A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Sakura Technopark Revealed – 2

Videos of recent blockbusters – 100 yen!

If that doesn’t catch your attention, I don’t know what would. But you better hurry because they’re slowly disappearing as you read this. Which shop? Read further.

In this second installment of the Sakura Technopark series, allow me to introduce to you some of the other hidden surprises of our small, “secret” world. First stop is Big Ben, the 24-h, 2-storey video, CD and DVD rental shop that stands between Bamiyan and Saizeriya. That’s where you’ll find those secondhand 100-yen VHS tapes I mentioned earlier. The more recent ones (less than a year old) are slightly more expensive but not more than 500 yen. If you’re a film collector willing to put up with older technology or if you still have a VHS player at home, then instead of just renting, the film that you get is yours forever, to watch as often as you like or at your own leisure.

Music buffs can also explore Big Ben’s second floor where you’ll find the recent concerts and/or MTVs of your favorite artists. Last time I checked, there were Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston, and Marlyn Manson DVDs on the shelf. The best way to determine if your favorite artist’s DVD is there is to visit Big Ben yourself. Don’t worry, there’s no entrance fee.

When is the best time to drop by? Big Ben halves rental prices every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. On these days, the usually half-empty store would be abuzz with people and lines to the rental counter would be very long. The queues begin lengthening at 4 or 4:30 p.m. and continue until evening. If there’s a film that you’re particularly interested in, come early.

Kawachi also offers VHS tapes of recent hits for a fixed price of 500 yen. Once every few months, they would actually be swamped with tapes and DVDs of classics, all for 500 yen. It just happens unexpectedly so it would help to drop by once in a while if you’re a serious film collector. Last time, I purchased a few Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne DVDs at 500 yen just to get the kick of watching (and owning!) excellent movies that were made even before I was born.

Between Kawachi and Kasumi stands a large bookstore that is not only filled with books and magazines but also CDs and DVDs. The prices are not much different from those of Ishimaru or Seibu but if you think these places are too far, then why bother going there? Also, as far as magazines are concerned, I think they have one of the most complete collections. They even sell some of those Linux magazines that are published only for top-class computer geeks.

And if you need a nice hair cut, salons galore dot Sakura Technopark. Prices vary from the “1,000-yen cut” near the bookstore I mentioned earlier to high-end salons that charge 5,000 yen upwards. I strongly discourage you though from going to the “1,000-yen cut” unless you’re the masochistic type. My wife tried there once out of curiosity and went home with the left side of her hair longer than the right side. To make her hair look even, she would have to bend her head slightly to the right. Yeah, she can do it for a few seconds but definitely not all day. She went back fuming and the “hair stylist” corrected it for free. The problem with that shop is that they want to cut your hair as quickly as possible, even if it would eventually mean you’ll have to disappear from Earth for a week or two.

I always to go “Summers”; the friendly guy there has been cutting my hair since I returned to Tsukuba almost two years back. “Summers” is in the building right in front of the bookstore and beside the “Digital Conbini”, which is also my favorite photo printing shop (quality there is absolutely top class). A cut plus shampoo at “Summers” is only 2000 yen if you go there in the mornings. You have to make reservations first, however. His schedule is starting to become very tight, esp. on weekends, as word about him continues to spread. You can’t go wrong if you go to “Summers” and you can take my word for it.

There’s one restaurant, by the way, that I forgot to mention in my first post, and that’s Chaya, the resto adjacent to Takarabune, which is at the entrance of Sakura Technopark. If you work or study at the university and have an hour to spare for a high-end lunch at low-end prices, then Chaya is the best place. The day’s specialty is only 880 yen while the more fancy courses go for 1200 to 1380 yen, inclusive of salad, soup and dessert. We had lunch there last Friday and the food was really very good.

And speaking about good food, particularly yakiniku, there’s Gyukaku further ahead. Outside this restaurant there’s a sign in Japanese that can be roughly translated as “We would like to be the number one restaurant for you.” As far as yakiniku is concerned, I think they have succeeded. In the evenings, esp. on weekends, they’re always full.

This post is becoming quite long again so I’ll pause here momentarily. By the way, Big Ben’s next half-price rental day is on July 26 so don’t forget to mark your calendars. In the meantime, you might want to check out those 100-yen VHS tapes before they completely disappear.

Or should I say, “Before I make them completely disappear”?


  • Shaney says:

    Great post!

    The bookstore is called “Yuhodo”, by the way.

    Also, do you happen to know if “Digital Conbini” offers negative scanning services? I have a huge number of negatives that I would like to get scanned into digital format and I am looking for a company that can do a good job for a low price.

    I have heard that Kawachi offers this service, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Does anyone have any experience with this?

  • Daddy B says:

    Thanks, Shaney! And thanks for telling us the name of the bookstore. My kanji reading is very rusty, hahaha…

    Yes, “Digital Conbini” accepts negative scanning but I don’t know how much it costs. I heard Digix Wonder near Lala Garden accepts, too.

    Alternatively, you can also purchase a Minolta film scanner for maybe 30T yen and then do the scanning yourself during your free time.

  • herb says:

    coolness! i live near sakura (ama 4) so i’m glad that it’s actually a happening place. uhmm…

  • jenjilpatrick says:

    Wow, thanks for the tons of info,Daddy B.You just made Sakura Tachnopark more interesting again..! By the way,is Summer still there..Hmm..I have been delaying my hair cut for the umpteenth time already..is it okay for ladies too? Thanks..