To answer my own question, I was fucking crazy to even consider going to Tokyo's first H&M store on opening day. Or the first three days for that matter. Depending on whose account you believe, between 3 and 5 thousand people lined up (for 2 to 4 hours) to shop there on opening day. I am an avid believer of fashion on the cheap so I couldn't be more thrilled that H&M has gotten its ass over here, but I do not subscribe to the sheer frenzy of these people. How could I possibly know how crazy they are? you may ask. Thanks to reader XF, I am now a card-carrying member of Mixi, Japan's online "networking" community.
Granted, if I was a Japanese person reading say, gaijinpot, I would not read too far into most of the shit that is flung around the message boards there. By the same rule, I shouldn't believe everything I read on Mixi, but strangely enough I find myself having more faith in the Japanese and their use of message boards. Thanks to computers, camera phones, and Mixi I had a play by play account of the H&M opening ALL weekend. From Friday night the message board was a hub for those crazy mofos lining up the night before, and those of us at home, to check on how long the line was getting, what kind of goodies were being passed out, and finally, to receive reports from those brave soldiers returning from battle.
If you were out and about in Tokyo on the weekend, chances are you spotted people strutting around with their glossy H&M bags. I wonder if these glossy paper bags are going to be a permanent fixture to boost the company's standing/reputation, or if they will be switched for the cheap and nasty plastic bags that are used in other countries. Shopping bags are definitely a status symbol here in Tokyo and I'm not referring to when they are holding freshly-bought goods. They are used to show everyone where you have shopped, and judging by the wear and tear on some of the Gucci and LV shopping bags I've seen, often a very long time ago. The general message seems to be, I am not wearing anything from which you can derive a brand name but I did shop at Hermes a couple years ago and I'm going to keep using this tiny Chanel shopping bag (that once probably held 3000 yen nail polish) until things start falling out of the holes in the bottom. Talk about the shame I have felt riding the subway carrying a recycled grocery bag, or worse, a Gap bag! Not only do you have to compete in the brand war using your handbag in Tokyo, you have to step it up a level by also showing off the paper shopping bag it came in!
I was recently befriended by a secretary who mistook my fake Chanel bag (bought in an apartment off some sketchy alley in Hong Kong) for a mutual love of brands. I ran into her in the bathroom last week and she was just thrilled to show me that she had the same bag! I didn't have the heart to tell her that mine cost a fraction of what she had paid. Although really, hers would have come with a Chanel shopping bag so maybe it works out in the end.