December 1, 2008

What's in common between Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and H&M (in Japan)?

The answer is a waiting line. A long one.

Every time a foreign retail chain opens its first shop in Japan, it almost always becomes a social phenomenon. Mass media sensationally promote newly-arrived stores, using words such as "日本上陸 Nihon Joriku/Landing in Japan" or
"日本進出 Nihon Shinshutsu/Entering into Japan."

H&M, a Sweden-based clothing chain has launched its first shop in Ginza, Tokyo, on September 13. 5,000 people had been in line even before the shop opened, and many spent four hours just to get into the shop on the first day. Their second flagship store in Harajyuku has opened on November 8, targeting at younger customers. There are still waiting lines at these shops as long as 1-hour.

The following numbers indicate how popular foreign stores are in Japan
(check out the links for the pictures of long lines):

# of people in line before store opened
H&M Ginza-----------5,000
H&M Harajyuku-------2,000
Burger King------------700

# of customers on the 1st day
H&M Ginza----------------8,300
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts---2,700

Many Japanese are buying into something new AND imported from foreign countries. By "foreign countries," they mean North America and Europe when it comes to new retail stores and many other industries.

People wait in lines with patience, believing the product is worth spending time for. Or, maybe they simply like showing off and talking about what they have seen and bought at newly-opened stores. It's not just shopping but more like sightseeing, experiencing something that no one has seen yet OR everyone around you has seen yet.

The aspiration for the Western lifestyle among the Japanese can have its origin in the Meiji Restoration in the late nineteenth century. That was the national policy to emulate or borrow from West to "modernize" the country. Japan opened its door to the world after 350 years of national isolation, and started adopting technologies, systems and life styles from the "superior" world. This tendency still remains among many Japanese today.

Representing the curious Japanese, I love something new and Euro-American. However, I'm not patient enough to wait in long lines. When Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened in 2006, it took 2 hours to get a doughnut. I decided not to rush. Two years later,when I stopped by a Krispy Kreme at around 6:00 p.m. on a weekend, the line was 40 minutes long. I gave up as soon as I saw the flock of people. Being desperate for an American doughnut, I tried again on an early Sunday morning at 9:30. Thankfully, I waited for only 10 minutes. The doughnut tasted so American, in other words, very sweet.

I've already been to H&M in San Francisco last year. I didn't buy anything, being unable to find something interesting (to me). I'm not buying into the huge promotion going on in Japan at this moment. However, I heard the product lineup varies from shop to shop, reflecting the demography of the area. To observe the differences and conduct hands-on research, I may go to H&M Ginza and Harajuku someday, maybe some time next year or so when the craze calms down.

September 21, 2008

SATC in Japan

I finally had a chance to go see SATC over the last weekend. It's been doing very well in Japan , and I heard that you may have to get to the theater earlier to get a ticket. So this time, I reserved a seat on-line for my first time because I really needed to see the movie on that day to refresh myself!

I was surprised to see too many women (98% of the audience were women, I think) flocking to the Roppongi Hills movie theater. It was like a popular clothing shop during Holiday season. Many of them seemed to be mature and fashionable working women in Tokyo. I felt a little out of place there, wearing an Abercrombie tank top, an American Eagle top, and a pair of Yanuk buggy pants.

Anyway, as a big fan of SATC, I really like the movie! Samantha is awesome as always. She is hell of funny! I laughed a lot while watching the movie and I even forgot about what I had been worried about these days. The Brooklyn bridge scene was so moving that I cried. I didn't relate myself to Carrie, who is too enthusiastic about her wedding plan. However, I admire Sarah's professionalism and commitment to this movie, in which she looks at herself in a mirror without make-up. That scene was quite effective to present the tough time that Carrie was going through.

I can't wait until the film is out on DVD. I heard it comes out on this Tuesday in the US. I'm jealous of you guys! It's available only at movie theaters here in Tokyo.

I found an interesting column on a newspaper about SATC. The drama's DVD box did well only in Tokyo, not in Osaka, which is in western part of Japan. According to the article, there are fewer workplaces for career-oriented women in the region than in Tokyo. He assumes that the dream life for women in the area may still be like "Get married with a man from a rich family," so that these women may be reluctant to watch the drama in which working women around 40 meet men and have sex a lot.

