Dollar stores are plentiful in Metro Vancouver and most of them sell the same mix of bargain knick-knacks and shiny plastic trinkets. But not every discount deal shop is the same—especially if you head to the only Canadian branch of Japan’s most famous dollar-store-like chain.
Daiso opened its huge, bi-level store in Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre in 2003. Now, 15 years later, it’s become a staple for in-the-know locals as well as curious visitors looking for a unique shopping experience—and a chance to buy some unusual items without spending too much money. Most of the items here are priced at just $2.00 (plus tax).
From Canada souvenirs and Asian candies to colourful ceramics and ultra-cute toys, we recently spent an hour exploring Daiso’s busy aisles, creating our very own list of top 10 items to buy. Read on for our recommendations or, better yet, hop on the Canada Line to Aberdeen Station and check it out for yourself.
Snacks & candies
There’s a vast array of intriguing, sometimes puzzling treats to discover at Daiso, including lots of options for adventurous snack connoisseurs. Consider the ripple chips in various Cup Noodles flavours or dive into a few bags from Calbee, Japan’s biggest chip-maker (their varieties range from curry to cheese to pizza). Candy-wise, you’ll find plenty of sweet-tooth temptations, from unexpected Kit Kat flavours to multiple Pocky varieties and lots of lip-puckering sour jelly sweeties.
Noodle-flavoured chips are a popular snack item. | Photo: John Lee
Stickers & stationery
Some Daiso visitors come just to salivate over the stationery aisles that are filled with cool pens, highlighters, notepads, and craft paper. But there’s also a sparkling array of unique stickers that shoppers of all ages love to pore over: sheets lined with hundreds of tiny renditions of flowers, cakes, moustaches, rabbits, teapots, and even characters from Frozen. Our favourite? The train-themed packages bristling with shinkansen (bullet train) and steam engine stickers. Keep in mind that the selection changes frequently, so if you see that sheet of stripy giraffe stickers you’ve always wanted, snap it up immediately.
A great place to find unique stocking stuffers (yes, Christmas is coming), many kids will love Daiso’s chunky dinosaur models and small dig-it-out fossil packs. There’s also a full array of ‘transforming robots’ and an entire rack of Mickey Mouse trinkets to consider. On our visit, a group of under-10s were huddling in silent contemplation around a large, multicoloured display of Teeny Tys—small, big-eyed plushies ranging from pugs to piglets to hedgehogs—that are all about collecting.
For many shoppers, the most intriguing Daiso products are those that reflect Japanese culture. Exploring the aisles here, you’ll come across cool chopsticks (and chopstick rests) themed on Mount Fuji; food picks shaped liked bullet trains or sushi items; pens topped with little figures of sumo wrestlers; and—our favourite—memo stands anchored in small stylized models of blue and red carp. If you’re looking for unique, culturally-specific gifts (or your want to pretend you’ve just vacationed in Japan), you’ll find plenty of options here.
The large, second-floor ceramics section is always busy here. Reflecting Japan’s rich pottery heritage, there’s a full array of well-priced bowls, plates, and even tempting little teapots to peruse. For just a few bucks, you can collect your own cool set of sake tumblers or gather a six-serving array of cute fish-motif rice bowls. We particularly loved the little cat-shaped soy sauce jugs with matching toothpick holders (also available in owl form).
Cat-themed soy sauce jugs and toothpick holders at Daiso. | Photo: John Lee
Daiso also has a large selection of Canada-themed souvenirs that are perfect for budget-minded visitors looking to pick up presents for friends and family back home. From maple sugar cookies to hockey-jersey fridge magnets, there’s something for everyone here. We also spotted a cool red hip flask with a maple leaf motif, and a similarly-decorated pack of insulated beer bottle coolers. Add some Canada flag-shaped sunglasses for the perfect patriotic party.
Canada-themed ball caps have long been a staple purchase for BC visitors. But you don’t have to spend $25 on those sold in the gift shops at many Metro Vancouver attractions. Daiso’s selection of bright red, Canuck-themed caps—adorned with flags or maple leaves—are mostly priced under $5. Not a hat fan? They also sell Canada-themed socks, umbrellas, and oven gloves.
When I lived in Tokyo a few years back, one of my favourite pastimes was spotting examples of ‘Japanese English,’ a curious, sometimes mysterious use of the English language seen on everything from T-shirts to movie posters. You can take a peek into this colourful, cross-cultural world by perusing Daiso’s slogan-adorned cotton shoulder bags—a great gift for someone back home with a slightly quirky sense of humour. Our favourites included those printed with ‘Display An Easy Grace,’ ‘Living Comfortable Every Day,’ and ‘Let’s Fill Here With Happiness.’
Back to the souvenirs: if you’re looking for a perfect Canuck-themed present or an item that shows exactly how proud you are to be Canadian, you don’t have to hunt down a ball cap with a toothy, flag-waving beaver on it. Arguably the most tasteful of Daiso’s maple leaf-hugging souvenir items are the red-and-white earbud headphones. Adorned with tiny Canada flags on each side, they manage to be both functional and quietly patriotic at the same time.
Even more intriguing are those curious Daiso items that defy definition. Around almost every corner, you’ll find products that make you scratch your head and question what their creators were thinking. From household sponges with angry faces on them to shamrock-shaped moneyboxes with bulging eyeballs, you’ll find the perfect wacky gift here for someone you really want to surprise.
If you go:
Daiso is located in Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way) and is open daily from 9:30am to 9:00pm. The Canada Line’s Aberdeen Station is right outside the mall and just a few minutes’ walk from the store.