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Pickles to French paintings in Japan's all-under-one-roof department stores.

From top to bottom, Japan's department stores are multistory microcosms of big-city life. On and under one roof, you can entertain the kids, find a quick meal, and shop and shop. This is where city families satisfy almost all their daily needs.

Today's major store chains date back centuries to origins as family-run kimono or haberdashery shops. The big names pop up in city after city. Mitsukoshi is to Japan what Harrods is to England; Takashimaya is the prestige label for gifts. Other big chains are Daimaru, Hankyu, Isetan, Matsuya, Matsuzakaya, Seibu, and Tokyu.

Attentive personnel in crisp uniforms bow as you enter, staff the information desks (most know some English), run elevators, diligently polish escalator rails. Hawkers and demonstrators--touting everything from cosmetics to ski techniques--add to the lively scene.

Store layouts are predictable. Rooftops are for kids; here too are landscape nurseries and garden shrines. Basements and sub-basements hold supermarkets bountiful with fresh, imported, and ready-to-eat foods with free samples early proffered.

In between, you'll always find one floor for special events like bargain sales and trade fair, and one or two floors of restaurants--from noodle parlors and sushi bars to French pastry shops. Also look for Japanese and imported fashions, the latest sportswear and equipment, and luxurious kimono fabrics; appliance departments whose stock runs from rice cookers to futon heaters; galleries of local crafts and often museum-quality art; plus tableware, cookware, and home furnishings (check the bedding, bowls, and basketry). You can even arrange an overseas tour in these stores, plan a wedding, or buy a gravestone.

Hours are generally 10 to 6 or 6:30, six days a week. Mitsukoshi is closed Mondays; Daimaru, Isetan, Matsuzakaya, Takashimaya on Wednesdays; Hankyu, Matsuya, Seibu, Tokyu on Thursdays. In Tokyo, stores string along Ginza's main street, Chuo-dori; in Kyoto at Kawaramachi-dori and Shijo-dori; in Osaka in the Umeda and Namba areas; in Sapporo along Minami Ichi-jo.
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Date:Nov 1, 1985
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