Valentine’s Day in Japan

Friday, February 10, 2006 Posted by

Pascal Caffet Original Chocolate
Valentine’s Day in Japan is a huge deal – I mean HUGE, especially business-wise. I am not sure how much individual business in the various department stores around Ginza, Shinjuku, etc. can be directly linked to Valentine’s Day, but it’s got to be a massive amount of money! The Japanese absolutely love events, especially ones that mean gift giving in some way. Valentine’s Day caters directly to the heart of the Japanese culture and spirit in that sense!

The Japanese celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very orthodox way, the women buy the men presents, and possibly there is a romantic dinner on the evening of February 14. That’s pretty much it. In many other cultures, this strict female -> male gift giving has been changed to become sort of a mutual romantic holiday, where it’s mainly the women who get gifts. Not so in Japan. The reason? White Day on March 14, which is sort of the opposite, where it’s the men’s turn to “give back” to the woman (or women) who gave them something on Valentine’s Day. In the resources regarding White Day I have found, it says that it was invented in 1965 by a marshmallow maker. (I had heard that it was Joseph Dunkle, president of Aunt Stella’s Cookies who introduced it, but apparently that was untrue.)

Back to Valentine’s Day though. One of my favorite parts of the whole shebang surrounding this day is the big chocolate fairs that they have in the big department stores. Giving chocolate for Valentine’s Day has become such a big business that many department stores set up special booth areas for approximately two weeks leading up to it, where chocolate makers from all over the world present their goods. They often have special Valentine’s Day only gift packs, and some are unique only to Japan (being the huge market it is). And here is the real clincher: they give out samples of their stuff, lots of it! (Note however, that the most famous brands, such as Marcolini and Pascal Caffet, will usually not give out samples, because they are so sure of their brand’s superior taste…) Last weekend, me and my girlfriend walked around the Chocolate Fair at Takashimaya Shinjuku for an hour sampling pretty much everything there was (and some things twice) and then we travelled across town to Printemps Ginza to check out their Chocolate lineup. All in all, a very rewarding day! This weekend, we will try to hit Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi in Nihonbashi and perhaps Matsuya in Ginza.

The companies displaying products at these fairs are the very best in the Chocolate business: Pascal Caffet, Galler, Wittamer, Pierre Ledent, Godiva, Teuscher, L├Ąderrach, Pierre Marcolini, Le Cordon Bleu, Daskalides, Marc Debailleul etc.

Personally, I strongly recommend Galler and Pierre Ledent, those are my two favorites!


Photos from Sumida River

Friday, February 3, 2006 Posted by

Some photos I took last May during a stroll down the side of Sumida River.



iTunes competition increase in Japan – au LISMO service

Monday, January 30, 2006 Posted by

au Listen Mobile Service - LISMO
KDDI (au) just launched a product called “au LISTEN MOBILE SERVICE”, or “LISMO” for short. If you wonder why the symbol used in marketing of this service is a squirrel, note that when you pronounce LISMO in Japanese, it sounds like risu-mo, and risu means squirrel, and squirrels are cute (or are they?) so that will help marketing…

The LISMO service consists of a few different products: the main part is a new pc-software called “au Music Port” and a corresponding software in your phone called “au Music Player”. The pc-software lets you connect your pc to your cell phone (only the new W41xx models are supported as far as I know – and only they have the new software installed as well) via a USB cable and do lots of different things. For example, you can rip CDs and convert them to HE-AAC format and transfer them to your phone. Au phones use this format for playing music – it’s daily name is “Chaku Uta Full” and downloading of such music used to be the biggest music download service in Japan (until iTunes showed up). You can also administer and backup your Chaku-uta Full you may have bought/downloaded on your phone. Note that there is DRM in the Chaku-uta Full spec, and files which have a time- or play-limitation on them cannot be downloaded to your pc. Further, you cannot copy files which have been ripped in this software on another pc, which means that the files you rip yourself get tagged by some kind of personal ID tag.

The au Music Port software seems to be very much like Apple iTunes in that you basically administer your library of songs in your pc, and you choose which songs to synchronize with your phone. In case your phone is running out of memory, you can create dynamic playlists in much the same way as iTunes. Further, you can synchronize e-mails, calender, pictures, and so forth with the software too.

Another part of the LISMO service is the online part, which as of yet is not that developed. There is an online community called “Uta Tomo” which lets you exchange play lists with other people. Further, there seems to be a function which notifies you if you are in the vicinity of another person playing the same song on his/her phone. Another function is when listening to radio with your phone, you can search for the song currently playing on the station you’re listening to.

In April, the online part of au’s offering will expand through a service called “Duostore” which is a direct competitor of Apple ITMS. There are not much details available of this store yet, but I would gues that it will be incorporated into the Music Port software on the pc side, and fairly easily accessable from the portal menu on your cell phone. Personally, I see this as a big threat against iTunes, because so many people already use their cell phones as sort of MP3-players; and if a full-scope music store (with competitive pricing, now Au sells a limited number of Chaku Uta Full for 315 yen/song, where iTunes is half as cheap) reachable from PCs as well, there are 21 million 3G au users who will want to use this service! I still have not heard so much about the NTT Docomo/Napster deal, which will further increase competition on the Japanese market. If Docomo gets that service up and running quickly enough, there will be three strong players on the market, and where will that leave e.g. Vodafone?

(source: KeiTai Watch)


This just might be the best blonde joke ever

Monday, January 30, 2006 Posted by

I usually don’t just repost fun stuff I found on the Internet on this blog, but this joke I found over at Herro Flom Japan might just be the best blonde joke ever! I’m sorry if you’ve already seen, because it’s been doing the e-mail rounds for a while now… But it’s worth it.


Tilt-shift photos seem to be the latest cool thing

Sunday, January 29, 2006 Posted by

Roy Thomson Hall photographed by Bigdaddyhame

The latest “cool thing” on the Internet seems to be collections of Tilt-Shift photos – especially the trick used when taking photos from a very high point (tall building or helicopter) and focusing on a small area down on the ground, creating an illusion that makes the scenery in the picture look like a model city. It’s pretty cool stuff, and I think the latest Internet craze of this technique, which is not a new one, started with Andy Baio linking to this: The City as an Avatar of itself. Then a flood of information followed; there’s a Flickr group here.

And here is good resource for information and links to nice photos: http://hame.ca/tiltshift.htm (Set up by the guy who took the brilliant photo above.)

The latest I found is a Japanese page featuring photos from Tokyo using this technique, there are some very nice pictures here at the “Bitter Girls” Blog. (via Del.icio.us)