It’s very interesting to be in a Japanese store, especially a department store, at closing time. I was shopping in the Sogo building in Chiba earlier tonight, and it dawned on me that when stores in the US were closing, you kind of get a feeling like “I have to get out of here before the employees get pissed and start throwing things at me.” Here is the opposite. First off, almost every store here plays Auld Lang Syne (the New Years song) when it’s closing time. It’s a very peaceful, lullaby-esque song, so rather than panicking, you can finish up your shopping and don’t feel pressured or anything. In department stores and maybe other large stores, employees who aren’t helping customers or stocking shelves all line up and say goodbye to the customers. They stand at the end of aisles, in their departments, etc. They smile, give you a super deep bow (I saw some 90 degree angle ones), and say “Thank you so much for coming, please come again” and such. This actually was a bit creepy/embarrassing as I was shopping on the 8th floor and had employees lining my path out of the store and down the escalators all the way down to the first floor. Getting off on each floor from the escalator, there were at least 3 or 4 more employees waiting for me, bowing and thanking me for visiting their store. You feel strange to make eye contact, and definitely don’t say anything back to them. In some ways, you feel like royalty because it’s like having a bunch of servants ushering you out, bowing to you, and pretty much making Japan the most polite and hospitable country in the universe.

Almost makes you not as bitter about most stores closing here at 8PM.