Archive for category Japan

Feb
22

Paying a visit to Korea

Posted by on Thursday, 22 February, 2007

Seoul by night
You might have thought that I was completely gone from the face of the earth, but far from it. Unfortunately, it’s been an extremely hectic time at work – starting already back in November and still contiuing. Right now I am in Seoul, South Korea working for our Korean office temporarily. It’s my second time here, having spent the past two weeks here, just being back in Tokyo over last weekend.

It’s interesting comparing South Korea with Japan because for someone in e.g. Europe or US, these two countries must seem perfectly alike. I actually thought so myself for a long time. But although the two countries (and its residents) are similar on the surface, there are some fundamental differences which become apparent when you spend time over here.

The first thing that hits you when you get off the plane and step into a taxi (or bus) into the city is how much like China this place is. This is also clear when you look out over the skyline in the center of the city. It’s cluttered in a Hong Kong-way more than a Tokyo-way. Can’t really explain it in words, but you who have been in both cities probably understand.

Secondly, walking in the city is something you do at your own risk! Well, I don’t mean that there is much violence or crime (because there isn’t, that’s one things that Seoul has in common with Tokyo) but the traffic is downright dangerous! People seem to drive like maniacs here! Don’t, don’t, DON’T try to cross a big street anywhere else than on a dedicated pedestrian crossing, and of course don’t jaywalk, you’ll get killed by a frustrated Korean taxi-driver on his way home from work. I haven’t figured out if it is OK to turn right on a red light here (like it is in some places in the States) or it’s just simply OK to turn any direction as long as there is no one in the way! Sure, the traffic in Tokyo is bad, but it’s more a problem related to amount of traffic. Here in Seoul the amount is equal (or more) than Tokyo, plus the dangers of the reckless and wild driving.

Shopping. Is there any other pastime which Koreans or Japanese people love more? It seems unlikely. Whereas the signature shopping experience in Tokyo is a luxury boutique on Aoyama-dori or Ginza, the must-do shopping here is haggling over a few thousand Won at the market in Dondaenmon. The shopping is much more “exotic” for lack of a better word. Sure there are Western style department stores and boutiques here en masse, but there is even more shopping to be found at markets and bargain-ripe low cost shopping complexes. Another thing is the shocking openness with which copies of brand goods like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, Gucci et al are sold here! Compared with China where it seems the government (and USA) are clamping down hard on pirated goods, here it seems no one cares. Pirated DVDs of the latest movies are sold openly in the street around the electronic shopping areas (but also along popular night spots like Gangnam) – and although the quality of the packaging does not match that found in China or Malaysia, the goods are not sold with the objective of looking real. If you are looking for the latest LV bag and do not want to pay a fortune for it at Lotte Department store, take a trip to e.g. Dongdaemon and you’ll soon find yourselv enticed by sales people wanting to show you their “miraculous” copies. The sale itself might take place in a slightly secluded area (often inside the sellers booth) but there is nothing of the paranoia which you find so often in China.

Wow. Long post… I think I’ll stop here and update again during the weekend (yes, I’m stuck here over the weekend, alone).

Photo by Kalle Anka

Jan
22

Over-priced chocolatier Noka coming to Japan

Posted by on Monday, 22 January, 2007

Noka Chocolate
On 30th of March this year, new fashionable shopping/business/leisure district Tokyo Midtown opens in Roppongi, Tokyo (it’s situated in the old Self-Defense Force Agency Headquarters location between Roppongi and Akasaka).

I browsed through the list of shops which are to open in the complex, and one of them was, to my big surprise, Noka Chocolate. If you haven’t lived under a rock without Internet-access for the last few months you would know that this is a Texas-based chocolate company who produces ridiculously over-priced chocolates with, if you believe their critics, little to no value added to the original chocolate bars they buy from France.

You can read the whole expose on Noka Chocolate here: Dallas Food expose on Noka Chocolate
and there are various of other sites commenting on this:
Slash Food, Boing Boing, Crunchgear

So, the “the world’s most expensive chocolate” is coming to Japan. It’s been here before, temporarily, as part of various department stores’ Valentine’s Day specials (for instance at Mitsukoshi), but now they are also opening up shop permanently. I did a quick search in Japanese for ノカ チョコレート (Noka Chocolate) and did not get any relevant hits commenting on the recent news, but only links to where you can buy it, and some reviews: Enjoytokyo reviews Noka Chocolate (To sum up this review, the reviewer was impressed by the luxurious packaging, the high price and a deep, dark, bitter taste.)

