Monday, October 09, 2006

Buy, Buy Japan.

Recently Kira overheard a friend telling me how the last three months of the year are always so hectic, and how she's dreading the big Christmas rush and the buying frenzy that it brings. "Gawd, I hate to shop. Hate it hate it hate it." While this sentiment was even a little strong for me, by the horrified look on Kira's face you would have thought my friend has just lifted her shirt to reveal a parasitic twin. On the way to the car Kira nervously whispered, "Okay, she was just joking about the shopping, right? I mean, is she some kind of weirdo?"

When a website asked me to write an article on traveling to Japan with my girls, it didn't take me long to realize what stood out in my mind. Although their willingness to adapt to a foreign culture was exciting, what really impressed me was their ability to sniff out a retail opportunity from five miles away. To them, the ancient temples of Kyoto were merely facades for the gift shops tucked away inside, and their bizarre internal radar expertly guided us from our hotel in unfamiliar surroundings straight to a seven story shopping complex.

Sure, Rigel and I came away with many rich memories of our trip, but through our daughters' eyes we came to realize that the true worth of the journey is measured by the number of crappy keychains you bring home. (You can read about Desperately Seeking Souvenirs on KidsCanTravel.)

Just so you don't think this post was a cheap way to get you to read my article, here are some of the treasures we scored:
iPod skins: Ask Kira about the trip, and the first thing she is likely to say is, "Their iPod skins rock." Hers is the 'angel' (front and back) and mine is the much more boring dotted version next to it.

Key Covers: These are everywhere in Japan. For some reason, of all the souvenirs that I bought, this is my favorite. It's on my house key, and makes me smile everytime I open my door. It's as if it's saying, "We all went to Japan, and all I got was this lousy key cover."






Cell phone charms: They're around two years ahead of us over there in terms of cell phone technology, and around fifteen years ahead if you're talking cell phone accessories. I've never seen so many cases, straps, decals or hanging-thingies. The gray ball on the one on the right lights up and flashes whenever a call is coming in. I barely know how to even use my phone, but with all these goodies hanging from it I look like a pro.

Cookies: These are so good you'll want to roll around naked in them. They're called Yoku Moku, and here in the States you can only get them at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, where they'll set you back $20 a box. We got them in Japan for $11 each, which is not bad considering each cookie is individually wrapped and packed into this beautiful metal box, which you can use later to hold all those keychains and cell phone charms you don't use anymore.

We bought around eight of these to give away as gifts but have eaten almost all of them so far. We've only given away one, to Rigel's sister, and that's because I forgot to hide them before she got here.

Jiji and Dust Bunny Keychains: We're all huge Hayao Miyazaki fans. Jiji is the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service and the Dust Bunnies are from My Neighbor Totoro. If you've never seen either of these movies you are dead to me.

There's a Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo which is basically a shrine to Miyazaki and his films. We wanted to go, but the tickets are sold out months in advance and the earliest date they had was in December. So imagine the glee when we stumbled upon a gift shop that stocked nothing but merchandise from all of Miyazakis movies - which is probably the only reason the girls wanted to go to the museum in the first place.

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44 comments:

  1. I guess I'm writing this being "dead" since I've never heard of that movie. Sorry.

    My FIL is Korean and for the longest time, he would never buy anything Japanese b/c of what happened in the past btw Japan and Korea. But heck, that's where all the cool/reliable stuff come from. But I'm not a one who's going to break that to him though.

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  2. I love that iPod cover. Do you think Kira would be willing to part with it?

    (loved the article!)

    -annie

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  3. I am so jealous of those key covers! How can I get one here!!???

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  4. I'm with the kids - the gift shops are always the best bit. I'll send you some Union Jack boxers and an Winston Churchill key ring to save you having to trek to London.

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  5. I'm missing the "shopping gene" but I totally could get into those little gizmos you've got pictured there.

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  6. My kids like yours think souvenirs are required.

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  7. i MUST have that dotted ipod skin. must.

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  8. I must have the dust bunny cell phone charm! I have never posted a comment before, but I have been reading your blog ever since your sister-in-law told me about it, over a year ago. My kids and I love the Miyazaki movies. Kiki and Totoro are my favorites too, but I believe my son's favorite is NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind. What a relief I am not dead to you.

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  9. Miyazaki's "Castle In The Sky" is my favorite movie. Ever. After hearing about the Studio Ghibli museum I want to go to Japan more than ever.

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  10. Yoku Moku? I'll have to check them out. Any cookie with that kind of a recommendation is a friend of mine.

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  11. "Okay, she was just joking about the shopping, right? I mean, is she some kind of weirdo?"

    I love that, my sentiments exactly. Kira's angel iPod skin looks kinda like a ghost to me, but who am I too judge. I love the little Dust Bunny keychains. Sounds like you guys did well.

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  12. I must be a shopping gene carrier. It passed me by and my daughters contracted it. Is there a cure?

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  13. Damn. Now I need to have those cookies. To munch on while I wander that museum.

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  14. My mother just returned from Japan and before extolling the virtues of the ancient temples and gardens she told me about the shopping...

