Archive for February, 2009

Lullaby and Goodnight: Bedtime Accessories Too Cute For Words

When it comes to Japanese products and marketing, you can never be too kawaii. After all, this is the country that uses a cartoon logo, Prince Pickles, to represent its Department of Self Defense.

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Of course, there are times when cuteness is completely irresistible. Take bedtime: plush dolls, soft, inviting sheets and matching shorts for couples are all fair game. I especially love the pillows at From Japan With Love that are shaped like cats or big blocks of smiling tofu.

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Sleeping Pikachu takes the cake, though. Is it possible to go insane from too much cuteness? From airplanes, cars, clothing, kitchenware, bento boxes or toys, there is no product Pikachu won’t endorse. No wonder he’s tired, poor thing!

Sarah S.

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February 24, 2009 at 2:09 pm 1 comment

No Pain, No Gain?

“It hurts so bad, yet feels soo good!” Oh baby~ that’s what you’ll say when you grind your feet into one of these handy-dandy bamboo slats. Its curved, hard surface has a way of pushing deep into those biped muscles of yours, smoothing out every tense fiber to the bone. Some call it torture, others call it a soothing massage.

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I kept this ‘ashi-fumi ta-ke’ around for years among my odd collection of massage devices. It was far more economical than the others ($10 or so), yet had the most striking effect on my body. What they say is that the foot is the map to the rest of the body. That is, each area corresponds to a particular body part. Your arch connects to the digestive system, your second and third toe to the eyes, and so on. So when part of your foot really hurts after using the bamboo it means you’d better lay off the booze and get your innards checked by the doctor.

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Women especially use this device as a lazy way to lose weight. They balance themselves on it while washing the dishes or brushing their teeth, taking in the pain as they firm up their calves. But if they’re like me, they’ll give up before anything miraculous happens. And then they’ll move on to the next fad diet like scarfing down a banana every morning.

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Truthfully, I don’t really know how much healing power this wooden torture device actually has. But if it can double as a weapon of death then maybe it’s worth keeping around?

Himawari

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February 20, 2009 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Sick of Texas Hold ‘Em? Try Your Hand at Koi Koi

Q: Long before Nintendo became famous for Super Mario Brothers, what was it known for?

A: Japanese playing cards.

I’ve never seen a deck quite as pretty as the Hanafuda (“flower cards”), which combines traditional Japanese games with western-style cards.

However, unlike the standard U.S. deck, which consists of four suits — Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs — Hanafuda uses 12 suits, one for each month. The pictures correspond to what’s in bloom during that time of year. Pine, cherry blossoms, plum, willow, chrysanthemum and wisteria are a few examples. There are also colorful images of ribbons, animals, and the moon; even a sake cup, which, like an Ace, counts as both a 1 and a 10. Kampai! 

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Probably the most popular game to play with Hanafuda cards is Koi Koi, which comes across sort of like a combination of Go Fish, Mahjong and Blackjack (okay, maybe that last one’s a stretch…). Each card has a point value (1, 5, 10 or 20) and you win by pairing the images up and getting the most points.

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Players get eight cards to start, with an additional eight face-up in the middle as the pot. To “capture” a card, you play one of yours and if it matches one of the face-up cards (meaning it’s from the same month), you keep it. If it doesn’t match any of them, you add it to the field.

For complete rules, check out this site.

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Decades later, Nintendo is still manufacturing these cards. Some have a Mario Brothers theme. Of course, if you’d rather play on screen, there’s a digital version, too.

Sarah S.

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February 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

Get Your Good Luck Poop Today

It’s that time of year again when Japanese kids psyche up for grueling, caffeine-infused all-nighters. The new school year begins in April so now is the time when they study their hearts out for those dreaded entrance exams.

As I mentioned last year, students carry around all kinds of tokens of good luck to boost their confidence. And they eat up snacks like Pocky and Kit Kat inscribed with encouraging messages to study hard. But here’s a new product twist: bookmarks stuffed with Koala poop! A zoo in Nagoya has begun passing out these fragrant products for free to local students. Last year they handed out 300, but due to high demand they’ve increased their supply to 500. What the…?!

