Archive for April, 2008

The Power of Meow

Would you like a bit of cat with your coffee? Wait, come back! Let me rephrase. Ahem.

At Cat Café Calico in Tokyo, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, coffee-loving cat fanatics have found a place to enjoy both. For ¥800 (a bit over $8) per hour and a reservation, you can enjoy the company of seventeen gorgeously-groomed felines. They aren’t limited to calicos; you’ll find rare breeds like Russian Blues, Scottish Folds and Persians, as well as some tiger-striped beauties.

According to Japan Times, most of the café’s visitors aren’t allowed to have cats in their apartment buildings, so they love the chance to interact with pets in a clean, fun environment while reading a book or knocking back some java. Some customers already have cats at home but enjoy meeting breeds they’ve never seen before. The atmosphere is soothing, quiet and tranquil, with a limited amount of people allowed inside at a time, but it’s definitely popular (hundreds stop by on the weekends; less during the week) and growing more so every day.

Guests must be at least ten years old and play gently with the cats, which are typically friendly and like all the attention. Cats are “retired” when they reach eight to ten years old, but don’t worry, that’s not as ominous as it sounds! The owner of Cat Café Calico, a kind 30-something man named Takafumi Fukui, has plans to open other locations strictly for the older cats.

Some bloggers believe the cafe does nothing to fix the problem of Japan’s thousands of strays, as it doesn’t accept cats off the street.

At least two other cat cafes have opened in the city in the past year, creating a mini-boom. Theme restaurants are not exactly a new concept in Japan. Previously, Himawari wrote about Maid Cafes, and there’s always Christon Café, the Jesus-themed restaurant.

Perhaps strangest of all to my western eyes are the yaoi cafes, which celebrate teenage boy-on-boy love and cater to otaku female comic fans.

I think I’ll stick with the cats.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 25, 2008 at 2:31 pm 4 comments

Tiny Girl Eats Tokyo

Japan has an unhealthy obsession with food.

That was my friend’s assessment of our favorite country after visiting for the first time. It didn’t help that she spent most of her trip cooped up in a Tokyo hotel room, afraid of getting ‘lost in translation’ once outside. So she watched a lot of TV - food shows mostly because they were easiest to understand. One was a cooking competition with cute boys in white aprons. Another featured foods of different regions.

The show that sent her jaw to the ground featured a skinny, young woman with bleached blond hair who could eat any amount of food placed before her. Gluttony Girl, as some call her, weighs no more than 90 pounds but could finish off a vat of curry rice twice her size. And unlike Kobayashi, her Coney dog-eating compatriot whose focus was intense, this girl smiles and giggles as she spoons it all down.

In Japan they call her Gal So-ne, the latter being her last name, and “gal” describing the blond locks, glittery eyes, and Lee Press-On’s she sports. Most gals don’t eat more than a wafer for lunch. Gal So-ne will eat a wafer….and 5,000 more.

So of course, being a remarkable young lady, she’s climbed the ranks of quasi-celebrity, appearing on daily variety shows and hosting her own specials where she travels the world, consuming enough to feed all of Africa. And as a celebrity of sorts she gets to also a release an album, regardless of whether or not she can sing. In this one she also dances, though hopefully not after a big meal:

Many people wonder how a girl of chopstick girth can consume so much food. (To be exact, she’s 5’3” and 92 lbs.) So a team of doctors decided to put her in back of an X-ray screen as she ate. They found that her stomach had rubber band flexibility, increasing over 10 times its original size. And as to how she can stay so thin, they noticed her body temperature increased by 35°F as she ate, particularly around the spine. Truthfully, I think she just spews it up when no ones looking.

As for my friend, she’s still traumatized. She’s had her own personal battles with food in the past. And so while the consumers may be fun, she prefers rooting for the losers on American TV.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 22, 2008 at 4:07 pm 1 comment

Fashion Week in Tokyo Showcases a Vast Spectrum of Colors and Styles

It may look like spring outside your window but in the fashion world, it’s already winter… of 2009. For a glimpse into this fall’s haute couture and ready to wear designs, future trendsetters need look no further than Fashion Week, which hit New York City in early February and Los Angeles from March 7th to 14th. Then it was Tokyo’s turn. On March 10th through March 16th, Japan’s innovative fashion designers unveiled their latest creations. The clothes ranged from “Goth Lolita” street variations to concepts inspired by the video game “Final Fantasy” to Cyndi Lauper-esque 80’s style frocks. Apparently girls still just wanna have fun:

Mainichi Daily News reports that designers Keiichi Muramatsu and Noriko Seki went for a gargoyle theme. No, there were no hunchbacks strutting the runway; in this particular case, it meant “a sweater of gradated gray, made to appear like stone…accompanied by leg warmers and a stole made in the image of a stained glass window.”

Nature herself was also on display. (Sort of.) Ritsuko Shirahama incorporated scanned images of leaves into her patterns and Tamae Hirokawa’s SOMARTA brand evoked images of snow princesses, ice and forests.

As for men’s fashion? Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto opted to debut his plaid-lined suits in Paris earlier this year. (Does anyone else hear bagpipes?)

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 18, 2008 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Massagers to Die For

Despite common notion, Japan is a high-stress society. Aside from universal worries about finances, health and finding a soul mate, Japanese people lose sleep over how people view them – individualism not being a good thing. They also worry about pleasing the higher-ups. If the boss wants a beer, you better get one for him. If he wants a girl to pour him the beer, you better find one of those, too.

