Liberation from Money hr649

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As I recall it, a ticket vending machine first appeared in the early 80’s at the nearest train station from my home in Japan where I grew up. There had been two ticket windows one of which was replaced with the machine. It was an exciting new gizmo especially for children that spewed out a train ticket by just pushing a button corresponded to the destination. The ticket gate was still operated by a clerk. The ticket examiner stood in an open booth with special clippers in his hand. Passengers would show the commuter pass to him, or have the ticket clipped by his clippers to get a hole or a nick on it. The examiner handled clippers skillfully, clipped tickets one after another so fast and rhythmically. When passengers broke off, he would turn clippers many times in his hand artfully as if he had been a juggler. Later on, the ticket booth was also replaced by the automatic ticket gate.
In those days, more and more vending machines had emerged here and there in Japan. They started with coffee and soft drinks, then cigarettes and beer. Soon pornographic magazines and condoms, hamburgers and noodle soup were all purchasable from the machine.
Nowadays, ordering at restaurants has been by a touch screen on the table, and check-out counters at the supermarket have been self-service registers. Either at a restaurant or a supermarket, I pay an incorrect total once in two or three visits when human servers and cashiers take care the payment and make a mistake. I know the odds because I look into the receipt very carefully right after the payment each and every time. Almost in every case I don’t gain but overpay, which is a mystery, so that I claim at once. I understand I myself induce their mistakes by using every possible coupon and discount promotion in one payment that makes my total so complicated. When a machine handles service in place of a human, it’s fast, convenient, clean and no mistakes. But on the other hand, no small talk or smiles are a little tasteless. Even so, machines may fit better for me since I often get annoyed with people too easily.
The day that machines take up most jobs of humans’ might arrive sooner than expected. If it happened, the government would pay the people a basic income by taxing companies. Is it possible that people don’t have to work? For the first time after the ancient times, humans would get liberated from money at long last. Everybody could live by doing what they want. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing that day come. I’m strongly hoping. And I believe in a miracle as such.

a different world

As the process of moving, I went to my new
place for the second time. The area was
covered with deep snow this time and it looked
like a different world. I got to my new
apartment on foot from the train station,
walking along the sidewalk sandwiched
between the plowed snow walls. The snow
walls were my shoulder high and I’d never
seen this much snow in my life.
As soon as I arrived, I got down to cleaning
the room. I spent first two days cleaning the
stained carpet. On the second day, I was to
receive several boxes I’d sent from my old
apartment. Looking at the heavy, ceaseless
snow, I was afraid that my boxes wouldn’t
reach here, but they came all right, to my
relief.
On the third day, I went shopping for food.
To get to the supermarket, I needed to take a
train, and I walked along the snow walls to the
station again. I concentrated on my steps not
to slip when an icicle dropped from a lamppost
right before me. I got almost skewered. All the
way to the supermarket, I was busy watching
up and down, for my steps and icicles. That
was awfully similar to an advanced stage of
Mario Brothers. It was an ordeal just to get to
a store. On top of that, my toes became icy as
slush had seeped inside my supposed-to-be
waterproof boots that I’d bought specially for
this trip. You can’t make light of snowy
country…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

my last pride

I usually get prepared foods at half price at a
supermarket after they give up on selling them
at the list prices as the store’s closing time
draws near. I know very well the exact times
when they put half-off stickers on the leftover
items for several supermarkets near my
apartment.
As I’ve been shopping this way for years,
some of the shoppers have become familiar to
me. At several different supermarkets, the
people jostling for half-off items are usually the
same line-up, including me. They sometimes
get acquainted with each other and exchange
information. Although I am, without doubt, one
of them, I don’t feel like joining the half-off
circle. When I find familiar faces, I always
pretend not to notice and try to look away
from them. It seems my last pride while
enjoying shopping at half price more than
anybody else.
I saw one of familiar half-off shoppers at a
supermarket the other day. She’s the one I see
almost every time I shop during the half-off
time. That evening, she was returning some
half-off items to the shelf, looking into her
wallet carefully. I thought I saw what I should
not see because it was one of the saddest
sights to me that someone was calculating the
rest of money for what they wanted to buy. As
soon as she left the shelf though, I picked the
items she had unwillingly returned and put
them into my basket, as they were goodies.
While buying them was completely legal and
nothing unethical, I couldn’t help feeling guilty
somehow…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

my fridge

A new supermarket opened one block away
from my apartment. It’s the closest
supermarket and I can see it from my window.
Since the construction started in spring,
I’d been looking forward to its opening while
seeing the progress of the construction site. I
jumped in it on the long-waited opening day
and the store exceeded my expectation.
Their prices were a lot lower than I’d
thought. They have carried the opening sale
and I’ve been there almost every day. Before
the opening, a flier of the store came in, which
said, ‘Please use us as your fridge.’ With this
proximity to my place, I thought it would be a
good idea, depending on the prices. Now that
the prices are low, using the store as my fridge
is becoming real. Because I found something
at the lowest price ever each time there and
couldn’t resist getting them, I’ve brought home
more food than I could eat. As a result, my
home fridge is packed, too.
Once I decided to move out my
apartment, this nice supermarket appeared.
Leaving the store behind makes me feel
hesitant to move…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

low price always has its reasons

I shopped at the discount supermarket that I’d recently noticed its existence again. Their usual prices are at the level of special sale prices at other supermarkets. They also have their private brand at even lower prices for beer, noodles and wine. Meat is cheaper than the half-price one at other stores. I get the meat there with further discounts because of the imminent expiration date, so that the price is unbelievable for meat.

