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Japan: Infinite lines have a reason for being

Be it for a cup of delicious ramen, a new model video game console, a donut of a popular foreign chain of sweet shops or the latest book by a bestselling novelist, some Japanese people are ready to queue! For hours if need be in front of the shop to get what they want, whether it be a chilly rainy day in winter or a 40°C hot day of summer.

Especially, new openings are tempting. When a new shop opens, it’s like opening a treasure chest where whoever first arrives, can lay hands on the desired object before the others and at a special price.

A  line in front of a takoyaki shop. By Flickr id: idua_japan

A line in front of a takoyaki shop. By Flickr id: idua_japan

Kuropurin tells how she initiated her daughter into the habit, queuing in line for over 4 hours to get the bicycle of her dreams.

でも、少しでも娘に愛着を持たせるために買うのに、一緒に並びに行かせました。
10時開店で、何時に並ぶか悩んだけど前日に実物をお店に見に行ったとき、その日は6時くらいにならんだらしいと聞いたのでまあ、6時に起きて準備して行こうと決めました。

I wanted my daughter to feel some attachment for the bicycle she was about to have, so I took her to the shop and made her queue together with me.

The shop opened at 10 and I went to the store on the day before to find out what time we should arrive. I heard that a long line started to form from 6am, so we decided to wake up at 6 the next day.

当日、6時に目覚ましをして、なんとか起きて娘と着替えて出発。
途中のコンビニで朝食を調達して自転車屋さんにすぐ到着。うちからは車で5分。
お店に着くと、何人かもう並んでるけど自転車が限定10台、欲しい色が5台なのでその枠には入れそうでした。

When the day came, my daughter and I somehow woke up at 6, got dressed and left. On the way to the bicycle shop we grabbed some breakfast and soon arrived at our destination, 5 minutes from home by car. 
When we arrived, there were already a number of people queuing but 10 bikes would be on sale, 5 of which were in the colour that she wanted. So it looked like we had arrived early enough to be able to get the one she liked.

[…]

それから、ひたすら待ちました。途中で一度整理券が配られたのに、その場を離れたら権利がなくなるとかで結局ならんでなくちゃいけなくて。
何のための整理券なの~って、お店の人に聞こえるようにつぶやいてしまいました。
開店前に、今は義務になっていた防犯登録の書類を書いて10時過ぎに順番にお支払い。やっと自転車を受け取ることができました。

And then we waited, I’m not sure how long
. At one point, they started distributing numbered tickets but since we would have lost any right to rejoin if we had abandoned the queue, we had to remain anyway. “What’s the point of having numbered tickets?” I said so that the shop assistant could hear me.
 Before the shop opened, we wrote all the necessary documents for the number plate and after 10am, when our turn came, we paid. Finally we had our bicycle!

Nobody likes queuing, but it's one of those “can’t be helped!” things where the end justifies the means.

Guru guru queued in the rain to get a ticket to see a show by Takarazuka [en], an extremely popular musical theatre troupe composed entirely of women).

並ぶのきらいなのに、並んでもうた
たぶん、外の気温、10度以下だったと思うし、雨も降ってたけど、1時間20分前くらいから並んでしまった
42枚だけ発売される当日券目的で、一昨日、観たのに、また…並んでしまった。
貴重な休日だというのに…
ディズニーランドとか、ドーナツ屋とか、行列の出来るレストランとか、そんなものも、付き合いでやむを得ない場合以外は極力避けてるのに、並んじゃったよ~~~

Although I hate queuing, I did it.
 The temperature outside was under 10°C and it was raining, but I waited for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
 I knew beforehand that there would be 42 on-the-day tickets available. Actually I have already seen [the show] two days ago but… I ended up queuing again!!!
A long line in front of Suehirotei comedy teathre. By Flickr id: K.Suzuki

A long line in front of Suehirotei comedy teathre. By Flickr id: K.Suzuki

Queuing at pachinko [en] parlours is said [ja] to be particularly advantageous. Arriving first gives you the opportunity to choose the machine you think is more likely to give you a win on that day. In addition, when a brand new pachinko parlour opens, the ‘chukkers’ are looser and the settings of the machines are more ‘generous’.

However, what’s the feeling of shopkeepers who see queues forming?
A sweet shop owner says he was pleasantly surprised when some children queued to buy his cakes.

開店前に小学生が3人、当店の前でたむろってる。
まぁ気にせず開店準備を。せっせ、せっせと。
はい、準備完了!と同時に
『60個ください。』へっ?
・・・ごめんな~、
おっちゃん待ちやったんか~。なんとうれしい。[…]
うちのベビーカステラ目当てで来てくれたんやなぁ~。
ケチで有名なおっちゃんやけどオマケしてしもた。
せやからおっちゃんが死ぬまで常連様でおってね。
なんちゃって!

Before I opened the shop I noticed 3 primary school kids gathered in front of my shop.
 I decided not to pay them any attention and carried on with my preparations. 
When the preparations were over I heard “60 of those please”.
“What?….Oh, sorry. You were waiting for me? I’m so glad!” […]
 They had come just to buy my ‘baby cakes’.
 I’m usually known for being stingy but I added a few extra. 
“So, please be steady customers of this old man until he dies!” Just kidding!

1 comment

  • […] read an article on Global Voices today about how the Japanese love queueing. My initial reaction is that they probably don’t love it, just got so programmed into doing it […]

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