Department Stores (デパート)
City department stores usually have about ten floors. Some would have a car park in the lower basement. The first basement is frequently connected to the subways. Often when you get off the subway you will find yourself at the entrance of a large department store. Most of the department stores have a similar arrangement of goods on different floors (see image below).
Toward the top, there is a restaurant floor. Many different restaurants serve a variety of dishes to the shoppers. There are cafes as well. On the roof, there is often an amusement park where children play games or have a ride on a merry-go-round. The large Japnese department store is not just a place to shop. People go there to eat, play and look. There is usually an exhibition hall (ギャラリー) where some kind of art exhibition is being held.
Department stores are usually open daily from 10am until 7pm with the exception of one day per week when they are closed. This day is usually not at the weekend, as Japanese people go out shopping on weekends. Every department store has a bargain sale now and again. As the prices drop 50% at these sales, the place becomes very crowded. They are particularly crowded at gift-giving seasons which are in mid-summer and at the end of the year. Every department store has a delivery service free of charge for short distances, and a gift wrapping service which is also free of charge.
The shop assistants at departments stores are specially trained to serve the customers well. When the store opens shop assistants line up at the door and bow to every customer who comes in. Neatly dressed elevator girls keep bowing, shop assistants serve with a smile. Change is never ‘handled’ by hand. It is always passed on a dish. You certainly feel like a king at a Japanese department store. The sale tax of 5% (2006) is included in the price.
Watch the following videos for a better understanding of the Japanese Department Store culture.