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Gran Stage On The Grand Stage

Author: Tim Boyle, Issue: May 2006, Topic: Shopping

Wherever the name of this new shopping center came from I can only guess, but it is probably from a similar source as "Lala Garden." This newest shopping center opened on May 2 to the Golden Week crowds, and it promises to be quite a strong competitor in certain areas. It is similar in many ways to Joyful Honda, but I would imagine that Joyful is a bit sad these days, as people in Tsukuba will find it easier to get to Gran Stage, and its layout is easier to deal with as well.

Located on a large tract of land to the west of downtown Tsukuba off of Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen, Gran Stage consists of only a very few stores, unlike a place such as Lala Garden. Dominating the scene is Yamashin, a "home center" type of store. The ground floor of Yamashin has most anything you would need for the home, including lumber supplies, tools, and other do-it-yourself items. The second floor is mostly furniture and decorative items, and the variety is huge. Many items were on sale during the grand opening, and so it's anybody's guess as to how their pricing will be later on, but it certainly should be at least as cheap (or as expensive, depending on your point of view) as other local options. Outside the main building, there is also a large gardening center.

There are two other large stores in the complex, "Pet Island Tomony" and "Ken's Garage, World Wide Road." As the name suggests, the first is a pet store with practically anything you might need for most any house pet imaginable. It is easily the largest pet store I've seen anywhere, and the cat and dog food they had at the entrance is the cheapest I've seen in Japan. Of course, that may be just for the opening period.

As I needed an oil change for my car, I checked out "Kenzu Gare-ji" and was quite impressed. Not only do they have a wide variety of car accessories, but also a nice car service area at reasonable prices. As there was no waiting for an oil change (which surprised me, as the place was packed), I had them do that. They charge only the regular cost of the oil and oil filter, plus ¥525 each for labor. They give you several choices for oil grades, and so I just chose "standard." They hand you a cell phone that they ring you up on when your car is ready. So, you can spend the waiting time doing shopping anywhere in the complex. They also offer a membership for ¥500, which then entitles you to free labor charges on all oil changes and air filter changes for the next year.

The other main attraction is the "Food Court," which is a semi-cafeteria style featuring udon and ramen. You get to choose your own items to add to the bowls of noodles. There is also "First Kitchen," which in katakana is indistinguishable from "Fast Kitchen." It has various burgers, small pizzas and pastas. "Donburi Kairaku" features donburi dishes (rice with various toppings) and the most popular of all (judging from the long line) was "Venus Café" and its variety of ice cream and other desserts.

Gran Stage is definitely a place I intend to frequent often. My frequent trips to Joyful Honda may be a thing of the past. Now, if only they would build a Costco in Tsukuba!

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