Archive for October, 2006

luck of the crayfish


Zarigani (crayfish) Works’ arukamo-ne characters (“arukamo-ne,” kind of means “I bet,” “I wager” or words to that effect) are coming free with bottles of Ito-en green tea. Although I have a “free with my drink” flickr site I just had to blog this because, well, I WON!!!!

Last time I won something was in 1997, I won a board game at my friend’s 25th birthday party.

Anyway, arukamo-ne are fairy-like or pixie-like fortune-cookie creatures that predict you good or bad luck. You apparently look into “the gleam of their eyes” and something good (or bad) might happen.

Alcamo (arukomo) is also a place in Italy; so the story is, these little things flew across Europe, learned a new language and then out of the kindness of their hearts attached themselves to bottles of tea. OK I made up the language bit. But they must be multilingual because they were very popular in a New York exhibition earlier this year.

Each creature comes with a wee slip of paper telling your fortune. Mine said “Today you will have something good happen, I bet.” Unfortunately my arukomo-ne didn’t realize that I am not Japanese, and by the time I had worked out what the creature was all about, the day was over and I had not looked into the “gleam” of its eyes. So I didn’t get the promotion with humungus payrise and I still came home to a shoebox.

To see more pixies:


October 30, 2006 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

ta-puri tarako


Yeah, I know. I’m way behind the curve on this one. But I just couldn’t get my own pic of this phenomenon before now. For a while everywhere I looked I’d see these really creepy-looking Kewpie dolls hanging off things: in stores, people’s bags, etc. Just had no idea where they were coming from or what it was about.

Then I finally found out that it was Kewpie’s Tarako spaghetti sauce (Kewpie — company logo of a cupid — btw, is a famous mayo manufacturer who came up with the soft squeezy mayo bottle all those years ago. Now they make various products). But since I won’t go near tarako (cod roe) unless the end of the earth is nigh and my survival depended on it, I didn’t really go to lengths to followup. My booboo, or should I say lucky escape.

Now it’s a national phenomena. Kewpie Tarako (the cupid dressed in a cod-roe sack-shaped outfit) and the Tarako girls who sing the product’s theme tune have a huge fan base … or cult following. I watched the latest TV ad ( and it really is eerily and hypnotically fascinating. By the time it was over I found myself singing the theme tune and searching for the rest of the ads and any other visuals connected to it. I was considering buying the CD of the Tarako song, and became obsessed with finding a weeny Kewpie Tarako of my own.

Go to YouTube and type in “tarako” for more swaying cod-roe sack-shaped cupids or “tarako-tarako-tarako kigurumi” to find the singing Tarako girls with cod roe sacks on their heads (if it hasn’t already been blitzed by YouTube because the copyright thing…). You won’t regret it.

Actually, you probably will, but you just won’t be able to help yourself.

The image I did finally get is the Kewpie Tarako invasion of a UFO-catcher in an amusement arcade. I tried, and I tried to win one. But I am crap at UFO catcher and ended up with my face pressed up against the glass singing “tarako, tarako, tarako, ta-puri tarako…” until someone dragged me away for rehab.

Kewpie have plenty of weird commercials if you are interested. Check:

October 21, 2006 at 11:04 am 1 comment

groovin’ with gap

I’m not a big Gap fan, but I am a big corduroy fan. And already I hear all the fashionistas rolling in laughter or silently mortified at the thought of Gap and corduroy in the same sentence. Well i don’t care…

O.K. I do; so even if most people I know would rather be seen with a supermarket-store carrier bag than a Gap one, I will stick my neck out and ungroovily get into the Gap groove. Their ads on trains are actually made from purple corduroy, up close it looks like this:

gapgroove3.jpg which I thought was quite nice.

I liked the pattern printed on the material too. So much so that, yes, I actually went to Gap. Luckily for my Gap-hating friends, the products themselves were, well, you know, Gap-like, so I went home empty-handed.

But still, as far as corduroy is concerned, this post goes out to my friend at college who, after meeting me for perhaps the second time, felt the need to say “Wow, I like the way you wear corduroy pants. I don’t think I’ve seen a pair of those since I was, er, 11.”

Well, I’m still doing it, and it’s expanded to jackets. Bet you’re really scared to meet me now…

October 19, 2006 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

elephant builder’s crack


Just loved this image in the Beams clothing store window.

Beams actually has several different types of stores including “Beams T” that sells T-shirts only, “Beams international” that has designer clothing, “Beams records,” etc. This is the “Beams your butt is as wide as an elephant’s” store, for those many, many Japanese people with enormous backsides.

If only.

I have no idea what this really signifies, but I can tell you that in reality, your butt has to be more like that of a stick insect to buy clothes here. Which, funnily enough, is the creature of choice on the window of Beams T.

October 17, 2006 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

oh my gourd!


Hyoutenkara water comes in this gourd-shaped bottle, which has a strap to carry it around with. There are various designs (, which you basically pay for, since one bottle of 350 ml is 333 yen (about double the average price). But the bottle is billed as reusable, so it’s not a total waste.

Hyoutenkara, by the way, means “gourd,” which is a squash-like fruit that when hollowed out has been traditionally used as vessel. I get the feeling everyone knows this, but just in case, thought I would mention it. The water is proper mineral water from the Yoshino caves of Mineyama, Kyoto region.

Despite the price, I really like this idea, assuming that people really do re-use the bottle. The pet-bottle waste here is pretty phenomenal. Since I get to see a scary amount of mineral-water bottles outside my apartment block on plastics recycle day, I’m all for saving the environment with style. Although, I, um, haven’t actually re-used mine yet … but it is making a rather nice color-co-ordinated decoration in my apartment, and I’m not the one leaving my body weight in pet-bottles outside the apartments…

The rakuten Web site I’ve linked to above also notes that there will be extra-special Xmas editions of these gourd-bottles, which look like this:


So this Christmas, I might be able to help the environment, drink healthily and still get that good old traditional plastic Xmas tree into my apartment! (I can’t believe with a shape like that they didn’t do a snowman).

October 15, 2006 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment

weider in, morinaga out


I have to be honest. I was a little upset to find this replacing my favorite-ever station kiosk. Morinaga’s Chocoball Kyoro-chan has been replaced  with Weider supplements. The enormous singing bird is now an enormous screen showing TV ads. The fun and cute junk food to the boring and serious health supplement.

But can’t quibble, since it has been a while since I’ve seen a themed station kiosk…

Weider ( make supplement pills for muscle-building and weight training — lots of protein and amino acid stuff — plus those handy-pack jelly food supplements (displayed on top of the kiosk). A lot of the supplements (especially the jelly in the pouches) are for extra energy, which is just as well really because all this is making yaaaaaawwwwwn.

October 15, 2006 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Free with my drink

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