Unfortunately, I think the Japanese will flock to this new store and happily line up to get a piece of the exclusive goodness which they promise their customers. The brand image is extremely attractive for the Japanese market, it has a definate “high end” and “exclusive” air to it; which Japanese will literally eat up (pun intended). Secondly, the price. The price will probably be ridiculously high, as it is in the US as well. I think they will manage to squeeze out another few 100% mark-up just for the Japanese market – and if there is anything that Japanese consumers are suckers for, it is exclusive brands which are highly priced.
“Price = Quality” in the minds of many Japanese shoppers which plays right into the business plan of Noka…

Of course, I have nothing personally against Noka – if their business works and they make money from it, fine – but I do not approve of shady business practices where companies are not honest about what they do and do not do.

Dec
13

It’s not your fault, Kimi

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 December, 2006

Softbank are running yet another brilliant ad right now. This time, it’s an ad for the new gold plan which entitles free calls between Softbank users weekdays beteen 1 and 9 PM.

Summarized translatiion:

Girl 1: Ok, call me later, before nine.
Girl 2: Yeah, I’ll call your cellphone, until nine, right.
Girl 3: We’ll call you too, Kimi.
Kimi : No, no, you don’t have to bother calling me, it costs money!
Girl 2: Oh right, you don’t use Softbank.
Kimi: Sorry!
Girl 2: No, no, it’s not like it’s your fault or anything.
Girl 3: Yeah, don’t worry about it, really!

This is my new favorite. It almost beats my old favorite one, the commercial which started the Yosogai hype

Dec
13

What disillusions Japanese women?

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 December, 2006

Oshibori
Japanese fashion website Kirei-Navi asked their readers (mainly female, for obvious reasons) what disillusions them about Japanese men, and the results were obvious to amusing:

1. Having an arrogant attitude towards the staff of a restaurant
2. Wants to split the bill exactly down to 10-yen level
3. Panics when seeing a spider or cockroach
4. Cleaning your teeth openly with a toothpick after eating
5. Having an office desk littered with toy figurines
6. Wearing a T-shirt with print on it which can be seen through the dress shirt
7. Being lousy at parking a car
8. Dresses well in a suit at the office, but regular clothing is terrible
9. Frantically plays cell phone games on the train
10.Wiping your face with the oshibori (wet towel) given at a restaurant
11.Cannot connect Audio/Video equipment; bad at using a computer
12.Having a wallet filled to the breadth with old receipts and useless cards
13.Fixing your hair using the subway train’s window as a mirror
14.Wearing white socks with a nice business suit
15.Using lots of pictures and icons in phone mails
16.Awful handwriting – makes for unreadble notes and whiteboard writing
17.Typing abnormally fast and loud on the keyboard
18.Collecting large amounts of discount coupons and point cards
19.Preference for “womenly” sweet drinks like Kahlua Milk

I actually agree with most of these, even I find some of them upsetting. There is an incredible amount of men in this country that wears white sports socks with a suit. What is up with that? Can’t you see it looks terrible? On the other hand, what is wrong with fixing your hair in the subway window? I mean, it must be better than bringing a hand mirror along with you in your briefcase and using THAT! Oh, and if any of you have problem no 6, the solution is to wear it inside out – then usually the print will not show through! 😉

(Original ranking in Japanese; Thanks to Mari for the link: Watashi to Tokyo – hope you don’t mind I re-translated the original text.)

Dec
07

There are people on the other side!

Posted by on Thursday, 7 December, 2006

People on the other side
The sign above has intrigued me ever since I started working at my current job. It is posted on the door to the stairwell, and since I do quite a lot of running up and down between our floors I see it at least 2-3 times a day.

Here’s the thing… I’ve NEVER seen these people that supposedly are on the other side! I always open the door veeeery carefully to not bump into the “people that are on the other side” but I always fail to see anyone. They must hide as soon as they hear me approaching! Maybe they have supernatural hearing abilities… Next time I’ll walk like a ninja to the door and roundkick it open – if that doesn’t surprise these mystery people, then I give up! I’ll start using the elevator, cause it is just too creepy….