Monday, November 10, 2008

$850 for a stuffed chicken? Yes, for real. Welcome to Japan.

Wow! Does it taste like gold?

Only in Japan could you expect to order a piece of meat that costs that much.

When I was there a little over a year ago we went to a marvelous department store, Takashimaya, the store selling poultry gold. Think Harrods, but more extravagant. Saks Fifth Avenue on steroids.

The super upscale department store in Tokyo made headlines today for taking advance orders for chickens stuffed with foie gras, black truffles, sausage and chestnuts.

They are asking 84,000 yen for them (around $850).

Japanese companies — like those in the US and every other first world economy hit hard by the worldwide financial crisis — expect a recession and have turned away from appealing to middle class buyers to instead grab those who still have loads of cash.

This is definitely one way to go about that!

It took a little searching around, but I found Takashimaya's online page where the $850 chicken is being sold. You can see it here. You can get a taste of the flavor of an extravagant Japanese Christmas here. Japanese go gaga over Christmas. It's clearly not a Christian tradition anymore. It is a worldwide commercial phenom.

Takashimaya has numerous floors. The bottom floor is a food court full of the most expensive food imaginable, much of it packaged to be given as a gift. To show your admiration for someone, you go out of your way to get them a really, really splashy gift — like a melon. I remember seeing huge melons there, all exquisitely displayed to showcase their perfection.

Costly, especially useless, gifts are the epitome of something evolutionary types call costly signaling.

The higher the cost and the more difficult it is to fake, the more likely the effort is an honest one. Nearly anyone can buy a fake Rolex or fake Fendi purse at a place like Times Square or Shibuya, but few can give a Kobe beef steak or $180 cantaloupes from Takashiyama.

I blew some money on fancy toothpicks for my dad while I was there. I couldn't afford anything else!


LeelaBijou said...

Wow, great article! I love Japan and I´m really interested on Japanese culture ;)

Field Notes said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! If you want to read more about Japan here, you can do that:

That links to all the articles I've written about Japan — paper, food, shoes, snow monkeys, toilets (they've got some fancy ones), Pocky candy, wind chimes and more =D

LeelaBijou said...

Thank you so much for the link! I´ll read them all ;)

cgull said...

It is amazing people will pay $850 for a stuffed chicken, maybe it is like the expensive Kobe and Wasabi Beef.

If you guys like about Japan, watch this great documentary by Karin Muller, Japanland,

Carapace said...

Ah, Japan. Land of my ancestors. Beloved case study for sociologists everywhere. Home of the 50 dollar melon.

I had never thought of this sort of brand status as a signaling device, but now it makes perfect sense. Thanks!