Posts Tagged ‘rakuten’

Sugar rush of sweet sushi, chocolate fossils and more as Valentine’s in Japan approaches

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Japan has an uneven track record when it comes to celebrating Western holidays. While many people have started dressing up for Halloween only recently, the country has wholly embraced Valentine’s Day since the 1950s. Annually, women buy premium chocolate and in bulk, generating half the country’s chocolate business being spent in February.

(Yes, that’s mostly women. Men repay the confectionary favor on White Day a month later.)

While there are mountains of high-end choco tugging at the heart strings, many vendors are trying to stand out with unique packaging and offbeat designs. Here are a few tasty examples.

Sushi chocolate

If you want to give your partner a gift with a Japanese twist, why not go fishing for some sushi-shaped candy?

Tobu's chocolate sushi.

Tobu’s chocolate sushi.

Instead of heading to Tsukiji’s fish market, go west to Ikebukuro’s Tobu Department Store where you can buy chocolate that looks like egg, shrimp and sea urchin sushi. The set, which costs ¥2,592, includes a dollop of mousse that represent the ginger gari.

Chocolate is a girl’s best friend

Takashimaya Osaka Store has morphed two favorite gift options: chocolate and diamonds.

Takashimaya's jeweled cake.

Takashimaya’s jeweled cake.

The department store’s new cake glitters as it’s decorated with diamonds in addition to frosting. You better be in love because the cake, encrusted with 125 diamonds, will set you back more than ¥14 million.

‘Poisoned’ apples

Kuromajutsu has a series of “poisoned” apples — but not any old  “Snow White” types of fruits. The company claims it has injected “magic” into these apples using a Buddhist prayer that will, supposedly, make your victim — um, that is future spouse — fall in love with you instantly.

Kuromajutsu's magically

A screenshot of Kuromajutsu’s magically “poisoned” apple.

Kuromajutsu packages the ominous apple in a black box complete with the company’s black cat logo. True love can be yours for just a bite — and ¥10,000.

Canned meat

Does your man lack a sweet tooth? Meiji has a savory solution by offering up the perfect canned meat for this Valentine’s Day.

Meiji's canned meat.

Meiji’s canned meat.

The company’s web page recommends which canned meat would go well with the men in your life. For example, your hard-working co-worker who likes sake may prefer corn beef, while your red wine-drinking boss might like grilled chicken. We can’t guarantee your Valentine will enjoy this gift, but it is sure to be memorable.

Monster cookies

At the event Cookieboy event, people can ice monster-shaped cookies designed by textile artist Takehiro Natsuyama to create adorable and delicious treats.

Cookieboy's creatively designed treats.

Cookieboy’s creatively designed treats.

Natsuyama wants guests to use his beastly cookies as a canvas and show them how to turn treats into works of art using only frosting and other toppings. Instead of keeping it a secret, you can make your Valentine’s gift with your boyfriend this year at the Cookieboy workshop

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat

Instead of searching for the perfect gift, you can make your boyfriend dig it up himself with an archaeological treat. Welcome to Jurassic chocolate.


Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis.

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis is a tasty set where people have to unearth the chocolate fossil hidden behind a layer of . . . more chocolate. The set even comes with a tiny hammer and brush to complete the prehistoric experience. Some of the buried dinosaurs include a T-rex, stegosaurus and brachiosaurus.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide

If none of these options sound appetizing and you’re still unsure as to what kind of sweets to give your sweetie, Yahoo! Japan has a new site where you can (virtually) ask 25 different boys what their dream date and chocolate is.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

After you input your lover’s face type (dog, monkey, horse) and personality (herbivore, geeky, manly man), you can ask all of your burning Valentine’s questions. It’s a little unnerving watching this uncanny valley version of your boyfriend reveal his private thoughts, but his reaction is actually based on a scientific survey.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day in Japan isn’t just about chocolates and flowers. It’s a big business, and companies will continue to reinterpret the day in new and sometimes terrifying ways.

