Month: November 2014

YouMe Mall

CatGirl Poster

Catgirls sell eyeliner in Japan

The first thing I noticed coming into Beppu’s YouMe mall was a cardboard catgirl advertising makeup. It was probably eyeliner; her wingtipped eyeliner played into the cat theme, along with her ears and leopard print dress.

I never get bored in a mall in Japan. Even the most mundane items are made interesting because of cute or strange packaging (e.g. cat litter showing a cat pinching its nose, Sailor Moon feminine pads). I love Japanese fashion, so every shop was filled with a motherlode of Awesome. Because I can’t buy every shirt with a cat on it, I settled for taking pictures of stuff that caught my eye instead.

The toy stores were nostalgic; I didn’t expect to recognize so many familiar characters. They had everything from those little bunny dolls to the plastic Go Fish game. Browsing the aisles made me realize how international the toy market is.

No Japanese mall is complete without an arcade center. I don’t like arcade games myself, because I’m convinced they are all rigged against me (I especially fail at crane machines). My APU classmates really enjoyed them, particularly Namco’s Taiko game. I tried it once. Although I was clearly an amateur from my poor score, hitting the drums in tune with cute characters’ instructions on a screen was fun. The game was like Guitar Hero with drums.

Arcade games

Arcade games at Youme mall

A prime feature of the arcade center is purikkura, picture booths. Schoolgirls love them, as I often saw uniformed groups hanging around the booths. Entering purikkura was a bit awkward for me, but my APU group wanted to take pictures every time we went by a machine. A cheery female voice tells you which poses to make, and afterwards you can draw or put stickers on the digital images. The photos then print out of the side of the machine. Each machine has a different theme, and all of them have auto-enhancing features that make your skin look smooth. I wish school photos were automatically surface-blurred for the yearbook.

Japanese schoolgirls

Schoolgirls check out one of the purikkura stations

I thought it was strange that outside one purikkura center there was a sign forbidding two boys from entering without a girl (escort?). There were male/female cutout shapes like those you see on bathroom doors. Girls? Ok! A girl and a guy? Ok! Guys and a girl? Fine! Just boys? Not allowed! At first I was put off by thinking it might be gay discrimination. I asked one of my teachers, and she supposed it was to deter rough boys who might mess around and break the machine. Perhaps, she said, the center had had trouble with groups of boys damaging their property. Apparently they assumed that as long as there was a girl in a group, guys would be calmer and less likely to abuse the machines.

As I mentioned a couple posts back, I love Japan’s creative use of English in their marketing. You-Me has a friendly connotation of “a mall for You and Me”. It also looks similiar to youmei, ‘famous’. A famous mall for you and me!


Malicious Mushroom

shiitake mushroom photo from wikipedia

Shiitake mushroom growing on wood. By frankenstoen from Portland, Oregon

Watch out for allergies when studying abroad. Make sure to bring all necessary medications, with a Yakkan Shoumei if need be (certificate that allows you to bring more than one month’s supply of prescription medication into Japan). Finding information on how to acquire a medicine certificate was difficult, and in the end, no one ever checked it at customs. Still, I felt safer being prepared. Note that stimulants, such as those containing Methamphetamine or Amphetamine (found in ADHD medications) are banned in Japan. Narcotics are also banned.

A Q&A pdf can be found here:

More information on importing medications here:

Studying abroad is not the best time to discover you have an allergy you never knew existed. Early in the program, our group went out to eat at a Korean barbeque place in downtown Beppu. It was a big, fancy restaurant with long tables and zabuton pillows to sit on. I’ve been to yakiniku (BBQ) places in Sacramento where you fry your own food at the table, so I had an idea of what to expect. These places fill up with steam and smoke, so if you are sensitive to stuffy air, you probably want to avoid yakiniku. With this many people, it was difficult to share the table grill. The main point was to provide a comfortable setting to be social and get to know the group. To be honest, my experience in Sacramento was by far more pleasant and delicious.

grill at yakiniku restaurant

The grill placed onto our table at the yakiniku restaurant.

I love mushrooms. My favorite is Portabella, ever since having a Portabella sandwich at UC Davis in California. I would never gather and eat wild mushrooms, because I’m afraid I’d pick poisonous ones by mistake. Death caps look an awful lot like other, edible mushrooms. I’d had mushroom dishes of various varieties before my trip to Japan, and enjoyed them all.

I had no idea why I had a rash a day or so after eating out. It quickly grew worse, until I had itchy bumps all over my body. Alarmed, I went to the health clinic to get answers. The nurses there referred me to a skin doctor. I was very glad that I had a Japanese friend escort me (thanks Anri!). The clinic was tiny, with only two or three examination rooms. None of the staff spoke any English. Not the women at the front desk, nor the doctor. If you visit a health clinic off-campus, be prepared for a language barrier or take someone with you to interpret.