I don't know if his argument is right or not because I've never been there and I live in Tokyo, a Japanese equivalent of New York. I just can say I feel great to be in this exciting city, may be not as exciting as New York, though.

August 10, 2008

Late-summer Greetings from Very Muggy Tokyo

残暑お見舞い申し上げます zansho omimai moushiagemasu is a common greeting card message that Japanese use during this season. 残暑 Zansho or late-summer refers to around the period between August 8th through September 20th. I've just published a post wishing my readers good health on my Japanese blog.

If you are planning a trip to Japan, I urge you to avoid summer, especially August. It gets as hot as 94 degrees, was 96 degrees last Friday, and it's very muggy. When you walk outside, you sweat like you are in a steam bath. If you have been to Japan in summer, you know exactly what I mean. I miss the dry summer in California...

During this season, you should also expect evening showers and thunderstorms. Oh, this post sounds like a weather forecast!Speaking of weather, you may want to check out sites like this.

Since we use Celsius in Japan, I found it difficult to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius when I was living in the U.S. The calculation goes like, "98(℉)-30=68. 68÷2=34. 34+2=36(℃)."

To beat summer heat fatigue, eel is one of the best food choices because it's very nutritious, rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, and E. Many Japanese eat grilled eel on Doyou no Ushi no Hi or Midsummer Day(s) of the Ox during the hottest summer (July 24th and August 5th this year). We have eel throughout the year but the consumption of eel or うなぎ/鰻 unagi in Japanese reaches its peak on the day (s).

Do you still want to visit Japan during summer?
If so, you may want to eat eel to survive!

August 3, 2008

Airship Flying over Tokyo

You should always carry a camera because you don't know when you run across something amazing and/or bloggable.

I went to the library located on the 49th floor of Roppongi Hills the other day. When I was having some lemon and cranberry soda, something huge caught my eyes. It was flying close to the tower. "What the heck is that?"

It's an airship called the Zeppelin NT. It's sort of like a moving billboard, flying faster than I imagined so that it was a little difficult to capture it. (Sorry about the quality!) Don't you think it looks like a whale?

The airship is very rare.

At present, there are only three Zeppelin NTs in the entire world and only two of those can be used for commercial purposes. Nippon Airship Corporation's Zeppelin NT is the only one outside of Germany.
(Source: Nippon Airship Corporation website )

The price for a 90-minute-sightseeing flight over Tokyo is from 148,000 yen (≈$1,375.20). I heard that the flight tickets are often sent as anniversary gifts. If you are interested, please contact Nippon Airship Corporation and have an unforgettable flight!

July 27, 2008

Speed Racer + Sex and the City

As I mentioned in Tokyo Movie Experience Part 3, I went to see Speed Racer! I'm planning to go see it one more time at the movie theater. Yopiko, a huuuuge fan of Jin Akanishi and one of the most prominent fan blogger, went to see the movie twice! Some fans say they saw it three times! I admire their enthusiasm.

I fully enjoyed Jin's voice acting for Speed Racer and the movie itself, of course. My favorite line is, "What should I do with you?" Speed calmly talks to his car when it's stopped, trying to figure out what to do next with the gear. Speed's (Jin's) heavy breathing right after the race is incredibly sexy. Jin's voice is a gem!

I watched on TV that Jin and Emile Hirsch (aka Speed) chatted in English at the press conference in Tokyo. In the photo session, Jin helped Emile with interpretation because photographers gave instructions to them in Japanese. (Source: oricon style 7/21 issue, 2008) Among Japanese male celebrities, who else can communicate with Hollywood stars in English? All I can think of are Masi Oka and Ken Watanabe. Jin was so stunning on the stage that he looked like a Hollywood star to me. Check out this video. Other related videos were already deleted.

Sex and the City will finally open on August 23 in Japan. This is a flyer that I got at the movie theater. Flyers are available at theaters and we can get information on upcoming movies. It's a popular PR tool in Japan to get moviegoers back to the theater.

