Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (2023)

most amazing place on earth

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (1)If you've lived in Japan for a while, you've almost certainly seen a large blue penguin in Little Red Riding Hood perched on a rooftop in a shopping district, playing a tune that the Japanese consider a national treasure.

His name is "Donpen" and he is the main mascot of Don Quixote (ドン・キホーテ), Japan's leading discount store chain. With more than 400 locations in Japan, the store is one of the largest chains in the country and has an almost cult following among its fans and consumers.

And with good reason.

Once inside a Don Quixote, many will claim that there is "sensory overload" and a very real risk of fire. However, the random packing of the products on the shelves from the floor to the ceiling, leaving only space for 1 or 2 people between the aisles, the floor on the floor is the characteristic style of Don Quixote, and it is also what makes than the Japanese day after day. Four decades of reasons to return to the store.

However, it goes beyond that.burro, as many in Japan say, also has 24 hours of operation. All stores, all chains and departments in Japan are open 24/7! Those hours mean that even if other stores are closed, shoppers can still find and buy what they need, especially if it's urgent, giving Donki an edge over its competitors.

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (2)This makes Don Quijote an especially popular chain compared to other discount chains like Daiso and 100 Yen Store. This popularity is bolstered by Donki's wide range of products, from your everyday groceries to your niche air humidifier, all at prices that are hard to match anywhere else.

It's easy to see why the Japanese love Don Quixote.

History of Don Quixote

Don Quijote first opened in 1980 under the original name Just Co. in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. It was originally just a retail store, but quickly transformed into a wholesale store after 2 years in 1982.

Years later, in 1989, the company opened its first don Quijote store in Fuchu, Tokyo. With this name change, the company firmly changed its main business orientation from wholesale to retail. It wasn't until another 6 years later, in 1995, that Just Co. decided to change their company to Don Quijote Co., Ltd to fit their brand.

Thereafter, the company was also listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in June 1998 and thus began its monumental rise to become the Japanese corporate giant it is today.

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (3)At the end of Japan's bubble-bust in 1992, Don Quijote's status as a discount store helped weather the economic crisis. Economic uncertainty encouraged and taught the Japanese public to be more frugal, which in turn boosted store sales in the early 1990s as more and more members of the public turned to don Quijote for all their food needs. shopping.

Population influx and dramatic changes in shopping/consumer culture laid the foundation for Don Quixote's popularity and following in modern Japan. Many Japanese residents will still remember don Quixote's help during the recession, and this enthusiasm for the brand still holds true in Japan's more economically stable era today.

miraculous shopping

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (4)"Wonderful Shopping" is a term Don Quixote coined for the retail potential of their stores, and they even have a store theme that plays 24/7 in each of their 300 stores.

Since its implementation in the mid-90s, the song called "Miracle Shopping" performed by one of its employees, Tanaka Maimi, has become a hit in all its stores.

While shopping in the crowded fluorescent aisles of Don Quixote, listening to the same song for hours on end can be exhausting, especially for newcomers. Music is part of the charm of the place, and Don Quixote would not be Don Quixote without this iconic melody, which has touched the hearts and minds of the Japanese population.

However, all this branding and careful design, however casual it may seem, would be nothing if it were not backed by the Miracle shopping range. Don Quixote certainly has a range.

From larger stores like the Asakusa branch on the 8th floor to the smaller Bunkyo branch on the 2nd floor, almost everything can be found in the nooks and crannies of Don Quixote. Each store has separate sections that can accommodate different types of products, such as toys, electronics, clothing, and food, as well as more niche sections, such as plush toys, phone cases, flip flops, and rice.

Each part of Don Quixote has its own unique tone that can be felt while walking through the workshop. It took him years of experimenting, creating and presenting a certain way to find the perfect design that would help drive sales.


To many, the odds of Don Quixote surviving and thriving throughout his long history seemed one in a million. It must be a coincidence, right? How can a store like this survive when there are seemingly more competitive competitors in every corner of Japanese retail?

