HIROSHIMA, JAPAN – We’ve been in this wonderful city in the southwestern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu for about a week now, to help our son set up, having gained entry and a scholarship to a university here.
This will be the first time our 18-year-old is living away from home/us, and since we will be 2,793 kilometers apart for this life stage, his parents had to go with him to Japan where he will be staying for the next four years. This trip is a no brainer because aside from the vast distance, this is a place where there are no relatives and friends, and while he had been learning the language to prepare for this medium term aspiration that had somehow been fulfilled, we didn’t even know the language.
We needed to see and experience the place to figure out the cost of living, open a bank account, get a telco connection, check out his dorm, buy the necessary things he needs to start his life here. Japan is a wonderful place to visit as a tourist, but this time, we came with someone who exited the immigration area with a resident card. If you come to think of it, based on that initial contact with a government office for this trip, the Philippines’ LTO already got beaten. Anyway, this time, we were here to figure out how to live here, and this was definitely going to be interesting.
We weren’t able to open a bank account or get a local sim card, as that proved to be more complicated than we expected, but what we were able to accomplish was getting stuff for the dorm.
For that particular task, one of the best tips we got was from fellow Negrense Mark Dela Paz, who has been in Hiroshima since 2020, getting a doctorate degree. He suggested that we get our stuff from second hand stores, and once we started browsing, we were hooked.
The difference between Japanese second hand stores and our ukay ukay is vast. The stores we went to, Book Off and Second Street, are like department stores where they sell everything from clothes and shoes, to appliances and electronics, sporting goods and outdoor gear. And the most amazing thing for me is that they even have a warranty for appliances and electronics. Of course, the choices are more limited, but if you shop wisely, there are so many deals to be found.
To make a long story short, second hand stores quickly became our favorite shopping place. To illustrate, we got an air fryer for JPY4,800, which upon Googling, is JPY16000 brand new in Amazon.com. The unit we got was sealed and practically brand new in box, making it the best deal we found there. Other pre loved items we got were an electric fan, clothes steamer, hair dryer, humidifier/air purifier, storage bins, and kitchen items. These items were refurbished and came with 1-3 month warranties if applicable. We certainly saved a ton by going to the second hand store instead of getting everything brand new from department stores. All that was required was extra browsing, and checking out different stores to see if the items that weren’t available or didn’t meet our standards (looked too old). In a nutshell, as long as you choose wisely, everything we got looked totally brand new.
There were so many things I wanted to buy and take home, like Dyson electric fans for 10 percent of the retail price in the Philippines. The only problem was that appliances run on 100 volts in Japan. But for our son, who would be using the appliances in Hiroshima, the second hand stores were definitely a blessing.
What impressed me most about the second hand store is how culturally acceptable it is, and how the Japanese built a system to reuse and recycle these items that they no longer wanted or needed so others can use it. Because of it, despite our limited budget, our son is living like a king at his dorm, having more appliances and creature comforts than my wife and I had when we first moved into our home after we got married. My college self would be jealous of his second had stuff.
Pre-loved stuff for our fully-loved son is a good way for him to start his life here in Japan on the right foot. He currently has everything he needs, even the humidifier and an electric blanket for the winter season. If we didn’t bring a laptop, I wouldn’t have hesitated getting one from him 2nd hand, because it just feels like you can trust the Japanese when they say they thoroughly checked and refurbished the items that they sell.
Another nice thing with a healthy 2nd hand store culture is that it encourages less waste and promotes a circular economy, which is ultimately good for the planet and the wallet of people like me who see value in such a service. It’s not for everyone, but if the option is there, it can be good for a lot of people and the planet.*