The answer is: a metal box


This is the kind of small, smart answers Japanese find to trivial problems such as “HOW THE HELL CAN I STOP LOOSING THESE HAIR PINS?”
I bet most of you have had this moment where, two days after buying three packs of bobby pins, being late for a very important meeting, you find yourself looking in the corners of your house, under the pillows and in every drawer, for one pin to tame that rebellious strand of hair; but -no surprise- you cannot find it!!

While looking around in a hundred yen shop, I saw one of these metal boxes. I didn’t think much of it at first, especially with the colorful plastic package it came in. But I thought I’d give a try because you never have too many bobby pins (especially with hair like mine in humidity like the one in Japan), and mostly because they were made in Japan, out of curiosity as how different are the Japanese products.
Unpacked, these little boxes look just beautiful. They fit nicely in the small pocket of my bag and they don’t open easily to spill their content everywhere.
But most of all, they looked cute. Not Japanese cute (no offence to Japanese friends), just cute as in if they had a small brand sign engraved on a corner, I’m sure they’d sell nicely in a bigger shop for a higher price.

What it takes to come to Japan

When I decided to come to Japan, some of my friends said I was crazy: at 27, I had a decent job, finally a car that doesn’t threaten of breaking down every 5km, and great friends that were more family than friends.
Most of my friends said I had guts.
Some people told me I needed to learn as much as I could about the culture before going in order to blend in, learn some Japanese as well…
In my luggage I took Moroccan tea, dried mint and some spices. I mean, you wouldn’t expect me to survive without Moroccan mint tea and Ras el Hanout*!!
But I was so wrong. It doesn’t take guts to come to Japan, after all Japan is one of the safest places on earth: in 3 years here, not once did I even hear two people arguing in the street (a nostalgic sigh for the lively streets of Casablanca). It doesn’t take Moroccan tea, you get so quickly used to drinking green tea after all. Spices don’t matter all that much neither, because after a while you learn where to find them and you even start to appreciate and cook Japanese.
So what do you need to come to Japan?
1- Nice hair: If you have frizzy, unruly hair, just get ready to suffer. In summer it is so humid it is just comical. After spending hours with the hair dryer, as soon as my locks smell a whiff of the outside air, it goes into a crazy dance. Can you blame Moroccan hair for dancing?? Really!!
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2- A lean figure: otherwise, good luck with the shopping. I mean it is almost a must to be slim here that I am surprised they don’t put it as a requirement for getting a visa. Whether you are in university or in a company, you have to go through a yearly health check where they won’t hesitate to point out any extra around your waist line. On a more practical level, whether it is a kimono or a small tutu skirt you want to get, you’d better be small (both in width as in height). My shopping since I came here is all jeans from Uniqlo, an I am not all that tall!!!

3- A good tolerance to cuteness: because wherever you turn your head it is sickeningly cute. Even the garbage truck rolls around with a cute melody and small and stuffed animals. even make up cases are all sparkly and shiny. It is just all so nice, glossy and sparkly that sometimes you wonder if it is not all a big joke.

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4- A short memory: because you will get used to cuteness, and eventually will love it. So all the illuminations around Christmas time will start feeling romantic, and you will fall in love with the small sparkly phone case. So you’d better forget all the prejudices you had about cuteness 🙂

But most of all, you’ll need an open mind and a good sense of humour. Because as much as it fascinating and enjoyable to be in Japan, you quickly understand that it can get very lonely as well. So better take it all with a smile and just enjoy the ride…while it lasts 🙂

*Ras el Hanout: a Moroccan mixture of spices including (but not restricted to) cumin, nutmeg…