Japan from Head to Toe

October 12th, 2012By Category: Arts & Entertainment, Shopping, Travel

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?” Many people would see Japan as weird, but what’s life without a little weirdness and insanity right? You’re in Japan, so you might as well enjoy your “firsts” from head to toe.

The JPop LSS

One of the sure things you will catch in Japan is the Last Song Syndrome (LSS). According to Urban Dictionary,  this usually happens when you “listen to music before going out of the house, and having the last song you hear before leaving stick in your head all through your journey, and beyond. It is usually accompanied by subconscious humming.” And what else can cause this but JPOP.

J-pop is the abbreviation for Japanese pop. It is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 90s. The term was coined by the Japanese media to distinguish Japanese music from foreign music, and now refers to most Japanese popular music.

AKB48, Morning Musume, are just some of the JPop artists that inspire teenage girls to get into music, and most especially, fashion, which is something that most Japanese women are good at. From hairstyle to colorful outfits, every clique in every corner is a reflection of how popular JPop is in this generation. Even when outside Japan, artists like Pizzicato 5, Shonen Knife and The 5,6,7,8s surely left you humming bits and pieces of their songs even when you don’t understand the lyrics.

Karaoke Craze

Now that you got that Jpop music stuck in your head all the way till the happy hour, maybe it’s time to down two or more shots of Jack Daniels and just belt it out in karaoke. Since you’re in the public singing capital of the world, you really need to try this. But where? And in a country where etiquette is everything, how?

There are plenty of karaoke bars around Japan and some tend to be tiny and geared toward businessmen and employees who want to de-stress after a dragging week of work. Many Japanese prefer to rent private rooms, equipped with a karaoke player, screen and microphones. Big karaoke chains have outlets around major train stations and have a good selection of foreign songs from different countries like Karaoke-Kan, Big Echo and 747, among others.

It’s so much better if you’re going with a Japanese speaker. He or she can help you with negotiating the price for evening sessions and unlimited drinks, and most importantly, help you with the karaoke options in Japanese. Your Japanese friend can even help you set your music selections into the song queue so you can sing non-stop if you like.

Shake it down and have fun! Just remember not to drink too much and hit your head while belting out rock tunes. Showing off and standing out from the group like it’s your major concert can even win you applause. But you must always remember your manners especially if you’re not from around town. The thrills of karaoke extend beyond the microphone and even outside the booth. Take breaks in the hallway and socialize. If you find yourself invited into a room of clapping Japanese audience, just suck it up and sing a surefire crowd pleaser. It’s okay, surely they won’t even remember you the next day.

Shop ‘til you drop

Waking up the next day after a night of long karaoke and endless sake could cause a real headache. Why not rest yourself for a while and plan a day of pampering and relaxation? Most men would go for massage or onsen baths around town. But if you’re a girl, “retail therapy” a.k.a shopping would put a smile on your face anytime…that is, if you know where to go.

Trying something for the first time when it comes to shopping and fashion can be scary. But never fear when you’re in Japan. No one would stop you if you want to dress up like the girls from AKB48 or get that Lolita gothic dress just for fun. Fashion here is a form of expression, something that almost everyone isn’t afraid to do.

Harajuku is said to be a fashion capital of the world, renowned for its unique street fashion. It is also a large shopping district that includes international and local brands, and shops selling clothes that anyone can afford. Cosplayers and Lolita fashion “princesses” hang out in Harajuku to shop for clothing and accessories and also to socialize with other people with the same interests. Lolita fashion is a fashion subculture based on Victorian-era clothing. It has been popularized by more feminine visual kei or visual style artists. Visual kei is a fashion among Japanese musicians (mostly males) that feature makeup, elaborate hairstyles and flamboyant costumes. Mana, a Japanese musical group, is one of the few groups that has been widely credited for having helped popularize Lolita fashion in the country.

But of course, if you’re not into that kind of thing, there’s always Akihabara. Akihabara or Akiba for short, is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime, and otaku goods, including new and used items. They say that if Harajuku is for fashionistas, Akihabara is for geeks and gamers. One shop that would definitely catch any geek’s attention is the Super Potato shop. Super Potato shops are specialized in used video games. There are also action figures, digipets, souvenirs and hard-to-find manga and comic books, among others.

Photo by moossye via Flickr

If you’re on a tight budget, or if you’re just starting to complete your household goods for your stay in Japan, there are lots of 100 Yen shops everywhere. These shops sell products for 105 yen per item (plus 5% tax). Selling anything from tableware to leisure goods.

Nail it and snap it!

All that shopping and walking can be exhausting and damaging to the skin of your feet. To complete your day of relaxation, get a foot massage in a foot spa somewhere and try Japan’s nail art. The popularity of anime and street fashion is also reflected on Japan’s modern nail art.

There are three methods often used for placing nail art designs on the nails. These include nail art stickers, freehand drawing using nail polish, or airbrushing using an airbrush and a stencil. Some nail artists even attach acrylics on nails to make it longer and have more space for decorations. In Japan, popular characters, beads, pearls, rings and jewels are also added to make the nails more unique and more attractive.

Getting all these things done in over a week could be possible, but don’t forget to take pictures for every “firsts” you experience in Japan. Have your picture taken by an authentic Purikura or a photo sticker booth, where you can edit your photos before you can print them on stickers for your Japan travel scrapbook. Every city has its cool feature that’s always fun and fulfilling. In fact, you can enjoy the rest of Japan by checking out ANA’s new campaign for foreign visitors, called Experience JAPAN fare. The campaign offers fares to any of ANA’s destinations within Japan for as low as 10,500 yen. Try the simple things like buying eggs from a vending machine or try wearing a yukata or learning a Japanese martial art. There are endless choices, and there’s plenty of time to do each of them.

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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