Posts tagged ‘Japan’

Chug It! Try an Eel Drink to Beat the Heat

Hot, tired and thirsty this summer?

How about some carbonated milk or cucumber-flavored Pepsi?

align=Just kidding. Those are so 2007. This summer in Japan it’s all about the eel juice. Dubbed “Unagi Nobori,” or “Surging Eel,” (the words also mean “sudden spike”), this new soft drink is supposed to give you a burst of energy to help you combat the summer heat, and contains extracts from eels’ bones and heads, as well as vitamins. Um…yum?

Actually, yes. At least, according to Japan Marketing News, which calls the drink “fantastically tasty.”

This summer is perfect for eel juice’s debut, because Doyo no Ushi no Hi, normally an annual event dedicated to eating eel, occurred twice this year: July 24th and August 5th. Doyo no Ushi no Hi started in the Edo Period, as a response to abysmally hot weather, because eels are believed to increase stamina. Naturally, restaurants capitalized on the holiday and encouraged its celebration, promoting dishes of sliced, grilled eel coated in a sweet barbeque sauce. Not so different from a 4th of July feast, when you think about it.

Still thirsty?
Check out Inventor Spot’s list of Top Ten Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks, including kids’ beer, of course!

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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August 15, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Good Things Come in Brown Packages

Despite the rising cost of fruits these days, I’m grateful for anything I can get at my local supermarket. Back in Japan, I’d scour the aisle for a single mango, even a squished blueberry. They’re a dime a dozen in neighboring countries, but thanks to strict import regulations they’re black market-worthy commodity. Imagine being the only kid who’s never seen a kiwi.

Luckily, there’s now a number of shipping companies (here, here and here) that double as fruit bearers to loved ones back in Japan. Freshness is guaranteed; all you have to do is choose from the catalog.

They offer rare items like papaya, avocado, green mangoes, and seasonal treats like Raineer cherries (June-July). The bill amounts to a little more than what you’d pay to ship it yourself, but considering the hassle by agricultural inspectors, I’d say it’s worth it.

And it doesn’t stop at all things round and sweet. The treasure trove includes Pepperidge Farm cookies, Godiva chocolates, booze, foie gras, fresh seafood and raw steaks. And for $60 they’ll even ship a birthday cake to your favorite pen pal in Tokyo. It’s fully decorated, though she’ll have to light her own candles. (Hopefully someone could sing to her.) Japanese birthday cakes all come the same: cute, light and spongy. So it’d serve a great cultural lesson to give an American cake to a Japanese person. “This is why you Americans are so fat!” you’ll have them saying.

Of course, with all the great food you can get in Japan — sushi, tempura, Pocky — why ask for more, right? Well, with anything in excess, even good things, the palate grows tired. That’s when you start calling your friends back home, begging them to send you a big, fat care package. Blueberries, check. avocados, check. Fillet mignon with all the trimmings, check.

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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August 12, 2008 at 9:19 am

Mixi to the Rescue?

How many logins and passwords for websites do you have to keep track of? Just off the top of my head I can think of ten…It’s enough to drive me insane trying to remember them, or even to remember to use them (MySpace, I’m talking to you). Sometimes less is more. Ditto with the platform and style; Craigslist is famously bare-bones but effective. Leaving out the bells and whistles on a website can be a wise move if it means delivering what people truly want all in one place.

Mixi, Japan’s most popular social networking site, combines aspects of MySpace, Craigslist, Facebook, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Amazon and iTunes. According to the Washington Post, Mixi grabs 15 million users and 14 billion page hits per month. 1 in 5 Japanese people with Internet access are members.

Bulletin boards,job opportunities and blogging are the three main draws, but there are also music plug-ins and DVD / book reviews that link to places where you can purchase the products immediately. Unlike MySpace, where you are expected to constantly update the look and style of your personal page, on Mixi there is no way to alter the design or coding, and anonymity is preferred (forget about plastering your personal info out there for all the world to see). Membership is restricted to invitation from current users only — much like Gmail used to be — and users must be 18, as well provide a Japanese cell phone contact number. For these reasons, Mixi will probably remain insular and never catch on outside Japan.

