Cucumber Pepsi and Kimchi Hoax

There, for a time being was a big hoopla over a limited edition “Cucumber Pepsi” that were sold in Japanese conbinis. Apparently a marketing gimmick, Pepsi of Japan marketed the drink for a limited run, and then, in a bid to perhaps to create an aura of legend behind(if one can indeed create a legend around a sody-pop), stopped making any more of the stuff.

In the latest issue of Business Week, there’s an article about it:

“Only a lucky few ever got to try Pepsi’s Ice Cucumber soda. The pale green drink began appearing on shelves at Japanese convenience stores in early June… A couple of weeks later, all 4.8million bottles of Ice Cucumber had sold out. But instead of ratcheting up production, Pepsi brand managers in Japan did the unthinkable: They discontinued the drink. “We didn’t want it on the market past the summer,” says Keiko Ishihara, who oversees PepsiCo Inc. (PEP ) sales for Suntory, the Tokyo beverage maker that markets the soda giant’s products in Japan. “The value of Ice Cucumber is that it’s gone already.”

It might seem strange to kill off a product at the peak of its popularity. But for Pepsi, Ice Cucumber was largely a marketing stunt: a way to generate buzz for the brand in what is arguably the world’s most cutthroat beverage market. It’s a $30 billion-a-year business in Japan, spanning everything from run-of-the-mill brown colas to drinks derived from green tea, coffee, and even kimchee, the spicy cabbage mix that is a staple of Korean cuisine. Of the estimated 1,500 drinks that come to market each year, only a handful survive long enough to win a loyal following.”

This is what I find most perplexing. Not the fact that the drink was on the market for a couple of weeks, but rather, this writer of the article mentions a “drink derived from ‘kimchee’, the spicy cabbage mix that is a staple of Korean cuisine.”

I suspect the reporter has never traveled to Japan, and certainly not for this story, since the whole “Kimchi Drink” thing is a hoax, perpetrated first here, at good ol’ Tigers and Cranes. Here’s the article from September of last year, where I talk about “Kimchi Coolpis”, a non-existent beverage thought to be found in Korea, and certainly not in Japan.

Don’t believe everything you hear…

NHK Studio Park

I think the time has come for me to talk about Domo-Kun. Some of you may know him, some of you may think he’s great, some of you may loathe him. All in all, I’m about four years too late writing about the brown fuzzy monster, but what the heck. I’ve never claimed that I was with the times…

Anyway, here’s what our mute, flatulent friend looks like:

Who exactly is he? why, he’s the mascot(yes, still) of NHK broadcasting of Japan. NHK is a quasi-government funded channel that one can get through the air in Japan, and unlike in America, say, where PBS never really bothers anyone, quite often you can find the NHK dude knocking on your door to make you pay for watching NHK.

I used to tell the NHK tax collector “I don’t watch NHK, so I’m not paying”, which is a total lie, as I happen to like the stations.

So why exactly does a TV station need a mascot? Well, that’s a silly question. For example, NBC in America has the peacock, and CBS has the creepy eye. And while not as conventional, NHK has decided to use a squarish brown monster who hatched from an egg, who lives with an elderly rabbit and a bat, and her son, as well as having a crush on a yellow weasel with a cellphone.

no, really.

I generally like to avoid Shibuya, especially during the day time, as the place seems to plant migraines in my head, but up on a hill, in Shibuya, is the NHK Broadcasting station as well as the NHK Studio Park, which I decided to visit on a one sultry, humid day.

First thing that greeted me there was a large Domo-Kun shaped post box, and a slot in which to deposit one’s mail. His mouth, natch.

I must’ve been there on a special day, since the park was thronging with kids everywhere, and I was surrounded by kids and their parents. Although, I have to admit, the children were extraordinarily well behaved.

Entering the studio proper, one can see many interesting things, such as live filming of NHK dramas, News casts, small museums and memorabilia, snack shop, and of course, souvenir shops, where one can get myriad Domo-Kun and Nanami-chan (a squirrel, I think, with a hypercephallus syndrome) knick knacks. It says on this photo I took, she’s 77.7 cm tall(damn, that’s a big squirrel!) and weighs 7.77 Kg. Ha! I just got the joke as I’m typing this. “Nana” means “seven” in Japanese counting system.
Sorry, I’m kind of slow sometimes.

The whole tour of the premises shouldn’t take one more than about an hour, and it’s a fun diversion aways from madness that can be Shibuya. It’s also interesting to note all the old shows and actual filming that goes on there, and I caught glimpse of popular stars who regularly appear on variety shows.

I dreaded walking back to the train station in the stifling heat, but the Studio was thoughtful enough to provide a shuttle back to the station.

Starcraft Origami

Origami, the art of folding paper is strangely therapeutic.

Long time ago, after I “graduated” from college and was a wastrel because I had no marketable skills, I whiled away my time in my studio apartment throwing playing cards into a hat(try it… it’s very addicting), and folding origami animals to pass time.

I sometimes miss those simpler times.

On another subject, it’s no secret that Koreans are absolutely bonkers over a computer game called “Starcraft”, made by a company in Irvine called Blizzard. I used to work for this company at one point, and even so, I could never understand the total fanatical devotion Koreans have for this game.

Flipping on the TV in Seoul, and wading through hundreds of cable channels that hey have over there, I came across some strange channels, such ones devoted to Go, or Baduk, fishing channel(two of them), a kung fu channel, and to my disbelief, two channels…TWO CHANNELS devoted to broadcasting Starcraft matches 24 hours a day. And this was couple of months ago.

Do you realize this game was released over seven years ago? That is ancient history in computer terms, let alone a video game. You’ve heard of a dude dying because he played some game for over three days straight without eating? Starcraft.

I recently received a call from an old coworker who still works at Blizzard. He was telling me he was traveling to Seoul, in what I assumed was a leisure travel.

“So, do you know where I can meet hot Korean girls?”
“Hm. You’re asking the wrong person. Why are you going to Seoul anyway?” I asked.
“We’re releasing Starcraft Two, and the launch event is in Korea…”
“Geez, you’re announcing the game in Korea? Why?”
“Well, you know how devoted Koreans are to our game, so we decided to reward them by making the announcement and showing the game there before anywhere else.”

I present you with some pictures origami, which I can only assume are made by a Korean otaku. In case you’re not familiar, all of the paper foldings here are units and things from the game, Starcraft. Made with such care and attention to detail, it made my jaw drop.

What, did you think Japan is the only country with nerdy fanatics?

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Use Provillus to Treat Your Thinning Hair

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