that it will take TEN DAYS TO DELIVER. Despite the huge amount of preposterous bad news of the past week, you still have it in you to be utterly scandalized. “Ten days?? That’s only 2 days less than the delivery time during Golden Week, when the factory was closed for 7 days!! What the hell, champ???” after much pleading, you manage to nudge the waiting time down to one week. Relieved that your long struggle is finally over, you hand your credit card to the clerk, where it is promptly denied. The clerk spends 10 minutes on the phone with Japan Visa Corporation, and says, “OK, yeah it’s because your card doesn’t work.” Try again, with half the amount. Still denied. The clerk spends 10 minutes on the phone again- this time remembering to actually ask WHY. “Yes, yes. . . ok, ok, ok, hai, hai, hai. They say your card still doesn’t work. It is a problem with the American bank, so the Japanese visa corporation has no idea what the problem is.” After you explain that your card worked just fine yesterday, you are not broke, and this is your 4 th time in TOKYU HANDS trying to buy the same damn furniture, and something goes wrong each time, he is nice enough to call the Japan Visa Corporation a third time, and they find an English-speaking employee to talk to you directly. The employee says, “Yeah, you know what? Your card doesn’t work.” Ok, why? “Well that is between you and your American bank. We can’t tell you that information because it is very private secure information.” So, for my privacy and security, you can’t tell me my own information, is that right? “Yes sir, thank you.” Go home and eat dinner out of the sink with a sponge.


MAY 9 TH :

8AM: call the American Visa Guys from your home, and they say, “OK, get out your card and tell us the number.” You do. They say, “OK, we flagged your card yesterday because there were suspicious transactions and we thought it might be fraud. Do you still live in Japan?” yes, just like I’ve been living in Japan for the last, um, I dunno… FOUR YEARS?????!?? “OK, did you buy x,y, and z?” yes, I buy them using that card regularly ? why is that suspicious??? “OK, it’s not fraud then! We’ll re-activate your card.” Hey great.

10AM: Go BACK to TOKYU HANDS for the 6 th time, where the rent-a-cops have now suddenly banned parking bicycles within 100 meters of the building, to make it even harder to spend your money there, and buy the furniture AGAIN. The clerk hands you the bill, which you pull out your wallet . . . and realize that your credit card is at home, next to the phone you called American Visa Corporation on. You only have enough cash-money to buy 2 sets of plastic drawers to put clothes in. you get a bright idea to buy the drawers now, take them home on your bike, get your card and return to the store. Unfortunately, the drawers are too big for the cargo basket of your bike and fall off every 10 feet. You give up, dismount, walk half the way home carrying heavy drawers which are already fucking chipped cracked and broken!


10:49 AM: Return to TOKYU HANDS for the 7 th consecutive time, park in the new “far away tiny closet for shameful shameful bicycles” and finally exchange money for furniture.


10:50 AM: giant earthquake levels Tokyko.

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