Thursday, February 13, 2003

I'm in Tokyo. It's an interesting place. I've been pondering the nature of souvenirs. I came to the conclusion that the really interesting souvenirs are not the things that are typically (perhaps stereotypically) Japanese, such as rice paper wood block prints (ukiyo-e) or Hakata dolls, since, because of their fundamentally iconic association with Japan, every time some random gallery or antique shop wants to represent "Japaneseness", these are the very things they'll offer you. Consequently, bring home one of these (admittedly, although conventionally, attractive) items and your home will resemble nothing so much as the local Pier 1 Imports.

So, what to bring home as a reminder of your time in far-away places? Toiletries. Candy. Matchbooks. Flyers. Brochures. In other words, the ephemera of daily living. Why? I think that the answer lies in there very ordinariness - these items are too inconsequential, pointless, or just plain goofy for any trend-following importer of Japaniana to bother with.

Having said this, of course, some kind soul will surely send me the URL to these very items on J-List, which I will promptly ignore, fuck you very much.

Finally, since I'm here for work, I have now visited a couple of IBM offices in Tokyo and was very surprised when my chaperon handed me a small packet of tissues before I went to the bathroom. Apparently, IBM (and most other large companies) have stopped providing paper towels to their employees as a cost-saving measure (yes, I know - IBM haven't quite stooped to this level yet, but you get the idea).

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