Breeding Bluefin Tuna in captivity: A recipe for success?

When I went over to Japan- I went there with an open mind to try as much as possible. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post the first 3 weeks were a sort of ignorant bliss- I ate, enjoyed but frequently was at a loss to identify what I was eating. With one exception- I knew very well of the Japanese love of Bluefin tuna Read more

HiNGEd on Unique Stories

 “i’d rather wear a unique story…”- Boticca I’ve always been fascinated with the origin of the product I am using, eating, wearing, smelling or consuming in some way or another. I am curious about the intricate relations, history and most importantly the story that lies behind a product. I assume this is what lends itself to my passion for sustainability, and ethical issues since full transparency and Read more

Free Money + Sloths= a better life?

On the 15th September, in over 15 countries worldwide, people handed out their money two coins, or two notes at a time to complete strangers with one condition attached: the recipient must pass half this amount to someone else. Who are these people? Benevolent billionaires who would like to donate to my new handbag fund (a bona fide cause I assure you…)? Well, no Read more

Kuromame-Cha cha cha

In other words black soybean tea; possibly my most treasured discovery during my sojourn in Japan. It all began one cold spring trip to Hakone-the mountain escape for Tokyoites for a bit of rest and relaxation. My boyfriend and I were visiting to try out my first onsen (hot natural springs/baths) and experience the calmer, more picturesque side of Japan which had somewhat evaded Read more

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

I'm really sad to hear and see the terrible impact of the earthquake of magnitude 8.9 and subsequent tsunami in Japan, whose far reaching destruction is slowly revealing itself day by day. For any worried English speaking expats in Japan-a great and reassuring resource can be found here: For those on twitter you will find a number of regular tweeters who are keeping everyone Read more

How unique is UNIQLO?

UNIQLO is among one of Japan's best exports, along with their ubiquitous technology, anime, manga and J-Pop. For me UNIQLO signalled a welcome sense of familiarity when I first stepped into Japan- a country which managed to confound all my senses upon arrival. And when I say 'first stepped into Japan' I mean this in the strictest sense of the word; since my interest in Read more

Ja-Pan du jour

'This bread demands a very slow fermentation and a lot of attention. However the result is worth it; the taste is incomparable, its texture sealed in and authentic, handcrafted product' Beck Pain Gris (2010) Toit Vert- A Japanese Bakery The translation is not quite as poetic as when read in French, but this description on the bread paper sachet demonstrates the care, attention and Read more

Ain't no Blue Mountain high enough

“Coffee should be as black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love"- Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. And that's exactly how I take mine. Coffee and I have had their ups and down, I briefly abandoned my caffeinated companion following my dissertation induced sleep deprivation, in the final year of my degree. It would be more accurate to describe this Read more

Toilets ...a metaphor for Japan?

Toilets are Japan in a nutshell. Ok stick with me here, on first observations, what I have just said may sound a little disparaging about the Japanese culture, people and land. I see Japanese toilets as a wider metaphor of Japan, the paradox between tradition, ancient history and culture juxtaposed with modernity, high-technology, and the latest fashions in Asia. Juxtaposition of a traditional Inari shrine Read more

Bling bling fruit and bargain bananas

When we think of bananas and the Japanese, the heralded 'Morning banana diet' may come to mind. Indeed a banana buying craze broke out in Japan when this diet debuted in March 2008. In a week, sales increased by 70% causing a price spike and pressure on imports.  The basic premise is that by only consuming bananas for breakfast with a glass of room Read more

Negotiating the foggy waters of product labels

My greatest difficulty since arriving in Japan has been the interpretation of product labels, be it food, cosmetics or simply flushing the toilets (some of which are more hi-tech than my mobile phone-I'm sure.)  This has been a sticking point for me since I tend to analyse everything I put onto my skin and into my body-an obsessive label checker some may call it. Read more

Hyper consumerism

BUY BUY BUY! This is what hits me about Tokyo. A commercial executive’s paradise. An urban mass of noise, light, advertisements, billboards, TV screens, signs, packaging, images assaulting the sensory functions. On first impressions hyper consumerism seems to define this Asian urban hub, particularly in the busy centres of Shibuya, Shinjuku and electronic district Akihabara. Department stores huddle in conference around the Japan Rail and metro stations, shop assistants tout their wares from shop interiors, in some cases amplified by microphones, and shelves are lined with highly packaged goods for the consumer to gape at.

Well this certainly describes my experience within my first week or so in Tokyo, and I promptly stopped lecturing my boyfriend about spending so much money in Japan. After 2 and a half weeks I have managed to gain some sort of control and reined in the purse strings. But I now own an extraordinary number of tights (and pretty they are!) and re-kindled an adolescent passion for stationery (honestly why have I bought so many stickers and notebooks??). And I’ll put this largely down to the sheer quantity of advertising and effort which has been put into design and packaging. One of my weaknesses is unfortunately my susceptibility to well designed packaging (hence many pretty notebooks) and Japan does this well.

The agglomeration of department stores located in and around the train stations lends its advent to real estate development. Many of the commuter train lines are privately owned and tend to bear the same or similar names to department stores since they were designed in order to develop suburbs along the rail routes and connect them to major retail centres at the terminals. A concept first developed in the more southern city of Osaka in 1929.

