Before moving to Japan I understood that availability of certain items would be limited. In preparation I purchased one or two extras of products I use regularly and consider important in daily life, for example my multi-vitamins, favorite skin cream and lotion. Knowing that my Amazon Prime membership works here helped me avoid a hoarding situation.
In the confusion of sorting my belongings for different packing shipments I somehow packed all my hair styling products except for four almost empty tubs of various types. Yes, my very short hair still needs styling especially because it grows straight out from my head. Only the closest among me have seen me first thing in the morning with a head of fuzzy hair sticking out every which way. (A brother and nephew have the exact same hair, so they understand.) To make due, I mixed the remaining products together, a combination of stuff like pomade, texturizer, paste and putty. The solution seemed creative and worked well enough with my freshly cut hair.
As my hair grows I use different styling products, moving from shiny pomades and waxes to more matte pastes and putties, so I went to the local Post Exchange (like Target) to pick some up. Unfortunately, this location is quite small with a very limited selection of pretty much everything. I walked up and down the beauty and health care isles countless times, scanning the shelves from top to bottom, checking every end cap and possible remote location with no luck. There is absolutely no hair styling product for short hair, only the basic hairspray, mouse, gel and a few things for shine, curls or moisturizing. For the first time since arriving I almost cried in dismay.
So I began the simple hair styling routine of pressing it down flat with water after waking up in the morning; after showering at night it's especially disheveled. I do not like how it looks, but the longer it grows the less fuzzy it is and finding a good beautician who cuts short female hair well will take some time. In another two weeks it will certainly need some work though.
Last Sunday we took the train to Ebina to check it out. Soon after stepping out of the train station I spotted a large, purple Aeon sign and immediately headed towards it. Aeon is a discount store like Wal-mart with food, clothes, home goods, et cetera and, like most shopping areas on Sunday, it was packed with shoppers. When we came to the beauty section I walked through the isles finding hair styling products by container shape because, of course, all the packaging was in kanji (Japanese writing characters). With a huge sigh of relief, I eventually found a shelf with little tubs that looked like the type of product I use. Some even had testers. I didn't buy any at that time for a few reasons: I didn't want to carry it around all day, I didn't want to part with any yen, and there were to way many people in the store to spend any extra time to actually shop. I know where it is and I will return on a more quiet weekday afternoon.
We then explored Vina Walk, a large, three-story open-air shopping mall just outside the train station. It, too, was packed with people like an American mall the Saturday before Christmas. It was there that we found OIOI, a large department store. The lower level of the store sells food and grocery items and is incredible, the best we've found in our three weeks here. While walking the perimeter isle we discovered the liquor store with a small station set up with wine samples. Working through the obvious language barrier with lots of smiles and arigato's (thank you's) I found a simple red blend that sang like angels on my palette. After the horrible selection of Barefoot, Sutter Home, Beringer and such at our local shop this was beautiful! The selection, though not large, was definitely one of quality and variety. For the first time since arriving I almost cried in rejoice.
(The photos shown below were taken with an iPhone and are by no means intended to be "real" photos, just snapshots of where I was and what I saw.)
This is the liquor store I just mentioned on the bottom floor of OIOI in Ebina. It was too busy to get a photo without people in it. To the right of the frame was the wine tasting, to the left was a refrigerated section and behind was a beer cooler with a nice assortment of local brews.
Looking through the Vina Walk, over the train station, toward the mountain foothills:
I recently fell in love with Yamazaki's Long Roll Cake. The cake is similar to a yellow angel food cake but slightly more dense. The filling is smooth and creamy without excess sweetness and I believe it is a real dairy cream because it is refrigerated. Heaven for about $1.50 and definitely big enough for multiple (reasonable) portions. It's probably better that I cannot interpret the ingredients or nutritional information.