Monday, September 26, 2011

Now That's Recycling -- Part Two!

A Pocari Sweat bottle-turned-plant pot? My design instinct appreciates the matching bottle (though not visible in my photos, there are three or four planters attached to this tree). And it takes a certain acumen to view a bottle neck an as upside down planter drain. Yet, I am sure we would all agree that nipping this problem in the bud, i.e. making, and buying, fewer plastic, PET bottles, appeals more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Coin Lockers

Coin lockers have a life of their own in Japan. A relative rarity in the U.S., they are common fixtures at train stations from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Aside from their day job of providing temporary storage for small parcels, spare coats and unneeded umbrellas, many function like that extra closet you wish you had. I had heard about people who use coin lockers to stow their goods on a permanent basis. Apartments, and even houses, in Japan can be so small that many people are unable to store all of their possessions in one place and often distribute the overflow among their parents' home, their friend's garage and a multitude of rental options. Though some spring for a room at a bona fide storage facility (of which there are many, even in the heart of the city), others make do with a coin locker or two. I had not observed this practice with my own eyes until the other day when I had to venture out into the sticks to do an interview.

While waiting for my subject to swing by the station to pick me up in his silver roadster, I chanced upon this bank of lockers. Affixed to the locker door is a little notice asking renters to use the locker for no more than three days. Payment seems to take place at the time of retrieval. Please note that this person has already racked up a tab of Y3200 -- at Y400 a day, that's 8 days and a whole lot of Y100 coins! I wonder what they've got squirreled away in there ... dirty laundry, rock collection, a musical instrument??? The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Imagine My Surprise When I ....

.... got into an elevator this afternoon expecting to ride to the seventh floor only to discover that there was no seventh floor. Or any odd numbered floor for that matter. What ??? It was kind of an Alfred Hitchcock moment. Noting my consternation, a fellow passenger explained that I had to go to up to floor eight and take the stairs down from there.

After my meeting, I got into the elevator on the seventh floor and discovered that there weren't any even numbered floors listed. Apparently this 70s vintage building (wouldn't want to be there during an earthquake!) has two, side-by-side elevators, one for even floors and one for odds. Somehow I have the idea that this was a design concept that never really took off. But it is kind of quaint in its own, Alice-in-Wonderland way.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ita Choco

Sadly, this past weekend was our last in Minakami. We had some fun times there but we just weren't using the house enough to warrant holding onto it. I will miss a number of things about those weekends, including those jaunts to Besia -- they were a real cultural experience. We rarely bought anything besides groceries. Yet each time I unearthed something weird or interesting to look at. Consequently, this last visit was kind of bittersweet for me.

My find-of-the-day on Saturday was Ita Choco, the latest from the folks over at Morinaga. I absolutely love the package graphics (especially the bold color scheme and the retro font) and the architectural metaphor (ita = board or plank) did not go unnoticed either. Pronounced "eat-a-choco," this name was surely someone's idea of bilingual fun.

As you can see, the concept is a bar of chocolate divided into hollow "boards." Instead of loading these compartments with caramel or nougat, each one is filled with vanilla-ish ice cream.

Regrettably, we mistakenly put the bar in the fridge when we got home. As a result, the ice cream was a bit runny and difficult to eat round robin style as we are wont to do but I am sure you get the picture.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Omamori on the Go

I am a great believer in the power of Omamori and seldom does a New Year holiday pass when we do not visit Zojoji to get our annual fix. Designed to protect and shield us from misfortune throughout the year, these little embroidered, cloth amulets are sold at shrines and temples. Containing a small piece of paper with a prayer on it, they are good for a year but then need to be properly discarded at a shrine or temple and replaced. Some of the most common Omamori protect against illness, insure good grades and guard us from traffic accidents. During my pregnancy years, I always carried an Omamori for a safe birth.

It is very common to see Omamori dangling from a car's rear view mirror or, in the case of sticker-style amulets, pasted onto a car's backside. But never had I ever seen an Omamori attached to a bicycle until we drove by this two-wheeler the other day. Parked in front of the Cartier building near Omotesando, it looked like a conventional, black bike. But then my eye gravitated towards the little yellow pouch suspended from its seat bottom. What a clever idea! Is there a special amulet for cyclists? Since we just bought a bicycle last weekend, I shall have to investigate. If you have any leads, please let me know.