    Not too mention how much nicer the women in Prada were in Tokyo vs. home... which, you know, on my Target budget is really good to know.

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  15. Ohhh I want that Dust Sprite...
    I just loved this post...
    and I want everything on this post...
    But that Dust Sprite...My daughter's first gutteral laugh came from My Neighbour Totoro and those Sprites had her in stitches...

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  16. I, too, am writing this via my ghostly form. ;D

    LOVE the souvenirs--as well as your cleverly titled article.

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  17. I love your dotted iPod thingy. Since I don't even HAVE an iPod, of course I WANT a dotted thingy to go with it! Luckily I don't have to worry about either one, do I? :-) (My mp3 player is a from-the-dark-ages Creative Nomad Jukebox - looks like and weighs about three times as much as a CD player!)

    Oh, and I'm old enough to remember when anything "made in Japan" was considered worthless junk instead of cool, high-tech, and very very desirable! Weird, huh? I'm so glad it changed! I'm much more on board with cool and very very desirable, not to mention high-tech.

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  18. First off, love the ipod skin! Immediately went to ebay to find one - and found a great pink polka dot one - all thanks to you and this post!!

    Secondly, I know I'm old and all, but up until now I thought I was a PHM (pretty hip mom). I've never even heard of these films! Thank goodness for the 'net ... I best get to reading/learning about them!

    Thanks for the fun post ...

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  19. I liked the "Hello Kitty" things that were in the forms of burgers...complete with buns. What's up with that?

    And I LOVE THOSE COOKIES!!! AAAHHH!!

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  20. We're big into the Helly Kitty/Picachu toys. Usually, we just walk over to Chinatown and load up on the fake stuff. However, we recently went to a Japanese mall (in NEW JERSEY!) and they had the biggest collection of Sanrio and Miyazaki stuff we'd ever seen. The kid went nuts in the place and wouldn't leave unless we bought a bunch of stuff. Oh wait, I'm sorry. That's wasn't the kid. That was MY WIFE!1

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  21. I love the cell phone accessories!

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  22. You have scored big in booty land!

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  23. How cool! Don't you love how everything they make has a face?

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  24. I want at least five of each and every keychain/keychain-like bauble you bought. they're FAB.

    and I'm with Kira. shopping = pure bliss in my sad, materialistic head.

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  25. Their merchandise seems to be so personal and sweet. I love it. Their iPod skins DO rock.

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  26. I love all that stuff!

    I'd have been right there with your daughters shopping.

    Shrine? What shrine? ;-)

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  27. Are those cookies or modern art?

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  28. I love that key cover!!! My life suddenly seems very plain.

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  29. We had My Neighbor Totoro out from Netflix for approximately four months. I know, we should have just bought it, but it's apparently in some DVD version of "out of print" in the US. This reminds me to start trolling ebay for a good deal on that DVD. Thanks.

    (Kiki's Delivery Service also fully rocks, and we all liked Spirited Away, but the three-year-old found it a little scary, esp. when the parents are turned into pigs.)

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  30. Oh yes. My cousin lives there and hooks us up with all the cool stuff! Very cool :)

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  31. I heart japanese design - and I heart your daughters for hearting Japanese design too. Meanwhile, we just heard about Kids Can Travel for Cool Mom Picks this very week! Coincidence? No. I was MEANT to read your article! Zeus had it all planned out from the beginning.

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  32. Those iPod skins are soooo cute, and my kids would love the cell phone charms - they'd probably attach them to their lousy walkie-talkies (knowing them) but hey, that's fine!!!

    I always learn new things visiting you!!! :)

    Carrie

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  33. What a cool post. The cookies sound awesome! And you are so right about kids finding opportunities to buy stuff.

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  34. I love it! I want one of those IPod skins, but first I need an IPod...

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  35. I think when you announced you were going to Japan I was most jealous of all the amazing shopping that would be available to you. Turns out I had good reason. *wails* I wanna go shopping in Japan!

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  36. Oooo, this stuff is so up my alley! I absolutely hate the mall, but if there was stuff like this to purchase I could be converted.

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  37. that's some seriously nice stuff! want want want all of it - NOW

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  38. I want a cellphone that holds charms!! And a cute key cover, and a Dust Bunny Keychain!! We LOVE Kiki and Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.

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  39. Jiji. Yoku Moku and a NARUTO Festival... This truly was an education. If there was ever a doubt before (there wasn't) I most definitely want to visit Japan now... except for that mall. Regular malls scare me. I think a six-story-one might give me hives.

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  40. off the subject: tell everyone you know to use http://www.goodsearch.com/ instead of google, it donates a penny to a charity of your choice with every search.
    not many people use it so we need to raise awareness.

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  41. You always make me laugh and yet I always come away thinking and learning something. You're so sneaky. ;-) Thanks.

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  42. Miyazaki rocks! I can't wait to intro L.A. Toddler.

    And she'd love some of those things -- I think I'll need to hit up my friend in Japan to send me some goodies. Thanks!

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  43. I think they may be the coolest cookies I have ever seen!
    Matt

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