By Hyeyoon Sung
Do you hate carrying around those clanking, heavy coins in your purse that you somehow can never get rid of? Would you believe it if someone tells you there’s a place where you can bring some of those coins and that would be all you need to buy necessities for your daily life? Amazingly enough, it’s true. Unbelievable, you say? Welcome to Japan, the land where the usefulness of coins are highlighted more than people might think. In Japan, having extra coins is very handy, since in many situations, coins can actually be of use. There is no such thing as a useless coin, as even 1 yen coins are frequently needed. Many products are priced with very specific numbers, often down to the units digit. Perhaps this is because in Japan, one coin’s worth is quite big: the value of a 100 yen coin roughly equals that of one paper bill in the US dollar.
Therefore, many Japanese people use coin purses. Some even carry only their coin purse, while some others carry both wallets and coin purses. In fact, there even is a place where bringing your coin purse seems like a must-do—Hyakuen shops.
‘Hyakuen’ means 100 yen. Its name roughly sums up what you can do there; in Hyakuen shops, you can buy almost anything with your trustworthy 100 yen coins. From stationery and small toys, to silverware and even food, for people living in Japan, there is no shortage of items needed in real life in Hyakuen shops.
Why Hyakuen? Actually, including tax the items sold in Hyakuen shops aren’t exactly 100 yen, but 105 yen. But why are these stores named 100 yen shops? Perhaps it is simply that the idea of buying useful things with a single coin is pretty attractive to many thrifty housewives and students living alone. Living in Japan, or rather, in Tokyo is pricey and everyone knows it. Even though the actual price might not exactly be rounded down to 100 yen, the symbolical meaning of being able to buy things with just one coin rings the heart, and hence is the catchphrase. Also, even with the tax included, the fact that Hyakuen shop goods are simply much more affordable than pretty much anywhere else in Tokyo is undeniable.
Even if you are just a tourist and do not necessarily need anything from the Hyakuen shop, I would strongly recommend that you at least give it a try. It is quite something, and you can take a closer look at Japanese people’s daily lives. So if you have never been to a Hyakuen shop, why not try stepping into one today?
Hyeyoon is a first year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.