Archive for April, 2007

In Japan, Vending Machines = Life

To understand why vending machines are so popular in Japan, imagine a rectangular compartment on your street corner that provides everything you could possibly need in an average day.

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Fancy some farm-fresh eggs for breakfast? There’s a vending machine for that. Would you like a creamy, steaming café latte to go with your eggs? There’s a vending machine for that, too.

Is it raining out? Just look for a vending machine stocked with umbrellas. Trust me, they’re out there.

Got a taste for hot ramen noodles, oden in a can, microwaved popcorn, dumplings or French fries? Buy lunch for the whole family at the vending machine; it’s always prepared to-go.

Got a hot date this evening? Don’t forget to stop by a vending machine kiosk, where you can pick up flowers, liquor and condoms.

Rather spend the evening alone? Head on over to the friendly porn machine — the blinds covering those products only lift up at night — filled with adult magazines and DVDs. (Anonymity can be good sometimes!)

You’ll also find vending machines that sell toys for kids, sticker photos, disposable cameras, batteries, toilet paper, and name cards. I’ll never forget enjoying a pint of Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream (sadly, not available in the States) from a vending machine outside the beautiful Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.

greentea.jpg

Even if you go into cardiac arrest, there is a vending machine for you. Since last August, 170 machines contaminating AED (Automated External Defibrillators) have popped up in the land of the rising sun. Daniel Craig’s 007 would be pleased.

vending machines in Japan are open 24/7, every day of the year. They won’t look at you askance or judge you for your purchases, and they’re especially convenient for citizens of a cash-based society. The Japan Times reports there are 5.51 million machines in Japan, raking in a total of nearly 7 trillion yen (around $58 billion) per year.

The products aren’t necessarily the cheapest, however, so if price is your main concern, you’re better off heading inside a store and interacting with a real-life clerk.

Still, after running around the city and hanging out at different vending machines all day, you’ll probably need an energy drink to keep going. Oh, look! There’s a vending machine for that!

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 27, 2007 at 3:25 pm 2 comments

Tokyo Geeks are All the Rage

I’m a sucker for love stories, especially unconventional ones. Take this one for example:

A geeky man sees a beautiful woman on the train. As he admires her from across the way, a drunken old man stumbles in and starts harassing the woman. The geek has no idea what to do. Should he defend the woman or ignore the situation like everyone else? Gathering all his courage, the geek finally decides to come to the woman’s aid.

Thus begins the story of “Densha Otoko” (Train Man), a Japanese novel told from the geek’s point-of-view via chat messages with his online community of friends. In Japan, geeks are referred to as otaku. They tend to be people who have an extreme interest in one particular thing like computers, or in Densha Otoko’s case, anime. And unless it pertains to their particular interest, they’re rather inept in keeping up any semblance of a casual conversation. So for the Densha Otoko, in order to win the beautiful woman’s heart he has to try becoming a more worldly person.

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This rather odd love story became a hit among Japanese. Many were drawn to this adorable geek’s plight because, after all, haven’t we all experienced being the underdog?

Soon after the novel was published, there was a TV series, a movie, a comic book and then a theatrical show. The country couldn’t get enough of it. Even the area of Tokyo where otaku frequented most, Akihabara “electric town,” turned into a cool destination point. The term “Akiba-kei” – definition being “anything which relates to Akihabara” – became of a buzz word of 2005, and rumor also has it that pretty women everywhere began scouring the streets in search of their own Akiba-kei man.

But like all trends, they come and go quickly. In 2007, geeky men may not be the most sought-after people in Japan, but well, at least they had their day in the sun.

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 25, 2007 at 3:23 pm 2 comments

What’s in a name? An overview of Kobe Beef

When Americans hear the word Kobe, they picture one of two things: Kobe Bryant from the Lakers basketball team, or “that really expensive beef in Japanese restaurants” (and in fact, Kobe Bryant’s parents named him for the dish after seeing the term on a menu).

What makes Kobe beef so special? Is it the style of cooking? The method of raising the cattle? The location of the cattle? Or just really good marketing?

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For more than 1,000 years, Japanese people didn’t even eat beef; Buddhist influences forbade chowing down on anything with four legs. To be fair, a diet of rice, fish and vegetables is extremely healthy, and anyone who’s tasted good sushi can agree it’s not exactly a hardship!

