Recommendation: Hard-off

Firstly- Hi eveyone I’m back!! On the 16th of December, while updating my laptop, the update broke my laptop and it is stuck in boot-loop (it still is) and I was left with a rather bad phone to try and type on.

I did try to post during this time but what once would take an hour, took over 2 days to research and type, so this post is still to come, along with several others.

So what to do? My first thought was to back up and restore my laptop and while all files and everything else still works, I could not open the recovery options. Additionally, my back-up hard-disk would not work and finally, there was no recovery save on the hard drive.

At this point, I decided to buy a Windows 10 OS disk to wipe my laptop and reinstall windows. The problem with this is that it costs 20,000 JPY and that was unacceptable. I then decided to look at buying a new laptop and this is what I decided to do.

Hard-off is a second-hand electronics store that offers laptops, PCs, Macs, new and old games and hardware (Xboxes, PS4s, Switches, Femicons, N64 etc) at a very reasonable price. I had bought a half decent laptop with 500 GB HDD, 4Gb (dual core), windows10 (32 bit) etc for 16,500 JPY including tax. The cheapest new notebook at a similar spec costs at least 60,000 JPY- but anyway I am very happy with my purchase.

My recommendation, therefore, is to go to hard-off for all your technology needs. If you are wondering/ worrying about buying something used in Japan, please don’t worry- a used product is like new in any other country.

Thank you for your patience during my period of silence.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Sanyodo, book store

Look at all those cheap books

Sanyodo is a chain book store that offers a range a large range of books, stationary and other products. Let’s take a look.

Upon entry, you are greeted with a large selection of stationary products some cheap and others not so much. If you interact with children during your time in Japan, it is likely that their stationary came from either an 100 yen store or this one.

Currently, like many shops, there is a large display of 年賀状 products (new Year’s card)- from stamps to stickers and other products- to allow full customization of the cards which the Japanese are very keen to do.

The other current main seasonal section is the Christmas section. It is here that I came across some brilliant examples of the Japanese update and modification of western tradition i.e. Christmas.

So many Christmas books

My favorite example here was an Anpanman book where he has to help Santa deliver gifts and save Christmas.

Moving on from this section, Sanyodo offers quite an extensive range of non-fiction books from health books, to PC help books, history (mostly Japanese history), a large section for middle and high students etc. Taking into account to the stores size, they have a good range of books and magazines on offer.

The final major section (disregarding the small snack selection) is the magazine section. This section offers a wide range of magazines on a wide selection of topics and as always there are many magazines which offer a special gift with the magazine- but you do have to pay more for theses magazines.

Final thoughts, I definitively do recommend this store due to the range of products on offer and the brilliant selection of stationary.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Christmas: Advent calendars in Japan?

Advent is a christian festival where they count down until Christmas and this idea of counting down to Christmas was made into the advent calendar. Each and every day, you open a card window and enjoy a little sugar rush of delicious chocolate (which is so much better than the advent candle approach where you watch a candle burn).

Traditionally, advent calendars are only found in countries with a strong christian history. Even though it could be argues that Japan has a long history of Christianity (of about 400 years), Japan is mostly secular.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw these advent calendars in Aeon of Disney characters and (even more surprisingly) a traditional Christmas scene.

An extremely typical advent Calendar design

The product features German, French and English but not Japanese. To ensure that I wasn’t going mad, I asked my Japanese colleague about advent calendars and they gave me a look of confusion and asked what it was (well more I told them what it was).

I have previously reported on this sort of product only being featured in Japan once it had been changed to reflect more of the culture, but this seems to be an complete abnormality in this area. I will need to look into this further, but advent calendars are as strange as I in Japan it seems.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: Christmas is coming

Japan has taken to the profit making market of Christmas

Within many supermarkets throughout Japan, the Christmas section is starting to bloom into a eye-sore of a seasonal isle. Aeon is no different in that respect.

Aeon offer many different types of products, some of which just look like the 七五三 products but re-branded for Christmas, most of which seem to be targeted to children and the stocking is no different.

Stockings, traditionally be hung by the fire place, are a place to put small treats to enjoy on Christmas day have in this case been pre-filled with 5 treats and have a slightly different design.

In regards to Christmas products, 1080 JPY is not a bad price but it is still expensive for what you get. It’s a good product for children or as a decoration piece but that’s about it.

There will be more Christmas related products to come, but for now, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: Plus Balance

A short review of the “plus balance” health drink

A short review of a new health drink that has hit the market

As I was travelling to work, I came across a new health drink while I was looking for a tasty protein shake. As this new one had a good amount (8 g), I decided to try it and I have to say, its not bad.

Firstly, this was bought from Lawson and they offer the drink in banana and strawberry flavors. When opening the product, it looks rather like a milky coffee but without the expected caffeine hit- I was only slightly disappointed.

Surprisingly, it actually tasted like real strawberries and not artificial strawberries- which was a win- with a slight soy taste. The drink also contains added vitamins and minerals which I did like the idea of.

A slight negative was the amount of sugar in the product but as it was part of my lunch, I didn’t mind as much.

If you can, please check it out- I recommend it (as long as your not allergic to anything in it).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Hattori stationary story

Review: Hattori stationary story

A small local business that caters to all needs

In Ueno-shi, Iga and within sight of Ueno castle (review to come), is a small shop with many hankos outside of it. The shop is located next to a cram school (塾 in Japanese), and opposite the city hall and it is a brilliant place to explore.

Firstly, they do have information available in other languages so strict Japanese in not required to shop here. Upon entry, you are greeted with a multitude of products- a small slice of heaven.

