Thursday, June 14, 2007

Japan Stories 1 - The Typical Day

What follows is a description of a typical day in Japan accompanied by a few side stories about such things as facial blotting paper - a new-to-me product.

If I were in Tokyo now, I'd be about 45 minutes away from waking up to start the day (Friday). A typical day began with me being woken up by the light of the rising sun, which thanks to no observance of daylight savings time, meant I woke up really early (5:30 am most days).

The humidity meant my skin was always moist so doing makeup became a complete pain in the ass. I'd see women riding around on the subway and bus and wonder how they managed to get the makeup they wore to stay on. My guess is loads of powder.

They've also got facial blotting paper that can be used to sop up shine instead of using powder. This story explains the purpose and history of the paper. It's pretty interesting. The Yoji-ya company mentioned in the article has a store front in Torrance, CA. I saw this brand frequently in Japan, but I have to say I am partial to the one with the elephant logo!

The brand with the elephant logo is ubiquitous and stylish. I wish I had an image of their logo...

I probably do, but because my photos are all labeled something like IMG_1858.JPG it will be a while before I am able to locate the ideal photos to use to supplement my blog words. I didn't anticipate this problem when planning how I would post about Japan, so until I label my photos, I will have to go with stories created around photos rather than vice versa.

Anyhow, while I was shopping in Kyoto I sampled some of the facial paper. It works very well and there has got to be about a dozen different brands available.

You see, for any product you could imagine owning there are dozens of choices in Japan.

If you saw the pen selection available in Itoya, an upscale office and art supply store, you'd be blown away by the wide range of choices in everything from ink color to size and shape of the grip. And, don't forget the multitude of cases you have to choose from to store your new pens!

It's the same way with facial blotting paper. Just as there are dozens of brands of facial paper, there are also tons of different cases in which to store your paper. I was tempted to buy one of the stylish little packs but I'd need a whole cargo container's supply to keep up with the amount of oil my skin produces!

We'd usually headed out at around 7 am to catch the bus to go get food from the Family Mart (a convenience store) or at McDonald's. I don't get any mileage out of pancakes but I discovered I like the McD's hashbrown/tater-tot, so I always got one of those and a salmon onigiri and coffee from the convenience store.

Onigiri is a rice ball wrapped in papery seaweed. They are delicious, nutritious, filling, and cheap. The convenience store onigiri comes on triangular packages that are double wrapped with plastic in such a way to keep the seaweed wrapper away from the rice until you open it. The seaweed wrapper tastes much, much better when it is dry so the clever packaging is a very good idea. When you open it step-by step according to the plan you end up with is a perfectly wrapped onigiri, ready to eat.

Onigiri can be stuffed with anything, like fish eggs, which I wanted to avoid. It didn't take too many mornings for me to recognize the kanji for salmon. I just looked for the four vertical lines hanging below the boxy squiggles (below, symbol on the left) and the four horizontal lines in the symbol to the right of it.

After eating, we'd use our 500 yen metro passes good for all day use to visit a shrine, garden, or temple. That would easily eat up several hours, at which time we'd stop for refreshments or lunch. In the afternoon we'd go shopping or wander around a known area such as the Nishijin textile district. Sometimes we'd visit another shrine, garden, or temple. We'd get sensory overload around 5 or 6 pm, eat dinner, and then head back to our hotel for the night where we'd relax by watching Japanese TV.

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