Category Archives: Souvenirs from Asia

Souvenirs from Asia: Really Random Stuff

My husband and I have gone off the beaten track (sometimes WAY off) in our Japanese pop culture travels, so our friends have sometimes accused us of going out of our way to get bizarre stuff. However, all of these following items my husband bought at Narita Airport. Meaning that the Japanese want visitors to buy these as souvenirs, and you can’t blame my husband for picking them up when the airport authorities made it so convenient.

So first of all we have that favorite Japanese dish—curry!  Inside this box is a single serve pouch  of curry; just heat and serve. However, thing that makes it interesting—and therefore worthy of occupying space in an airport souvenir shop—is the meat they used. That’s not an ordinary pig on the box—it’s a wild boar!

Yes, folks, it’s wild boar curry. You, too, can pick up a box at Narita Airport and enjoy this novelty for a mere  ¥600!

Also, at that same store for the same low price is another curry. It’s a little more difficult to tell from the package illustration, but this is “Bakayarou Curry.” Or to translate: “Idiot Curry.”

 Now this is a pun that requires explanation, so much so that I’m surprised they put it in the airport with the intention for foreigners to buy. As mentioned above, “bakayarou” translates into “idiot” or ”fool.” The jinchuuriki Killer B from Naruto often uses that term in his raps. However, the word bakayarou is written by putting together the kanji characters for “horse”and “deer.” (Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it is.) And the meat used in this particular curry pouch is—you guessed it— a blend of horse and deer meat.

And you can bring it home from Narita Airport for just ¥600!

Moving on from curry, we have a snack that looks like it was inspired by the west but took on a life of its own in Japan: Tohato Bacon Sticks!

This he picked up at the airport convenience store. I kind of thought it would be a shorter version of a slim jim, but this snack actually has a texture closer to a Pocky or potato chip. It’s definitely not a 100% meat product, but it still emits that enticing smoky aroma that is distinctly bacon.

We put it out during our last Bible study gathering, and it was a massive hit. There’s just something irresistible about bacon, and Tohato has harnessed its qualities into an unexpected crowd-pleaser.

And finally, my husband brought home this:

In case you’re not familiar with it, “The Wave” is an iconic piece of Japanese art, and the creators inserted Godzilla, another Japanese icon,  into the scene. Even though it’s been about a half century since Godzilla first stormed onto the scene, he remains popular around the world. He’s certainly popular with my husband, and we had a little fun superimposing Godzilla onto our kitchen noren.

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Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Off-Season Character Goods

As mentioned in my previous postHaikyu!!  fans are in the midst of a long wait for our next season of anime. In addition to fighting impatience, fans also have to contend with something else: a decline in character goods. There are hundreds of manga and anime in existence, and even as large as as Animate and The (Shonen) Jump Shop are, there’s only so much shelf space. As such, stores tend to stock merchandise of series that are currently airing or about to air, and only mega popular titles like Naruto get year-round dedicated space.

However, even though it’s been a couple years since the last episode of Haikyu!! aired, its fan base is apparently strong enough that my husband found some items on his last trip to Tokyo. It’s nowhere near the quantity and variety he witnessed in 2015, but he still found some interesting items to go with our Haikyu!! musical Blu-ray sets.

First, we have something that can only be described as really really random. Remember Shimada-san, the Karasuno alum who teaches Yamaguchi the jump float serve? If you’ll recall, he works at the family business, a supermarket called the Shimada Mart with a distinct piggy logo. Anyway, for some reason, someone thought it would make a marketable piece of merchandise, and for some reason. my husband thought I’d like it and bought it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised they made a Shimada pig plushie considering a gal dressed up as the Shimada pig at last May’s Fanime Convention. At any rate, the pig plushie is still in its packaging, and if you want it, message me with your best offer.

