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.


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.


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.



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).


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.


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!

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