Web Shopping In Shinjuku

An American price-comparison site offers help to harried Japanese shopaholics

The Japanese have a reputation for being the world's pickiest consumers, obsessed with quality and presentation. A shopper will spend hours battling crowds to track down, say, 15 dainty regional treats in an ornate box wrapped in designer paper. Supermarkets cater to the discerning crowd by stocking perfectly marbled beef, while workers at electronics shops dust their floor models religiously. Then there's the other, less-known side to this obsession--price. Years of falling wages and rising unemployment have turned the Japanese into bargain hunters, even if they hate to admit it. While Japan's complex system of obligations hasn't changed, budgets have, and the Japanese go to great lengths to cut corners while preserving quality.

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