This next item, on the other hand, I am totally keeping. It is the kind of accessory that sets you apart from all the other Haikyu!! cosplayers, and the best  ¥5000 my husband spent on this trip—a vinyl Karasuno gym bag! It’s got an adjustable strap and a side compartment in addition to the main one. Plus, it’s perfect for stowing street clothes during a cosplay meetup. I just have keep a close eye to make sure another Haikyu!! enthusiast doesn’t try to take off with it during said meetup.

And lastly we have an edible product: latte art in a package by Takara Tomy Arts! It’s kind of a cute concept, given the popularity of latte art. Apparently, they’ve solidified the milky foam stuff into solid discs. Just drop a disc into a cup of hot coffee, and you have insta-art!

However, it is a little disappointing that the creators didn’t choose a more detailed illustration for this product. My husband also bought the One Piece version to show what Takara Tomy was capable of producing, and as you can see below, the One Piece illustrations are much more intricate.

Next up: Really Random Souvenirs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! 2017 Musicals: “The Winner and The Loser” and “The Summer Evolution”

Haikyu!! fans are in the midst of a long waiting season as far as the anime goes. The last season was released 2016, and although it’s already 2018, there’s been no official announcement about when Season 4 will come out. Fortunately, the manga is still ongoing, and those in Japan had the opportunity to relive the drama in the Haikyu!! films and musicals.

As I mentioned in a post last summer, the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! production company presented the third musical The Winner and the Loser and the fourth musical The Summer Evolution in 2017. Unfortunately, my husband and I were unable to attend either show. Fortunately, as with their previous productions, the company collaborated with Toho Animation to release DVDs (Region 2 only) and Blu-rays of the musicals.

These are available through the Toho Animation online store and Amazon Japan, but both those outlets require a working knowledge of Japanese to make a purchase (and probably a Japan based credit card, I suspect). So my husband got them the old fashioned way: he ran to Akihabara during a 9-hour layover in Tokyo and bought them at Animate. (Arigatou, Animate!)

As with the previous releases, there are no English subtitles (although  the closing song for The Winner and the Loser does have English lyrics). And yes, it is pricey. Is it worth it? We think so! We only understand about one-tenth of the dialogue, but if you’re familiar with the series, you shouldn’t have any trouble following the overall plot. Also, the packaging, especially for The Winner and the Loser is really slick. The case includes a clear wraparound cover, and when you slide it off, you get a pretty cool image of Hinata in mid-jump. The Summer Evolution’s packaging isn’t quite as flashy, but its cast is the first to include females. Even though watching men play female bit parts is funny, it is nice to finally have actual women step onstage.

By the way, just like in the anime, the musical incorporates flashbacks in its storytelling. As such, these shows have references to previous productions, and those who’ve seen the first two musicals will have a more comprehensive entertainment experience.

Next up: Haikyu!! Off-season Character Goods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Baumkuchen and Fake Toast

As mentioned in my last two posts, a happy convergence between my husband’s last business trip and a Jump Shop promotional event resulted in a massive load of Haikyu!! goodies. However, not all the gems in his souvenir stash were Haikyu!! related.

Baumkuchen is a European pastry very popular in Japan. It is often sold as a souvenir in airports and train stations, and the Narita Sanrio shop went all-out with this apple kuchen. The packaging is adorable, and instead of the traditional ring shape, this kuchen is apple shaped.

Hello Kitty Japan apple kuchen

My husband also picked up baumkuchen at Tokyo Station. As you can tell from the photo, this baumkuchen and the box of cookies beside it are designed for your name. movie fans (my review for the your name. light novel coming soon). Unlike the apple kuchen, the your name. kuchen comes in bite-sited, individually wrapped pieces. The cookies are also individually wrapped, and each has the movie logo baked on top.

your name. cookies and baumkuchen

Do not eat! Its not real toast!

This final item is not edible though it looks like it might be! Fake toast! It looks like a cosplayer prop for that classic late-student-running-to-school-with-toast-in-mouth. However, there’s all sorts of warnings about not putting it into your mouth, which makes me wonder what its intended purpose is.

Anyway, that’s it for this round of souvenirs!

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! snacks!

