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Bargain Spotting in Japanese

One of the best things to do in summer is escape the heat by going bargain shopping in a cool, air-conditioned store.

By 3 min read

When you think of thing to do in the summer, chances are you think of beaches and hot weather. However, for many Japanese people July and August have another meaning: it’s a time to pick up items for cheap in the annual summer sales. For me, this is an exciting time as I get a chance to update my electrical goods (電化製品 (でんかせいひん)) at a reasonable price.

A useful grammar point to listen out for in this season is うちに. While うち has a lot of meanings, this time it has a meaning similar to ‘while’ in English. During the sales, you will often hear the phrase (やす)いうちに which has a meaning similar to ‘get it while it’s cheap.’

A similar form is (かぎ)り which means a boundary or limit to something. You will often see special offers referred to as 本日限 (ほんじつかぎ)り. The meaning in this case is that the offer is so special it is available for one day only.

Of course, Kansai shoppers will know not to be fooled by 本日限り as the meaning is often not so much ‘today only’, but rather ‘today only, but tomorrow we will have an almost identical sale’. Regular shoppers in the Nipponbashi area of Osaka will be all too familiar with stores using this phrase on their exclusive final-day, closing down sales… that usually last for a year plus!

As a general rule, the prices you see marked are the final prices after the discount has been applied. However, in downtown areas like Denden town in Osaka, it is almost expected that you’ll haggle a little bit on major purchases which can be a little confusing for first-time visitors. As a general rule if the people working in the store have the look and attitude of car salespeople, then the prices can probably be negotiated. Try saying まけてください (please reduce the price) and gauge their reaction.

Of course, many places are happy to offer you a discount without negotiating. A favorite sight of tourists is the tax-free symbol next to the cash registers which means you get the consumer tax back from your purchase. Even if you don’t see the mark, many places offer tax-free shopping, so it is often worth asking anyway.

Luckily the English word ‘tax’ has been Japanized to タックス and most people will understand タックスフリー if you say it. However, for cool points it is useful to remember the word 免税 (めんぜい) which is the Japanese word for tax-free products. You can easily ask if the goods are tax-free or not by asking これは免税で買えますかこれはめんぜいでかえますか・kore wa menzei de kaemasu ka.

For bulkier electronics, これを海外に送ってもらえますかこれをかいがいにおくってもらえますか・Can you deliver this to an overseas address? is useful. A lot of shops these days will happily deliver to overseas. Good news for tourists who want to save their valuable weight allowance for other purchases.

At this point it is also useful to check whether you can use the electric appliance overseas by asking これは海外でも使えますかこれはかいがいでもつかえますか・kore wa kaigai demo tsukaemasu ka, as we’ve all been disappointed when our expensive goods turned out to only work in Japan. You may also want to ask 英語の説明書はありますかえいごのせつめいしょはありますか・Does this have English instructions? as struggling through the huge amounts of specialized kanji found in most instruction manuals is not fun for anyone.

Hopefully our readers will have a good time bargain hunting. Let us know what bargains you manage to find in your travels.

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