shopping

Japanese people surprised to find that “popular Japanese store” Meiso doesn’t exist in Japan

Japanese people surprised to find that “popular Japanese store” Meiso doesn’t exist in Japan

This stylish chain of stores has seen branches popping up all over China and boasts “Japanese brands” and “100% Japanese quality” all for the reasonable price of 10 yuan (US$1.60). It’s called “Meiso” in its native language of Japanese where it is said to have found major success… which is interesting because there doesn’t seem to be a single Meiso outlet in the whole country of Japan.

Well, actually that’s not completely true. Much like how the spirit of Santa Claus lives in every child’s heart, the spirit of Meiso can be found in three of Japan’s largest retailers – Uniqlo, Mujirushi Ryohin, and Daiso – in it’s eerily similar design to all three. And that’s just the tip of the weirdness iceberg.

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Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

As a two-party democracy, the United States can be a fickle place for marketers. Republicans and Democrats are so different ideologically that certain words and phrases on your product label or in your ad campaign are practically guaranteed to alienate half of the market; or, if you’re especially unlucky, all of it. Take the word “immigrant,” for example – it’s a loaded word that will make Republicans shun your product believing that it advocates rights for immigrants (Remember, this is the same party whose leaders sometimes suggest in all seriousness building a moat – complete with cartoonish man-eating alligators – around the US to keep illegals out), while Democrats might see the word “immigrant” on a product and suspect some type of labor exploitation going on.

Luckily, Americans – and Japanese – of all stripes are united in their love of beer, so Chiba, Japan’s Loco Beer brewery’s rendition of an old American beer recipe, originally brewed by German immigrants, gets a pass from American expats and Japanese consumers alike on the unfortunate naming of its new Immigrant Pilsner craft beer.

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Here are the weirdest things you can buy on Alibaba’s English site

Here are the weirdest things you can buy on Alibaba’s English site

Alibaba, the enormous Chinese e-commerce company, is about to file for an IPO in the U.S.

The two most popular Alibaba websites — Taobao and Tmall — are Chinese marketplaces and rather inaccessible if you don’t know the language, but there’s also Alibaba.com, an English site for sales between importers and exporters in more than 240 countries.

Alibaba.com has been known to sell different types of well-disguised counterfeit goods. Not only that, but a lot of the stuff on the site is just straight up bizarre or oddly labeled (we found quite a few normal products that for some reason had the phrase “hot” or “girl” tacked onto them).

We dug around Alibaba.com, and here are some of the gems we found:

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Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

“Lifehack” is a word we only just started seeing in the English lexicon, thanks to the mighty power of the Internet to bring out the most brilliant and most stupid parts of humanity.

Many are eager to show their “lifehacking” inventions to the world at large or even sell them as lucrative products in the post-shopping channel age where consumers yearn for goods that will save them time, make their lives easier, and make them look awesome/incredibly ridiculous at parties.

We’ve decided to compile some of the most compelling and utterly ridiculous inventions that fall (sometimes vaguely) into the lifehack category, so you can try your hand at making them yourself:

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A Maasai tribesman in Ginza: How Tokyo fashion empowers women a world away in Africa 【Photos】

A Maasai tribesman in Ginza: How Tokyo fashion empowers women a world away in Africa 【Photos】

Glitzy Ginza is a high-end shopping district in Tokyo that attracts luxury brand flagship stores, ladies who lunch, and businesspeople with cash to burn. But if you happen to be there this week, you might spot something very incongruous in this moneyed mecca: a Maasai tribesman selling shoes.

William hails from Kenya, where he is the head of a Maasai tribe, and the shoes he is here to promote are a Spanish brand called Pikolinos. So how did an African tribesman end up in the Japanese capital selling European shoes?

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I need gum, milk, and a verse of “Let It Go”: Special karaoke convenience store to open

I need gum, milk, and a verse of “Let It Go”: Special karaoke convenience store to open

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been buying beer, bread, or ice-cream at my local conbini and thought to myself, “If only I could scream a few lines of verse into a microphone without having to leave the building.” In the past, the closest I could ever get to combining convenience store shopping with singing was choosing karaoke booths located immediately next door to a 7-Eleven, but now all that is about to change.

In a special collaboration between Japan’s third-largest convenience store chain FamilyMart and nationwide operator Karaoke Club DAM, a one-of-a-kind conbini x karoke parlour will open its doors on April 17 in Tokyo.

