"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.
The International Women's Network (IWN) is a group of women who enjoy chatting with people from all over the world. We hold a monthly potluck dinner where we exchange information about the local community while eating a variety of foods. No reservation is needed to attend the potluck. Just bring one dish of food and show up at the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy the international city of Tsukuba with us!
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