Have you seen the movie? How do you like it? Guess what, I love the series so much that I watched all of the episodes. I like not only its fashion but also the way it portrays women's friendship. I even have the SATC official guidebook, "Kiss and Tell." The book has a lot of funny pages, including who they "did" and "didn't."

I'm sorry to say this to Carrie's fan, but I often get annoyed by her for some reason. I love her shoes, though. :) I want to be a woman who is sort of half Miranda and half Charlotte. Smart and beautiful. Have a good balance of being logical and emotional. Who do you like most? I can't wait to see SATC the movie!

July 22, 2008

Happily Ever After Fantasy? White Man Cafe

I just watched CNN world news yesterday, which was about "Butlers Cafe" in Shibuya, Tokyo.
The cafe is full of white male "butlers." It's the male equivalent of Akiba's maid cafe for female customers.

Before I start talking about it, please check out the video first. The image is more powerful than text to explain what it's like at the cafe.

So, what do you think?

My first impression was, "Are they really wearing tiaras? Or is it just for TV?" I don't want to say bad things about these women, but the tiara thing was kind of silly...

The point is all the butlers are WHITE men. This shows how many Japanese women are into the image of Western men appearing in Hollywood movies and TV series--today's fairy tales. If Japanese men served tea as butlers, female customers would not get refreshed because Japanese men remind them of their daily lives. Talking to good-looking Westerners in ENGLISH is surreal for them. These women come to the cafe to free themselves from stress, according to the CNN report.

I'm surprised that there are women out there who are so stressed out that they end up going to places like this. Unfortunately, Japan is still male-dominated society so that a lot of females may be stressed out as CNN points out. However, are they really that tired? If so, I want to let them know my blog URL to share their thoughts with me and hopefully, to make them feel better. It's totally free! Or, are they just interested in white men and looking for opportunities to speak English?

To heal your mind is not simple. Of course, I'd love to talk to good-looking gentlemen. But not at the cafe at least for me. I'd rather find a more constructive way to make me happy, not an instant relief but a long-lasting solution. Maybe I'm not good at just having fun at ease with someone unknown.

For details, check out Butlers Cafe website and a female writer's report of her experience of being a "Princess" at the cafe. It's a fun reading with lots of photos (mostly in Japanese). The reporter looks cheerful in every picture, I don't understand what's good about some guy holding and lifting you up, though. Note that you have to pay extra for the lifting service.

Would you like to go to a cafe where good-looking Japanese men in samurai costumes serving you drinks?

July 14, 2008

Kanji of the Day

reading: hi, bi, jitsu, ka, nichi, ni,
meaning: day, everyday, the sun, Japan


*日焼けする hiyake suru/ get a sun tan

*日焼け止めを塗る hiyakedome wo nuru/
apply [put on] sunscreen [sunblock]

*日々 hibi/ everyday, daily, day-to-day, days=毎日 mainichi
e.g. 日々の生活 hibi no seikatsu/ everyday[daily] life
日々の食事/食生活 hibi no shokuji/ shokuseikatsu/ daily diet
幸せな日々を送る shiawase na hibi wo okuru/ spend happy days

*日曜日 (too much 日!) nichiyoubi/ Sunday

*休日 kyuujitsu/ holiday, day off

*本日 honjitsu/ today=今日 kyou(exceptional reading of the kanji)/ today 
Note that 本日Honjitu sounds more formal.  

*三日、3日 mikka/ the third day, three days

*日常会話 nichijo kaiwa/ daily [everyday] conversation

*日米関係 nichibei kankei/ Japan-U.S. relations/relationship

*日本 nihon, nippon/ Japan
e.g. 日本人と結婚したい nihonjin to kekkon sitai/ I want to marry a Japanese man/woman.

*日記 nikki/ diary, journal
e.g. 毎日、日本語で日記を書く (too much 日, again!) mainichi nihongo de nikki wo kaku/ keep a journal in Japanese every day

Please note that examples shown above are the major usage of the kanji. I might not have included all the meanings and readings.