Regardless of what you think about the validity of Don Quixote's success, the indisputable fact is that every move, every decision, every product placement, every aisle shape, every exotic fish tanking is a strategic business move to increase sales and profit. Donky's reputation. After all, Pan Pacific International Holdings, the parent company behind don Quixote, is about to become Japan's 5th company.DayLargest retailer with revenue of 1.4 trillion yen

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (5)“These are messy, chaotic stores that belie what's behind them: a very disciplined, extremely disciplined management philosophy,” said Michael Causton, a retail analyst with Japan Consuming in Tokyo. While analysts and business developers around the world have been appalled by Donki's growth, for all he's doing wrong he's still doing it right, there's one simple decision that has allowed Don Quixote to continue and thrive. for so long. Decentralization.

In his management philosophy, plant personnel must have almost total autonomy to decide what to sell. Store managers and their staff can control the store, not an office miles away. It is up to employees to decide how to control merchandise displays, negotiate prices with vendors, and stock shelves and display products to consumers. It helps ensure that customers always return to Don Quijote, especially since they can return 24/7.

In recent years, don Quijote has closed numerous branches and reduced the number of regional managers to help ensure that frontline employees have fewer people to answer to before making decisions. Just as don Quijote operates according to different rules and plans in different countries, Don Quijote in Shibuya and Akihabara, albeit only a few miles apart, operate completely different merchandise and designs to better suit the people of the area.

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (6)

A good example of this mantra is during a reporter's visit to the Shibuya branch, where shelves near the entrance that were once stocked with beauty products are now stocked with sunscreen, freshening wipes, and deodorant. When questioned, the store manager explained that until that morning, the shelves were stocked with moisturizers, but with warmer weather expected, staff were changing quickly to better adapt to the situation.

This ability to change tactics and course on the fly has allowed Don Quijote to stay on top of Japanese consumers for nearly 40 years, and their buying strategies are a big part of that. Analysts estimate that half of Don Quixote's profits come from selling surplus goods at low prices, allowing them to buy large quantities of goods and sell them at low prices.


With Don Quixote reaching greater heights in its homeland and as Donki tries to gain a foothold in more Asian retail markets, management is looking to expand abroad by opening new stores in Singapore and Thailand.

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (7)

With Don Quijote's acquisition of FamilyMart Uny Holdings' merchandise store division, the company is in the midst of a major expansion, with a goal of opening 500 stores in Japan by 2020. With 420 stores now and another 200 Uny stores Renamed "Mega-Don-Quijote-Uny", Don Quixote's goal seems easy to achieve.

With Japan's retail market somewhat stagnant and online purchases on Amazon on the rise, don Quijote must ensure that they remain relevant in the current climate and stay top of mind with Japanese consumers. Still, Don Quixote's own CEO Koji Ohara doesn't seem too concerned: "If Amazon is like downloading music, we're like a concert hall. We need both."

Perhaps focusing on what they know will once again prove to be the right path, which saved them in times of crisis in the past. Although times are different now than 20 or even 10 years ago, and with its recent expansion to other countries and new dynamics within Japan, different policies and plans may need to be developed.


I can't even try to list all the wonderful items and merchandise you can find at don Quijote. The wide variety of items they sell is amazing but also intimidating, so much to try and see, it's almost impossible to experience everything. I can spend hours scouring the stores looking for the perfect snack, the perfect drink, the perfect phone case, and the perfect pen. Everything is within the confines of the store, I would be very surprised if you couldn't find what you were looking for.

Don Quixote: Japan's magical shopping labyrinth | guideable (8)If you haven't been to Don Quixote before I highly recommend you do, it's an experience like no other on this planet. Even if you're not going to buy something, do it, because just being in the store is like entering a different world... and you end up buying something, it's impossible not to have something that catches your eye while you're there. you are in the store

If you want to shop in Japan then I encourage you to try Don Quijote's, it has groceries, snacks, clothes, electronics and everything you might need to live in Japan, and it's cheaper than anywhere else, although at first it may seem shocking. and stressful, but once you're on the road, there's no better store than this. After spending many hours in Donki searching for the perfect item, I can truly say that it is one of the most amazing places in the world.

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