Category Archives: Souvenirs from Asia

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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Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 4

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

fabric

Last in our Sanrio bonanza are several pieces of Hello Kitty themed print fabric. Cute as they are, they’re actually a consolation purchase. See, my husband has been wanting a piece of Japanese clothing, either a yukata, haori, or happi coat. However, he wants one with a Godzilla pattern, more specifically a chibi Godzilla pattern. Everything we found remotely resembling this was always for very small children. So we figured we’d make one on our own.

Unfortunately, finding the appropriate fabric has been a challenge. Searches on eBay and Amazon have turned up nothing, and local fabric stores don’t carry anything of the sort. We hoped to find something during our 2012 trip to Japan, but Akihabara’s goods don’t include bolts of cloth, and forays to Tokyu Hands and department store fabric sections also turned up nothing.

Then last fall, I got a new lead from-of all places-manga. I was reading Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish, and in one chapter, the characters need fabric so one gets dispatched to the Nippori district.  I’d never heard of it before, but a quick Internet search revealed that it is Tokyo’s Fabric Town.

As such, my husband took the train to Nippori Station with high hopes of finally getting his hands on the elusive Godzilla fabric. What he found were stores with shelves packed floor to ceiling with bolts and bolts of a mind blowing variety of cloth. Unfortunately, everything was in Japanese, he had no idea how things were organized, and his Japanese speaking skills are rough. So if Godzilla really was there, my husband couldn’t locate him.

However, he did spot a pile of Sanrio fabric. Ergo my textile souvenirs.

Now I just have to learn how to use the sewing machine…

Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 3

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

mech toys

transformerThese next items were a truly unusual find. For some products, combining it with Hello Kitty is a match made in heaven. Then there are others that leave you wondering who proposed the match and who was crazy enough to approve it. To me, the marriage of Kitty and Transformers is an absolutely bizarre one. I can’t think of anyone who would want a Kitty Optimus Prime. No, I take that back… My husband finds it irresistible, but the age 40-50 male Hello Kitty market is a really tiny one.

The improbability of this product aside, its packaging is pretty amusing. Kitty aficionados know that she weighs three apples, and they incorporated that fact into her technical specifications.

TRANS FORM

truckNext we have a toy a bit more in line with what I’d expect from a Hello Kitty toy: a Kitty penny racer. Or, more accurately, a 10 yen coin racer. (My husband bought these gems in Hong Kong International Airport, but they were made for the Japanese market.) It’s cute and actually reminds me of the Hello Kitty food truck that goes around California. And if the food truck people were able to add it to their merchandise I’m sure they’d make a killing.

So there you have it. Who says Hello Kitty can’t expand into traditionally boys toys?

Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 2

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

Our next items were purchased at the Shenzhen 85° Daily Cafe. 85°, for those unfamiliar with the establishment, is a Taiwanese chain specializing in coffee and baked goods. It’s spread to several countries, including the United States. However, merchandise varies by region, and I’m pretty sure there were limited to Asia.

mugs

It’s a series of Sanrio mugs. As you can see, they showcase various characters, but Hello Kitty’s trademark bow marks them all. Functionality-wise, the design’s a bit clunky. The mugs are awkwardly huge, and the covers are made of silicone, which makes me question their insulation effectiveness. Also the figurines inset into the mugs are plastic not porcelain (which is probably why they’re not microwave-safe).In short, it’s not really practical tableware.

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As a decoration or collectors item, however, it’s cute. It could also serve pretty well as a holder for your Sanrio pens and pencils. And the nice thing for Sanrio fans is that the collection includes characters I’ve not seen in a while. In addition to Hello Kitty, my husband returned with the ones for Badz Maru, Purin, and Little Twin Stars.

I’m not sure what kind of deal 85° struck with Sanrio, but if they put out more character dishware, I hope they maintain the cuteness factor, but level up the practicality aspect.

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 1

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

kitty senbei

To start we have a box of “Hello Kitty no Ebisenbei.” Translation: Hello Kitty’s shrimp flavored rice crisps. Hello Kitty snack items are fairly common even in the United States, but few package designs have this level of refined cuteness. It’s a nice blend of traditional Japanese themes plus the adorableness that can only come from having Kitty-san in crustacean costume.

The other unusual thing about this particular product is that the senbei pretty much looks like the rice crisp Kitty’s holding in the picture. Most Hello Kitty branded foods incorporate some aspect of her into their appearance. For example, brandishing a stamp with her outline. The senbei is just a regular senbei with a small shrimp in it. If I didn’t see the box, I’d have never guessed they were specifically Hello Kitty’s.

And like the Haikyu!! manju, the senbei were average in terms of taste. However, the box is so cute I might just have to keep it!

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Akihabara Bonanza Part 5

During my husband’s latest business trip to Japan, he managed to spend some free time at that mecca of anime known as Akihabara. And because Haikyu!! is our favorite ongoing series, he returned with a bunch of Haikyu!! souvenirs that ranged from cute to odd. He also went a bit overboard with his purchases so I’m splitting this installment into five parts.

socks front

And finally we have this. When I got my first glimpse of it, I thought, “Oh, what a cute little shirt.” Then I flipped the package over.

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They’re socks.

socks1Or I suppose you can think of them as shirts for your feet, which is the look the makers seem to be going for. However, I can’t say they hold much appeal for me. Weird is a better descriptor although they are definitely not on the level of weird that the Nekoma torso water bottle was on. In terms of functionality, they’re a bit tricky. They’re made of a slick polyester fabric. As a person who usually walks in cotton socks, I find them a bit of a trip/slip hazard on my hardwood floors.

socks 3Like the Nekoma water bottle, this product’s target audience is a mystery to me. Its visual impact is definitely diminished if worn with shoes so it’s probably meant for home use only. Maybe it’s kind of a strange home cosplay? At any rate, I think I’ll try to find an alternate use for these uber slippery, uber unique socks.

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Happy New Year!

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Akihabara Bonanza Part 4

During my husband’s latest business trip to Japan, he managed to spend some free time at that mecca of anime known as Akihabara. And because Haikyu!! is our favorite ongoing series, he returned with a bunch of Haikyu!! souvenirs that ranged from cute to odd. He also went a bit overboard with his purchases so I’m splitting this installment into five parts.

MANJU BOXMore Haikyu!! chibi characters! This time they’re on a box of manju. The funny thing is that the manju they’re eating looks an awful lot like the nikuman (pork buns) they get from their coach’s convenience store. The characters are super cute and very much in character as they munch on their treat. And inside the box is a bonus sticker! I got Asahi and a very naughty looking Noya.

Manju and bonus sticker!

As for the manju, it was… okay. Standard red bean filling inside a thin skin. Not something I’d go out of my way to eat again.

However, I would go out of my way for another one of those stickers.

Merry Christmas!