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.

 

Only in Japan…

Can you manage to survive on approximately AUD$10 for two days.

Yep, I’m down to my last 1000 yen until payday onTuesday.

Tonight’s dinner consists of Daiso food (yep, that wonderful 100 yen store) and cup sake from Family Mart (a convenience store). Sake is great for curbing appetites which is exactly what I need right now.

I think perhaps that my latest column for GetHiroshima magazine should be ‘How to Survive eating ONLY konbini food,’ or some such title relating to the topic of keeping it cheap while eating in Japan.

I thank my lucky stars that I live here and not in Australia where everything is overpriced and the quality is not always so great. Japan is the land of opportunity and the Japanese attention to detail means that even at cheap places, the quality is not compromised. The same can’t be said for many countries around the world…

So thank you Japan for keeping me fed on a strict budget.

Just don’t tell a certain man in my life that I ate konbini food again today… sshhhh! 😉

 

 

 

A dedication to my love… of 7/11 coffee!

Yes, I have a 7/11 coffee addiction and despite it being bloody hot right now in Japan I’m still drinking hot coffee in the mornings. My favorite guy at 7/11 looks at me like I’m crazy and even said last week, “Are you sure you want hot coffee? It’s too hot for that!”

I decided late last year to collect a number of the paper cups from there and to wash them out, dry them thoroughly and make something from them. I know, I’m a weirdo, but hey, creative people do stuff like this!

Yesterday I finally sat my butt down and decided to make a paper cup garland to hang in my apartment. It was super easy to make, but I will admit it took a little time because I’m fussy and wanted to get the spacing right between cups.

The string I used to connect the cups is actually a woven raffia that I bought from Daiso, so in total the garland cost me 1108 yen to make (10 cups of coffee for 100 yen each + 108 yen for the string). BARGAIN!

Here’s a photo of the finished product hanging proudly in the doorway separating my kitchen and my bedroom.

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I’m totally showing the photo to the 7/11 guy tomorrow morning when I go to get my coffee. I’m sure he’ll be very impressed! 😛