Posts Tagged ‘souvenirs’

Kokeshi back in style with a new look

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Visitors to Roppongi Art Night at the end of last month were greeted by Hanako, a 13-meter-tall kokeshi doll who towered above the crowds. Despite its size, the doll’s happy, smiling face with its pink cheeks was cuteness incarnate and exemplifies how this traditional wooden doll has been given a kawaii (cute) makeover to appeal to a new generation. Once thought to be rather sinister-looking, out-of-date souvenirs, kokeshi, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, are now trending among young women.

Hanako holds sway over Tokyo Midtown during Roppongi Art Night

Armless wooden kokeshi dolls, with large heads displaying rigid expressions and bodies decorated a little more cheerfully with floral designs, have long been sold as souvenirs in hot spring resorts throughout the Tohoku region. However, a few years back, the lack of interest among the young in these dolls  meant they began collecting dust on the shelves. An aging population of kokeshi artisans did nothing to cheer up the features of these wooden figures.

The Great East Japan Earthquake, of course, has shaken things up further. While the number of souvenir-shopping tourists in Tohoku has dropped, public consciousness of the crisis has stimulated interest in the dolls. To do her bit to lend support, Genki Numata, a representative of Kokeshika Kamakura, launched the magazine Kokeshi Jidai. Even though it’s only available to order on the net and a few select stores, sales of the magazine have been brisk.

Kokeshika Kamakura, located far from Tohoku in Kamakura, Ishikawa Prefecture, sells kokeshi and attracts a lot of custom from women in their 20s to 40s. But to appeal to this new market, many kokeshi have been given a cute facelift, that make their features somewhat resemble the jolly matryoshka dolls that are also sold in-store. This kawaiification appears to have started before the quake with the modern illustrated “Kokeshi Book” being published back in 2010. But cuteness isn’t the only way to ensure the traditional craft does not die out. Artist SUZUKIKE has created abstract renderings of the doll with fluffy, spiked or totally blank heads, called COKESHI.

Highlighting the fact that kokeshi are back in style, the “Kokeshi Pop” exhibition took place in Shibuya’s Parco department store last month. The aim of the exhibit was to further fuel interest in the craft amongst the fashionable young set and also to encourage people to visit the beleaguered Tohoku region and give local economies there a much-needed boost.

Unusual souvenirs deliver Japan in a can

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Browsing the shelves of Tokyu Hands the other day, a member of the Japan Pulse team came upon a display of weird and wonderful sweeties. Among the items on sale were various cans of bizarrely flavored sweets including: katsudon (deep fried pork cutlet) drops from Aisu and yaki udon (fried noodle) drops from Kakura. After marveling at these canned items, a story in Nikkei Trendy caught our attention: From May this year, visitors to the volcanic island of Sakurajima will be able to buy cans of volcanic ash to commemorate their visit. Once we’d read that, we had to satisfy our craving for more weird and wonderful canned goods being sold as souvenirs in Japan. Here’s our roundup of what we found:

Katsudon drops with extra "source"

Aroma! Osaka: These three cans each contain aromas that are designed to conjure up the atmosphere of the city. Each can is meant to contain a smell that sums up a particular area of the city. The smell of thick stage makeup in one can is supposed to conjure up an image of Dotonbori’s theatrical past. In another can, the smell of the sea is meant to make you think of kimono-wearing mama-sans from the Kitashinchi entertainment district. The aroma of Tenpouzan, Osaka’s harbor village, is billed as a “scent of memories” — that first date on a Ferris wheel. Ahhh. Surprisingly, there’s no takoyaki (fried octopus ball) scent.

Akihabara canned oden: Oden, a soup which contains thick chunks of radish, eggs and other delights, was put into cans by Chichibu Denki and went on sale on the streets of Akihabara from vending machines back in the ‘90s. The product has been hugely popular with the town’s geeks who consume the stew while waiting in line to purchase limited-edition goods. If you’d like to try Akihabara canned oden, you can buy a can on Flutterscape.

Canned pearls: These cans contain shellfish that you are supposed to prize open to extract a pearl hidden inside. The color of the “freshwater pearl” you end up with will signify luck in a particular area of your life: a pink pearl indicates you’ll be lucky in love; white guarantees good health;  cream is for all-round good fortune; purple is for study and black bodes well for your finances. While this is not necessarily a souvenir, it can be bought at souvenir stores in seaside tourist destinations such as Matsushima.

Canned drops: These canned sweeties come in “traditional” flavors, yet not exactly the sorts of flavors you’d normally associate with candy. Each flavor is linked to a region. For Fukuoka, there’s Motsu Nabe, which captures the taste of the region’s famous offal hotpot. Yum! Others taste treats on offer include Kyoto Tsukemono (pickled vegetables), Mojiko Yaki Curry (fried curry) and Ooita Yuzu Kosyo (yuzu pepper). (Here’s a photo gallery of a few.) As mentioned, you can currently find these on the first floor of Tokyu Hands Shibuya, and online at JBox.

Hai! Douzo: What’s the perfect souvenir to bring back from a volcanic island? Canned volcanic ash, of course. The name of Sakurajima’s Hai! Douzo plays on the double meaning of “hai,” which can mean both “yes” and “ash.” We reckon that those buying the can of ash will probably be purchasing it more for the joke than for its contents. Hai! Douzo is scheduled to go on sale from May this year.

Seen any more funky souvenirs? Keep us posted in the comments below.

RSS

Recent Posts