As mentioned previously, a change in my husband’s business trip itinerary allowed him to get to the Jump Shop’s Haikyu!! promotional event. The interesting thing was that about half the items he bought back were edibles, mostly snack foods. I’m not sure what marketing consultant drove the Jump Shop in that direction, but I guess it worked, considering my husband bought a bunch.

Choco-caramel and chocopuffs

So to start we have the sweets. Karasuno, Shiratorizawa, and Aoba Josai chocolate candies. As with many Japanese food products, a lot of effort went into the packaging. I will definitely keep the containers, but the Shiratorizawa and Aoba Josai tins only contained 5 choco-caramel candies each. As for the Karasuno one, it didn’t contain chocolates but chocolate flavored corn puffs. When we tried it, we felt like we should pour the whole thing into a bowl and add milk.

Although the packaging for these next candies isn’t nearly as durable, it is clever and super cute. The Haikyu!! characters are occasionally shown with milk or juice boxes which is the inspiration for this candy set. Not really sure about a giraffe for the chocolate candy box, but the cow makes a nice design for the milk caramel.

Choco candy and milk caramel in juice box packaging

Next, pie from the rivals! The pie, by the way, comes in (tiny!) individual servings that are of course well encased in packaging. I haven’t yet tried the leaf pie so I’m not sure what that’s about, but the filling for the apple pie is more like apple puree. So it looks cute, but it wouldn’t be my first (or second or third) choice for a snack.

Apple and leaf(!) pie from Karasuno rivals

More appetizing is the Karasuno manju. They’ve updated it since two years ago, and this version has a cute crow shape and comes with bonus postcards!

Crow shaped manju!

With player stats on the side!

The majority of snacks my husband bought were sweet, but there is a savory one in the mix. Position snacks! Each box features one or two players with their stats on the side. Pretty cool in the package design department. As for the snacks themselves, well… they kind of taste like a barbeque-ish version of the corn puffs from the Karasuno chocolate flavored corn puffs.

Position Snacks!

And finally, what all shonen like to eat: curry! I don’t know what makes it cafe curry or why the rival cats and owls got put together, but it still makes a nice visual on the box.

Nekoma and Fukurodani curry!

By the way, as part of the Jump Shop promotion, customers received a Haikyu!! sticker per a certain amount spent. Because of that, my husband and I now have more stickers than we know what to do with.

Jump Shop promotion Haikyu!! stickers

Next up: Not Haikyu!! but still cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical DVD and more!

When my husband and I went to the Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical last November, we signed up for email updates from the production company. Thanks to Google translate, we’ve learned from these periodic messages that the third Haikyu!! musical, The Winner and the Loser, toured Japan last spring; a special Haikyu!! exhibition took place at Tokyo Dome; and their fourth musical, The Summer Evolution, is coming out this fall. Then just before my husband’s most recent business trip, we learned that Jump Shop stores would be selling Haikyu!! musical goods for a limited time.

My husband’s itinerary was all China, so we chalked it up as just another event we couldn’t take advantage of. However, due to some unexpected hiccups during his trip, his boss redirected him to Nagoya for the last bit of his trip.

Translation: he wound up with one full day to shop in Japan.

DVD for the second Haikyu!! musical

And shop he did. Not only did he find the musical goods at Nagoya Jump Shop, but the store, in anticipation of an influx of Haikyu!! fans, also had their own Haikyu!! goods in force. In addition, my husband has learned from previous trips that there’s no guarantee that a character good will be around the next time you visit, even if it’s just a week later. So if he sees something he likes, he gets it. Thus, he came home with quite a haul.

So to start, we have the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival DVD. This is the musical that we saw last fall. Yes, we liked it so much we want to watch it again and again. No, there are no English subtitles. Yes, the DVD requires a Japan region player, but that’s okay because we got one when we bought the DVD for the first Haikyu!! musical.

Jersey towels!

