Halows – the grocery store across from my apartment – gives me so much wonder. It’s like stepping into another world. I often end up spending hours in there without even realizing it. It’s definitely the ineluctable novelty of it all. First: the delicatessen. The variety there is dizzying! All the Japanese foods I love – spread out before me. Thus, my indecision: Should I get the chicken katsu? Sushi? Salmon sashimi? Or tempura with rice? What about udon? They also have an endless selection of Japanese bread – which I unfortunately cannot describe at the moment – displayed on a bread bar; should I get a couple of those instead with a snack? I pace back and forth, holding up each item, imagining if that was what I really wanted to eat. Back home, all these kinds of food would simply not be at my fingertips; I would have to go to a restaurant to get them. But here, all around, everywhere, piles and piles of it. And best of all: they’re cheap! Probably because they’re considered ordinary and every day food here. Not for me. Hence, my eyes large with wonder. As I continue to pace, I notice an employee – an older Japanese lady, probably in her 60s – staring at me. I believe my goal to not stand out has been compromised. Or maybe she is wondering why I’ve been lingering? Either case, it motivates me to move. Since I can’t decide what to eat, I take them all! Second: snacks. More hours could definitely be spent here. The shelves are overflowing with cakes and chips and chocolates so…cutely packaged! How it entices me to buy them all! They’re all so foreign to me. But foreign means new. And new means adventures. With one hand preoccupied with holding onto the stack of hot foods I’d collected, I use my other arm to scour the shelves for new adventures – snacks I want to try. A new indecision arrives: takoyaki-flavored onion rings? Pink, heart-shaped chocolates? Ramen-flavored potato chips? Twinkie-flavored kit kats? Nori rice cakes? The list goes on. Unlike at the delicatessen, I couldn’t buy everything on this shelf so I decide to choose three: the pink, heart-shaped chocolates (of course!), the takoyaki-flavored onion rings, and the kit kats (all the flavors)! Next stop: the drinks aisle. When I see the Milk Tea being sold by the litter, I decide that’s all I would drink, so I do not spend anymore time here. I grab three bottles. I planned to check out the 100 yen shop (equivalent to a dollar store back home), but my watch is declaring that I’ve been at this grocery store for four hours now! “I’ll go next time,” I say to myself. I check out. Now that my plastic bags are filled with edible dreams, I contentedly skip home. Tonight will be a feast indeed.
After countless times of doing the aforementioned, it seems clear that I have developed a new hobby: shopping at Halows. Going to a grocery store back home did not particularly peek my interest, but this experience may just change that. I can’t wait to start cooking. That’ll be interesting since I can’t read the ingredients here…we’ll see what happens.


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