The doctor only had to look once at the rash before recognizing it as shiitake mushroom poisoning. The rash appears in distinct lines, as though the skin has been clawed by an animal. I found out later that shiitake allergy is rare. A reaction can happen when the mushroom is not thoroughly cooked. That mushroom I had taken off the grill at the yakiniku place hadn’t been cooked free of all its toxins. In fact, it had probably been mostly raw.

For the following week I was a miserable, red and itchy mess. The salve and medicine the doctor gave me helped clear it up, but wearing clothing and doing anything that chafed skin still hurt for quite a while.

Yakiniku Restaurant

Yakiniku Restaurant – Korean barbecue.

Wikipedia only has a brief mention of the allergy: “Rarely, consumption of raw or slightly cooked shiitake mushrooms may evoke signs of allergy, including “an erythematous, micro-papular, streaky, extremely pruriginous rash” that occurs all over the body including face and scalp, appearing about 48 hours after consumption and disappearing after several days. This effect, presumably caused by the polysaccharide lentinan, is known in Asia but is unfamiliar to Europeans. Although it may occur in roughly 2% of the population, thorough cooking may eliminate allergenicity.”[1]

Now that I know I’m allergic to shiitake, I try to avoid it. Since coming back from Japan I’ve only had one light reaction after eating at a Chinese restaurant. Fortunately, the rash’s “claw marks” were faint because the mushrooms had been cooked better.

I’m happy and grateful that I had support when I got sick. I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to break out in an unknown rash when alone in a foreign country. When you travel anywhere, always have a plan for sudden sickness or injury, because the unexpected will happen.

[1] Wikipedia contributors. “Shiitake.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

An International University Still Has Engrish

Drawing of Professor Toilet

Toilet sensei teaches you the right way to flush

At a university with multinational students and English language education, I might expect that the signs around campus would have quality English, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Most public signs at Asia Pacific University (APU) were in both Japanese and English. I don’t know why they didn’t include languages like Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese, seeing as how there is probably a greater population of those students than English speakers. I suspect it is because English looks cool and impressive to native Japanese.

Everyone loves Engrish; there are entire websites dedicated to posting Engrish examples. Engrish happens when another language is poorly translated into English, sometimes with humorous and illogical results. English is an extremely difficult language to learn. It is full of irregular grammar forms and subtleties that even native speakers have a hell of a time getting right. I should know; I’m taking editorial classes, and all those dangling modifiers and case forms give me a headache. You think you know English, until taking a grammar class. I have great pity and awe for ESL students.

That said, it is little wonder that Engrish happens. However, considering that there are an abundance of English professors and some native English speakers on APU’s campus, it shouldn’t be too hard to get something proofread before printing it on a public sign. Some examples were bathroom and cafeteria postings. The sentences might have been technically correct, but in a wrong tense or just unnaturally phrased. On the tray return, a plastic sign read, “Give attention to a thing left behind. Have you forgotten left card or cash on your tray?” In the bathroom, “The faucet has not been turned off properly. Please check whether water has stopped” (all that last one needs is a ‘may not have’ instead of ‘has not’).

Honestly, it was enjoyable for me to find and read Engrish, which might be why English students don’t bother correcting any of the awkward phrases. They’re cute, and make me smile. The best English is on commercial packaging. Because English looks cool, stores create English mottos using positive sounding words. The nonsensical phrases might not work in America, but they are trendy in Japan. I hope these examples make you smile as much as I did.

Most of these are from You-Me mall, in Beppu:


Our tiny dream touch your heart. “Simple smile”, natural frame of mind. What’s up babie? I’m gonna tell you something goods. Here is the name, “ACT-1”. By the way, do you know it? “ACT-1” means we wish we wanna be First-Action for find your favorites. You must meet something brand-new here. What do you find something today, Friends, Goods, or Lovers? Come up and see me! Be yourself. Be simple mind. Always come here, surely you get comfortable feeling.

That hip English slang definitely gave me a comfortable feeling. I looked, but I couldn’t find a Lover at Act-1. False advertising.

Belparrot x Fiofio:

If you dress up in your favorite way, gloomy will be blown away!

This is my favorite. It’s sweet, adorable and true.


Casual Smile ♫ It is light-hearted that can be put on and ease daily. Clothes put on because it is free.

They didn’t offer free clothes.

(I don’t know the name of this store):

It is for positive girls who never forget a sense of fun. Based on the item which is girlish and edgy, trend-mixed life sized style is for you…

R Can Can:

We make you happy with shoes.


Happy trade. Happy ethnic.

Happy ethnic?