Goods

My Favorite Youkai Watch Youkais

One of the big hits in Japan this year was Youkai Watch (妖怪ウォッチ), the insanely popular video game/anime/toy series. There are TWO Youkai Watch corners planned for this year’s Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦) (one each for the otherwise unknown singers of Youkai Watch’s theme songs, King Cream Soda [キング・クリームソーダ] and Dream5, each with Arashi [嵐] to give them a hand/give adults something to look at). McDonald’s Japan’s yearly calendar, which has been Pokemon-themed for years, is Youkai Watch-themed this year. Youkai Watch will definitely hit the US in 2015.

I played the first game on 3DS. It’s a pretty fun game, although it’s a bit easy since it’s for kids, and it’s such a Pokemon rip-off I’m surprised that Game Freak doesn’t sue (why would a youkai evolve??). But the character design is adorable! So I want to introduce you to some of my favorite youkai.

Yametaishi (やめたい師)

やめたい師

Yametaishi is my favorite youkai, and as far as I can tell, he has a popularity ranking of about zero. Listen to his voice! Look at those eyebrows! His name is a pun on “yametai shi (辞めたいし/I wanna quit)” and “shi (師),” which denotes a master. He evolves from “Tsudzukanasou (つづかな僧),” which is also a pun (almost all youkai names are puns) translating to “I probably won’t keep it up.”

Hikikoumori (ヒキコウモリ)

Hikikoumori

Hikikoumori’s name is a combination of “hikikomori (引きこもり),” which is the name for people afflicted with such terrible anxiety that they never leave their house, and “koumori (コウモリ),” which means “bat.” It’s a very obvious pun, but it works. I really like how Hikikoumori’s wings are blankets, and she stays wrapped up in them. She looks so cozy!

Zukyukyunta (ズキュキュン太)

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♥♥♥ KYAAAAAAAAAAA!!! ♥♥♥

Hida Beef Burgers at Lotteria: Tender, Juicy, and Expensive

I’ve been to the Hida (飛騨) area in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県/Gifu-ken) twice now, and I highly recommended it. Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gero Onsen (下呂温泉) are amazing, and if you’re looking for a place to travel in Japan that’s just a little out of the way, you should check them out. But the best thing about Hida is the Hida beef (飛騨牛/Hida gyuu). This is Hida beef:

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Hida beef often comes served in the “hooba miso (朴葉味噌)” style, where slices of beef and tofu are laid on top of miso, which is spread over a kind of leaf (you don’t eat the leaf).

So when I saw that Lotteria, home of all the weird burgers, was selling a Hida beef burger with hooba miso sauce, I knew I had to give it a try.

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As you can see, the price is a rather steep ¥1,300. As this includes a drink OR a salad OR french fries, it’s not quite a bargain. Still, my husband and I shelled out for two of them.

As I entered my local Lotteria, I saw a sign above the counter proclaiming that the Hida beef burger was “10食限定 (juushoku gentei/limited to 10 servings).” I was able to take 2 home.

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As the box explains, Lotteria is currently in the middle of a campaign where a burger made from a different brand of Japanese beef goes on sale on the 29th of each month (肉の日[niku no hi/meat day]).

Let’s take a look at the Hida beef burger:

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Who put this thing together?

Lopsidedness aside, the burger was pretty straightforward. The patty was big and thick, and there was miso sauce on top, and some kind of different sauce on the bottom. There were no vegetables.

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The hamburger was a hamburg steak (ハンバーグ), with onions inside it. It was soft and juicy, and really good. The miso was sweet; the bit of bread left after I finished the burger (thanks to the lopsided construction) was soaked in the miso sauce and became a nice dessert. But I don’t know if it was worth ¥1300. Maybe about ¥800 or so. My husband pointed out that hamburg steaks usually contain egg, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients meant to make the patty thick and soft, so we don’t even know how much of this was actually Hida beef.

Like all of Lotteria’s crazy items, it’s something to try just for the sake of trying. I’m thinking of trying the Kobe beef (神戸牛/Kobe gyuu) burger when it comes out in January 2015. But I won’t be eating the Hida beef burger again. I can’t wait to go back to Gifu and eat real Hida beef.

When It Comes to Characters, Squishy and Limbless is Best

I really love the Tryworks character Kapibara-san (カピバラさん/Mr. (?) Capybara). Here are just a few of the Kapibara-san items I own:

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Isn’t it adorable? Real capybaras are adorable too, in a similar kind of way; they both seem hopeless and helpless, yet carefree.

I also like another character by Sanrio called Kutsushita Nyanko (靴下にゃんこ/Socks Kitty).

靴下にゃんこ

There are several factors that draw me to these characters.

1) Like I said above, there’s the helpless-yet-carefree angle, presented in both the situations the characters are shown in, and also in things like small, almost useless limbs (no fingers or toes).

