The Starbucks at Akita Station shares space with a number of other businesses. Located on the first floor of the ALS Building, next to the Akita Hotel Metropolitan, Starbucks has a front row view of a host of other establishments, mostly upscale ladies clothing and accessory stores, where an amazing variety of women, young and old, can shop the latest fashions.
One particular store, located on the second floor, is especially proud to market itself as “The Bargain.” The Bargain monopolizes most of the outside advertising space available at the ALS Building. Sale posters, every single one the same, are strategically placed every three or four feet under the long Starbucks overhang, no doubt to ensure that the advertising message can’t possibly be missed. It does no good to avert your eyes. If your eyes are open, you are going to see these posters.
Actually, the posters aren’t bad to look at. They display a gorgeously dressed, beautiful young Japanese model, surrounded by an array of colorful flowers and cute little hearts. They are a heartwarming reminder of the radiant joy and exquisite beauty that the women of the Land of the Rising Sun exude by virtue of their very existence.
Now, some people may think that some posters placed every three or four feet apart is simply a case of advertising excess, and nothing to waste time noticing or writing about. They might scoff and say, “If you don’t like them, just don’t pay any attention to them.” And they would be right, if it was only a matter of posters placed every three or four feet apart. But, the posters aren’t the only weapons in The Bargain’s assault on our attention and our wallets, not by any stretch of the imagination. No, The Bargain also deploys another weapon to destroy our resistance to their advertising: one so deadly, so demoralizing, so relentless, and so demonic that it must have been developed by a crack psy-ops team of covert CIA and KGB agents. Certainly as bad as, yet possibly worse than, waterboarding, it’s a type of psychological torture employed in mercantile warfare and called “the endless loop.”
The endless loop works like this. Record a high-pitched woman’s voice, add some type of vocalization that makes her sound like she’s in agony: possibly the sound of suffering from an incurable disease or, maybe, the sound women make when giving birth. Next, set it to some dramatic, but strangely upbeat, music. Then, speed up her voice until any and all intelligibility is completely eliminated. After that, overlay this screeching mess with the low, sexy and utterly serious voice of another woman urging us into the store to take advantage of the day’s delirious bargains. And finally, loop the recording so that it never ends, just repeats itself over and over and over again.
Once you have finished the loop, blast it over the loud speakers in front of the Akita Starbucks from 9:00 a.m. until some time in the late evening when most shoppers have either gone home or are in a bar somewhere, drinking heavily to try to obliterate the memory of the music, the woman screaming in agony and the sexy voice tempting them to buy something at The Bargain. Keep this up every business hour of every business day, from the first day of summer until the first day of autumn and you have it: the endless loop, The Bargain's own unique marketing contribution to the world's schmatta trade, originating and perfected from right here in Akita, Japan!
It takes a special kind of serenity to sit outside under the overhang at Starbucks, drinking coffee and conversing with friends, while The Bargain’s ceaseless summer advertising campaign is under way. And, while the number of people committing murder or seppuku under these circumstances isn’t completely known, there is at least one documented case of someone becoming completely unhinged. That person is a former member of the Gaijin Club. His name is Jack. (That is not his real name, for obvious reasons).
Jack is the kind of guy that makes you wonder why some gaijin remain in Japan even after they, and everyone who knows them, finally realize that Japan just isn’t a good fit for them. Jack taught English, but he wasn’t temperamentally suited for it. He tried his hand at several other jobs as well, including doing ministerial duties at one of Japan's unique ersatz wedding ceremony companies, but he wasn’t temperamentally suited for those jobs either.
What Jack was temperamentally suited for was beer. So, one day, Jack showed up at Starbucks with a six pack and sat down outside with Tim, Wayne and the other gaijin. At first, Jack was like the Jack he was every day: nasty, sarcastic and utterly uninterested in things going on around him. But, as the afternoon began to wear on, Jack started becoming increasingly agitated. He opened the six pack and began downing a beer. Now, in Japan, public drinking is frowned upon, even where it’s legal. In Akita, however, public drinking is absolutely illegal. But that didn’t stop Jack. He quickly finished his beer and opened another one. That one was also finished in almost no time. And then, out came another beer. Yes, something was clearly eating at him.
While Tim and Wayne found the spectacle of Jack chugging down beer after beer rather amusing, the Starbucks manager didn't. He and a group of other Japanese came outside, surrounded Jack, and, in no uncertain terms, politely explained to him that his drinking wasn’t allowed. They demanded that Jack “please not drink.” But Jack wasn't having any of their pleas. Perhaps Jack was too far in his cups to listen. Or maybe it was because Jack, despite all the years he had spent in Japan, still didn’t understand a word of Japanese. We’ll never know, for at that moment, Jack took off his shoes and flung them at the loud speakers with such force that the music, the shrieking Miss Bargain, and her sexy-voiced friend immediately lapsed into silence.
As the now stunned gaijin and Starbucks staff stared in disbelief, Jack retrieved his shoes, picked up his beer and calmly walked away. As he disappeared, the crowd he left behind heard his laughter, “I got her! I got her! I hope I killed her! How do you like it now, Bargain lady? Hahaha! Heeheehee! Hohoho! You can’t sing now, can you? Hahaha! Heeheehee! Hohoho!”
Shortly afterward, Jack left Japan, never to return. Or, at least, he hasn't returned yet. And now, when we think about our old Gaijin Club friend from time to time, we have all come to realize that both Jack’s temper and his mentality had been working against him, from the moment he stepped foot in Japan until the moment he took off his shoes.
Copyright (c) 2020 Lawrence Gordon