Category Archives: Japan

Nadeshiko Japan Star Sawa Announces Retirement

Sawa Homare lifts the 2011 World Cup

It’s very difficult to imagine anyone ever matching the record of Nadeshiko Japan legend Sawa Homare.

The football veteran and Japan captain (37), who plays for INAC Kobe Leonessa, held a press conference in Tokyo on December 17 to announce that this will be her last season wearing the uniform. The event was attended by about 300 journalists and filmed by more than 15 TV cameras for live broadcast on all TV networks.

In a career that spanned 25 years, Sawa has been a central figure in the rise of Japan to the very pinnacle of world soccer. She played her first game for the Yomiuri Beleza senior team at the tender age of 12, and was only 15 when she made her debut for the national team in 1993. She went on to play in a phenomenal six World Cups and four Olympics, gaining a record 205 caps and 83 goals for her country. As captain the midfielder led Japan to two Women’s World Cup finals, lifting the trophy in 2011, a year that saw her named as FIFA’s World Player of the Year and top scorer and MVP at the World Cup. That title lifted the country’s spirits just four months after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, and the national team was given the People’s Honor Award by the Japanese government.

Japan manager Norio Sasaki said, “She led women’s soccer in Japan for many years, a great player who played in many World Cups and Olympics with the national side.” He added, “She scored at crunch moments and led us to victories in many matches. She’s one of the special players I’ve met in my career. It’s unfortunate she’s retiring, but I hope she continues to shine in the next stage of her life.”

At the club level, Sawa moved back and forth between leagues in japan and the United States – after starting with Beleza she moved to the U.S. in 1999, playing for the Denver Diamonds and Atlanta Beat for a total of four years. In 2004, Sawa she was back with Beleza, where she scored 47 times in 85 games. Another two seasons were spent with the Washington Freedom in 2009-10 before she joined INAC ahead of the 2011 season.

Sawa announced in August that she had married former Vegalta Sendai player Hiroaki Tsujikami (38).

The Games of Summer

Kingyo Sukui

Kingyo Sukui literally means “goldfish scooping” and if you’ve ever been to Japanese summer matsuri (festival) you will no doubt have seen this game in action. You have a plastic scoop with a thin paper center with which you have to try to catch as many small, live goldfish swimming in a small pool as you can before the paper dissolves in the water. These days it’s more likely to be small plastic toys that you try to scoop up, which is more in keeping with current attitudes to the treatment of animals. And let’s face it, kids these days are probably more likely to look after a few little One Piece figures that care for real live fish. or it could be little rubber fish, Kitty Chans, Anpanman, or any number of popular characters.

Whatever the catch of the day, this simple game is a perennial favorite at all matsuri. Another is water yoyos, which are simply water filled balloons on a rubber string. Like kingyo sukui, the challenge is to catch them with a metal hook on a length of paper “string” before the paper dissolves. And like kingyo sukui, it’s not as easy as it looks. The challenge in kingyo sukui can be modified by using different grades of paper – the thicker the paper, the longer it lasts and the easier it is to catch something.

These games are increasingly becoming part of Japanese-themed culture festivals at schools and colleges across the world. And with their simple rules and setup, as well as the colorful prizes to be won, they make an easy but unique and appealing addition to any summer event.

Everything that you need to set up your own kingyo sukui or water yoyo stall is available from our Japan Store.

This is Not the Dreamliner You’re Looking For

Star Wars Dreamliner

Having just seen the tantalizing second trailer for the upcoming Star Wars movie, I’m excited. Like I was as a teenager back in 1977. And when you mix that excitement with my love of airplanes…well, I just had to share! ANA, one of Japan’s major airlines, has released this artists’s impression of their planned Star Wars tie-up. And it just may be the coolest looking airliner I’ve ever seen.

There were probably lots of ideas for how this could be done, but the bringing together of Boeing’s innovative 787 airliner and the most iconic and loveable droid ever is pure genius. Forget kids, adults will be swarming to get a ride on this plane.

As you probably know by now, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the seventh installment in the series and carrying the huge weight of expectation, is due for release this Christmas. Can’t wait.

Japan Post Announcement


Japan Post announced at the end of December 2013 that it is no longer possible to add Registered Mail to packages sent by Economy Airmail to the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Greenland

We will of course continue to ship to these countries. But please be aware that if you choose Free or Economy shipping, you will not have a tracking code for the package. So we would advise customers in those countries to choose Airmail or Express.

Japan Post announcement (Japanese only)

Happy New Year of the Horse

A belated Happy New Year to all of our customers. 2013 was a good year for us and 2014, the Year of the Horse in the 12-year zodiac, is off to a galloping start. We’re seeing lots more orders than we did at this time last year, so that’s a good sign that things are starting to pick up in the global economy. And of course in our case the weakened Yen helps.

Gold plated horse
A gold-plated bronze horse, sold by Ginza Tanaka in Nagoya for ¥15 million.

People here in Aichi prefecture have a reputation for liking things gaudy and expensive. So it was no surprise to see one jewelry store in Nagoya promoting its New Year sale with this ¥15 million ($150,000) full-size, gold-plated bronze horse. Although it’s modeled on an actual racehorse, that’s a lot to spend on a horse that’s not going to earn its keep by winning a steeplechase or two. If that’s too rich for your blood, Ginza Tanaka is also selling gold statuettes and oban (traditional oval coins) with a horse motif for a more moest ¥1.4-1.7 million ($14-17,000).

But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get your year off to a golden start. Our store lineup now includes a gorgeous little gold Maneki Neko, or lucky beckoning cat. These figures are traditional placed in the entranceway of a home or business, where they beckon to new customers, friends or even lovers! And the gold symbolizes the fortune that is headed your way. A bargain for just $25.95.

Boycotting Amazon Japan

Amazon Japan sells whale meat products
Amazon Japan sells whale meat products
Following an expose by the highly regarded Environmental Investigation Agency of whale and cetacean products sold through Amazon Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon Inc, we here at Japan Store have decided to no longer purchase anything from Amazon until the company imposes a ban on such products.

Not only do we object in principle to the sale of such products and the unnecessary hunting of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans, but scientific analysis of the meat being sold reveals that it consistently contains levels of toxins far exceeding the safe levels dictated by the Japanese government. And these products often contain meat from endangered and protected cetacean species, or meat that is not specifically identified and is likely to be dolphin or porpoise.

You can read EIA’s extensive report here:’s Unpalatable Profits

We encourage you to leave a message on Amazon’s Facebook wall here: on Facebook

I should mention that unfortunately Rakuten also has thousands of listings for whale and cetacean food products – almost 2,800 if you search for 鯨 (whale) and almost 1,200 if you search for 鯨肉 (whale meat). While Japan Store is not affiliated with Rakuten, we do source some of our products there and a boycott of the service would have a serious impact on the operation of this store.

And for the record, Yahoo! Japan also sells these products.

Mark McBennett
Owner, Japan Store

Update: It’s only been half a day since I posted this blog entry and the news just came in – Amazon Japan have removed all whale and whale-related food products from their online store. It remains to be seen if this will be a permanent move and whether Amazon Japan will issue a formal policy statement. But still, wow! Social media pressure rocks!