Yes, thanks to Japan you can now shop and sing all in the same place.

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Infant cosplay: It’s-a me, Mario-bambino! 【Photos】

Infant cosplay: It’s-a me, Mario-bambino! 【Photos】

For any parent that’s ever thought, “My child is super cute, but I wish he looked a bit more like an Italian-American plumber,” do we have news for you.

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Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores are – as we’ve spoken about before – so awesome that if they offered to let you sleep on a cot in the backroom, you could live in one for your whole life and basically never want for anything.

In addition to all the delicious junk food, the endlessly flowing booze, coffee and other drinks, the ready-made meals (that have a sort of “slithery” quality and are one of the few things in a convenience store you should stay away from), and various daily necessities odds and ends, you can also withdraw cash, buy tickets for soccer matches, concerts and events, make copies, print photos, and probably clone your pet or something.

But, starting in 2014, things are about to get even more awesome. Check out the things you’ll soon be able to do at your local combini!

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Japan’s convenience stores adapt to their traditional surroundings like cultural chameleons

Japan’s convenience stores adapt to their traditional surroundings like cultural chameleons

When I lived in America, I bought something in a convenience store maybe once a month. There just wasn’t much I needed there, since the selection of beer was usually small and expensive, and no matter how hungry I was, letting my body break down its own tissues for sustenance was always a more appealing option than the greasy hot dogs and congealed nachos sold there.

In Japan, though, I can’t keep track of how often I stop into a 7-11 or Family Mart. The fact that most people do their shopping on foot means convenience stores here are more like miniature supermarkets, supplying basic groceries, tasty prepared foods, and other necessities.

Of course, the high demand for convenience stores in Japan means that sometimes they get built in areas of historical or cultural significance, in which case they have to be redesigned to fit in with the historical ambiance.

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Miraculous “cancer-curing” Japanese buckets selling like hotcakes in China

Miraculous “cancer-curing” Japanese buckets selling like hotcakes in China

It’s no secret that Japanese craftsmanship is some of the best out there. Manufacturing companies spare no expense to ensure their products satisfy customer expectations and last a lifetime.

But did you know that some Japanese companies are apparently taking customer service to the next level by injecting cancer-curing agents into a variety of products, even the lowly plastic garbage pail? Neither did we, until we found said buckets selling for up to US$100 on the Chinese Internet retail site Taobao. Confused and intrigued, we clicked on…

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The world’s most expensive tissues? Might as well wipe your boogers on a $100 bill!

The world’s most expensive tissues? Might as well wipe your boogers on a $100 bill!

The Japanese paper company Daishowa First has announced their newest high-quality product: a tissue box containing soft and luxurious tissues of 12 different hues. The product is named ‘Juunihitoe‘, a traditional Japanese word that refers to a twelve-layered ceremonial kimono worn by a court lady. It’s a fittingly regal name for something that will probably only be bought by A-list celebs with too much money on their hands. We don’t all have 100 dollars to drop on our snot-catchers, do we?!

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Struggling to prep the perfect rice for sushi? We have the answer!

Struggling to prep the perfect rice for sushi? We have the answer!

When it comes to making sushi, you obviously need some good fish, unless you’re happy with kappamaki and cucumber, we suppose. But there’s one other ingredient that you’re not going to want to forget: Rice!

If you prefer to stick with rolls, getting the rice just right isn’t quite so important, but when it comes to nigiri-zushi, or hand-pressed sushi, it’s essential. Since there’s no seaweed there to hold everything together, it’s easy for your tasty dish to literally fall apart on your plate. If you’re looking for some good chopstick practice, you could try picking up the individual rice one by one, but for the rest of us, there’s a new tool on the market to help perfect your rice shaping: The “Hayawaza! Nigirizushi Tongu”!

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Pokémon Center launches adorable charity goods for Tohoku

Pokémon Center launches adorable charity goods for Tohoku

Think you have to choose between giving money to charity and buying cool new stuff with your favourite characters printed on them? Think again, my friend! Pokémon will launch a super-cute new line of products on March 8, with all proceeds going to kids affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Like the awesome POKÉMON with YOU train, the bright and cheerful line of products aims to bring smiles to the faces of children affected by the Tohoku disaster.

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Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice

Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice

Lurking in the shadows is a mysterious figure. He conceals himself behind a giant kite, a flipped tatami mat, or a sliding door. Only his eyes are visible from beneath his dark robes. Yes, it’s a tiny ninja, and with a distinctly modern purpose: to protect your smartphone from would-be assailants!