If could pare down my logins and passwords to one each, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Then again, the grass is always greener: “Mixi Fatigue” is already on the rise…

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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August 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm 1 comment

iPhone: Don’t Believe the Hype?

My brother was one of the thousands to get an iPhone when it came out on July 11. He lives in the sticks of southern Kyushu so all he did was glide into the store and lay down the cash. It was a breeze compared to Tokyo. When it comes to cell phones, Japan is a bountiful candy store. Even so, he and every other tech geek was itching to get this new American idol. It’s sleek, comes with a multi-touch display, and if Americans were lining up for it then, goddamnit, so should they.

Soon after bringing home his new toy he realized things were amiss. For one, both phone and 3G Wi-Fi signal were spotty. Granted, rice fields outnumber cell phone towers in the area, but then again he’s never had problems with previous phone carriers.

And when he finally started texting friends, it never went through. iPhone carrier Softbank (no, not a bank) created exclusive email addresses for their customers (@i.softbank.jp). But they’re so exclusive that other cellphones are unable to recognize it, so they’re filtered out. My brother fell completely out of the loop with friends. Like many young people today, he prefers to text than call. Must’ve been like being the only kid benched on the playground.

There’s other drawbacks with this new phone: not being able to use cute emoticons integral for playful conversation; having to use both hands to operate the thing; and not having a loophole built in for charms. These all might seem trivial to most Americans. But believe me, for Japanese school girls it’s like removing oxygen from the atmosphere. I nearly died after coming back to the U.S. and realizing I couldn’t string in my Hello Kitty plushie to my clunky Nokia.

So obviously the brains behind the 3G iPhone were drinking on the job when they decided to approve the phone for the Japanese market. But the question remains: Why would thousands of people line up for hours, or in some cases days, to purchase an obviously flawed product? My guess is that they were simply attracted to iPhone’s unique touch screen. That’s something completely new to them. But $200 for something you can press your greasy fingers against? Silly, if you ask me. Then again, this is a country that eats bread topped with corn and mayonnaise. Silly is the norm.

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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August 5, 2008 at 10:04 am

Taxicab Confessions: New Ranking System Lets You Pick a Good Driver

Ever wish you could tell right away if your taxi driver was a good one? In London, the cab drivers must pass strict tests, but in most cities it’s all a crap shoot. How many times have you found yourself trapped in a taxi with a chain-smoker, a dawdler who takes the longest route, someone who treats you rudely or a speed demon who swerves in and out of lanes while you fear for your life?

In Japan, there is now a handy-dandy vetting system. (Thanks, Stippy!) Cabs with three stars on top of the roof let you know at a glance that the driver has passed a test from the Tokyo Taxi Center and has been designated a “Master Driver.” This means a perfect record of customer satisfaction, as well as no traffic violations. Here’s the punchline: only about 10% of taxi drivers qualify right now.

It’s still good news for passengers who disembark at Shimbashi station, near the Yurikamome line, because they can head directly to a stand that provides Master Drivers only.

Regardless of who your driver is in Japan, it’s becoming less likely that you’ll get stuck with a cab that smells like an ashtray; Koichi Yasui, a self-employed taxi driver since 1975, has been fighting to make all taxis smoke-free. He was sick of the effects of second-hand smoke each time his passengers lit up. (Some even insisted on keeping the windows closed.) He filed a lawsuit in 2005, and now 60% of cabs are smoke-free.

Smoking is still fairly popular in Japan. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 40% of men smoke and 13-15% of women do. A total ban on smoking in taxis may be a ways off, but at least there are more options for those who want them.

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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August 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm 1 comment

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

—————————————————————————
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.

—————————————————————————
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

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