Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
On April 22nd was the annual cherry blossom hanami festival in Stockholm (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”), Sweden. It's an event organized by the Japanese Association, and we were very happy to see that they - once Read more
Top Japanese places to visit in London
In this post we have collected our top Japanese places to visit in London. The city has so many places that are connected to Japan in one way or another. In our top Read more
Best art, crafts and stationery shops in Tokyo
As a person who love all things art and crafts I've hunted down the best shops that I could find during my travels in Tokyo. Here's a guide to my personal favourites. Read more
Japan Candy Box
This is a promotional post.
The Japan Candy Box was kindly sent to us to try and review for Why So Japan. We've been wanting to try a Japanese themed box for a long time now and thanks Read more
It's been a while since we last posted about Japanese TV adverts from YouTube user JPCMHD who uploads them regularly. They're always fun to watch, and the latest upload includes adverts for Mouse the computer company, Y! Mobile with Read more
Tokyo Roar is a short film made by filmmaker Brandon Li. Brandon filmed Tokyo Roar while on a month trip in Japan. The video is Brandon’s own impression of both modern and the more traditional side to Japan. I think that Brandon has really captured Japan on film in 4 minutes. It might not be what everyone thinks and see of Japan, but from my experience in Japan it seems pretty spot on. I would say this video, for the most part, shows all the wonderful things in Japan, but it also shows to some part real life of homelessness, loneliness and also what life can be like for many Japanese day in and day out. The first time we watched the video it really hit us how he had catched Japan in the way we see it, and it had us having to watch it again to see even more details that we missed in the first viewing.
A very good friend of mine is a collector of Asian collection dolls. She introduced me to her hobby, and through her I’ve learned quite a lot. There are lots of different types of dolls, brands and manufacturers. From the world famous fashion doll Barbie to the more unique (and very expensive!) so-called ball jointed dolls of the highest quality. Then there are the in between dolls. The dolls are not toys, but are seen as collectibles or as a piece of art. Some collectors buy the dolls as they are, others modify them to make them their own. There are even specific artists who make a living on modifying and painting the dolls (doing “faceups”) and turn them into amazing creations. This industry is big in Asia and, of course, big in Japan. In this post I will introduce you to one of these collector dolls, and it is the Pullip doll.
The Pullip dolls
Pullip is classed as a fashion doll, originally from South Korea. When Pullip was first launched, it was marketed by the Japanese company June Planning. Nowadays the dolls are released by a company called Groove.
The Pullip doll is about 30 cm tall and has eye mechanism that allows the eyes to move and blink. Each month a new doll is released, and each doll is unique, often being a part of a specific theme along with previous and future releases. A popular set are the Sailor Moon themed dolls. Another on going series are the Rozen Maiden themed dolls. Sometimes a doll is a collaboration with a brand, like Japanese clothing brand Innocent World and Hello Kitty.
Where to buy Pullip
I’ve found a few places in Tokyo where they sell Pullip dolls. Kiddy Land in Harajuku, Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza och Radio Kaikan in Akihabara. I’m sure there are more shops, but those are the ones I’ve stumbled upon when I’ve been in Tokyo. If you want to buy online, there are quite a few places to get them. Ebay or Amazon is a good start.
Collecting Pullip as a creative outlet
Itis common tobuy a Pullip second hand, or get a Make ItOwnkit (which is a nude Pullip with no clothes, hair or painted face)to workwith it.You can changewigs and eyes, carve the face to change it’s features andpaintthe face (faceup) to make it look completely different. It is alsopopular toreplacethe bodyto a more disposablebodyof the brandObitsu. Many collectors also make their own clothes and other types of accessories for the dolls clothes.
