No, not really: it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that.
I did, however, spend Saturday shopping and I have to wonder if shopping isn't a form of recreation for people in this country. I went, basically, because Liz invited me to go out to Costco with her. I used to have a Costco card, but they were so far away and I shopped there so infrequently it didn't seem worth keeping up the membership. On the other hand, I did need a few items, or could find some items that I thought I needed; besides, the pizza they serve there is mayonnaise-free American-style, just like the Costco's back home. Seemed as good a reason as any for getting out of the house.
So I made arrangements with, and rode the train out to the other side of Tokyo, out in Chiba, to Makuhari. This is the equivalent of starting from Trenton, New Jersey, and riding a train out Long Island to go shopping. This is an early to surprise and, given the nature of cost of retail business. This is not the kind of store that fits into the highly priced downtown or urban area of Tokyo. I rode downtown to Tokyo station, then caught the Keiyu Line eastward past the waterfront of Tokyo Bay to Makuhari. it'd been awhile since I've written a train far out this way, riding the same train that goes out to Tokyo Disneyland, which is built along the waterfront in what used to be industrial waterfront land.
You still pass acres of warehouses, factories, and tank farms. However, past Disneyland, you also start to see a lot of fairly new shopping centers and big box merchants, they kind that require parking lots and customers who drive up: a very American idea in a country where retail is generally close to the train stations.* I sometimes, cynically, think that this is a more a form of recreation than an economic necessity in a country as affluent as this one.
Much to my surprise, a few stops before Makuhari, I saw an enormous, nearly finished retail building under construction along the line: an IKEA store, at least 7 stories tall (though 3-4 of them will probably be the parking garage. The closest IKEA, I understood, was in Singapore, so was taken by surprise -- a pleasant surprise, I have to admit. Yes, i like shopping at IKEA, and keep your opinion to yourself thankyouverymuch.
I met Liz at Kaihin-Makuhari station, and we rode the little 100-yen "pocket bus" out to the Costco, sitting off be itself in an empty field. As I expected, I bought some things I wouldn't have ordinarily gone out of my way to buy (including a T-FAL folding Healthy Grill. Like I need another kitchen appliance) and some staples, including a massive jar of peanut butter, a package of Farmer John bacon (Japanese pork producers have yet to figure out the "curing" portion of bacon making), a few pounds of M&Ms for my office desk's candy jar, and a heavy loaf of "rustic bread" (it's batard size but weighs 900 grams -- nearly 2 pounds).
This should hold me for awhile.
P.S.: One little thing that happened startled myself and Liz on the train ride home: the train stopped at the station that serves Tokyo Disneyland, and like just about every urban Japan Rail station platform I've been on, the PA system (or Tannoy, for you Brits) played a little melody to signal the train's impending departure. Almost always it's some non-descript little deedle-dee-dee -- but here, in a move certain to cause Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing (what with his Disney and Wacky Japan fetishes) to wet his pants in glee, played a few bars of -- "It's a Small World". Liz and I looked at each other: we didn't just hear what we thought we heard, did we?
*In fact, some retail stores OWN train stations and train lines -- Seibu, Keio, Tobu -- and have used them as springboards for developing real estate and shopping complexes along their routes.