It’s open 24 hours and I can go there any time I want without worrying about its closing time. It’s a perfect place to shop for me if not one particular thing – the music played in the store. They play Japanese hit songs annoyingly loudly. Their problems are they sound like a patchwork of fragments from hit songs of U.S. that were popular ten years ago. Their Japanese lyrics are particularly horrible with childishness. I try not to listen to them but it’s loud enough to beat any defense like earplugs or portable music devices. I don’t want to be contaminated, so I have to leave the store quickly each time. Being unable to enjoy shopping leisurely is the catch of this otherwise great store. The low price always has its reasons…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

the supermarket turns into heaven

The nearest supermarket to my apartment puts half-off stickers to the prepared foods that are left unsold at 7:30 p.m. And sometimes, they put 75% off stickers to the ones that are still unsold after the half off at 8:30 p.m. But it all depends on the unsold amount and the 75% off sale is rarely fulfilled. When it is, though, the supermarket turns into heaven to me. It’s a risky challenge worth a bet.

I decided to go for it today and convinced myself that the main purpose was not to get the 75% off foods but to take a walk. This is my fail-safe mindset to protect myself from a bitter disappointment in case nothing is left at the store. I went there, and lost the bet. Their shelf for prepared foods was completely emptied. I kept saying to myself that I came here to take a walk, not to shop. But I had to buy some other mildly discounted items to console myself. I couldn’t shake off the frustration in any way. My fail-safe plan didn’t work for my greed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me

Yesterday I happened to see a news program on TV reporting about a discount store, which carries the lowest price soda in Japan. ‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me and I watched the report. Astonishingly, the reported store is located near my apartment.

I rushed into the store today. It existed on the site of a supermarket where I used to shop frequently but was closed for good four years ago. The building had been abandoned until the new discount store opened there last July. I can’t believe I had neglected to find it for almost a year as a person who is hunting for the lowest price constantly. While the building was the same as four years ago, the store had been transformed into my taste. The prices are incredibly low, some are the lowest in Japan, and the store opens 24 hours!

I had wanted an around-the-clock discount store for years. Since I decided to move out here, I’ve found fabulous shopping destinations one after another – first Costco, then this place. Is this a sign to stay put? I’m so confused now…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

the smell of the U.S.

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

How come they don’t like it?

I went to my favorite supermarket, Carrefour. As I mentioned here, it came from France and is going to withdraw from Japan next month.
What I like about it most is its atmosphere. It has such a huge, spacious floor that I feel like shopping at a supermarket in US. Their selection of merchandise is also my liking. They carry items which are popular not in Japan but abroad, such as rotisserie chicken, couscous, paella, pretzel and pesto. Imported food is usually very expensive but their prices are low. On the same floor, they also have kitchen goods, stationery, electronics, books and daily goods so that shopping is fun and convenient. Although it’s an ideal place to shop to me, it’s going out of business which means Japanese people didn’t like it. When I got out of the store, it was already dark outside. Looking at its elegantly glowing neon sign, I thought this would have been my last visit, and I would certainly miss this store. How come they don’t like it? I am not getting along well with other Japanese people…

one of the saddest sights

I usually get prepared foods at half price at a supermarket after they give up on selling them at the list prices as the store’s closing time draws near. I know very well the exact times when they put half-off stickers on the leftover items for several supermarkets near my apartment. As I’ve been shopping this way for years, some of the shoppers have become familiar to me. At several different supermarkets, the people jostling for half-off items are usually the same line-up, including me. They sometimes get acquainted with each other and exchange information. Although I am, without doubt, one of them, I don’t feel like joining the half-off circle. When I find familiar faces, I always pretend not to notice and try to look away from them. It seems my last pride while enjoying shopping at half price more than anybody else. I saw one of familiar half-off shoppers at a supermarket the other day. She’s the one I see almost every time I shop during the half-off time. That evening, she was returning some half-off items to the shelf, looking into her wallet carefully. I thought I saw what I should not see because it was one of the saddest sights to me that someone was calculating the rest of money for what they wanted to buy. As soon as she left the shelf though, I picked the items she had unwillingly returned into my basket, as they were goodies. While buying them were completely legal and nothing unethical, I couldn’t help feeling guilty somehow…