Kobe beef comes from Japanese Wagyu cattle, of which there are four types: Black, Brown, Poll and Shorthorn. Though exportation of the cattle used to be illegal, today, the animals are frequently raised in California (Harris Farms) and Australia, where land is much cheaper than it is in Japan. Farmers raise the cattle (including feeding it special grains) according to strict specifications identical to those used in Japan, and then ship the beasts back to Kobe for slaughter and preparation. No matter where it’s raised, all Kobe beef ultimately ends up in Kobe before being eaten.

So how does it taste? And why is it sliced so thinly? Americans like to cut into a thick, juicy steak, but Kobe beef is best enjoyed seared, in extremely thin slices. It’s a delicacy comparable to foie gras; velvety and tasty. This is mainly due to Kobe beef’s marbled, unsaturated fat (sashi) and the slight sweetness of its flavor.

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Because it is so thin, not much cooking is required or even desired, which makes it perfect for Shabu Shabu. At Urasawa restaurant on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, it is served as part of a $250 deluxe 17-course meal! But you can also cook it up yourself in popular Yakiniku (barbeque) chains like Gyukaku.

Don’t leave it in the boiling water for long! It cooks in seconds.

And now I think I’ll go make a reservation for lunch!!

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 20, 2007 at 2:42 pm 2 comments

The Wonders of Modern Toilet Technology

Restrooms in Japan have come a long way. The first time I used a Japanese-style toilet—now over two decades ago—I was so perplexed by it that I stood there in a stupor for a good 15 minutes.

toilet11.jpg

There it was, a long porcelain basin on the ground with a hole leading from here to the center of the Earth. Forget that paper seat cover; you’ll be squatting. Never mind that your pant legs are falling dangerously close to the ground. Just aim. Though once you get used to a washiki toilet you realize that it’s actually not that bad. In fact, it’s quite sanitary.

Japanese toilets are a rare sight these days. Westernization has made way to what we Americans might consider ‘regular toilets.’ Reversely, a youshiki toilet proves perplexing to countryside grandmas, many of whom figure they could just stand right on the toilet seat to do their thing. “Please come down from there! You’ll hurt yourself,” I feel like telling them.

toilet21.jpg

They say that Japan doesn’t invent new technology, rather, it takes an old one and makes it better. Well, that includes restrooms. In most modern Japanese homes, you’ll find an electric-powered toilet seat which can wash, air-dry or warm your bottom depending on what you fancy. At the touch of a button, a little nozzle will appear at the rim to spray warm water. Another nozzle will generate a burst of warm heat like an automatic hand dryer. Yet another button will heat up the seat, making those cold winter days a little more tolerable. Some toilets even have sensors in which the top cover will raise up when you enter, and lower shut when you leave.

Women’s restrooms often include a particular function custom made for the self-conscious. It’s called the otohime, which literally translates as “sound princess.” Press the button and you’ll hear the soothing sounds of a waterfall, producing enough ‘white noise’ to silence a wart hog in labor.

Now if they could only invent something to eliminate bad smell~! (^_<)

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
—————————————————————————

 

April 18, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Meet “Magic’s first cyber-celebrity,” Japanese Illusionist Cyril Takayama

According to Metropolis, an English language, ex-patriot magazine you’ll find at bookstores in Japan, 33-year-old Cyril Takayama has “single-handedly sparked Japan’s love affair with magic.”

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Earlier this year, Cyril completed his eleventh two-hour television special there. Last Saturday, April 7th, he was crowned Magician of the Year (for 2006) by the Academy of Magical Arts during their annual award ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Though his popular television specials have aired only in Japan, Cyril has become a hit stateside because of a series of astonishing clips that were uploaded to the internet. These include a humorous skit where Cyril, dressed as a very old man named Serojiisan (“Grandpa Cyril”), travels through the city and literally sneezes his head off.

Born in California in 1973 to an Okinawan father and a French-Moroccan mother, Cyril traveled to Japan as a teenager where he performed in Shinjuku bars and lived off ramen noodles. Since then he’s risen to the top, where he amazes everyday Japanese people with his extraordinary, up-close illusions live on camera.

His programs take him all over the country, from Okinawa to Sapporo to Kokusai Forum Theater in Tokyo and more.

If it weren’t for websites like YouTube, most Americans would never know about Cyril. Now that his reputation has spread, he may very well take over Western TV, too. He is already revered by international magicians, as his recent award attests.

