"ASSE" is the cryptic name for a new shopping center that promises to offer a valuable new option for Tsukuba shoppers. Located near the junction of Science Odori and Tsuchiura-Noda Sen (near the Yatabe Branch City Hall), it consists of a large two-story building and a huge 1500 car parking lot, along with a separate, moderately large "Home Center" store by the equally enigmatic name of "Keyo D-2" (pronounced "Dei Tsu" (Day Two?) in Japanese). The main building is probably twice the size of Daiei's shopping area, and contains numerous "stores within a store" -- technically separate stores but not separated by walls. "D-2" carries much the same merchandise as Joyful Honda, though it's not nearly as big. It does, however, have a very nice selection, and for the time being, at least, a lot of good buys. For instance, I got imported Adidas 10-13 socks listed at $12 retail for 3 pairs at an incredible 597yen! It should also be noted that the same socks were selling in a store in the main ASSE building for 970yen; so it pays to look around before you buy.
Opening Day on Nov. 1 was literally a "mad-house" as shoppers jammed the parking lot to overflowing, with lines of cars waiting to get in and numerous cars parking (more-or-less illegally) along nearby streets. The overflow crowds continued through the weekend. Numerous bargains were available; though one wonders what the prices will be after the initial hoopla is over.
There are a variety of restaurants within the store, including a McDonalds, a rotating sushi bar and full-service restaurant. On opening day, the large Kasumi grocery store and several other fruit and meat stands had numerous samples to try, and after walking around to observe everything, I found that I had sampled enough that I wasn't hungry anymore -- an interesting way to get a free meal! After things settle down, the free samples will no doubt become much more infrequent, but that is a nice little compensation for the generally high cost of food in Japan. At least you do get to sample things in the stores.
ASSE is a new venture by the Kasumi Group, and while no one seems to know what it's name means, it does have a Tsukuba ring about it that kind of goes along nicely with the "ARS Library". But whatever its name, it will certainly be a welcomed addition to Tsukuba shopping, providing a lot of competition for Daiei, Jusco and Seibu.
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