Posts tagged ‘japanese’

Better Than a Shoebox Greeting

I remember a few years back when witty greeting cards came into circulation, breathing new life into the age-old exchange. There was a Hallmark shop down the street and I loved to plop myself in the aisle browsing through each card for a good belly laugh or two. Heck, it was cheaper than an Archie comic.

But now in the Internet era, it must be hard to sell a tangible token of sympathy or even a belated birthday wish. These days, few are willing to spend $3.50 on a Christmas card when they can just mass-email their holiday greeting.

So leave it up to the Japanese to find ways to keep the card industry going. The pop-up cards I get from friends throughout the year never fail to entertain me:

 

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As you open and close the card these little Santas sway side-to-side, and the guys on the sleigh fly over the roof. It’s as if they’re really moving! (Though maybe the spiked eggnog made me see things. =P)

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This card shows a scene at a Japanese summer festival. In the foreground is a pool of goldfish. It’s a game kids play where they’re given a scooper made of a thin sheet of tissue. The object is to scoop out a fish before the tissue breaks. To the left are masks, usually of popular anime characters. And to the right is a recreation of colorful water balloons tied to rubber bands. It’s Japan’s version of a yo-yo. The detail on this card back a lot of good memories.

 

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And then there’s this card from my last “over the hill” birthday. You know, when I turned 18. (tee-hee) It might not be apparent what it is but basically there’s a plastic Cupie doll attached. Open the card and you’ll find he’s got on a parachute. So after you’re done with the card you can pull him out and play with him.

It’s the most random thing ever. But that’s why I love Japanese cards. (^D^)/

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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March 24, 2008 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

A Town Named Obama

The presidential race heated up last week between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But as the days go by, Obama is building momentum as the younger, more charming senator who promises to lead the country toward “real change”.

Thousands of miles away, a Japanese fishing town is hoping he’ll come through. With a meager population of 32,000, the city of Obama (meaning “small seashore”) is rooting for their namesake, not because they enjoy universal healthcare, but because publicity for the Illinois senator lends attention their way.

More than most U.S. citizens themselves, Obama dwellers have been active participants in this year’s campaigning, following state primaries, wearing Obama tees, and covering wall-space with “I *heart* Obama” posters. And then there’s the red bean cakes printed with an anime-style mug of the senator. It sure beats bumper stickers.

Though Mayor Toshio Murakami admits that it wasn’t until Senator Obama started picking up pace when the city became an active supporter. He figures 8-10 odds in his favor.

Last year, the mayor expressed his support, searching for Obama’s address online and mailing over a pair of lacquer chopsticks, one of the city’s regional products. Next, he’s sending a good luck charm (“omamori”) from the local shrine. No doubt, if Senator Obama were to actually respond with a “thank you,” the mayor will extend a grand tour of the fishing town. And if that should come about all eyes will be on Obama, both person and place.

Now if only there was a town in China named Clinton.

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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March 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Violets are Blue, and Roses are…Too? Franken-rose in 2009

Known more for its whisky than its flower development, the Japanese company Suntory Ltd. nevertheless scored a major coup in the floral world in 2004 by creating genetically modified blue roses. Since then, the Australian scientists who work for Suntory have perfected the hitherto elusive flowers and feel the time has come to unleash these freaks of nature — er, beautiful creations — on the romantics of the world. The roses are slated to go on sale in Japan in 2009, reports Inventor Spot. Other countries are sure to follow.

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According to Chinese folklore, a blue rose signifies hope against unattainable love, and Wikipedia says that blue roses signify “mystery or attaining the impossible” (probably because blue roses, are, well, impossible in nature).

So how the heck did scientists accomplish this feat?

Apparently, they found a way to “turn off” certain rose genes and replace them with genes from pansies. These allow the rose’s blue pigments to become synthesized. (I don’t get it, either.)

To be honest, this sort of genetic tampering creeps me out. Nature already provides us with such an amazing variety of flowers that it seems strange to spend time and money creating something that, to me, looks fake. (Even the name of the company, Florigene, is a bit too sci-fi for my taste.)

Commenters on Inventor Spot’s story are remarking that the flowers look lilac, not blue, which is a good point. But all the nitpickers who want a darker shade or truer blue can still go with white roses dyed blue at places like Blue Rose Florist or they can wait until the Australian scientists unveil variations on the color, as they’re expected to do in years to come.

Regardless, next Valentine’s Day you’ll have the option to think blue, not red!

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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March 6, 2008 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Taking a Test? Have a Pocky!

Right now, millions of Japanese school kids are sharpening their pencils and putting their brains into gear for entrance exam season.

With the academic year beginning in April, students are preparing now for a seat in a good school. The competition is stiff so it’s common practice for parents to dish out part of their income for after-school test prep classes, called juku. In the U.S., we have Kaplan and Princeton Review, but those begin at the college level. In Japan, it starts as young as kindergarten.

Back in the day, I was a nervous wreck taking the SATs, which is the standardized college test in the U.S. No matter how hard I studied I never felt fully prepared. I even tried hypnosis and daily affirmations to boost my confidence. Any amount of encouragement was necessary to overcome that uphill battle.

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In Japan, encouragement comes by way of candy. Walk down the aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see several of your favorite sweets – Kit Kats, Pocky and the like – printed with cheers like “You can do it!” and “We’re rooting for you!” They’re called gokaku (passing the exam) goods and though the price and content are the same, to the ambitious student these god-sent gems look like bona fide assurances of success. If I were a student I’d buy every box of gokaku candy I find and then slowly consume each one as I stay up all night studying.

