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Japan still bazaar for the bizarre

shops for oddities

by Geoff Botting

It’s not news that Japan is a vast emporium for some of the weirdest products ever retailed on the planet. We’ve all read the stories about high-tech toilet seats, used schoolgirls’ underwear, million-yen pet beetles, canned whale blubber, and so on.

Even so, this is an endless and ever-changing list , and I’ve been asked to seek out a small sample of some of the lesser-known, but nonetheless strange items currently on offer from the nation’s retailers.

Pulsating stones

If you’re a guy who is woefully deficient when it comes to attaining sex, money and power, then it’s time to acquire a few “strong pulse gems.” These stones — whatever type they are; the ads don’t actually say — are guaranteed to turn around the life of even the most pathetic loser. Or so promises Collaborate Inc., which markets the jewelry from glossy magazine advertisements in men’s magazines.

“Making a man’s desires come alive!” shouts one ad, which profiles several guys who credit the stones with instantly transforming them from impoverished, celibacy-suffering nobodies into wealthy babe magnets.

A couple of them are seen lying under piles of 10,000 yen bills while others are in the embrace of scantily dressed women.

Take Seiji Ishii. Before acquiring his first set of stones, he was a 29-year-old security guard whose “mangy face” tended to scare the ladies away, we’re told. But since then, he’s bedded dozens of women and even managed to win a lottery or two.

And it’s all thanks to the throbbing stones.

The price of success in bed and the pachinko parlor is around 10,000 yen per bracelet. Collect all six and you get a discount.

Erotic figurines

Gum ball machines have long been icons of a more innocent age, maybe not in Japan, but certainly in North America. Kids would put their nickel in a rotary dial, turn it and out would came a ball-shaped piece of gum or perhaps a jawbreaker.

Nowadays in Japan, you insert your three to five 100-coins yen in similar kind of machine, twist the knob and out comes — pornography.

This type of erotica comes in the form of small figurines of naked or near-naked young women inside plastic spheres. I tried my hand at “Bust Model,” situated outside a video shop on Nakano Broadway, which for 300 yen offered five female characters, all with — you guessed it — gargantuan chests. There was a maid, bunny girl, office lady, cat woman and, of course, uniformed schoolgirl, and a turn of the dial would decide which one I would get. It was the latter that popped out.

Nutria

It and the others were clothed. However, the prices depend on the explicitness of the items on offer. The adjacent 500 yen machine boasted an all nude selection that included a naked ninja girl.

“Pet Station” in my Tokyo neighborhood of Koenji has all kinds of animals for sale, from parrots to monkeys to terriers, all incarcerated in bare and tiny metal cages, naturally. But what really caught my attention recently were a pair of what appeared to be beavers.

A pet stop worker informed me that the animals are in fact kind of rare South American rodent called a nutria.

They may be rodents but they’re a lot bigger than any rat you’ll ever see, weighing in at as much as 16 kg and growing to a meter in length.

But at least the giant rodents are cheap. Pet Station sells them for about 10,000 yen a piece, a tenth the price of the highly disgruntled Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, whose tiny cage was stacked atop the nutrias’.

Tea-cup poodles

Perhaps more suitable for Tokyo pet owners but no less bizarre are “teacup poodles.” As their name suggests, these dogs are so small that they fit inside tea cups, a least while still in the growing stages.

Indeed, this is the chosen manner of display for some retailers (see picture).

These rat-sized creatures are a hot item in Japan, presumably due to their kawaii (cute) factor and the fact that their tiny size is just about right for one-room mansions.

On a weight per yen basis, they may be among the most expensive breeds on Earth — each one of the little rascals, which weigh just 1.5 kg when fully grown, will set you back 650,000 yen.

Cosplay

Cosplay, short for “costume play,” is a hobby that involves dressing up in elaborate costumes, kind of like having Halloween whenever one feels like it.

It’s also a trend which has spread rapidly in the last few years, not just in Japan but in some other countries as well. Which explains why more and more shops selling nothing but cosplay’s most essential item — the costumes — are starting to pop up all over the place here

Most of these costumes seem to cater to people whose sense of aesthetics is chronically challenged, as they look as if they were designed by an insane person who took a lot of LSD and was told to create the most outlandish clothes imaginable.

The items are typically replete with exaggerated puffy shoulders and lots of frilly trim, and usually based on characters from the genre of anime or video games.

And no, these tacky items don’t come cheap. At a store in Nakano Broadway, a shopping paradise for geeks, the typical price range was 30,000-40,000 yen per outfit.

Which prompts me to conclude that never before in the field of human endeavor has so much been paid by so many for something so ridiculous-looking. Happy shopping.