Peculiar shopping

What you can’t find in Tokyo, you probably don’t need. On the other hand, there are many things that you can find, but definitely don’t need.

The "shaker"
The “shaker”

Besides the 100y shop (God bless Daiso for solving the students’ everyday needs), there are many peculiar shops such as Don Quijote, that sell rather unuseless knick-knacks.

Dirty bellybutton?
Dirty bellybutton? This chipmunk can help!
Squeezing diet
Squeezing diet
Iittala, on sale!
Iittala, on sale!

While most of the stuff is fairly harmless and mainly just peculiar (not the Finnish design plates, but the other items and so much more), there are some things in the stores that I just find a bit…disturbing.

Fetish literature, Village Vanguard
Fetish literature, Village Vanguard
Actress DNA, bra hok, honey lingerie and whatnot
Actress DNA, bra hok, honey lingerie and whatnot
Toys?
Toys?

Some things just can’t be explained.

Specialities

Japan is known for its’ peculiarities. Here are some of my encounters during the Christmas season. I have earlier mentioned the Japanese love for (Christmas) cakes and maybe their sweet breads as well, but it’s hard to believe until you see for yourself.

 

I can only imagine the flavor
I can only imagine the flavor of these elves

Christmas trees, elves, houses, snowmen and basically everything else can be formed as pan, which is the Japanese equivalent to bread, which is nothing like what we call bread in Finland. If you buy bread in Japan thinking it is the same stuff you get back home, you’ll be in for a surprise. You never know if there’s spaghetti, curry, sausages or cream inside the fluffy pillowy dough.

Japanese version of a gingerbread house
Japanese version of gingerbread houses

After a while, it is not so weird to see the different characters made of food: the beloved animation character Anpanman has a nose made of pancake, and the super popular bean-paste filled dorayaki pancake gets its’ name from another anime character, Doraemon! The Japanese do love their sweets. And they are big on seasonal treats and specialities.

Individual packing is more a norm than exception
Individual packing is more a norm than exception

After Christmas, no snowmen can be found outside the sale boxes, since now it’s the time for snake everything – this is the year of the snake, so decorations in food and everything else are of course matching the theme. I even found special shop dedicated only for snake year stuff!

 

Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!
Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!

Example of the speciality craze: Pepsi co. launched a special seasonal drink, Pepsi white, to be sold only during this season. This mikan (mandarine) flavored drink is/was available in 6 different snowman style for a limited time – gotta catch ’em all, eh? I had a sip, and that was it for me. Drinking something that was a) pepsi, therefore carbonated but b) white and c) mandarine flavored was just messing with my brain a bit too much. I do feel special now, and less disappointed for missing the summer’s Salty Watermelon Pepsi! I wonder what’s next, both on the beverage field as well as in the “bread” section.

PS: I have discovered the Japanese fondness of KitKat chocolate bars. In Finland, we only have the basic version, but after doing some research, I found quite many different kinds during my trip. So, maybe I will get into the chocolate bar craze later on. I also have interesting omiyage (souvenir) package pictures and texts to share.

“Little by little you will be filled with happiness when relaxing with these delicious sweets.” Who could say no to those Cheese cookies from Yufuin?

Kurisumasu

Prima ballerina
Prima ballerina

Christmas in Japan is not a big deal in the same sense it is in Europe. Of course you can hear the jingles and buy all the very necessary decorations, cards, cookies and chocolates here as well, but the way of spending the holiday is completely different.

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (2011)
Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (2011)

Christmas markets are abundant all over Europe, and though it’s mostly unnecessary knick knacks and foods they sell, the spirit is indescribable!

In Finland, Christmas is by far my most favorite holiday. It is a time for family, candles, good smells, over eating and staying indoors. Basically what New Year’s is to the Japanese. My first Christmas time away from home has not felt like Christmas at all: being in the mountain isolated from all the commercial stuff has probably been a good thing for me. After Christmas, I will let you know how it went – so far I know that there are things I really miss from Christmas, but also some that I can perfectly do without. I guess the most important thing about the holidays is the company, no matter where you are. But the spirit can easily be lifted with few familiar things!

Satsumas (mikan) and chocolate: essentials for Christmas
Satsumas (mikan) and chocolate: essentials for Christmas

I will let you know how my Japanese Christmas went, after returning from where ever I spend it!

Merii kurisumasu minasan!

Swedish Christmas in Japan

Christmas just isn’t the same without certain things. Here up in the mountains, I have been isolated from all of the Christmas hassle that is going on in the stores and around the “civilization” (pun intended), which has maybe been a good thing. Good thing because the Japanese way of (not) spending Christmas is so very different from what I am used to, look forward to and love.

Gift game after dinner: I got socks!
Gift game after dinner: I got socks!

 

Luckily, the Swedish girls who are also exchange students are big fans of Christmas, and their way of celebrating the best holiday of the year is pretty similar to ours back home. So, I got a chance to have a small, sort-of Christmas after all this year!

What's Christmas without a tree?
What’s Christmas without a tree?

 

Eating anything and everything with chopsticks comes quite naturally now, and it didn’t even feel weird. The Swedish Christmas food was surprisingly different from the ones we have in Finland: it was more like something we would eat other times of the year (or on a Swedish cruise!). Something both countries have in common: mandarines, glögi/glögg (glühwein) and chocolate, last two of which are pretty good quality here in Nippon, too!

Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)
Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)

Japanese confectionery selection: highly approved. In stead pineapple, the staple in the Finnish boxes, there was mango. Other options included salty caramel, green tea, darjeeling tea, marron, bitter (my favorite, surprise surprise!) and espresso. Plus about 20 other flavors.

Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs
Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs

We sang songs (both in Swedish and English), played a gift game, and enjoyed the jolly atmosphere for 6 hours. As everyone was stuffed when leaving the table, the Christmas feeling was just as it’s supposed to be.

Christmas spirit all around
Christmas spirit all around

Who needs snow anyways?

Break, 1st quarter: Finnish in Fukuoka

Last week we had quarter break here in APU, so I more than gladly took the chance to get away: first to Kyushu’s biggest city Fukuoka, and from there to South Korea’s capital, Seoul!

It took just two hours from Beppu to Fukuoka by highway bus, watching the beautiful fall scenery. During the two days I saw a lot, and visited all the main “areas”: Tenjin, Hakata and Canal City. It was great to get to a bigger city, and to get to eat good bread and “westernish” food!

More or less lovely Christmas decorations were all over the place

 

Besides roaming around all the department stores and malls, I found something quite peculiar in Fukuoka: The Moomin cafe!

Moomin cafe, selling oh-so familiar Lapin Kulta beer (yuck)

The Moomin shop sold Iittala and Arabia products from Finland as well as other Moomin-related stuff.

The cafe menu was not “Finnish”, even though they had bread rolls that were supposedly made by a Finnish lady whose picture was on the wall. Seeing those white buns, I doubt their Finnish origins. Notice the only Finnish thing on the bottom of the menu: glögi, our traditional winter/Christmas drink!

Cute, (over-sweet) dishes featuring Moomin characters

The Moomin cafe had Moomin books in Japanese, and the background music was actually Moomin episodes (nihongo, of course)! The slogan of the cafe is: “Kaikki hauska on hyvää vatsalle” which means “Everything fun is good for the stomach”. Cute!

I also stumbled upon this:

Kitchen, selling clothes

Oh yes, I do like Japan, especially the cities. You never know what you might find (in my case, that is not clothes, though)!

Next time, something about Seoul.

Japanese harmony and perfect fall weather