Archive for July, 2008

Massage Therapy is on Every Corner

Ever thought of hiring a personal masseuse?

Well, unless you’re loaded, you probably can’t afford one. So what’s the next best thing? How about a massage shop on every corner?

Okay, maybe not be as abundant as Starbucks, but shops catering to soothing the knots of a stressful work day are only steps away; in a department store or along a busy shopping arcade, even at the airport. No need to reserve, all you do is walk in and within minutes you’ll be kneaded like putty.

Hour-long sessions are about 6,000 yen, which comes out to 95 cents a minute. Not exactly chump change, but still affordable. Back in the day when my Tokyo dorm rent was only $100 monthly (I miss being a student), I’d treat myself to a massage nearly every week. Especially when winter came around, I’d mentally write off massages as a necessary expense for my health. Regular visits boost circulation and keep you warm.

Massage shops fit a particular category called iyashi-kei — that which heals the body and mind. Certain music can be considered iyashi-kei if it rejuvenates you, as can certain food if it comforts you. Even certain celebrities are iyashi-kei if, just with a glance at their image, can turn angry men into teddy bears. Like I’ve mentioned before, Japan is a high-stress society, so people will pay top yen to take a load off.

Next time you visit Japan, stop by a massage shop. It’s a whole new experience, far better than what you can get in the U.S. You’ll experience customer service at its best and you don’t even have to leave tip! (^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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July 29, 2008 at 1:32 pm

No Job Too Big or Too Small For the Benriya of Japan

Part actor, part handyman, the benriya of Japan are problem-solving jack-of-all trades, available for hire by companies or individuals to do jobs that are, well, a bit odd.

Benriya, which means “convenience-doer”, typically advertise in the yellow pages, online and by word of mouth, and work unlicensed from home or through an association. They might be hired to perform errands or chores, or even asked to deal with people whom the client finds unpleasant, such as a neighbor.

Sometimes benriya get hired by companies to stand in line outside shops or restaurants to make the place look more appealing to passersby. Lines are obvious indicators of popularity, of course; at the insanely well-liked Krispy Kreme in Shinjuku, customers might wait more than an hour for a delectably soft glazed. But now I have to wonder: is everyone standing there because they long for that sugary goodness, or have a few of them been sent there undercover as marketing tools? Perhaps some were hired by people who didn’t have time to stand in line and would rather pay for their donuts to be delivered.

Occasionally, benriya are asked to get really personal. It’s not unheard of for them to pose as friends at a wedding to round out a guest list or make the bride or groom appear more popular in front of the new in-laws.

If you’re single and want your family members to stop bugging you about your dating life, you could hire a benriya to act as your significant other over dinner (does that sound like a bad romantic comedy?). The possibilities are endless. There’s even a slightly risqué manga series called Benriya-san (“Mr. Convenience”), if you’d rather live vicariously.

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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July 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

Hurray for H&M!

They’re just two letters of the alphabet, but in the fashion world ‘H’ and ‘M’ are capital go-getters.

The Swedish clothing retailer has over 1,500 stores across the globe and this fall it’s headed to Tokyo. But can H&M — the king of low-cost mass production — survive in a high-fashion mecca?

Most observers would say, “Heck no!” Japanese women are high-maintenance; they wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than Louis Vuitton.

In reality, those girls are just a fraction of a bigger population. I know plenty who are just as comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. They shop at places like Uniqlo, where simple cotton tees don’t stretch over $20. And then there’s Takeshita Road in Harajuku where it’s all about trendy-cheap. African guys posing as Americans will entice you with knock-off Pumas. If business is slow, you can use your wilies to bargain them down — though flirting helps, too.

By far, my favorite places to shop are the too-embarrassed-to-show-my-face department stores. Remember Target before they pronounced it “tar-jay”? My parents bought all my clothes there. That and frozen TV dinners. Being a kid I despised that fact. But now that I’m older I can appreciate a good bargain. Apparently, so do Japanese consumers, because just beyond Tokyo central you’ll find plenty of second-tier department stores (Ito Yokado, Jusco, Daiei, to name a few) prospering from their red-tag sales. And they’re great because you can find a treasure trove of patent leather boots and T-shirts with badly-written English. They make great gifts for friends back home.

So is Tokyo ready for H&M? In this economy, yes. Girls love fashion. And girls, even Japanese ones, love a good deal. Sure, the stitching isn’t perfect, but it’s still cute and girls heart cute.

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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July 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

For Your Bookshelf: Japanamerica by Roland Kelts

Journalist and novelist Roland Kelts’ book, Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S., is a well-presented and easy-to-read guide, perfect for anyone who’s ever wondered: “What is Pikachu, anyway?” It helps if you’re familiar with popular Japanese artists like Haruki Murakami and Takashi Murakami (both of whom are interviewed) and anime, but it’s by no means a requirement to enjoy the book.


Born to a Japanese mother and an American father, Kelts was raised in the U.S. but spent several of his adult years living in Tokyo and Osaka and still has close friends and relatives there. He’s in the perfect position to interpret the cultural cross-pollination taking place between the two countries.

His book focuses on Japan’s influence on America in the modern era (from World War II onward), as seen in virtually every aspect of life, including films, books, food, TV, toys, games, cars, and of course animation. It’s not that Japan has changed its style; rather, Americans have come to appreciate what was there all along. Kelts believes that after 9/11, Americans became hungry for the sincerity and lack of irony presented in Japanese cartoons.