My travels outside of Tokyo next week will help me determine whether this religion of consumerism is a widespread phenomenon across the country, or just defined to the nation’s capital. However every Japanese guide I have read on cities such as Osaka and Sapporo have a heavy emphasis upon shopping as a major and enticing activity. Of course we can all argue that consumerism is intrinsic to the capitalist and Western mode of living, but as a ‘Westerner’ myself I was struck by the intensity of it in Tokyo.

My next observation-the sheer quantity of packaging and plastic wrapping used in products. Everything is wrapped, even little biscuits or sweets within plastic packaging. Let me use the following examples to explain my points:

Case study 1: Chocolates from the UK

Subject: Boyfriend

Subject history: Has been in Japan for 5 months.

Case details: Upon opening a packet of chocolates bought over from England subject elicits surprise that each chocolate has not been individually wrapped.

Case Study 2: Plastic Bags

Subject: Me

Subject history: Recently arrived in Japan, tries to re-use bags where possible, owns many cotton canvas bags for this purpose.

Case details: After handing over payment for the goods, and without so much of a arigato gozaimashita! (thank you very much) from me, my goods have been plopped into a suitable sized bag and taped over.

The most conspicuous form of consumption in Tokyo is without doubt of the electrical sort, the giant television screens in popular districts such as Akihabara and Shinjuku and the glaring, flashing neon lights flooding the city centres when night time falls pay homage to this. However the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) is aiming for the city’s energy companies to reduce their reliance upon fossil fuels, having set a target of 20% renewable energy supply by 2020 as part of the Tokyo Renewable Energy Strategy. Furthermore energy consumption per capita in Tokyo is apparently among the lowest in Japan,  some of that I would put down to the high number of bicycles in the city, and its heavy use on a daily basis.

A litter free oasis….

Despite the packaging cornucopia Japan has nurtured, there are numerous recycling facilities everywhere which tend to be divided into:

  • burnable
  • non-burnable
  • recyclable bags

Though this does vary and may simply be plastic, card, and cans in some places, often located next to the ubiquitous drinks vending machines, or outside shops. However the real gem of Tokyo has been the absence of bins- a sort of reverse psychology which has succeeded very well. Very rarely will you spot a bin, and this has thus resulted in very clean streets, and a populace who instinctively take their rubbish home.


Posted on by nbunce in Blog Post 8 Comments

8 Responses to Hyper consumerism

  1. Neelam

    Excellent blog entry! How interesting! My brother is a Japan nut and I shall send him the link to your website. I would love to visit Japan, but must admit that I am a little scared of what awaits.

    Hope you are having a great time and keep the blogging up.

    Take care, Neelam xx

  2. Orchid64

    I have found that it is not the case that the population “instinctively take their rubbish home.” This is a common misconception among foreigners in Japan. What happens is that people throw trash on the ground, in the bushes, etc., but the people who live or do business where trash is thrown are meticulous about cleaning up after such people.

    In fact, I have witnessed people overtly littering on multiple occasions, and sometimes in the most absurd of circumstances. I once saw a young man come out of a convenience store, crumple his receipt and throw it into the street not 10 feet from the store’s trash bins, and then walk back into the same store. I’ve also seen tons of abandoned areas which have piles of trash left at them, especially drink cans, cigarette butts, and packs, and snack wrapping.

    Japan looks clean, but the people aren’t careful about trash unless it affects their immediate area.

  3. nbunce

    I agree that of course there are cases of littering, which isn’t helped by the lack of availability of bins. However my comments are an observation of what I have seen in Tokyo and my short forays outside the capital. I do not deny that littering does not take place but I feel it is on a much smaller scale in comparison to what I see and experience in European cities, and considering Japan is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, I do see this as a somewhat remarkable phenomenon!

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  5. torontoviewer

    I too am addicted to japanese stationary. Make sure you go to Kykyoda in Ginza (just south of Wako bldg, west side of Chuo-dori, brown brick building with arch entrance). Gorgeous traditional papers, envelopes,stationary, etc. Very popular w/japanese.
    I assume you know about Ito-ya but if you don’t, that’s another “must go to” for stationary..also in Ginza beside Matsuya departo.
    Also don’t miss Tokyo Hands (many locations) for their stationary area…I get my ‘bad english transaltion’ stationary here as well as tubed watercolours that are half the price of NA.

  6. Olga

    Hi Nadia,

    Very insightful post. I have only experienced Japan in an airport but I am fascinated by the hyperconsumerism that exists there, especially in Tokyo. There is such a care and prestige attached to brands that we have yet to learn in depth here in the US. The consumer is truly loyal and an evangelist to the products and brands that they love. I can see how easy it is to become spoiled by that special attention.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.



  7. nbunce

    Great! I cannot wait to check those places out! I read that Tokyo Hands is supposed to be quite a wacky place to check out!

  8. Emily

    Hyper consumerism as viewed by Japan Noob…

    A European recently arrived in Japan observes the culture of consumerism and the Japanese attitude towards waste….

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