The musical aberration of Japanese grocery stores

Have you ever been in a grocery store in America and really noticed the music? It’s impossible not to in Japan. First of all in Japan the grocery store is almost a daily exercise because the refrigerators are so small. Shana does most of the grocery shopping because her schools are closer to stores than mine. Second, all the music is really loud so I am always conscious of it. Third it is very strange.

The first thing I noticed was how many monophonic synth jingles are playing. Often times these are playing out of little portable stereos spread around the store. The jingles are all about thirty seconds long and they just keep repeating. It’s like one guy with a 1987 Casio keyboard, learned how to play, “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and then recorded it for mass distribution in Japan. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed but until I had internet at my house I had to go to the grocery store for free wi-fi. After several hours I started to notice how I was being driven mad by several competing jingles.

I see you...

I see you…

Competing with the little synth jingles is the entire, “The Beatles,” catalog. I hear the Beatles in a lot of different grocery stores. They are catchy, I hope they make it. Listening to, “Octopus’ Garden,” while buying fresh octopus is actually rather amusing. I think the funniest thing about all the Beatles music is that they don’t pick and choose. If the store puts on Abbey Road while you’re shopping, you will hear the album front to back.

I’ve started my own album of grocery shopping themed parodies of Beatles songs called, Butter Roll. It will include hits like, “Baby, You Can Charge My Card,” “Happiness is a Warm Bun/Cream’s So Heavy,” “While My Jar Pickles the Beets,” and, “I Am the Walrus.” Also featured on this album are tracks like, “Back o’ the F.R.E.E. ZER,” “Hey, Food,” “Kelp!,” All You Need is Forks,” and “Ramenlution.

Here’s a taste of, “Ramenlution.

“You say you want a ramenlution, well, you know,
We all wanna’ get the pans.
You say its about ingredient solutions well, you know,
We’re all addin’ what we can.
But if you go showin’ pictures of American chow,
You wont find what you’re lookin’ for any how.”

Don’t you know you’re gonna’ eat
Ramen
Don’t you know you’re gonna’ eat
Ramen

I think I still captured the general theme of the song. Sorry about that, I may have gotten a little carried away.

This may not come as a surprise now but on more than one occasion I have heard monophonic synth covers of the Beatles. In particular one store that we frequent plays, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” over and over again. If you could imagine sampling the single tones of car horns and then arrange them so they construct a Beatles track then you can picture what this sounds like. If I spend longer than thirty minutes in that store I will likely put “strychnine in the guacamole, I said NO SALT,” if you know what I mean…

To make matters worse I have also come across monophonic synth covers of elevator music versions of popular American pop songs. Michelle Branch was one “victim” of this particular musical atrocity. I was wandering the AEON Center Grocery and I had to do an aural double take. “Shana…is that… what I think it is?” And a single tear fell from my eye. Poorly used synths can ruin already bad music.

However I have saved the best for last. There is a chain of stores in Japan called, YorkTown. Not sure where the moniker comes from but they are good grocery stores and usually have some options for non-Japanese items. YorkTown is also responsible for what may be my favorite grocery experience of all time. I was shopping for a picnic and as I came around to the adult beverage section the Indiana Jones theme came over the loud speakers. This. was. awesome. My mundane shopping experience immediately transformed in an adventure of Lucasfilm proportions. I even made sure to replace items I had picked up with something of roughly the same weight. Sadly I did not get to find out if it is socially acceptable to dive back into the store as the automatic glass doors are closing to grab my hat. Also despite my skilled use of a bullwhip it is frowned upon in Japan to grab things with one in public.

Given the amount of grocery shopping that is required to live in Japan I’m sure I will have more of these experiences. I can’t wait till the theme of Braveheart plays while they may take my money they WILL NEVER TAKE MY FRENCH BREAD! Maybe I’ll get to shop to the theme from Super Mario Bro’s and pay entirely in coins for those mushrooms. Who knows?

And yes, there is guacamole in Japan. And yes, that was an Office Space reference.

One comment on “The musical aberration of Japanese grocery stores

  1. […] Using the iPhone or iPad for the music is nice because they can’t predict when it will stop quite as easily as a CD player. I used The Beatles “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” for this. All my students know this because they play it constantly in the grocery stores here. […]

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