Surprisingly, Kelts reports, the global popularity of Japanese animation hasn’t made very many people in Japan wealthy. This is because the concepts of copyright and intellectual property were not widely understood there until recently. When animated films or TV shows come to America, the Japanese creators don’t always realize they need to hold onto the rights in order to see a profit from all the off-shoot products. As a result, the distributors wind up with the lion’s share of revenue.

Another interesting tidbit: according to Japanamerica, Americans are more than partly to blame for Japan’s otaku culture. Several interviewees immersed in otaku lifestyle said the concept for cosplay (costumed interaction) originated with American Star Trek fans. Ahh, Trekkies: the ultimate nerds.

One complaint about the book: the section on “mature comics” doesn’t dig deep enough. I wanted Kelts to provide more analysis on the topic of contradictions, because western people have a hard time reconciling what can appear to be a dichotomy within Japanese culture: the existence of violent and explicit manga in a society with an extremely low crime rate. The context is important, and I wanted to learn more about how and why Japan has integrated seemingly opposite attributes and allowed them both to thrive.

If Kelts writes an update to Japanamerica in the next decade, that would be a great topic to explore further.

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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July 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Beating the Heat

Japan gets nasty-hot in the summer. It’s the kind of heat that wakes you up at night, soaking your shirt in a most embarrassing way. It’s the kind of heat that makes you wanna live in an igloo. During the summer I’d remove any piece of furniture that bumped up the thermometer even one degree. So out went the fridge, computer and feather blanket. They stayed in the kitchen until winter.

At night, I set aside fear of robbers and kept ajar the sliding balcony door. Then over the course of eight hours I slowly edged my way outside where by morning I was in the company of curious birds coming to poop on me.

These days it’s much easier to stay cool. How bout an icy gel mattress? Or doggie-shaped feet coolers? Take a look for yourself:




I found these items on the Tokyu Hands website. It’s one of my favorite department stores in Japan because they sell useful household goods both creative and cute. For the ice mattress (~$150) all you have to do is place it under your fitted sheet. The pillow costs an extra $50. The feet coolers are only $12. Wrap the elastic band around the arch of your foot and watch as it cools down your body. For a quick fix, try the ‘cool skin bar’ for just under 10 bucks. Glide it onto your skin for a nice cooling sensation.

Unlike on the U.S. west coast, Japan’s heat is humid and sticky. So you can emerge from the shower and five minutes later need another one. It’s the most uncomfortable thing for those with overactive glands. On the other hand, the heat is a godsend if you suffer from chapped lips. Nothing stays dry in Japan.



By far, my favorite product for beating the heat is Biore’s ‘sara-sara‘ (soft and smooth) powder sheet pack. The moist sheet is coated with scented antiperspirant powder. Wipe it over troublesome parts of your body and you’ll magically stop sweating. Though the one drawback is that if someone tries kissing you on the cheek, they’ll be utterly grossed out because you’ll taste bitter. No one said antiperspirant tasted good.

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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July 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Robotech: The Movie — Brought To You By… A Bunch Of Oscar Contenders?

An intriguing (or bizarre) confluence of respected Hollywood bigwigs have joined forces to create a new, live-action film version of “Robotech.”


Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind; everything Will Smith does) are set to produce, with Lawrence Kasdan attached to write the movie for Warner Brothers. Kasdan is best known for The Empire Strikes Back (arguably the only well-written episode of the Star Wars trilogy) and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but his resume doesn’t end there. He also wrote the yuppie masterpiece The Big Chill and Kevin Costner’s version of Wyatt Earp.

Based on three separate, unrelated Japanese anime series (with awesome names like The Super Dimension Fortress Macross), “Robotech” was a sci-fi cartoon in the 1980s that ran for 85 episodes and spawned countless sequels, novelizations, role-playing games and DC comic adaptations, some of which fanboys and fangirls would like to strike from the record as non-canon. The American TV show used re-edited footage from the Japanese original and dubbed in English-speaking voices. I wonder if there were any translation debacles a la “All your base are belong to us”.

In previous Japanese-to-American adaptations, such as “Speed Racer,” the subject matter was occasionally censored or toned down to better appeal to children, but Robotech tried to incorporate mature themes and action. According to Wikipedia, its popularity led to an increased interest in anime that can be felt to this day.

Here’s what you need to know about the plot: It’s the future, and giant robots have been constructed from alien technology that crashed in the South Pacific. When earth is invaded, mankind must use the robots to protect and defend themselves. Ultimately, two young pilots (gee, do you think one of them will be Tobey Maguire?) are tasked with saving humanity. Look for “Robotech” in theaters in 2010.

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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July 11, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Robot Love

With the amount of texting, blogging and Twittering inundating our lives, you’d think we’d be socially filled to the rim. Yet, more than ever our lonely souls long for real companionship.

That’s why scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology came up with Paro, the robotic seal. He’s a 6-pound pup who nods, blinks and squeals like the real thing, or at least what you’d imagine the real thing to do. Cat and dog robots are so commonplace that there’s a high expectation of what they can do. Marine animals, on the other hand, capture the imagination.

Retirement home residents in Japan have welcomed Paro with open arms, passing him around the table to say ‘hi,’ stroke his head and occasionally sneak a kiss on the nose. Old people love him because he keeps them smiling yet won’t knock them to the ground.

And now, Japan is sending Paro to U.S. retirement homes to help stimulate the minds of those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism and other mental diseases. At $5,000, he’s no dime-store plush toy. But if he can compel a dementia patient to remember his name the following day then I’d say he’s worth his weight in 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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July 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm

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