Valentine’s Day in Japan is an interesting experience. In the picture my friend made chocolate for all her friends and called it Giri Choco. I was entertained by it, but didn’t know what that meant. I asked what the difference was and she explained it to me. There are two types of chocolate a person can receive, which is Giri Choco or Honmei Choco. Giri Choco is referred to as obligatory chocolate where not so expensive chocolate is given to guys you have no romantic feelings towards them. Some people in Japan even call it “sympathy chocolate.” Honmei Choco is the chocolate you give to someone you have romantic feelings for. Usually expensive or homemade chocolate is given to the person you like. My friend then said that my chocolate was Honmei Choco and that she expected an expensive gift on White Day. I’ll save that explanation for another day.
Don Quixote is a super market store that is found all over Japan. Walking into the store you’ll hear this catchy jingle that goes “don don don don ki, donki ho-te.” This place is awesome in the sense that you can get a variety of items for a cheap price. I liked going here for my grocery shopping and getting so many different snacks. They also had fireworks on sale, but I decided not to buy them since I was more hungry than reckless. If you are traveling in Japan and want some snacks and you see a sign like the one in the picture or the penguin character then know that they got an array of food in there that won’t hurt your wallet. Plus you can go souvenir shopping by getting limited edition kit-kats.
If you plan on living in Japan as a student, worker etc., then you’ll need a hanko (判子)/inkan( 印鑑) or stamp seal. It is used like a signature and there will be designated places in official documents to place your seal. You would think that you would have to spend exuberant amounts of money to have your own seal, but that is not the case. You can make a seal in a store called Don Quixote (ドンキホーテ, donki ho-te) for 500 yen. If you think about it this makes a pretty cool gift for friends and family. Also just to let you know they have the option to use the alphabet, but you are only allowed 4 characters. If you need a case for your hanko then go to the nearest 100 yen shop and they’ll have something available. Once you use your seal don’t forget to clean off the ink because it will be a pain later on.
Osaka castle was remodeled to be a museum with exhibits on the history of the castle. This is due to the fact that the castle was destroyed many times because of the battles that happened on the grounds like the Siege of Osaka and even in World War II. On the second floor of the castle you have the opportunity to wear a kabuto (Japanese Helmet) and jinbaori (surcoat) for 300 yen. These replicas allow visitors the chance to see how heavy the helmet was to wear and the surcoat to go with it. The jinbaori was made for armored samurai to wear in battle. It is considered a form of kimono like jacket called a haori. The style of the kabuto helmets in the photo started in the Azuchi-Momoyama period as a way to provide visibility and presence on the field. They also have swords available as props for the photo you take with the items on. Also if you do not want to try the armor items then they also have kosodes (basic Japanese robe) available.
My Neighbor Totoro is a classic Studio Ghibli movie that is loved by many and in Japan you can find shops like the one in the picture in random places. These Studio Ghibli specialty shops have a variety of goods from different movies like Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service. I like the fact that I could find shops like this without having to go to the Ghibli Museum. There was this Totoro Shop in Kyoto that my friends and I found and they were selling this gigantic Totoro stuffed animal for 92,400 yen. It would be awesome to have it, but a pain to bring it back to the states. These Totoro shops are great places to get Studio Ghibli souvenirs.