One regular shopping spot for anyone who has been in Tsukuba for very long is "Joyful Honda," a huge home-improvement store near the Arakawaoki train station that stocks most anything you might need for your home or car. If you need tools, building materials, household items, and most anything else, it is a good place to go. "Joyful" hopes that this is the emotion you will feel after shopping there, and while that may be a bit of an exaggeration, prices at Joyful Honda are often the best around (though, of course, for specific items, you may find better prices at other stores.) Our local Joyful Honda, however, is not the only one around, nor is it the biggest.
Among the numerous stores the chain has around Kanto, by far the biggest is located in Moriya, about 35 minutes by car from central Tsukuba. It is, in fact, the biggest such store in all of Japan. It has parking places for up to 7000 cars, and it has everything our local store has plus a great deal more. It's basically a big shopping center in one store, and includes quite a nice grocery store as well, plus a huge arts and crafts section.
One specific example of its selection and prices recently was the "butterball" frozen turkeys it had in its meat section. While our local meat store, Hanamasa, had them at 69 yen per 100 grams, they had 4-4.5 kg turkeys for 1980 yen, which works out to something like 45 yen per 100 grams.
Recently, while on a tour of Moriya to look at the numerous new developments in that city, the guide mentioned a rather startling statistic. He said that the Moriya Joyful Honda has the 3rd highest average daily attendance of any entity in all of Japan. Number one was Tokyo Disneyland, followed by another such attraction that slips my mind, and then behind them was the Joyful Honda in Moriya! So that makes it the number one store in all of Japan as far as the average number of customers per day. Needless to say, it's a place you might want to avoid on weekends and holidays - unless you don't mind crawling along the local streets at a snail's pace to get into the vast parking lots. But if you can avoid the busiest times and have a lot of shopping you want to do, it is definitely worth the trip from Tsukuba.
To get there, you need to get over to Route 294, which runs through Mitsukaido down through Moriya to Toride. The Yawara exit of the Joban Express will put you right on it, or if you want to save the 500 yen toll, you can take Tsukuba-Gakuen Sen towards the west until you run into 294 just across the Kokai River, and follow that to the left past the Yawara Interchange until you come to the overpass for the new Tsukuba Express train line. Once you get to the train line, turn to the right and go a few hundred meters to the "Fureai Doro" (the next main road paralleling 294). It's just a short ways to the left to Joyful Honda from there, and as it is so huge, you can hardly miss it.
The city of Moriya is fast developing into a major city. In fact, it was listed number one in Japan by a wide margin for overall growth potential. Of all the cities in Japan with good growth potential, the index of growth indicators for the next highest cities was 113 or so (numerous cities were in that range and below), but Moriya stood out far above the rest at over 122. While Tsukuba will be the final stop on the new train line that opens up next fall, Moriya will be the main stop. In fact, many of the trains coming out from Tokyo will end in Moriya, with only some of the trains coming all the way to Tsukuba Station. So, while lots of development is going on in Tsukuba, it would seem that Moriya is the place to be.
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