There are three different warriors to choose from, each using a different ninja art to fend off attacks:

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Anime fan’s level of obsession is a lot funnier than the reason he’s selling his collection

Anime fan’s level of obsession is a lot funnier than the reason he’s selling his collection

As media consumption patterns change in Japan, leading to less advertising revenue and lower DVD sales, merchandising is becoming an increasingly important way for anime producers to turn a profit. Not that the hardcore fans mind being given the opportunity to purchase a poster or coffee mug featuring their favorite character, mind you. And if the products happen to be limited editions, with the premium pricing such a designation entails, well that’s just a nice extra bit of otaku cachet.

One fan, though, is selling off his entire collection in one all-inclusive package. Quite often this sort of thing is the result of finding a flesh and blood girlfriend who doesn’t approve of decorating your walls with pictures of scantily-clad anime babes, but the reason for this collector’s fire sale isn’t anything nearly so happy.

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Love disembodied women’s hands? Here’s a great iPhone case for you, you big weirdo

Love disembodied women’s hands? Here’s a great iPhone case for you, you big weirdo

I wouldn’t know personally because I basically use two plastic cups with some string attaching them for all my not-in-person communication, but I hear people with smartphones spend a lot of time and money trying to find the perfect case to protect and customize their technological doohickey.

There’s a lot to consider, after all: Will others enjoy the design as much as you do? Does the case affect the overall weight, size and shape of the phone to an unacceptable degree? Can you still fit it in your pocket after you snap the case on? Will people think you’re a creepy weirdo based on your choice of case? These are all questions normal smartphone users ask themselves.

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Costco Japan’s bulgogi bake is a melting pot of deliciousness

Costco Japan’s bulgogi bake is a melting pot of deliciousness

For the most part, grocery shopping in the Tokyo area is a small-scale affair. The majority of shoppers go to the store on foot and carry their purchases home, meaning that each residential neighborhood has a number of small markets to ensure consumers don’t have to lug their bags more than a few blocks.

However, with a little over 15 years’ experience since opening its first store in Japan, mega retailer Costco has converted a number of the locals to its “bigger is better” philosophy. As you’d expect, Costco gives customers in Japan the chance to save by buying in large quantities, and also serves up hot meals in its food court, just like in other countries.

One thing that’s different about the food court at Costco in Japan, though, is the menu, which includes a Korean fusion item called the bulgogi bake.

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Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Back in the early heyday of the iPod, its distinctive white in-ear headphones were blamed for a sharp rise in street robbery in London because they identified the wearer as having a fancy music player valuable enough to be worth stealing. If the newest product released by Shanghai-based company King Jim takes off, though, the next zombie-like commuter you see wearing headphones might not be able to listen to any music at all thanks to Digital Earplugs (Dijitaru Mimisen in Japanese). The new device looks just like regular white headphones, but they’re not for playing your favourite tunes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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Retailer promotes true goal of men’s fashion: convincing women to take their clothes off

Retailer promotes true goal of men’s fashion: convincing women to take their clothes off

Marketing men’s fashion can be a tricky thing, since, as on average, guys don’t spend that much time worrying about their outfits. One exception, though, is when they’re trying to impress girls. You can sell a man a jacket as long as you first sell him on the image that it’ll make him more attractive to women.

Of course, even if it is the underlying message, most companies are more subtle than to come right out and claim you’ll look so cool in their clothes that women will take their pants off for you.

Japanese online retailer Men’s Fashion Plus is not most companies.

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Japan’s very own Braziltown offers great food and shopping for a great price

Japan’s very own Braziltown offers great food and shopping for a great price

The World Cup is now less than half a year away! Don’t you wish you could go to Brazil to cheer on your national team? For those of you living in Japan who can’t quite scrape together the funds for that ticket, we bet you didn’t know that you can visit Japan’s very own ‘Braziltown’ right outside of Tokyo! While the world’s most widely viewed sporting event won’t be coming to the area anytime soon, you can still get a taste of the atmosphere by visiting authentic Brazilian restaurants and import stores. And the best part of going? This Braziltown is located within two hours of Tokyo and only costs 1,000 yen (US$9.77) to get there. Not bad considering airfares these days… 

The folks at Another Tokyo, a popular Japanese website dedicated to introducing off-the-beaten track places around Japan, sent a reporter to Braziltown to check it out. Join us for a look at his photos and to hear about his experience.

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