Pulse Rate:

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


While not exactly offering bargain basement prices, travel discounts can be found at

In general there is a hesitancy in Japan to discount prices for goods and services. The price for a six pack of beer, for example, is same price as six individual beers. Landlords are wary to reduce rents even to fill up rooms that may be empty for a long period of time, and hotels rarely give price breaks – as reported by Yen For Living, even a drastic reduction in highway tolls did not increase overnight stays for travelers. The Internet, however, has at least helped consumers pinpoint the companies that have lowered their prices, which in turn has helped stimulate competition.

Recently the website 一休.COM ( made it to the No. 4 spot of  Goo keywords, perhaps because it was being inundated by visitors trying to take advantage of the site’s 10-year anniversary specials and other summer specials during the current summer vacation. While the site does provide discounted hotels, it’s not exactly targeted at budget travelers – some of the rooms go for as much as ¥33,000/night for two people. There is an English site to take advantage of (which even includes a frequently updated blog about Japan), but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have the site’s full line of rooms, so using the Japanese side is recommended.

Budget travelers can look to Rakuten Travel for a larger selection of cheaper digs. Rakuten is also equipped with an English site, but if you can navigate the Japanese, you can take advantage of the full-featured search engine to narrow down housing by station, maximum price and distance from station. By searching strategically, you can find rooms at fantastic value. For example, a semi-double at City Hotel Hiroki at Kamata Station (a station that offers a decent amount of edible, drinkable and shop-able entertainment and isn’t far from central Tokyo on the Keihin-Tohoku Line) runs ¥5,400/night for two people this upcoming weekend. (If your name happens to be Hiroki, you can take advantage of the special discount rate of ¥5,000/night!)

Other websites are bringing down the price of goods. has long offered significant discounts on a variety of different merchandise. For those looking to stay out of the sun while shopping for groceries, the bulk liquor store Kakuyasu has an impressive online presence that offers free delivery 365 days a year to Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka on any order, even if it’s as little as a single can of beer. Their prices are nothing to scoff at either – the Suntory Premium Malts costs a mere ¥220/can for a 24-pack, and Asahi Super Dry is ¥193/can. Although the bulk of the products are alcohol-related, there is a decent selection of snacks and basic foodstuffs. You can get your salsa and tortilla chip fix and, if you’ve got the moral and intestinal fortitude for it, try some whale curry.

Rakuten raises the stakes

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Not content with being Japan’s No. 1 online shopping mall, Rakuten have announced plans to up their game even more by offering same-day shipping to their 50 million strong customer base. This move comes as a challenge to rivals Amazon, who already offer a similar service called oisogi bin (speedy delivery) to customers in the Kanto and Kansai region.

Rakuten, Japan's No. 1 shopping site, is upping its game

Rakuten, Japan’s No. 1 shopping site, is upping its game

According to Asiajin, up till now Rakuten’s business model has been a B2B2C (business to business to customer) model, but the new warehouses, due to be set up across the country, will streamline their operating systems, allowing Rakuten to make sure that goods are sent on the same day they are ordered.

The first warehouse is planned to be constructed in Chiba (presumably to serve Tokyo) this autumn, but Rakuten doesn’t only plan to offer this service to metropolitan areas, a further five other centers will follow over the next three years, which will also be able to service rural customers. The service may also push down delivery costs as items bought from separate Rakuten stores could easily be parcelled together.

As Rakuten tighten its grip on the domestic market, the Internet giant is also stretching its tentacles out overseas. In 2008, Rakuten set up Rakuten Ichiba Taiwan, a Taiwan-based Internet shopping site, and began an English-language version of its service that ships overseas and offers a slimmed-down range of Rakuten goods. But their biggest overseas project will launch in the latter half of this year. According to TechCrunch, China’s largest search engine, Baidu, signed a contract earlier this year with Rakuten to set up an online mall in China that is expected to quickly outstrip the competition. The Chinese version of Rakuten will initially mirror the B2B2C model of present-day Rakuten and will sell goods from popular foreign and Chinese brands as well as from smaller suppliers.

At present it seems like nothing can stop Rakuten’s inexorable rise.


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