Thursday, December 20, 2001

Christmas Shopping

Thursday, on my day off, my wife and I went shopping. Since Christmas is just around the corner, we couldn't let this opportunity go by. We were there when the doors opened at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi, and, first of all, my wife chose presents to give to our two college-age sons. Since they were selling ties in the same department, I browsed around, and, finding some nice ones, I, with my wife's advice, bought two. Those became my wife's present to me. They were selling winter pajamas nearby, so, at her suggestion, I bought a pair. My wife bought her father a birthday present since he'll be celebrating his birthday soon. Next, on a different floor, my wife got our daughter a present. We looked at each other and said, "We're really having a very productive day."

Since it was getting close to lunch, we left the department store and headed towards the Tokyo ANA Hotel in Roppongi. We had lunch at a sushi restaurant there, after which we went to some nearby shops to look for presents for my parents. Since there are a lot of American companies in the buildings in that area, security guards were everywhere, regulating the traffic of people, protecting against any possible terrorist activity. We had to go the long way around just to get to a store located nearby, so we were exhausted. There just happened to be a coffee shop which prohibits smoking, and, since the smell was so inviting, we decided to go in and take a break. We shared a cappuccino and were relaxing at a table when one of the sales people came up and offered us a small paper cup of their original Christmas blend to sample. There being no reason for us to refuse, we gratefully accepted the drink.

As it turned out, we couldn't find anything for my parents around there, so we got in the car again and drove to the Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya. There we bought my mother a present, and a sweater for my wife as well. Although we've been married for over 20 years, there are still times when we make mistakes buying something for the other person. There are many instances when we've bought something we liked, only to find that it didn't look good on the other. That being the case, the two of us made the selection of my ties together. And, it's always best to have her try on the sweater I'm going to give her. In this way, by the time we finished 90% of our shopping and got back home, it was already past 3 pm.

After this day-long shopping experience, I feel the strain of life as a consumer in the city. Why is "shopping for presents" so exhausting? It's probably because there are too many things from which to choose. Moreover, there's always the concern that the person may already have the similar item, so you really have a hard time deciding. Also, if you think that "it needs to be something from the heart," you may find something, but feel a bit reluctant if it's too cheap. What would happen if this were someone living , not now, but long, long ago, not in the city, but in the country? Presents in those times were only handmade items, or something caught or captured. These were "originals"--things that the other person didn't have, and there wasn't much room for decisions when it came to something you made or caught on your own. And, since it's something you made or got using your own hands, it's obviously something that "comes from the heart." With the advancement of civilization, giving presents has become difficult.

- MT

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