The longer I lived in Japan the stiffer my shoulders became as I worked to conform to the societal norms, which are especially strict for women. What resulted was not only a disdain for coy women but an extensive collection of massage tools. It ranges from small wooden mallets (cost about $2 each) to a high-speed circular ultra-kneading lounger (costing about an arm and a leg).

One of the more unique massagers is a hand-held tool you plug into the wall:

As soon as the green tip heats up you press it onto your skin wherever you’re stiff. I like to knead it into my eyebrow ridges after a long day of Scrabulous. Be warned, the longer you leave it, the hotter it gets. Burn marks are possible. Though back in the old days when electricity wasn’t abundantly available they used to light a small fire over muscle aches. Thank god for advanced technology.

And then there’s my electric shocking device I bought at Yodobashi Camera, Japan’s version of Best Buy:

The battery operated remote is attached to two gel pads you stick on your skin. Turn on the device and you’ll feel tiny electric waves that either vibrate or pulsate through your muscles at whatever speed you wish. One word of caution: Don’t stick the pad over a bone. Electric waves passing through are as uncomfortable as biting on foil. Oh and never, stick the pad on your head. No amount of electric shock will make you forget your last bad relationship.

I have other devices in my collection that I’m reluctant to show anyone. They’re also fun to use, but believe me, the warning labels run even longer.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 15, 2008 at 9:56 am 1 comment

Game, Set, Comeback

Yahoo! News. reports that Japan’s most successful tennis star Kimiko Date is coming out of retirement. In 1994, she was the 4th ranked female player in the world, with several career titles, including four Japan Open victories. She was also the first Japanese woman in two decades to reach the Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. She quit the game in 1996, at the age of 25, after making it to the semifinals in Wimbledon and beating Steffi Graf at the Federation Cup in Tokyo. When Date left, she had slipped a few spots to #8, but she was still a formidable opponent on the court.

How does someone re-enter the world of professional sports after 12 years away? Well, she didn’t exactly spend her time off watching TV and eating mochi ice cream; she participated in some doubles tournaments in 2002 for the Japan Open and kept fit by playing against Martina Navratilova and former rival Steffi Graf in exhibition matches in Tokyo. Still, this has got to be one for the record books. Now 37 years old, she’ll be one of tennis’s oldest players on the professional circuit.

She’s the first to admit it will be an uphill battle: “…I’m older now, I’m married and I have a different outlook,” she told Reuters Japan on April 7th. “I wanted to give something back to tennis. I’m going to take things gradually, to get a feel for where my game is. I’m not expecting miracles.”

Her many fans might argue with that assessment!

Date was born in Kyoto but now lives in Tokyo. During her time off from tennis, she married a German racecar driver and also starred in a TV ad for the Toyota Prius.

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 11, 2008 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

A Princess’ Life, Not for Me!

If you don’t know already, Cinderella never lived happily ever after. Soon after marrying Prince Charming, she plunged into a life of public scrutiny, imperial scorn and utter depression. That was the case for Japan’s own Cinderella, Princess Masako, at least.

Media and public alike were enthralled by her story. The 29-year-old hailed from the well-to-do, but she was still a commoner. So when Masako accepted the Crown Prince’s marriage proposal in 1993 she vicariously fulfilled every young girl’s rags-to-riches dream. Never mind the prince had the looks and charm of Tweedledum; royal blood ran through his veins, bestowing him a lifetime of fine dining and fancy threads.

“You’ll never be a princess!” my dad said to the teenage me after I went behind his back and pierced my ears. It was around the same time of the Masako media blitz and my dad was certain I could’ve married royalty if only my ears weren’t pierced. By tradition, royal brides-to-be were supposed to be virginal, right down to the fleshy earlobe. But I could care less. I knew better than to think Masako would actually be happy in her imperial castle with the great big moat. In fact, I felt sorry for her.

Fifteen years later, Masako suffers from clinical depression following a very public nervous breakdown. It took her years to have a baby and even after doing so she’s still criticized as a failure, unable to produce a male heir.

“Princess Masako: The Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne,” by Ben Hills, gets into the nitty-gritty of her tragic decision to marry into the royal family. She was a Harvard graduate with a promising future as a foreign diplomat. Now she’s relegated to walking three steps behind her husband and barred from speaking her mind. (During a press conference, she was admonished for doing so after someone pointed out that she’d spoken more than her husband.)

Last year, the book became a point of controversy; up until then few dared to speak badly of the imperial family, who fought vigorously against a Japanese translation. It’s an interesting read and gives you a greater sense of Japan’s dark side. Happily ever after…? Yeah right!

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 8, 2008 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Memoirs Dances of a Geisha

Last year, Himawari wrote about springtime in Japan, which is marked by cherry blossom festivals or hanami. For the entire month of April, you can also enjoy the Cherry Blossom Dance, or Miyako Odori (sometimes known as “Dances of Spring”). Performances take place four times a day for an hour each at the Kaburenjo Theater in Kyoto’s entertainment district of Gion. Geiko (the Kyoto dialect of Geisha) and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) both join in on the colorful and beautiful dances. In fact, Mai means “dance” and Ko means “child” so Maiko literally translates to “dancing child / girl.”

geisha

The annual performances first began in 1872 as an attempt to promote industry, business and status in Kyoto after Tokyo (then called Edo) grabbed the spotlight by becoming the new capital of Japan in 1869. Today, visitors to Kaburenjo Theater are encouraged to visit the surrounding gardens, partake in a shortened tea ceremony and eat manju cake. Who needs Broadway with that kind of service? Check out the exquisite costumes, scenery, fan work and dancing below:

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 4, 2008 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

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