Buying in bulk and omiyage



JS in the U.S. writes: “I am a Costco member in the U.S. and I am able to use my card at the stores in Japan. All I had to do was stop by the membership desk on the way in the first time and make sure that their system could access my account. I have to imagine that the arrangement works in reverse for coming to the U.S. The yearly fee is about the same translated between dollars and yen. A spouse can be included on the same membership without an additional charge. He or she will receive their own card.

“With my wife being from Tokyo, we like to take her family to Costco whenever we visit Japan. The price on the sushi and sashimi is absolutely fabulous. The same size trays of sushi are twice as expensive in the U.S. and much cheaper than any other store that I have seen in Japan. Her family stocks up on household and kitchen supplies, since the large size Costco packages are usually not much more than the tiny size at the “conbeni.”

Costco also has some normal-size products, like bottles of wine; other products, like DVD’s and books are sold individually and cheaper than other stores in Japan. But usually the yearly visits are enough for her family, since that is about how long it will take them to get through the gallon of ketchup.

“One odd thing is that both my wife and I have to bring our cards to the Japanese stores. The employees at the entrance in Chiba said that only three adults were admitted per card holder, which is a rule that I have never seen or heard of in the U.S.

“For the membership fee, occasionally bring along a relative or colleague to defray some of that cost. Usually they will be grateful and buy you something from the store.

Hear, hear

John Garcia, also in the U.S., confirms the rumor that Costco memberships in Japan can be used overseas. “I’ve used mine in the U.S. and South Korea.”

And Liz Rayne asks: “Have you considered FBC Foreign Buyers Club, based in Kobe? This online/magazine/phone service ( www.fbcusa.com ) offers a huge amount of goods from the U.S., England and Australia. They sell in ones/boxes, accept COD and have a great delivery service in place.”

Alp is at ‘and

Jason Gerber has been researching with regards to the “Alp me” section of Lifelines on July 5.

“I discovered some interesting notes regarding the names of the Japanese Alps in a book called ‘Hiking in Japan’ by Paul Hunt.

“On page 98, he states that the name “Japan Alps” was made popular by William Gowland, whose Japan Guide was published in 1888.”

“The Japanese names for these ranges are actually “Hida” (North Alps), “Kiso” (Central Alps), and “Akaishi” (South Alps).”

Finally, many apologies but would Martin, who wrote extensively on this subject, please send his mail again. I deleted it by accident . . .


Mary and her husband visited Japan with a group tour in April. “Every temple we went to had a printed cloth, like a small towel, for sale. They had lovely designs, and every single one was different. We bought quite a few and our friends have hung them on their walls. Can you tell me any more about them?”

They are called “tenugui” in Japanese, and traditionally are coiled and wound around the head to soak up sweat in summer or at hard manual work. But they work just as well in kitchens as wiping up cloths or hand towels.

Prices can be as little as 300 yen and, as you say, every design is different. Many foreigners here with a graphic bent collect them, especially those designed for New Year, or with themes such as sumo. They always make great “omiyage” (souvenirs). Price are from as little at 250 yen upwards.