“I think the biggest misconceptions about doll collecting is that it is for kids.” says Pullip collector Kiki from Canada. “The reality is that doll collecting is often paired with other things such as clothes making, photography, customization, set design, etc. I believe that very few collectors actually play with their dolls like they did when they were five. So in this sense, doll collecting is no different from other forms of collecting (i.e. stamps, coins, model cars, etc.) except I will go out on a limb and say that doll collecting is even better because it often pushes collectors to become more creative and artistic.“
Kiki got into Pullips after first seeing a picture posted by @tokyofashion on Instagram in late 2012, from a window display at Matsuya Ginza for Groove’s annual Doll Carnival. “I’ve always been interested in big-headed dolls and Japanese traditional clothing and it just so happened that the Pullips in the photo were all wear kimonos. I started to research more about them and fell in love with them.“
TimmiLynn Johnson is also a Pullip collector. She’s from Minneapolis, and got into the dolls after her twin sister came across Pullips while searching for information on Blythe dolls, and then told TimmiLynn about them. “I bought Jaldet to customize but when I got her I thought she was too pretty to customize.” she says. “There are quite a few of my dolls that I am really found of.“
TimmiLynn and her Pullip collection.
The Pullip doll community
Doll collectors meet other like minded collectors both online and in real life. They share their hobby, ask and give help and advice. “It is great to see that there are other people who are as enthusiastic about dolls as I am.” TimmiLynn says. “I also really like seeing owner photos and reviews. I have fallen in love with dolls that I originally didn’t like. The doll community is a good resource for all sorts of doll related questions that I might have.“
Kiki has the same experience. “Everyone I’ve met so far has been incredibly friendly and helpful.” she says. “Many of the experienced collectors are always willing to share tips and tricks that they’ve learned and I’ve made quite a few friends from the community. Overall, it’s very inclusive and relaxing place to be.“
If you’re interested in the Pullip dolls and want to learn more about them, here are a few places I think is a good start.
Pullip Style – Link: Pullip Style
Web shop based in the USA and discussion forum.
Pullipsandjunk FAQ – Link: Pullip FAQ and Pullip release list
A very thorough FAQ where you can find all the information you can think of about Pullips.
Omocha Crush’s reviews on YouTube – Link: Omocha Crush on YouTube
Angela is a serious collector and goes through each doll in detail. You get to see exactly what you get before you buy.
Omocha Crush Pullip and Doll HQ – Link: Omocha Crush on Facebook
Angela also has a discussion group on FaceBook where people share photos, ideas and ask questions. It’s a “safe, happy place for Pullip and doll lover’s to post pics, ask for advice, and promote their favorite links to dolly goods.”
Many thanks to Kiki and TimmiLynn for taking their time to tell me about their hobby.
It’s time for a new lot of Japanese TV adverts. Some of the ads that can be seen in the videos from JPCMHD below are: a fun ad for Fanta, which is a popular drink in Japan (our favourite Japanese flavour of Fanta has to be grape – so nice!), an ad for one of them fancy Toto Japanese toilets which I wish we had in Europe, a funny ad for UFO noodles, an ad showing the Coca-Cola campaign with names on bottles, which we had here in Europe a couple of years ago, a couple of Soft Bank ads with one of them a bit weird, well more than normal. Oh, and a flying train and of course a whole lot more.
After visiting Japan a few times and spending all our time just in and around Tokyo we discuss if we should try to venture out from Tokyo on our next trip to Japan. There were a few places we wanted to visit, them being Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. So we went about seeing how much it would end up costing if we were to travel back and forth between Tokyo and said destinations day-by-day. We did decide in the end to book a hotel room in Osaka and have that as our base, since both Kyoto and Nara were not that far away from Osaka. We started to look into how much just a round trip would cost from Tokyo to Osaka and back. We found a couple of sites that can be used to look up train prices for Japan, and the site we ended up using was HyperDia. The price of a one way trip was around 14000¥, which would make a round trip around 28000¥ and that’s without the extra trips, like traveling over to Kyoto and Nara.