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The poop has been sanitized and placed in smade from recycled milk cartons. And instead of rotten tuna the bookmark carries the soothing scent of eucalyptus. But still, why in the world would anyone accept anything stained with feces? There is a explanation…

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…albeit a strange one. In Japanese, the word for poop is “fun” (pronounced “foon”) which is similar to the word for luck, “un.” So, using this bookmark would be like receiving the luck of a Koala, one of the cutest animals in the world, of course. Though I’m sure not everyone in Japan would be so keen as to keep poop in their backpack, because if they should fall asleep while reading who knows where their head will fall.

Personally, if I wanted the luck of a koala I’d just buy a box of “Koala no March“. It, too, contains a soft, brown substance, but at least it’s edible. (^o<)

Himawari

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February 13, 2009 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

Supplements to Help You Live, Feel…., and Smell Better

Japan is a nation of health nuts. There is a huge market for dietary supplements; there are even some you will not find here in the United States, the birthplace of dietary supplements.

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Take, for example, “Rose Sapuri” that has been selling by the millions. Rose Sapuri is “Perfume you can eat.” It will make your breath slightly scented with a hint of rose. Sounds like something out of Shojo Manga!!! Now you will breathe easily and sleep well at night without worrying about embarrassing body odors. It also claims to improve your skin.

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My routine is to start my day with swag of black vinegar in the morning and to end it with “Aojiru(Green Juice)” at night. Aojiru comes in many different varieties, but my favorite is the one made from wheat barley. Just mix the green powder with water or any other liquid, and it’s ready to be consumed. It certainly rid me of irregularities and is supposed to work for many other chronic conditions. Whether it will help me live to be 100? Come back and ask me in 50 years.

Togé Togé

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February 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

Coin Purses: Buy Them, Trade Them, Gift Them or Make Them

You may have noticed I’m obsessed with shopping in Kyoto. It seems like everything there is adorable – especially gifts and souvenirs. Whether it’s face-blotting paper, candy, charms, stationary or snacks, I’m a sucker for cute and useful items that I can buy in bulk and hand out to my friends and family. Included in this category are Japanese coin purses.

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Unless you need it for laundry or parking meters, change is a pain to carry around. It makes noise and gums up the bottom of your pockets or handbag. So I try to make the most of the situation and give my coins a place to shine in a little coin purse that fits inside pretty much any bag and gets lots of attention whenever I use it. Most Japanese coin purses have a beautiful flower design and a “kiss clasp” (awww). The one I got from Kyoto, however, is a bit different; it’s a soft fabric vintage-looking Hato Hasi with a frog charm snap to keep it closed.

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Shizen Creations has some lovely pieces to check out. Feeling crafty? Channel your inner Martha Stewart (or MacGyver) and make your own Japanese coin purse with these simple household items: knitting needle, fabric, glue, pliers, purse frame and a paper bag!

Sarah S.

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February 9, 2009 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment

Splish, Splash, Let’s Take a Bath!

Rest and relaxation is multi-million dollar industry in Japan. From quickie-massage parlors to specialized tea and candy, it’s the kind of thing that appeals to anyone trying to survive in this high-stress society.

You’ll find bath minerals, or onsen no moto, among the list of feel-good products. They come in small packets, perfumed by the scents of nature and catered to healing specific ailments like fatigue, aching muscles and nervousness. All you do is turn on the faucet and drop it in.

It doesn’t stop there. In an aim to cater to all demographics, there’s all kinds of wacky themes to these products. Here’s some of my favorites:003-00920-001-001It looks like a lollipop but please don’t eat it! Drop it in your bath and watch the color change to match the scent of strawberry, pudding, caramel or milk. A few lucky bathers will receive a rare and lucky flavor.

You don’t have to wait ’til Halloween to enjoy a scary bath. Pour it in and bathe in blood red! Monster figurine included.089-00915-001-001Wanna improve your love life? Well this bath’s for you! Scented with orange and cinnamon, you’ll find yourself feeling more amorous because this pack of minerals is blessed by the love gods.001-00818-003-0011Just like a box of Cracker Jacks, it’s just not the same without the prize. In the middle of this bag of bath minerals is one of 9 different Kewpie dolls. Of course there’s one mystery doll that only the lucky will receive. And last but not least…082-00913-001-001If people in India are having qualms about “Slumdog Millionaire” I’d hate to hear what they’d say about this product. Still, if you love curry so much you’d bathe in it then here’s your chance.

Himawari

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February 6, 2009 at 11:46 am 1 comment

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