The Daiso Diaries: Chapter 1

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Happy Midsummer or Litha! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on. If you do know what I’m talking about, read on anyway… this is The Daiso Diaries. You know it’s going to be quality stuff. 😉

Wednesday 21, as in two days ago was the Summer Solstice. For all you hippies out there, you know this and most Japanese people know this too simply because they’re so into seasons. My Western counterparts, however, may not.

The Summer Solstice is the height of summer in that it’s the longest day (i.e. longest amount of sunlight) and the shortest night. Lots of Pagan festivals centre around this and our ancestors would have celebrated it, but for us living in the modern world, we’ve mostly forgotten.

Why am I talking about it here? Well, because like the rest of Japanese society that is obsessed with the seasons, Daiso too uses it to maximum advantage.

Thus, this week’s column and the first official chapter of The Daiso Diaries is about the great summer products now available.

Living and working in Japan you cannot help but be influenced by what’s going on around you. That means that sometime ago I started decorating my apartment for each season and special event on the calendar.

I picked up a great little summer decoration for my front door the other day that features a very summer pastime: catching goldfish or kingyo (金魚). At any matsuri (祭り) or festival you will find pools of water where you can scoop up your very own goldfish and take it home.

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Daiso also has sensu (扇子) or foldable fans, hats and those crazy long arm protectors that many Japanese women are fanatical about.

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Clothing and accessories aside there is also a great collection of fake sunflowers and the beautiful blue hydrangeas or ajisai (紫陽花) as they say in Japanese. Yes, in nature there are also pink ones, but these don’t seem to be as popular and aren’t featured as fake flowers to buy for summer from Daiso. For those gardening geeks (or just interested people), hydrangeas change colour based on the pH level of the soil. The more alkaline, the pinker they get. Therefore, to make them extra blue you need to increase the acidity of the soil. Wow, the things you learn from The Daiso Diaries. I can feel how impressed you are through your computer/smartphone.

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Heading to the kitchen section I also found this great summer drinks glass. With its candy stripes and thick straw, it reminds me of summer days at the beach or festivals with icy, sticky drinks from my childhood. It’s a little difficult to see in the photo, but it actually says, ‘Country Fair Drinking Jar,’ on the glass. Exactly. At the moment, I’m using it to drink iced tea from, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be using it for something alcohol related in the next few weeks. 🙂 Oh, who am I kidding?! I’ve been using it for awhile now with alcohol. I feel it makes me a little classier than sipping chuuhai (チューハイ) from the can when I’m at home.

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Oh and if you like smelling good all the time and are sweating like a pig in this summer humidity (and thus, not smelling as sweet as you usually do), then the scented body sheets are for you. Most are usually cool and refreshing, as well as being scented and so you end up feeling a little like your body just brushed its teeth and then drank water. Yep, that slightly stinging/burning sensation, but refreshingly icy, minty, cool and clean feel too. For just 100 yen (+ the obligatory 8% tax), that’s a bargain and much, much cheaper (and just as good, if not better) than some of the ones you can buy at places like Wants.

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So there you have it… the essentials you can find at Daiso to keep you cool, calm and collected (and your apartment well decorated!) for summer.

Stay cool and I’ll back again next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daiso Diaries: Prologue

おはようございます!(Ohayou gozaimasu!) Good morning!

Yes, today is the day when I can finally reveal my secret… the column that is shrouded in mystery and…

Okay, okay, to be honest, it’s probably not that exciting for you, but for me and for those who share my love and slight obsession with a very Japanese shop, you will understand.

Introducing… The Daiso Diaries!

Yes, this is the new column that brings you all the lovely, interesting, fun, sometimes useless, sometimes very helpful items that can be found in that ‘Warehouse of Warehouses’ (no my fellow Aussies, I don’t mean Bunnings!) now loved by people all over the world:

Daiso.

Wow.

Where to begin?

Well, possibly with a little history of the whole endeavour and enterprise that is the brainchild and true love of Mr. Hirotake Yano, the Daiso President. But before all that, a quick introduction as to why I decided to write about Daiso.

Firstly, this column has been in the pipeline for awhile now. I first mentioned my interest in writing about Daiso last year back when I was writing for GetHiroshima magazine and of course, writing my weekly column for their website. I had jotted down various notes on pieces of scrap paper, typed notes on my phone and just mulled over the idea. I didn’t pursue it.