We had heard about the Japan rail pass before, so we decided to look into it. The rail pass has to be bought before traveling to Japan since it’s not available in Japan. The rail pass is available as 7, 14 and 21 day pass where once the pass has started it then continues to your last day, so you can’t divide the days up. We ended up choosing the 7 day pass, which would cost around 29000¥. Depending on which travel agent you buy it from, it may cost a bit more.
How to get the rail pass
We checked where we could get the rail pass for the best price. The best price was from online store http://www.japan-rail-pass.com which was cheaper than buying it in our local Japan travel agent. Once the exchange order was ordered, we got them sent to us by FedEx within 2 days and as an added bonus we got the Japanese railways travel guide and a JR network map.
You don’t actually get a pass straight away, you get an exchange order, which you exchange once you get to Japan. It can be done at a lot of major transport hubs, i.e. train stations and airports. Just look out for an exchange office for JR. You will need to show your passport and also decide when you want your ticket to start from. We flew in to Narita airport and decided to go to the exchange office there on arrival. At the exchange office we got a form to fill in while we stood in the queue, which was quite long at the time. We started our pass from the point of exchange so we could use it on the JR NEX train into Shinjuku. The ticket can be used on almost all JR transport systems over Japan. Our first couple of days we stayed in Tokyo, so we used it a lot when and where we could, but to get the full value of the pass, you need to travel out of Tokyo on one of the many bullet trains, to earn the rail passes full value.
Riding The Bullet Train
On the day we decided to travel to Osaka we made our way to Tokyo train station, where we were to get the bullet train from. Beforehand we had checked the time-table via HyperDia. A good function on the site is that you choose which companies to travel with, and since the rail pass only works with JR we uncheck all others. You can either book a seat for free at a JR ticket office or via their booking site. Otherwise you can just get on one of the cars which is marked non-reserved. We didn’t have a problem getting a seat, but maybe if you are traveling on a Japanese public holiday you might want to pre-book seats just in case, which you can do for free.
How to use the Rail Pass
The rail pass differs from a lot of other train cards. It can’t be read by the turnstiles in Japan, so you need to always go to the side of the turnstiles, where you normally can find the station staff – either in a little booth or an office. You need to show your rail pass to the staff before entering and leaving the station. The pass does say to have your passport with you, in case the staff needs to check that the rail pass belongs to you. We had our passports with us, but didn’t need to show them at all.
If you are going to travel a bit while in Japan and not just use the local routes, more long distances like we did to Osaka, then the rail pass is great value. There are some rules and regulations around the use of the rail pass, like it can’t be used by Japanese residents. Check the official site for all the rules and regulations and you can also find a list of places that are official to sellers of the rail pass: http://www.japanrailpass.net/
Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year there is a cherry blossom festival (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”) in central Stockholm, Sweden, organized by the Japanese Association. For the public, it’s a lovely tradition to go there every year and experience a little bit of the hanami spirit even though Sweden is far away from Japan. This year the cherry trees were just beginning to flower and it was a nice sunny day. The festival was packed with people, it seems to become more and more popular each year.
A taste of traditional Japan
During the festival there were lots of stalls where you could see some of the traditional side of Japan.
Furoshiki – traditional wrapping cloth you use to wrap your gifts or goods in. Both sides of the fabric are decorated with beautiful colours and patterns.
Bonsai – Growing trees in small pots to make them grow into miniature size. The bonsai trees come from the Swedish bonsai association club, bonsaisallskapet.se. Even though none of the trees were for sale, the club members that had brought them along were very happy to talk about all things bonsai.
Origami – Folding paper and sculpturing it into shapes.
Shodō – Japanese calligraphy. This seemed to be one of the more popular stalls, where you could get your own zodiac animal sign in calligraphy, beautifully hand painted.
Kimono – A traditional Japanese garment. At the festival you could try it on to see what it’s like to wear. This was another one of the stalls that we had seen before which seemed to be very popular. We also saw lots of people walking around with kimono and yukata.