Next we have jersey mini-towels. As those who’ve visited Japan know, most Japanese restrooms don’t provide paper towels, so people carry handkerchiefs or small towels for drying their hands. Now fans can show their team spirit every time they head to the sink. Jump Shop had a towel for every Karasuno member, and because Daichi and Hinata are my favorites, my husband brought back 1 and 10.

Jump Shop also had jersey mugs for the whole team. My husband picked up a Hinata mug along with a traditional-style tea mug featuring most of the Karasuno team and several rival players. A nice detail of the jersey mug is that the inside of the mug has a manga-style picture of Hinata.

Chibi character tea mug and jersey mug

 

I think it reads,”Mou ippai!”(“One more cup!”)

Not to leave the Karasuno captain behind, my husband also picked up a Daichi clip and stamp. However, these items and the Haikyu!! pen alongside them are actually not from the Jump Shop but a random Ikebukoro shop.

Haikyu!! stamp, clip, and pen. The clip splits Daichi in half.

Also from another store (Ikebukoro Animate) is one of the best items of the bunch. When we visited last November, this team banner was part of a store display, but it wasn’t actually available for sale. This time it was, so now we get to show our support for our favorite volleyball team. Go crows!

FLY!!!

Next up: Haikyu!! themed snacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Totoro Clock!

My husband and I generally don’t buy things on impulse. Especially if the price is over $100. Even if one of us is bewitched, the other will be yelling, “What are you thinking?”

However, on his last trip, my husband got blindsided by a level of cute too potent for either of us to resist. During his last morning in Japan, he arrived early in Akihabara for a final shopping trip. Animate didn’t open until 10am, but Edion, a nearby electronics store, was already open so he decided to wander around there until Animate opened. That’s where he saw this:

Anime cuteness in the EDION Clock section

Too cute!!!

He wasn’t expecting to buy anything outside Animate, but that Totoro clock grabbed his attention and wouldn’t let go. Totoro is one of anime’s most charming representatives, after all. And the other thing was that we actually needed a clock. We hadn’t intended for it to be a ¥11,200 clock, but then again, we never thought we’d have a Totoro option.

Even the box is kawaii!

Even the box is kawaii!

Being a good husband, he texted me a picture and asked what I thought. I too fell under Totoro’s spell, and three minutes and roughly $110 later, my husband walked out the proud owner of a Totoro clock.

Which just shows how extreme kawaii can separate an otaku couple from their money.

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Season 3 Haul!

My husband boasts that he can now get to the Animate store in Nagoya, Osaka, Ikebukoro, and Akihabara without the help of directions. This says a lot about how he likes to spend his free time on business trips. However, in addition to the fact that he is an otaku, he like to make his rounds with these stores because each location actually carries different stock. So between four Animate stores and the Jump store in Nagoya along with the start of Haikyu!! Season Three, he returned with quite a haul of Haikyu!! goods.

Seijoh chibi charm (?) and padded pen case

Seijoh chibi charm (?) and padded pen case

 

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Sports towels with school spirit!

Kenma on panda???

Kenma on panda???

Apparently, Karasuno’s rival schools have quite following, judging from their representative goods. According to my husband, there was also a Karasuno sports towel, but the design wasn’t nearly as slick as Seijoh’s and Nekoma’s so he only wound up buying the ones for the rival teams.

Not to say that Karasuno got outclassed by its rivals in all categories. During my husband’s last trip, he brought back Hinata and Kageyama phone charms. Apparently, the collection now includes Nekoma’s setter. However, I don’t know what panda bears have to do with Tokyo, volleyball, or Nekoma High School, and Kenma just looks awkward sitting on it.

A fan for ace Bokuto and chibi themed erasers

A fan for ace Bokuto and chibi themed erasers

Fits in the medicine cabinet!

Fits in the medicine cabinet!

While most of his purchases, like the chibi themed erasers, were “what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” we did get a bit of a surprise with one. My husband was trying to stick with practical items, ergo the simple plastic cup (something I’ve been needing for the bathroom) and towels. The eyeglass case also fell into that category. However, despite being a Jump store item, the proportions of the chibi crow on the are kind of off, enough to make it look like a counterfeit product. However, when I opened the case, I was pleasantly surprised by what is now my new favorite eyeglass wipe. And something that makes it extra special is that it’s a rare item that includes all twelve members of the Karasuno team and their support staff.

