Monday, July 17, 2006

Sakura Technopark Revealed - 1

Why they called this area Sakura Technopark is easy to surmise. Tsukuba being an artificial city, it's easy to guess that some bland bureaucrat decades ago probably conjured the idea of planting sakura trees along the inner streets and then calling the area as such. But why “technopark”? From what it looks now, it is anything but a technology park.

But who cares, really? What used to be vast rice paddies and vegetable fields is now the veritable playground of bargain hunters, gourmets and gourmands, film and music buffs, and even the downright bored and homesick gaikokujin.

For those who work or study at the University of Tsukuba, Sakura Technopark is the ideal residence, especially for those who do not have cars like me. There's a bus service that takes you to Tsukuba Center once or twice per hour, even on weekends. And when it comes to finding basic necessities and cheap stuff, you're definitely in the right...location, location, location...

For bargain hunters, it is paradise! First stop is the newly opened “BookOff”. (Why it's called “BookOff” is beyond my imagination.) Here you can find English books for 105 yen and movie soundtracks for 250 yen. I was there two days ago and found a Gameboy Color for 500 yen. (I didn't buy it because I already have one, so it's probably still there. Hurry!) My wife also often buys 105-yen cookbooks and uses them to make magic in our kitchen. Last month, I bought a 2-inch-thick dictionary for just 300 yen. If you happen to go there in the evenings at around 7:30 p.m. and find someone chasing an 18-month-old toddler running between the shelves, that's probably me.

Then there's Kawachi, the big dry goods store a few meters away. If you want to buy drinks at wholesale prices, Kawachi's definitely the right place. See those 150-yen beverages in vending machines? They're just 98 yen at Kawachi. And those “expensive” wines at Yamaya? They're probably half the price in Kawachi. And if you're a beer guzzler, try to compare prices between Kawachi and Terashima, which is just a few meters across the street from Kawachi. My favorite Yebisu All Malt, which is a whopping 257 yen in convenience stores, is just 200 yen in Terashima. (Nope, it's not secondhand.)

Terashima also has a 100-yen section, which is probably one of the least known secrets in Sakura Technopark. I say “least known” because each time I go there, there are just too few people milling around. But if you need good quality yet inexpensive school supplies and party paraphernalia and you don't want to bother going to Dayz Town's Daiso, then Terashima is the right place. Fond of those night sticks that you see in war movies or in Disneyland? They're at Terashima for a mind-boggling price of 100 yen.

Speaking about 100 yen, Seria is the 100-yen store of Sakura Technopark. Looking at their merchandise, you wouldn't believe that they're that cheap: large porcelain plates, stainless steel bowls, coated skillets and casseroles, and even well-made calculators and gadgets. Certainly, Daiso is bigger and has a wider array of choices, but if you live nearby and need only a few stuff, then why go far?

If you're looking for household goods such as futons, beds, shelves, tables, chairs and the like, Sakura Technopark has Athena with prices comparable to those of Joyful Honda. But here's one secret that you should know: Athena has a perfume section and the prices are....need I say more?

For gourmets and gourmands, the restaurant lineup of Sakura Technopark is tops. There are Chinese, Italian, French, and Japanese restaurants as well as a few fastfood outlets. Probably the most expensive yet also very delicious resto in Sakura is Lyon de Lyon, which is a French restaurant. I've tried their lunch and dinner courses and have proven that the French (or those who cook French cuisine) really take their work very seriously.

Saizeriya (Italian) and Bamiyan (Chinese) are the favorite hangouts of students and gaikokujins because of their affordable prices. The food is also good although I prefer Bamiyan more than Saizeriya. And of course, there's the drink bar where the adventurous can experiment on mixing drinks and seeing how far their stomachs can hold out. A classier Chinese resto in Sakura is Oolong and their food is really, really good! (I'm drooling just thinking about it...) Too bad few people know this because when we go there, there aren't too many customers.

Lovers of Japanese food have choices aplenty at Sakura Technopark. There are noodle and sushi restaurants, and there's Samurai. Samurai used to be very good but when we went there in May this year to celebrate my sister's birthday, the waiter said that they are under new management and have thus changed the menu. We had a tonkatsu lunch for 1000 yen, which was really expensive considering that a similar tonkatsu is just 380 yen at the university.

Sakura has two major supermarkets, Kasumi and Marumo, which offer really affordable food and lots of choices. Kasumi is open 24 hours! (Amazing, isn't it?) Here's another secret that you should know. The best time to come to Kasumi is at around 8 – 8:30 p.m. That's when they halve the prices of sushi, sashimi, and bento boxes. (That's also when you would sometimes see my toddler running around the place (again!), much to his mother's chagrin.)

Of course, there's a McDonalds and Mister Donut in Sakura for the cheapest burgers and the best coffee, respectively. But if you're tired of those stuff, then one fastfood joint that we really patronize is the Curry House which you can easily find near 7-Eleven. Here, curry dishes are considered an art form.

This blog post has probably become too long so I'll end here. In my next post, I'll talk about what Sakura Technopark has to offer to film and music buffs as well as more of its secrets and surprises.

I live here, by the way, right in the heart of Sakura (my house is just a few meters away from Kasumi), so you can take my word about my world.



At July 17, 2006 3:09 PM, Shaney said...

Great post! This is exactly the sort of post I was hoping to read here. Informative and well-written. Thanks!

I had no idea BookOff sold English books. Maybe I'll head over today to see what they've got!

At July 17, 2006 3:51 PM, Daddy B said...

Thanks, Shaney!

The English books are found in a very small section. You should know where to look and the turnover is quite fast.

The complete Harry Potter series is there, by the way, at rock-bottom pries.

Good luck!

At July 17, 2006 3:54 PM, Daddy B said...

Ooops.."pries" should be "prices"


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