Image

Review: Shopping At Malaysia’s First Don Don Donki Store @ Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur

Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.

It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.

20210426_125742

I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.

For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.

20210426_131202

I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.

If you’re lazy to scroll, here’s a video! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe. 🙂

Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.

20210426_130912
Don Don Donki’s mascot is a blue penguin called Donpen.
20210426_131403
Be prepared to have the Don Don Donki theme song stuck in your head after your visit. They play it on an infinite loop through the loudspeakers.
20210426_131512

The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.

20210426_131725
Some of the more unique items on sale. Be prepared to shell out a premium.
20210426_132010

Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.

20210426_132154

The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.

20210426_132240

There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.

20210426_135158
20210426_132518
The store carries many common ingredients seen in Japanese cuisine, but may be more difficult to find in local hypermarkets.

20210426_132545
Assorted beef cuts. They also carry wagyu platters.
20210426_132738

The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.

20210426_132854
20210426_133025
 They import the seafood here from Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. Inset is Yasuhiro Yamazaki-san, the company president of Yamaharu Co., Ltd, whom I interviewed for an assignment a couple of years ago.
20210426_133035
20210426_133237
20210426_133352
The sushi and sashimi section. They have otoro (tuna belly) here, which is quite rare to see outside of premium Japanese restaurants.
20210426_140411
Uni (sea urchin)
20210426_140418
Humongous oysters, scallops and octopi
20210426_134056
20210426_141430

Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.

20210426_141440
20210426_142000

The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.

20210426_142409
20210426_142716
Fried squid. Forgot to reheat it so I just had it cold. It wasn’t crispy anymore but the flavour was pretty good.
20210426_162236

Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).

So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?

While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.

That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.

Like this post? Please consider supporting my website by buying me a cup of coffee through Paypal. This will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. You can also support me on Patreon. Thanks for stopping by!

Experiencing Japan’s Konbini (Convenience Store) Culture In Tokyo

Japan has a thing for convenience stores (konbini). There are over 50,000 of them throughout the country, and they’re everywhere in Tokyo. There’s a Family Mart at every street corner, a Lawson at every shopping centre, and all of them are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unlike many convenience stores in other parts of the world, Japanese ones offer not just food and beverages, but also services like ATMs, storage, postal, and even laundry.

I had a small taste of ‘konbini culture’ during my short stay in Tokyo, as my hotel was just across the road from a Family Mart. Staying up late nights to finish writing and having to get up early the next day for assignments, I found myself popping into the store several times a day, to grab a coffee, a bun, a hot meal or just to check out the stuff they had, which I wouldn’t be able to find back home.

20190908_190318

While F&B products take up most of the floor space, the store sells a variety of other goods as well, ranging from clothes and electronics to travel essentials (lotions, creams, sunscreen, etc.), and books and magazines. Heated coffee in a display rack was something that I only discovered a couple of years ago, and it still fascinates me how you can have a cold and warm section for your beverages. Ready-packed bento boxes are just a matter of popping into the microwave and voila! Hot meal.

20190908_190336

Jerky and other snacks

20190908_190402

Ice cream.

20190908_214500

Items like yakisoba (carbs on carbs!) are prepared daily. I was also obsessed with the sweet custard they had on sale. The offerings are all fresh, rather than looking like they’ve sat on the shelf for years like in many hypermarkets in Malaysia. The store I went to also had an ATM machine, a payment terminal, free Wifi, and an area where you could sit down and enjoy your bento.

There is, however, a price to pay for this convenience that people enjoy. Most prominent are issues such as low pay, exhausting working hours and poor work conditions. If you’ve read the brilliant Convenience Store Woman book by Sayaka Murata, it offers an interesting and quirky insight into what goes on behind the almost clinical facade of a convenience store operation.

BONUS: Because I couldn’t find another blog post to plug this in (lol) and it doesn’t seem like it warranted a full one, I stayed at the HOTEL UNIZO GINZA (Nana-Chome), which is conveniently located just a street away from the busy Ginza thoroughfare.

20190908_172709

Space is a premium in Japan; but the room was cosy enough (I like small rooms when travelling alone; it feels ‘safe’, somehow. Like I’m filling up the space). The bed was also very comfortable. There was a work desk, a TV that was strategically placed so I could see it from the bathroom (which had a half bath-tub like most places in Tokyo), a mini fridge and an ironing board for clothes. It was a good thing my luggage bag was small, but even then I had to put it on my bed to open it up fully.

20190908_172728

Actually reminds me of my dorm room back when I was in the UK albeit that was quite a bit larger. Small, neat, cosy.

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Thanks for reading! I’m trying to grow my social media, so any likes and follows will be appreciated! You’ll also be updated on what I’m up to on a daily basis. 🙂

facebook.com/erisgoesto 

twitter.com/erisgoesto 

instagram.com/erisgoesto