When you explore further, you can clearly see the displays of traditional Japanese stationary alongside more modern western stationary. The Japanese stationary is a brilliant display of materials for calligraphy with a wide choice of inks, brushes and paper/ writing boards.

In addition to the obvious displays, the back-wall is covered with small Japanese knickknacks of dolls, kami, and calendars- ensuring that the shop caters both to the local community and to tourists alike.

This is a shop where I have spent quite a bit of money as they have brilliant sketching supplies along with a lovely selection of traditional Japanese paper which is brilliant for gifts.

If you ever get the change, please do check this place out (and they currently offer a 50 yen off ticket for your second visit), I highly recommend it.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Okuwa supermarket

As I travel throughout Japan, it sometimes seems that I have seen every major shop possible and ocassionally, I’m wrong.

Okuwa is a smaller supermarket than Aeon but is extremely Japanese in its’ design. Upon entry, you are greeted with fresh fruit and vegetables and an extremely overpowering smell of fish. As a very quick tip, if you can smell fish, don’t buy- something has gone wrong; although the fish section didn’t smell at all.

Following on from this was the general produce section, tins, packets, etc and then the fresh bento section appeared. Everything was freshly made that day and they have a brilliant selection from rice and veg, to gyudon (beef strips and onions with rice), Italian inspired bentos, alongside extremely Japanese cuisine featuring fish, okura, and other admittedly tasty snacks.

Another feature of this supermarket is the off brand products, by favorite being the off brand Tony the tiger in the last photo.

Final thoughts: it’s not bad but it’s just a supermarket. However they offer an extreamly good bento range and there are some gems but you do need to find them.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Product: Koala Machi cookie

A sweat treat with an unexpected flavor

Ignoring snow packaging (which is extremely festive in appearance now that Halloween is over) and the name which translates to Koala city, this item was extremely eye catching and I had to try it.

Additionally, this company has donated money to help support koala foundations and has raised millions to support them.

Back to the product, they are koala shaped crunchy snacks with a soft, creamy filling and completely nourish. The usual flavor is a deep, rich chocolate filling encapsulated within a thin, crispy shell.

This is what I was expecting- I didn’t read the packaging nor look at the picture of a cheese cake like an intelligent human. When I initially tasted them, it did surprise me and the initial reaction was more of “what have I done”? The cheese cake flavoring is artificial, quite insipid and extremely strong- but somehow nice.

Japan has a thing for fake cheesecake flavored items- the worst of which was cheesecake Pokey- there were completely rancid (please don’t try) and somehow the koala crispy treats are not completely unexpected.

The ingredients are just what you would expected- all highly processed and nothing completely natural. But strangely they are called chocolate sweets but only contain coco butter as the chocolate component but they do contain cream cheese so that makes up for it I suppose.

If you get the chance, please do try them but be aware of the slightly strange flavoring.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Seria

A review of the 100 yen store Seria.

A brilliant 100 JPY store

Seria is a national 100 JPY store with locations from Kyuushu to Hokkaido that offers a extremely wide range of products. Each store is set up specifically for that location so there is a slight variation in products offered at each store.

They are very proud of a number of things ranging from products that are produced in Japan (which is 国産 in Japanese), listening to customers’ feedback about what products they would like, and offering their own branded products which increases quality and allowing them to be sold.

Interestingly, Seria comes from Italian which means “beginning” , which just like this post, where we shall begin.

Firstly the range of products is immense. They offer seasonal items from Halloween, summer camping supplies, Valentines/ White’s day crafts in a specially designed display to attract the eye and help encourage patrons- which seems to be a rather un-Japanese marketing strategy.

Next their range extends from storage and stationary products to kitchen supplies and food items. There is a good selection and the quality in the multitude of items I have bought has always been brilliant and I have not yet had any problems.

For those of you who love character products including main western and Japanese characters: including Disney, Anpanman, Doraimon, the yellow tick-tacks that love bananas, Snoopy etc, all for 100 JPY. These products are smaller and usually only offer a singular item (1 fork for example) rather than a set.

There is also a health and make-up which sells basic necessitates such as shampoo, eye liner, lipstick, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc. Of course, they also offer a wide range of masks as well.

In regards to their food products, they have a basic range- from oil and seasoning to snacks and crisps.

The only thing to note is that due to consumption tax increase, food items are 108 JPY and non-food is 110 JPY.

If you get chance please check it out, you may find something you’ll love.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: soy”meat” jerky

Random product review: soy’meat’ jerkey

A strange product in concept but quite good

If you happen to go shopping in Japan, either for food or to see the strange items on offer- there are quite a few, you will notice a few things:

  • Meat is expensive
  • alcohol is everywhere
  • anything which has not been assimilated into the Japanese Zeitgeist is ridiculously expensive

Case and point: beef jerky. Most jerky products in Japan is made from squid or seafood. It is sometimes flavored and has helped create some rather humorous YouTube videos, with more than one you-tuber freaking out at the taste/ texture.

However, beef jerky is hideously expensive for what it is. A 25 g serving will set you back 500 JPY (4.62 USD/3.57 GBP/ 4.13 EUR) which no matter how you look at it is expensive- there’s note even a “it’s cheap for Japan” because it quite clearly is not.

Enter stage left: soy-meat jerky. This product was 150 JPY and is actually a reasonable tasty (and vegetarian alternative if you were looking for one) and cheaper alternative. Opening the packet, there are flakes of soy- quite a few of them all coated in teriyaki flavoring.

Now the important question: does it resemble actual jerky? Yes it does with one exception: it’s a bit softer and therefore, in my correct opinion, much nicer. It’s a slightly chewy, teriyaki flavored flake of joy and it has little fat, a good amount of protein and little added salt.

If you are curious, they are available at Aeon stores in the health food section.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.