This year I was happy and content to finish up my konbini [コンビニ] column but I must admit, something was missing from my life. I was writing every single day, but I didn’t have a passion for something like I did last year with konbini. I remembered Daiso and let me just say, it was the first thing I’ve been truly excited about in over a year. That alone means more than anyone could possibly know.

Okay, getting back to the Daiso story and Mr. Yano…

Yano-san was born in 1943 and back when Daiso was still a glimmer in his eye, he had a history of owning and operating a small shop called, ‘Yano Shoten,’ which specialised in… you got it, 100 yen products. In 1977, he founded Daiso and the rest they say, is history!

Daiso now operates in over 26 countries and has over 3000 stores. For a man who regards himself as nothing special, that is a major achievement. Perhaps it is his humble nature combined with his love for good quality products and the belief that he can always do better, is what makes Daiso the worldwide success it is today. Mr. Yano is adaptable in a world that is constantly craving new and innovative new products that will keep them entertained, surprised and most of all, products that are fun. In fact, many Westerners are often surprised by the very traditional and sometimes completely irrational (to them/us anyway!) ways of thinking that sometimes mean things are done in an old-school fashion instead of adopting new methods that are more efficient. In that respect, Mr. Yano is way ahead of his other Japanese business counterparts and is it possibly this, that is the main reason for Daiso’s domestic and international success.

I won’t continue to bore you with factual stuff; you can read about that for yourself on the websites at the bottom of this. I will say, however, that the purpose of this column is much the same as my konbini one: I just want to share with others the fun and useful products I find at Daiso, do product reviews, recommend things I think are cool or quirky and tell you what things I’m not so keen on (i.e. I think they suck- I’m fairly sure I won’t have that issue with Daiso though!) Many people (especially Japanese people) won’t understand why I am so interested in Daiso, but I’m hoping that those who love/loved my konbini column (or have an interest in Daiso and/or other awesome aspects of Japanese culture) will follow me on this new and always exciting, life-changing journey and exploration of all things that are…

The Daiso Diaries!

Oh and for those of you who might be curious as to the missing anpan [あんパン ] or sweet red bean paste bun that 7-Eleven whipped off their shelves with lightning speed and no explanation…

It seems from my sources and careful investigation (meaning I nabbed myself a copy of their latest in-store products catalogue for June) that it has indeed vanished with possibly no return. What’s interesting though is that they’ve decided to release two new products featuring anko [餡こ] or the sweet red bean paste. I hate to say it, but one of them is a direct copy of another very famous product from the Yamazaki brand and bakery. Another dumb business move from 7-Eleven. I’ve given up I think. He, I mean, they, clearly need to be ditched. Moving on. You will never, ever be Number 1 in my heart again 7-Eleven.

We.

Are.

Over.

See you next week!

Click here for the official Japanese Daiso website (in Japanese… obviously, DUH!)

Click here for the English version.

 

The Missing Anpan and A New Love: Konbini is back! Kind of…

As I wrote the other day, I have decided to release this column here, rather than on GetHiroshima’s website as I have the control. Sure, I might have less exposure here, but it also means I own the rights to my stories and writing exclusively. Of course, I’m also hoping that you all help me and send this link to everyone you know if you think they will also like it. 🙂

I apologise again for the technical issues I had the other day trying to upload this (thanks Softbank for reconnecting me, but no thanks for the nearly $300 phonebill!)

I hope you enjoy reading it. I was originally hoping that it would be published on GetHiroshima on June 2 in time for the official start to summer, but it wasn’t to be. Hence, my decision and so, after this prequel to my column… I will be uploading the official column next Friday 16th June. Enjoy!

 

For me, last year was all about konbini [コンビニ] or convenience stores as they’re known in English. Yes, I still like them and yes, I’m still excited when I discover new products, but it’s not the only thing I’m interested in. It’s also not the only thing I’m all about.

I feel a bit like one of those actresses who are typecast: Helena Bonham Carter perhaps, always the crazy woman, or maybe an actress like Sarah Jessica Parker who will forever be known as Carrie Bradshaw, despite playing different characters in other movies and TV shows. Just like them, I don’t want to be known as Jack Crispy, the konbini junkie forever… which brings me to another point and that is the fact that I have some news…

But…. and there is a but… I don’t want to build your hopes up. Crispy’s C(K)onbini Capers is not making a return. I have, however, decided to start writing a new weekly column about something else that is very close to my heart.

