Monday, August 31, 2015

Japan is super expensive, right? Actually...

Shibuya station

For a long time, the consensus has been that Japan is an expensive place. That was easy to go along with back in 1990, when Japanese investors had the money to buy overseas properties like the Pebble Beach golf course. Tales spread about 10,000 yen watermelons (which do exist) and many people assumed that even a brief stay in Japan would break the bank. There may have been some truth to that 30 years ago. But how costly is the country these days?

Well, it's a mixed bag. You still have goods and services that are as expensive as they were during the bubble years. But there's a growing basket of things that are becoming cheaper, either because of decades of deflation or due to low-cost competition. Let's break it down.

(More after the jump:)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #4: Kamen RIder keshi gomu gachapon daishi

Sometimes when I come across a cool vintage piece, I like to highlight it in a Vintage Discovery post. Been a while since I've done one. This week's VD (no, we're not talking about Veteran's Day - sheesh) is a gachapon daishi. I've written about daishi in the past - they're the display cards placed in a gachpon machine letting you know what's inside.

Most of the daishi you see are flat cards with photos or illustrations. But some have actual samples affixed to them. You can find them from time to time, but the subject matter isn't always the most interesting (rubber frogs, little gadgets - that sort of thing). So to find a daishi with samples from an interesting property is the bellissima trifecta.

This gachapon machine - from the late 70s or early 80s, had two sizes of Kamen Rider keshi gomu figures. There was a mix of heroes, including Amazon, V3, and X, as well as some villains.

Some closeups:
 More after the jump:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Experiencing Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks. It's located in Kansai, one of my favorite parts of Japan. With cities like Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara, there's a lot to see and do there, in a fairly compact area. Himeji station is an easy 40 minute train ride from Kobe.

Mind you, in recent years I haven't been much of a postcard seeking sightseer. I'd rather walk through streets and supermarkets than museums or monuments. But I was in Himeji, and, with the castle in eyeshot of the train station, I figured it would be worth a visit.

I titled this post "Experiencing Himeji Castle" since seeing the storied place feels more like something you're pushed through than a place you visit to soak in. From start to finish, you line up, go up a hill, and go through the empty castle in a line of people that twists, winds, and goes up and down stairs. This is inevitable with a property that is on so many visitors' itineraries, but the experience is a far cry from the open, self-directed experience you'll have visiting other historical places, such as Windsor Castle in England.

Here's a bit of a photolog that will give you a sense of the experience:
The outer gate is about 10 minutes from the castle. You start by going over a moat.
 More after the jump:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Star Wars x Lotte in Japan: The Boom Awakens!

Every so often in Japan, when a show, movie, character, or something else becomes super popular, they call it a "boom." Some examples are Batman in the late 60s (thanks to the TV show), "super cars" in the 70s-80s. and Superman in the late 70s (thanks to the movie). Companies are extremely good at stoking fervor for the boom with marketing blitzes and product tie ins.

A few months ago in Japan, you could feel that the machine was revving up to start delivering anything and everything Star Wars to the nations' eyeballs. Giant posters appeared in Shibuya station, and there was even a Star Wars newspaper that appeared in convenience stores.

And now, with Episode 7 just a few months away, the product flow has begun, starting with branded snacks by Lotte.
Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6 Bikkuriman snack + sticker.
More after the jump:
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