Sun and rain protection

Japanese women are very much into sun avoidance, and as the weather heats up, the latest in protective and cooling accessories dominates the shops. The merchandise below, spotted in Loft (the department store Sogo’s best shop), shows the array of possibilities.

Out of necessity, I’m also a fan of sun protection, and whenever I’m out in the sun for a long time, I wear long sleeves, including UV protection shirts, a straw hat, big sunglasses, and often a parasol. (The latter are pretty typical here, so I can use one without looking ridiculous.) But I haven’t yet tried a veil…maybe I should so that I don’t stick out as a foreigner for once!

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June is the rainy season, so the rain gear is also making an appearance.

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Encouraging sayings

If you’ve ever read Japanese manga (comics / graphic novels) or watched anime, particularly those targeted at female viewers, you may have heard phrases of “encouragement” that don’t really sound natural in English. As a native English speaker, for example, I don’t think I tend to say things like “let’s all try hard and do our best together to share happy memories.” But that would be a perfectly normal sentence for a teenage girl to say in a manga translated to English.

Similarly, food, shopping bags, toiletries, household items, etc. frequently have “encouraged sayings” printed on them, often in English or French. The more mundane the item, the more I love the encouragement! Here are a few examples (click to enlarge):

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Pharmacy shopping bag
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Inspiring toilet paper
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Encouragement from the laundry basket

Perusing a catalogue

I’ve had some lovely short summer trips lately, which I really want to document. As usual, the posts have been composed in my head; the difficulty lies in getting them onto paper (as it were). But to get going, here are some very amusing items on offer in a catalogue that I perused on a train en route to a holiday.

Expensive fruit

Fruit is very expensive in Japan. You may have heard of stories like two melons being sold for more than US$20,000. Alas, I can’t tell you what a multi-million yen melon tastes like, but even day-to-day in the grocery store, I’m put off by the prices (and I lived in Western Australia, for goodness’ sake). Apples, for example, are often 298 yen each. To do a very rough estimate in dollars (US, CAD, AUS), divide the price in yen by 100. So that means about $2.98 for a single apple.

I very much love mikkan (tangerines that are similar to Clementines), which are cheap and abundant in winter, but they’re disappearing from the stores now. So sad. I had expected more cheap summery fruit to appear, but not yet…

Anyway, some photos of more everyday fruit pricing is below, subject of course to seasonal availability!

Fad drinks

Every country has fads and crazes, especially related to food and drink. I don’t know if Japan is more prone to fads than most, but I would hazard a guess that it may be. It is also a land of an awesome variety of bottled beverages that are readily accessible in the ubiquitous vending machines and convenience stores (konbinis).

I might talk about vending machines in another post, but for now, please note that you can get cold and hot drinks from vending machines (the hot ones are indicated with a red bar underneath).

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I LOVE getting bottled green tea from a vending machine and am very happy about the availability of no caffeine / no sugar bottled teas like barley and rooibos. Lately, though, a bit of silliness has caught my eye in the drink department:

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Yes, the bottle says “H2”. That is, it’s called Hydrogen Water. Now, I’m pretty weak in the Chemistry department, but as far as I know, “hydrogen water” is very much redundant. You can find this stuff for sale everywhere, including a special station at my gym. If any proponents of hydrogen water happen to read this, please enlighten me, but for now, I’m putting it in my “dumb” category.

Tonics, vitamin boosters, energy drinks, sports drinks, etc. etc. are also extremely popular. I’ve had one with the lovable name Pocari Sweat (“ion water”) a couple of times. Like Gatorade, but white and with less sugar. I also tried Amino Water because I saw a gym instructor drinking it. Pretty much the same as Pocari Sweat.

Another current drink craze seems to be Blood Orange Orangina. I haven’t tried it, but it seems to be Orangina, only darker and with an edgier label. I see it in all the supermarkets and konbinis. Check out this massive display in one supermarket. That is seriously a lot of Orangina. Each of the crates is full to the floor, and probably a metre and a half high.

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I think I’ll stick with my green tea.

Ads

I’m not sure why, but I find ads intriguing when I visit or move somewhere new. Especially when they’re in a language I don’t understand—then I can try to figure out the meaning, or just make it up.

I’m amused, actually, that I’m now seeing things like the gem below show up on Facebook. I’m not sure what I clicked on to deserve that “sponsored post”, but it’s fantastic.

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Of course, Japanese ads can be excruciatingly annoying, like this one that I remember seeing repeatedly when visiting a few months ago. [Aside: I am ridiculously proud that I found it again, all by myself! Although I would not like to share how much time I spent, and then it turned out that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.]

But then there are the ones like this, that are true works of art.

Sounds of the supermarket

I’m always struck by the complex auditory landscape of Japanese groceries and large retail stores. From the employees shouting ‘welcome’ when you enter and tempting you with the day’s special in the different sections, to the pre-recorded ads that play when you move into certain areas of the store, all with background music, it can be a bit of a sensory overload.

This audio recording captures my local grocery with typical pop music in the background, people talking, and the beep of the checkout machines, when a traditional sound cuts in: a recording of an old-fashioned street vendor calling out to sell his baked sweet potatoes (yaki imo) that plays near a stand where this delicious treat is on offer.