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Published: Monday November 26, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday August 22, 2013 MYT 1:55:51 PM

Taking a load off shopping

Trust shoppers to come up with ingenious ways to lug their haul home.

I NEARLY burst into laughter when I noticed a child’s trike stuffed with groceries and toiletries at a shotengai (shopping street or arcade). What a quirky yet ingenious way for a mother to go shopping with her little son! The boy pedalled his tricycle with the purchases, while his mother steered it from behind with the trike’s push bar.

On another occasion, it was a man who did the same thing. The father of the same boy, I guess.

While I was packing my groceries into the vinyl bags at the self-service counter of a supermarket along the shotengai, I gaped when a housewife beside me used a stroller as a grocery cart. Mind you, no toddler was around the counter at that time. My, what a unique way to recycle a stroller!

My husband hates grocery shopping. Driving a car may be the easiest way to cart home groceries. However, not everyone owns a car and many supermarkets do not provide free parking. Thus some prefer to shop at a shotengai which sells certain goods at a lower price.

Many years ago, grocery carts were mostly used by old folk, especially elderly women. Recently, younger women and even men were seen lugging them around on their errands. However, my mother-in-law (an octogenarian) doesn’t use one because she hates the noise the wheels make. Besides, I am the one who is shopping for groceries for her now – using a grocery cart, of course.

There are various kinds of shopping carts. As these carts are increasingly being used, manufacturers have come up with new ergonomic designs. Some grocery carts double up as walkers and come with a seat.

Ever since I suffered from tennis elbow due to carrying heavy loads, I have been depending on grocery carts. I have five grocery carts of different sizes and designs but have since disposed of two when the wheels broke.

One day, while I was trying to lift my cart up the stairs of an overhead bridge, a young man came along and offered to help. As he walked swiftly ahead of me, the thought of him posing as a Samaritan suddenly crossed my mind.

“It’s only groceries,” I consoled myself. After all, I’ve never come across cases of people running away with someone else’s groceries. Nevertheless, I quickened my steps to catch up with him.

When we reached the other end of the bridge, he handed me my cart. I thanked him before he walked off in the direction of a nearby university.

That cart is now in poor condition as the bottom has given way through overuse. So when a friend offered me a three-wheeler with a foldable seat, I gladly accepted the cart. I didn’t know it could “climb” the stairs until my son dragged it up. How convenient!

Last year, a septuagenarian I met at a hospital demonstrated to me how useful her shopping walker was. Cool! It even had brakes, a seat and compartments for putting a bottled drink and other stuff.

During my first month of living in Japan, I was puzzled when I first glimpsed a 30-something Japanese on a “scooter” inside a supermarket. On looking closer, I realised she was physically challenged and was riding an electric wheelchair-like scooter.

In recent years, more disabled and aged people are using such scooters on sidewalks, small lanes, at shotengai and even inside hospitals or other buildings. With many of these people living alone, these scooters certainly help them to be more independent.

The shopkeeper would put the purchases in the compartments provided as the user rides from shop to shop.

Then there are shoppers who use tricycles that are equipped with a basket in front of the handle bars and another bigger basket behind the seat. How handy for carrying heavy goods.

As for me, I’ll stick to my grocery cart for now. It’s easier to “park”.

Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, has been living in Japan since 1992.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Lifestyle, sip of matcha, Sarah Mori

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