Why you should care
Because there’s so much stuff you don’t need, but you do want.
When friends visit me in San Francisco, I have a short list of tourist hot spots: a boat trip to Alcatraz, seal-watching in Sausalito and, of course, a visit to Daiso, aka the best dollar store in the world. If it sounds odd to include a dollar store on the must-dos for visitors, know this: Everyone I’ve taken to Daiso has insisted on making one more trip there before returning home.
What makes this store so mind-blowing isn’t just the prices — 90 percent of products are $1.50, most max out at $4 — but how items have been designed to turn the troublesome parts of life upside down, or right-side up rather. Hate mopping the floor? Slippers with microfiber mop soles will encourage you to skate around your apartment, buffing the floor and cleaning up spills at the same time. Loathe long car trips? That cat-shaped neck pillow will make them a dream.
Acolytes of Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo may find that Daiso items evoke that quintessential “spark of joy” Kondo says is a necessary requirement for every item you own, whether it’s how satisfying that hairbrush-and-screwdriver combo set is, or the smile you get when you see unnecessary, but adorable, stars adorning your wall hooks.
It’s this type of higher-quality, lower-cost cuteness that elevates Daiso’s fare from the usual tat found at dollar stores.
Occupying 7,125 square feet in the heart of Japantown, my local Daiso is crammed to the brim with every household good you could imagine, plus aisles of cosmetics, toys, stationery and more. Imagine rows upon rows of fake eyelashes, headphones, phone cases, crafting kits, lunch boxes, cushion covers, panda-themed chopsticks.… My best buys include a back massager that’s perfect for destroying painful knots, a red rattan set of “chef approved” mixing bowls and an ornate hand mirror with a block rococo design.
It’s this type of higher-quality, lower-cost cuteness that elevates Daiso’s fare from the usual tat found at dollar stores. The Japanese company launched in 1972, and came to the U.S. in 2005; today, there are more than 60 locations in California, Washington and Texas, as well as 2,800 stores around the world, including the Middle East and South America. They carry an assortment of useful household products (brooms, bins, etc.), but with an extra kawaii touch, like a watering can in the shape of an elephant. Sure, some items are a clear miss — socks for chairs, for example, though they do make for a good gag gift —but overall, Daiso’s knickknack je ne sais quoi is spot-on.
Of course, a trip to the discount store often results in an unintended spending spree. “I just kept putting things in my cart — they’re all such bargains!” exclaims Laura Miller, an elementary school teacher visiting from Texas. Miller’s final total was just north of $40. Her favorite purchases: inflatable beach toys and a delicate ring holder shaped like a cat’s tail. Because, cats.
As bargain-filled as Daiso is, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere for life-changing household purchases — it’s unlikely that a panda-shaped lunch box will significantly transform your life. But if you want your everyday items to have some extra pizzazz, you’ve hit the jackpot. After all, in life, why shouldn’t everything be beautiful?