Before I tell you all about that though, I want to share two things about konbini I’ve discovered since I spoke to you people last.

Firstly, a local supporter of GetHiroshima and a reader of my column emailed Paul to ask if she could interview me. She had followed it religiously each week and had also seen me on the first episode of Deep Hiroshima Salon. I had a blast talking to her and was thrilled when she told me about a magazine that is COMPLETELY dedicated to… KONBINI! I kid you not. How could I NOT have known about this?! It’s called ‘コンビニ月刊’ [‘Konbini Gekkan’] which literally means ‘Convenience Monthly.’ Let’s just hope that 7-Eleven isn’t employing whoever thought of that original title to create any of their new products.

Anyway, the magazine is specifically for those people who are interested in having their own konbini franchise, but of course, anyone is welcome to read it. I couldn’t help grinning about it and thinking that there are other weirdos out there who have a konbini obsession like me. Does that mean I’m a konbini otaku [オタク] or nerd? Probably. It’s a badge I’m fully willing to wear. J

The second story relates to my current feelings about a certain konbini. As you know, I’ve been in love with konbini for years, particularly my loyal and constant companion, Mr. 7-Eleven. Well, let me just say, 7-Eleven the one constant man, I mean, konbini in my life, who I can always trust, has stuffed up. It’s the first time I’ve been disappointed and it’s a horrible feeling. I feel betrayed. It might just be a one-off, but it was and is, a BIG thing. For some bizarre, freakin’ INSANE reason, 7-Eleven has decided to take their anpan [あんパン ], yes, that sweet red bean paste bun, off the shelves. Yes, you read that correctly. Not exactly a smart business move 7-Eleven, considering it’s one of your most popular products. I’m hoping it’s because they’re altering the recipe to make it mind-blowing, life-altering and better than sex, but seriously, I thought they’d already perfected it. Why fix something when it’s not broken?! I suspect it’s for an entirely different reason, but try as I might, I cannot think what it might be.

Even the konbini staff seem puzzled by the whole thing. One of the men who serves me regularly responded to my, “あんパンがありますか?” (“Anpan ga arimasu ka?) meaning, “Do you have any anpan?” with “ありますよ。” (Arimasu yo), which means, yes, we do and hence, you’re in luck.

He led me to the pan (パン) or bread section and was just as aghast and confused as me when his search proved futile. He had no idea why they didn’t have any in stock and thus, I realised he also had no knowledge that they have seemingly disappeared from Planet Earth. In other words, he hasn’t been given any information regarding the product either. Two strikes 7-Eleven; now you’re not even informing your staff of product changes and new products?! WTF.

I decided to do my own sleuthing, just like Nancy Drew and so I went from 7-Eleven to 7-Eleven, around my own neighbourhood and further afield in search of the missing anpan.

Nothing.

They.

Are.

Gone.

I’m not sure if they’re ever coming back and so suddenly, my love for konbini and indeed, 7-Eleven, isn’t as pure as it once was.

That’s not why I’ve decided to write a new column though. It’s simply because I had so much fun eating/drinking, I mean researching and writing about konbini last year that I realised I need a new project to throw my love at.

So… without further ado, I will be writing about…

You know what? You’re going to have to wait until next week to find out. insert evil laughter here

Yep, I’m going to leave you hanging, just like 7-Eleven has done with me. Except, I promise you, I will deliver the goods; you’ve heard it from me. Let’s just hope 7-Eleven does too. I need to have my faith in konbini restored.

 

 

 

Watch this space! 

Today was my personal deadline for making this decision… The decision to begin posting my new column on here exclusively. If a big publication is interested in my work, contact me. 

As you all know I’ve reached the point where I don’t chase anyone anymore and to be honest, I don’t trust that many people to keep their promises. The only person I truly rely on now is myself and by posting my own stuff weekly I know it will get done. I’m a stickler for deadlines and I expect people to do the same for me. I’m a fucking professional. 

So without further ado, I will be revealing the prequel to my new column tonight. 

Until then, enjoy your day.