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Daiso opening brings Japanese whimsy to Houston

Courtesy of Yelp

By Ryan Lee     10/16/18 11:50pm

A sock for a water bottle, a hammock for bathroom items, slippers that clean the floor as you walk – these are some of the many items one can find in Daiso, the most recent Asian craze to enter the Houston scene since 85C Bakery Cafe. Daiso is a Japanese dollar store that has an international presence. But to call it a dollar store does not do it justice, because Daiso is more than an exporter of Japanese commercial items – it’s an exporter of Japanese lifestyle. 

Daiso has a particularly personal place in my heart. Whenever I travel back to my hometown in Taiwan, I always bring an empty luggage case with me to stock up on Daiso goods. Items at Daiso cost on average $1.50 and can be loosely placed into four categories. The first contains items of unusual concept, including monkey-shaped oven mitts, happy-looking rice paddle spoons and duck-shaped phone docking stations. The second is containers and storage. There are shelves upon shelves of Tupperware, shampoo bottles, condiment bottles, storage boxes, mason jars, gift bags and stickers to label these containers. The third has items made to look like toys: toy-like computer mice, toy-like erasers, toy-like shower caps and even toy-like aluminum foil. Finally, there are items that have detailed, innovative design. My favorite among these is their netted sponge, which is the best dish sponge I have ever used. Other innovatively designed items include a contraption that makes dumplings and glow-in-the-dark glue sticks.

The best way for me to talk about the Japanese sensibilities of Daiso is to compare it to its counterparts in the United States. I remember the first time I walked into a Michael’s – I felt like I had entered a factory. I would peruse an entire aisle and find nothing but rows and rows of the same uniform yellow-bodied, pink-tipped pencils. When I shopped at Houston’s Daiso store, none of the aisles were stocked with too much of the same thing. In fact, the variety of merchandise was so broad that I went through each aisle twice and still felt like there was more to be discovered. 

What I have noticed about Japanese design philosophy is that one size does not fit all. In Daiso, I found pencils in a shade other than yellow and eraser tips that look like giant teeth. I found ice cube trays that do not form ice into cubes, but into pyramids and spheres. There is a bit of whimsy in the most mundane of things. Daiso proves that thoughtful design and excitement can be present even in the lowest of price ranges. By elevating the everyday things with a delightful twist, Daiso demonstrates that nothing in life is too small to be overlooked.

Daiso opened on Oct. 5 and is located at 11151 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77042.

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