Eyeglass case and wipe

Eyeglass case and wipe

According to my husband, more Haikyu!! goods should be available as we get deeper into the anime season. However, I’ve got more than enough to keep me happy as Karasuno enters the finals against Shiratorizawa.

Go crows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Japanese snacks!

My husband and I scheduled an anime viewing at our house this month so I asked him to buy a few unusual snack foods from Japan for the party. This is what he brought back.

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I am amazed he made it back with all that plus his other souvenirs AND luggage.

Since it would take too long to go through the entire stash, I’ll limit it to the highlights for this post.

First we have the nori wasabi flavored potelong. I suppose wasabi flavored snacks aren’t so unusual in the West now, but I thought the nori and wasabi high-fiving on the package was especially cute.

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Next is a potato snack that definitely would not make it out West. Not sure who thought chocolate and potato would make a great combo, but it’s popular enough for my husband to find Jagachoco chocolate covered potato chips in the convenience store.

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The next snack is all about the packaging. I don’t know what message the Tohato marketers wanted to convey, but to me, that Jack o’ lantern styled pepper screams, “DANGER. RUN AWAY.”

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On the other end of the packaging spectrum is this. It may be just a bowl of instant udon noodles, but the kimono-clad Hello Kitty makes you feel like you’re getting something truly elegant.

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Prefer a more masculine Japanese icon? How about some Ultraman raman navona? No, I have no idea what that is, but it comes from a confectionery so I assume it’s sweet.

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And here’s another confectionery offering. I was surprised my husband found this one because Initial D is over a decade past its heyday. Maybe Initial D fans have a raving sweet tooth that makes this product profitable? Or perhaps there’s a reboot in the works?

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img_2619Finally, we have a snack that also a game: Godzilla vs. Evangelion! I don’t know who decided to put these two together, but at the very least the chibi character versions are really cute. My limited knowledge of kanji tells me the circle and characters on the back of the box are used to play something, but I’ve no idea what. However, our Japanese-literate friend JB is coming to the anime viewing so perhaps our party will include monsters stomping over noodle-shaped snacks.

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Souvenirs from Asia: Swallowtail Butler Cafe revisited!

My husband was in Japan on business recently and, while there, he revisited a highlight from our 2012 Japan pop tour: Swallowtail Butler Cafe!

Now his actual intention was not to visit Swallowtail by himself. As I’ve mentioned to a few inquirers, a single lady, a group of ladies, or a lady with a gentleman date would definitely fit in with the Swallowtail clientele. A single gentleman, not so much. (And I’m not sure they’d know what to do if they got a group of salarymen.) However, he was in Ikebukoro in search of an Attack on Titan costume for a friend of ours and passed Swallowtail’s corner on the way to Cospa. This is what he saw there.

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img_2607The Swallowtail franchise has expanded! Now on the corner opposite Japan’s premier butler cafe is a gift shop and patisserie. And quite popular from the looks of it. FYI, the line on one side is to get tickets and the line on the other side is to enter the patisserie after purchasing a ticket. As much as my husband wanted to stay and try the owl themed treats, the line was literally out the door.

So he wasn’t able to see if the patisserie servers were attired as they were in the butler cafe. ( For more details and information about the butler cafe, read my 2012 post here). However, judging from the crowd outside, Patisserie Swallowtail is a more casual establishment that appeals to the same demographic: single ladies, female groups, and couples on dates. And with its sidewalk level signs and large red awning, Swallowtail corner is now a lot more easy to locate.

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So Patisserie Swallowtail is now on our list of places to visit together. In the meantime, I get to enjoy a souvenir my husband bought at the gift shop: cute pastries in an oh-so-elegant box. Just to sort of thing you’d expect from the Swallowtail franchise.

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