We continue to be surprised when we come across something familiar in the midst of the unfamiliar. For example, after we left church this afternoon, we decided to walk around Nishi Funabashi, the area where the church is located. Just up the street from the church, we discovered a Denny’s restaurant!
McDonald’s is everywhere, of course. In fact, there’s one within easy walking distance of our apartment. We pass it on our way to school each day. We haven’t eaten there but we do occasionally stop into a McDonald’s when we’re out and about on a day off because they’ve recently been promoting their premium roast coffee and we can get a good sized cup there much cheaper than anywhere else.
In addition to McDonald’s, food courts in the malls include Subway and Baskin Robbins. Starbucks is also found in all the better shopping areas and apparently there are Tona Roma’s restaurants in Tokyo. Kentucky Fried Chicken and 7-Eleven are both seen in a variety of locations and we’ve passed both Esso and Shell gas stations. I still remember my extreme surprise at passing a Century 21 real estate office on our way to school the first time!
Many of the vending machines, which are found absolutely everywhere in Japan, sell Coke. Pepsi is less common but we have seen it.
The grocery store also contains surprises. Most of the labels are completely foreign to me. In fact, through grocery shopping I’ve been given a glimpse of what it must be like to be illiterate because I can read so few of the labels and am constantly searching for a familiar English word to give me a clue as to what the product might be. We do have Ritz crackers in the cupboard, however, and Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the fridge and I eat Kellogg’s Bran Flakes for breakfast quite often! Some such items are imported and quite pricey while others are made specifically for the Japanese market. For example, the Bran Flakes are quite different from those sold at home. Richard doesn’t like them at all as he likes cereals that soak up the milk and get mushy while these maintain their crunch. I love them because, unlike Bran Flakes at home which are pretty bland, these are slightly sweetened. With a bit of fruit on top, I find them quite delicious.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to us was the obvious fact that there was a connection between Wal-Mart and the Seiyu department store where we do most of our grocery shopping. The familiar Rollback signs and the fact that the clothing departments sell the George brand were clear giveaways. A little research online showed that Wal-Mart bought a majority interest in the chain in 2005. Those of you who know Richard’s anti Wal-Mart leanings will understand that he was somewhat reluctant to shop there at first!
There are many familiar items that aren’t available here, however. Those who also know Richard’s fondness for Kraft dinner might sympathize with his regret that we haven’t seen it anywhere!