Don Quixote!

Posted on Thursday, September 03, 2009 | 0 comments

No, unfortunately we're not taking off to Spain for a vacation. I can only keep dreaming about that...and Italy...and Greece, while I'm at it. Actually, any sort of vacation at this point would make me happy! We do have a great sushi dinner to look forward to on Saturday night after Yuki's test is done, though. And hopefully we'll have some pictures to post from a weekend get-away by the end of this month or early next.
Back to Spain, though. Or, at least...Don Quixote. In Japan, if you mention the words 'Don Quixote', I will bet you a good amount of money that NOBODY is going to have Miguel de Cervantes come to mind first thing. Or windmills, or crazy old men on gothic quests with their rotund sidekicks.
Rather, they are going to think one of two things: 1. 'Don don don don donnn key ho--- te!' or 2. of a store whose atmosphere is best described as a combination flea market/garage sale held inside some old casino like Circus Circus--slot machine dings and other irritating noise included. The one thing missing from the casino image is the smoke, but only because it's not allowed. Otherwise I'm sure most of the clientele would be lighting up, and we've actually even seen a few blatantly breaking the no-smoking rule. (This is all I'm going to say about the sort of customers in Don Quixote, especially at night, that and: If you thought all Japanese people were well-educated, skinny, and polite, then don't go to Don Quixote or you will be sadly forced into the real world).
As if there wasn't enough noise in the place already, the Don Quixote theme song plays incessantly over the loudspeakers (see #1), only occassionally interrupted by an annoucement in various languages that Don Quixote is a duty-free store.
So, what exactly IS this place, you're asking. Briefly, it's a chain of discount stores located throughout Japan (plus a couple in Hawaii, Japanese tourists' favorite place to visit besides Paris). That's the basic description of Don Quixote, but it honestly doesn't give any indication of the full picture. You really have to go into one of the stores yourself to experience it in its entirety; descriptions won't suffice. I'll do my best, though, since I'm guessing that most of you aren't going to get out here and see one of these stores for yourselves.

Don Quixote in Yokohama

Each store is arranged slightly differently, but I'll walk you through the one closest to us, since I'm most familiar with it.
Ours is spectacularly and uniquely offensive in and of itself, due to the fact that it's located next to some sort of fish processing plant. Or dead, rotten-something processing; all I know is that it absolutely REEKS whenever we drive through that area. Hence the name 'Kusai Don Quixote' (Stinky Don Quixote).
Once you wade your way through the nearly-liquid stench in the parking lot, you come upon a large collection of bikes and other random outdoor gear near the front doors. On Fridays, or if you're lucky, the Doner Kebab man will also be parked in front, selling lovely kebabs from his little mobile festival booth. For 500 yen, you too may have a delicious pile of fatty mystery meat, sauce, and a smidge of lettuce, all encased in a pita. I miss Greek and Middle Eastern food, so we nearly always split one when he's there.
After passing through the sliding doors, you find yourself standing in a lobby of sorts. Of course this area is packed with various 'displays' (I use the term lightly) of merchanise, sometimes seasonal and at other times placed according to the whims of the stockers. Since it's nearing the holidays (or, at least, Halloween is already in display), Christmas stock will likely be put out soon. Last year, besides the variety of Christmas trees and ornaments, decorations, etc, Don Quixote had reindeer hats alongside 'naughty' Santa costumes. Don Quixote, folks.
....The aisles are quite narrow in order to accomodate as many things are possible. Food that's slightly past the 'good-by' date is also sold out here in the lobby, such as chips, chocolate, and other snacks.
Next, you pass through another set of double doors, into the bowels of...chaos. On the left, sporting goods and various 'health' products of any and every sort. Vitamins, herbal 'remedies', facial 'toners', you name it. This area bleeds into the lamp section, for some reason. Across from the sporting goods section is the fake designer goods area, and the perfume counter. Did I mention that various sections play different music, alongside the loudspeaker's utterances?
Pass the designer goods and you'll go by the clothing area on your left and the appliances on your right. Venture a little further forward, and you run smack into the electronics section. Not that you won't hear the rucus from there well beforehand, of course. If you can find what you're looking for here, they often have great deals. We got a headlamp for our Mt. Fuji climb for only about 15 USD, well below the asking price of $30 and up at most sporting goods stores.
Race past the electronics section holding your ears (ok, maybe that's just me), and turn to the right. Now, on your left is the pet section, and on the right is toys. Wasabi's bright pink rhinestone collar came courtesy of Don Quixote, thank you very much. Now we just have to wait for her to grow into it.
Past the toys, at the back of the store, is the food section. This area covers the entire back of the store and contains anything from souvenir food (giant bar of chocolate, anyone?) to candy, pasta, imported goods, bread, some fresh produce, and a random sampling of refrigerated goods. The food tends to come and go randomly, since a lot of it is warehouse overstock, etc, kind of like Big Lots in the US.
Across from the food, past the pet area, is the paper goods and then the household items area. Around here too is the massively impressive liquor section. On the way out, you pass by personal care goods (razors, soap, etc) and the rice section. Oh, and I somehow forgot the linens and bedding area. I'm not exactly sure where it's located, even, since the store is so confusing, but we always pass it somewhere between electronics and I think food. And the car goods section, that's in there too. Are you getting the picture?
After checking out, you escape through more doors back into a hallway leading to the lobby/entrance. Off this hallway is a small billards room, plus a couple of fast food and ice cream vendors. And that is Don Quixote, in a nutshell. Jimmy Hoffa is probably in there somewhere too, I'm guessing buried under a purple leopard-print pillow, or perhaps a massive pile of Care Bears tissue box covers. I'll let you know if I find him.

Sampling of Products from Don Quixote

On the left: Baby Hip Jelly: 'It lifts up your hip and make it smooth, bright, and soft like baby hip.' On the right: 'Sweat in the bath: When you take a bath, you have good fit with this sheet. And you will sweat a lot from your forehead.'