Japanese consumers love matching their mood with their food. That’s why so many products change their look to fit the season. In the summer you’ll see bright yellow colors and a proliferation of thirst-quenching citrus. During fall and winter there’s shades of sweet-potato brown and milky white. Springtime adds cherry blossoms to both chocolate and potato chips.

So when entrance exam season comes around the only thing students are in the mood to know is that in a few months they’ll pass with flying colors. That’s why they have Pocky on their side. Just in case.

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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March 3, 2008 at 9:50 am 2 comments

My Favorite Gifts from Japan

Whenever my Japanese relatives tell me they’re coming to visit the first thing they ask is, “What do you want from Japan?” And with my jaw agape, a flurry of cute-but-unnecessary products start racing in my head. I’d ask for plastic miniature toys but now that I’ve accumulated a garage-full I’ve scratched them off my list. A slab of Kobe beef would be nice, but unless I can assure safe passage through customs I doubt that’s going to happen. So lately, when they ask I just tell them, “Surprise me.”

Here’s what I’ve received recently:

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I’m a sucker for Japanese candy so I always get a handful of it. They’re brightly packaged and come in weird flavors. The one on the bottom is called “Fragrance gum” and tastes like a bouquet of roses. No, I’ve never eaten a bouquet of roses, but if I did I’d probably spit it out, too. After a while, though, it starts to grow on you.

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I haven’t tried it yet but apparently this package contains tablets that make your voice sound “wondrous.” You swallow it just before you go out to the karaoke bar. It’s called “Pro Voice,” so maybe it somehow turns you into a diva?? My brother found it at a store called Don Quixote, which is Japan’s version of Aahs.

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And finally, my favorite gift from Japan. Boxes of tissue! Only these guys measure only 4 inches long! Utterly useless if you have a bad cold, but amazingly useful for the incidental nose drip. Whereas everything in the U.S. is super-sized, many things in Japan come really small.
So if someone wanted to bring you something from Japan, what would you ask for?!

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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February 25, 2008 at 8:44 am 6 comments

Oscars Here and Oscars There

As an L.A. girl, I’m always psyched for the Oscars, especially since it’s the only awards ceremony that airs live on the West Coast. The drunk-tastic Golden Globes and slightly more sober Emmys are delayed in California for a primetime audience, and I’m petrified of being spoiled about the results beforehand, either online or from newscast teasers. But the Oscars happen mere miles from my apartment, at 5 pm, and the excitement around town is palpable. Because of the WGA strike this year, there were doubts that the show would go on, but at the 11th hour (a Hollywood ending?) a union deal was reached and we’ll get to enjoy the star-studded, glitzy evening in all its glory this Sunday.

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Japan holds its Academy Awards in February as well. This year, “Letters From Iwo Jima” won Best Foreign Film. Clint Eastwood’s World War II movie was well received in Asia. A companion piece to the American film “Flags of Our Fathers”, “Letters From Iwo Jima” depicted the same battle from a Japanese perspective. According to Japan Today, the all-Japanese cast, including Ken Watanabe, added authenticity to the script by finessing the dialogue.

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The biggest winner of the 31st Japanese Academy Awards was a film called “Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad.” It swept the awards, earning trophies in five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. (Now I’m dying to see it!) Unlike our Oscars, the Japanese Academy Awards also award Best Newcomers and Most Popular. Sounds kind of like a high school yearbook, but I love it.

For a taste of Japanese filmmaking closer to home, check out the Japan Film Festival – Los Angeles, which hits downtown Los Angeles from April 11th to 17th and Orange Country from April 18th to 20th. The festival promises to screen the latest cutting-edge films from Japan in hopes of starting a cultural dialogue between American and Japanese people.

Just let me grab my popcorn and I’m there!

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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February 21, 2008 at 8:41 am 1 comment

Keeping Warm in a Futon

Winter can be miserably cold. That’s why I decided to buy a futon comforter this year. It set me back $300, but then again it was half-off – a sure bargain. I’m not rich. I just appreciate good sleep in the dead of winter.

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Back in Japan, I did everything I could to stay warm in my tiny, 8-tatami mat apartment. I’d take a hot bath and do jumping jacks just before bedtime. And when desperate times called for desperate measures I moved my refrigerator to the bedroom. It increased the room temperature at least two degrees.

Kerosene heaters are common in Japan, but I never enjoyed the lingering smell of gas after turning it off. So I’d wave around a match. (Not recommended.)

Eventually, I found a sports club a block away from home. Call me crazy but I paid the 30,000 yen (~$300) a month dues just to soak in their communal bath every night. Then I’d make a mad dash home and jump into bed.

Now I have my futon comforter which retains every degree of body heat I produce. It’s common for Japanese department stores to sell comforters for upwards of $2,000, so comparatively speaking my $300 blanket is a steal. It’s stuffed with bird feathers just like in the U.S., so it’s hard to say what the major difference is other than that with a Japanese one it’s like settling next to a toasty fire. And so while my friends complain about getting the sniffles I can’t help but to gloat about my big purchase. Some may see it as a bag of feathers, but I see it as a bag of gold.

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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February 18, 2008 at 8:09 am 2 comments

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