Hello, my name is Anna and I am a Sakura-holic.
I have always had a thing for second hand stuff. Third hand is not bad either but how do you really know how many owners an item has had before it found refuge in a “second” hand store? You don’t. Some items carry original tags from the shop where they were once displayed and I can only imagine their fate; wrapped nicely under a Christmas tree (well, maybe not so much in Japan….) with a big ribbon on top, yet tossed aside unwanted because their new owner simply didn’t like them or they didn’t fit and exchange wasn’t possible. Some items are true antiques and worth more than the dusty half peeled sticker reading US$1 – lucky the pricing squad will never know.
I am mainly talking about clothes and household items. Second hand bikes and cars are a more serious business and unless you have built your own house, it is also at least second hand but I doubt many people think about it this way. While some houses come with ghosts I hope that my plates and pots and pans acquired via various second hand means don’t. It also wouldn’t be fun to have a ghost in your jeans.
Now let’s get down to (Sakura) business. For those who wonder why I talk about Japanese cherry blossom, let me explain that MY Sakura has everything to do with Japan, just not with flowers or trees in general. It is a store selling second hand (or more glamorously described “recycled”) Japanese goods. Clothes, shoes, handbags, kitchen ware, furniture and limited electronics plus other obscure items which don’t fall into any category. Sakura currently has several branches in Phnom Penh (I read about 5!) and one in Siem Reap. If I am not mistaken, I have also seen one in Battambang and good on them for having one as well!
I am a veteran of Sakura shopping. My kitchen consists of various semi completed sets of plates, cups, glasses , pots and pans. My sense of balance and tradition tells me to aim for at least 4 pieces of a kind but 6 is better. I buy even when only 3 pieces match, unless there is an outstanding piece which can survive on its own. Several times, to my great delight, I found long lost brothers of already owned (incomplete) sets and had a victorious feeling that I achieved something spectacular in this big messy game of miss-match.
My eyes scan the shelves in a methodical way and I know what I am looking for – not that I actually need anything, maybe apart from another kitchen cupboard to store all my new purchases in….. I move from top to bottom and select possible candidates following my criteria while my head subconsciously bobs to the blaring Khmer pop music or dreary love songs coming from the speakers. Yes, good music is also one of the reasons I come here. I sweat.
Customer service is another one. Attention to detail, responsiveness and speed = yes, take all these with a pinch of salt. I once grew an inch taller waiting to be served at the check out while a telephone conversation (about rice) was much more important than cashing my money. But it’s all for the greater good. By buying cheap (and original) things I surely save money – or not?
Once I am finished with the crockery and breakables, I move on to the clothing isles. It is a game not for the fainthearted. Strong muscles are required to be able to shift and move hangers in a speedy fashion, at the same time keeping a straight face coming across items where fashion police should have interfered long time ago. If you are having a dress up party, this is a place to go and look for originals.
Some pieces remember when Elvis was still in the building and some pieces carry labels such as Zara, Levi’s, Lee and other internationally recognized brands. The thing I love the most about Sakura is that size matters and in fact a tall white female with healthy padding in all the right places has no competition in the rows of locals who also meticulously scan for bargains. Our tastes differ hugely too, I let you have all the Hello Kitty goodies, girls! Only occasionally I give a sharp eagle eye to the very rare sight of another westerner sifting through the mountain of randomness and carefully measure her waist and bum size to see if she is in fact a threat to my future purchases. Mostly I win…. because I am faster and I know my territory, not because of the size of my bum.
My small sub-addiction is scarves – last time I counted I had about 35. I move past the stand and look through knowing that I have a 50:50 chance of finding a decent one, I shift and sift through already eyeing up the next stand. Miraculously several pairs of trousers have fitted me over the years of addiction and I always wonder if it was an English teacher or a student or somebody of my dimensions living and working in Japan suddenly finding themselves in a situation where quick decisions were required and they had to get rid of most of their worldly possessions in order to be able to move to their next point of call. Thanks for your pants and thank god that some long legged people live in Japan.
Skirts, tops and shirts….. all there, along with shoes (not my cup of tea plus I have a zero chance there with my small skis for feet), handbags (oh yes) and ties (for fancy dress party only). Patience is a virtue and persistence is the key. One visit to Sakura is most likely to leave you slightly disturbed, slightly grossed-out and generally unsatisfied. But if you come back….
It’s raining today and I can’t go to Sakura. I am upset and I feel empty, but tomorrow… tomorrow I definitely will. New shipment has arrived – Maersk container full to the last square inch. I saw it with my own eyes, being offloaded…. I wonder what goodies have arrived this time!
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.