In a signature piece, Cyril pulls a real hamburger off a menu and eats it. Yum!

Did you notice? In the clips, we don’t just see reactions from people at the scene; we also see random reactions from studio audience members who appear in small squares in the corner of the screen. This style choice is typical of Japanese television programs.

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 13, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Go Ahead, Say “Sorry”

There’s over a dozen ways to say “I’m sorry” in Japan. Here’s just a few:

ごめんなさい(Gomennasai) = “Sorry”
すみません(Sumimasen) = “Pardon me”
失礼しました(Shitsurei shimashita) = “Pardon my rudeness.”
申し訳ありませんMoushiwake arimasen = “I have no excuse (for my rudeness.) I am sorry.”
すまん Suman = “Sorry ‘bout that, dude.”

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There’s also over a dozen reasons to apologize in Japan, like when entering a room full of guests or opening the door to a friend’s house. And if you watch a Japanese person on the phone, you might catch them committing the “I’m sorry” rapid head nod.

Idiosyncrasies aside, Japanese apologize for good reason. It’s a social lubricant offered upon the slightest possibility that someone’s feelings might be hurt. And while in the U.S. it’s good practice to do the same, in Japan it’s simply what must be done in order to be accepted in society.

As an American who spent high school summers in Japan I learned the importance of “I’m sorry” the hard way. One time, I made plans with an uncle to meet at a certain spot in town at a particular time. Well, one of us misunderstood the other and so we ended up arriving at vastly different times. (Cell phones didn’t exist back then.) When I finally saw my uncle that evening I did the typical American thing, expressing how baffled I was about the misunderstanding and then shrugging it off. Little did I know, he was miffed.

When in doubt – or even if it’s not your fault – the golden rule in Japan is to bite the bullet and say “I’m sorry,” especially when dealing with those older than you. In the U.S. we deal with things logically: Apologize if it’s your fault. Don’t apologize if it’s not. But in Japan, an apology less of an admittance of fault than a way to express your feelings toward the misfortune or inconvenience that the other person may have suffered.

Don’t see the difference? Yeah, I didn’t either. In fact, I was pretty stubborn with the apologies for years. They used to call me the Apology Scrooge. And then one day it began trickling out. “Sorry for being late.” “Sorry to bother you.” “My apologies …”

And when the person starts apologizing right back at you, that’s when you know you’ve done something right for a change. (^_^)

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
—————————————————————————

April 11, 2007 at 1:17 pm

The Wonders of Modern Toilet Technology

Restrooms in Japan have come a long way. The first time I used a Japanese-style toilet—now over two decades ago—I was so perplexed by it that I stood there in a stupor for a good 15 minutes.

toilet1.jpg

There it was, a long porcelain basin on the ground with a hole leading from here to the center of the Earth. Forget that paper seat cover; you’ll be squatting. Never mind that your pant legs are falling dangerously close to the ground. Just aim. Though once you get used to a washiki toilet you realize that it’s actually not that bad. In fact, it’s quite sanitary.

 

Japanese toilets are a rare sight these days. Westernization has made way to what we Americans might consider ‘regular toilets.’ Reversely, a youshiki toilet proves perplexing to countryside grandmas, many of whom figure they could just stand right on the toilet seat to do their thing. “Please come down from there! You’ll hurt yourself,” I feel like telling them.

toilet2.jpg

They say that Japan doesn’t invent new technology, rather, it takes an old one and makes it better. Well, that includes restrooms. In most modern Japanese homes, you’ll find an electric-powered toilet seat which can wash, air-dry or warm your bottom depending on what you fancy. At the touch of a button, a little nozzle will appear at the rim to spray warm water. Another nozzle will generate a burst of warm heat like an automatic hand dryer. Yet another button will heat up the seat, making those cold winter days a little more tolerable. Some toilets even have sensors in which the top cover will raise up when you enter, and lower shut when you leave.

Women’s restrooms often include a particular function custom made for the self-conscious. It’s called the otohime, which literally translates as “sound princess.” Press the button and you’ll hear the soothing sounds of a waterfall, producing enough ‘white noise’ to silence a wart hog in labor.

Now if they could only invent something to eliminate bad smell~! (^_<)

 

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
—————————————————————————

 

April 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm

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