2) There’s also the big eyes and small-to-nonexistent mouth, the combination of which encourages empathy towards the character, while presenting them as non-threatening (no teeth, probably can’t talk much either [non-judgmental]). This combination can be seen in many of Japan’s most popular characters, including Hello Kitty (ハローキティ) and Rilakkuma (リラックマ/Relaxed Bear).

3) Finally, there’s a very important soft-and-squishy aspect to these characters, which manifests itself both in the literal merchandise being stuffed animal-heavy, and the character design just looking smushable.

Now, let’s compare these characters to Mickey Mouse.

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1) Long limbs; big feet in big, clunky shoes; almost-fully formed hands with opposable thumbs. He’s definitely not helpless. He could probably kick your butt.

2) His eyes are biggish but his mouth is even bigger.

3) He doesn’t look squishy at all; if anything, he looks more wiry and muscular.

Mickey Mouse is super popular in Japan too, along with the Japanese characters I mentioned above. However, I, personally, am not into him. In fact, by my standards of cuteness listed above, the only Disney character I find cute is mayyyyyybe Winnie the Pooh.

But!

I recently downloaded the app Tsum Tsum (pronounced “tsumu tsumu,” from 積む積む, “stack stack”), a Disney-sponsored game connected to the Line app. While the game itself is a lowest-common-denominator version of the match-3 formula, the opening animation almost brought me to tears the first time I saw it:

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No mouths! No legs! No fingers! Undeniably squishy! Is this really Disney?

You can even buy stuffed Tsum Tsum in the Disney Store!

I’m taking the existence of Tsum Tsum as proof that the world is waking up to the appeal of the soft, weak, cute character.

How about you? Do you dig?

Steam Eye Masks by Megurhythm (and Gendered Marketing)

I get headaches, a lot. I also destroy my eyes by pretty much constantly staring into a screen whenever I have free time (like I’m doing right now). So Jouki de Hot Eyemask (蒸気でホットアイマスク/Hot Steam Eyemask) eyemasks made by Megurhythm (めぐリズム) are a lifesaver.

They come in a box like this:

megurhythm eyemask box

This is the big 14-pack, but they come in smaller boxes, too. My preferred scent is Kanjuku Yuzu (完熟ゆず/Ripe Yuzu), but they also come in Lavender Sage (ラベンダーセージ), Sakitate Rose (咲きたてローズ/Just-Bloomed Rose), Camomile Ginger (カモミールジンジャー), Eucalyptus Green (ユーカリグリーン), Fresh Mint (フレッシュミント), and Mukouryou (無香料/Unscented).

When you open the box, there are a bunch of little packs like this:

eyemask package

In which you can find a mask like this:

eyemask

Through some process that I don’t understand, the mask begins to heat up as soon as it’s out of the package. You put the little holes over your ears, and the mask covers your eyes and warms them up. There’s actually invisible steam being produced; it makes your eyelids feel a bit moist when you take the mask off. The package claims that the heat lasts about 10 minutes, but I find that it actually lasts a while longer, depending on the temperature of the room.

These masks have amazing reviews on Amazon, and I super recommend them if you have any problems with headaches/eyeaches/dry eye etc.

That being said, the way these eyemasks are marketed is a textbook case of companies gendering things that don’t really need to be gendered.

Here is a commercial covering all the scents other than Fresh Mint:

「目つき、険しくなっていない?」「なんとかして!」”You’re looking pretty severe around the eyes.” “Do something!”

And here’s the commercial for Fresh Mint (notice the different package design):

「これができる男の昼休みよ!」”This is how successful men spend their lunch break!”

So, women want to relax their eyes, because god forbid they don’t look cute and wink-y after spending all day doing office work. Men, on the other hand, want to refresh their eyes so they can be awake and alert to finish the rest of their 16-hour shift. (Where would you even go during your lunch break to sit with a mask on for 10 minutes, anyways? Hog a bathroom stall? I bet there’d be at least one co-worker who would play pranks on you if you just sat there at your desk blindfolded.) The “woman” eyemasks and “man” eyemasks even have different webpages.

So next time you go to the drugstore, check these masks out, but go ahead and buy whichever scent you want, no matter what pronouns you use.

Jouki de Hot Eyemask Official Site for Ladies

Jouki de Hot Eyemask Official Site for Gentlemen

Fancy umeboshi from Ousu no Sato

umeboshi in a bag

This is 京一輪 (Kyouichirin? I think?), a big, fancy, expensive umeboshi from Ousu no Sato (おうすの里) in Gion.

Kyouichirin umeboshi cost 300 yen. Not per box–300 yen each!

umeboshi in rice

This thing costs 300 yen! But it’s sooooooo good!

Umeboshi range from honey-sweetened to mouth-puckeringly sour, but Kyouichirin is the sweetest umeboshi I’ve ever tasted. It tastes like a fruit, without any hint of sour or pickly taste.

squished umeboshi

This is how I eat umeboshi. Watch out for the pit!

Ousu no Sato is on the left side of Shijo Street (四条通) if you’re walking up the street with Kawaramachi Station (河原町) behind you.

Ousu no Sato Official Site