Posts tagged ‘candy’

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.

pocky-20060222.jpg

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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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 1 comment

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:

gum.jpg

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.

pro-voice.jpg

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.

tissue.jpg

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

—————————————————————————
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


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