Category: Japan Things


A couple months back my sister gave me this 1960s-era peace symbol magnet that she received at an event organized by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. It has an interesting story to go along with it, and with all the heartbreaking conflict going on in the world in recent days (and months, and forever) it seems like as appropriate a time as ever to share it.


The following was printed on a card that came with the magnet.

After being released from an internment camp for Japanese Americans, Chiyoko and Goro Otagiri returned to Japan in 1947 to found the Otagiri Mercantile Co, which later produced these colorful, hopeful hand-made peace symbols as part of their housewares and giftware products. The symbols were shipped to San Francisco and then taken to showrooms in Los Angeles and Dallas. In 2011 a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship discovered 23 shipping crates of the peace symbols in the estate of the Dallas showroom manager. Coming from the only nation to have experienced nuclear weapons to the only nation to have used them, the peace symbols had never been opened.

Rediscovered unopened vintage products are always fascinating (especially when they’re from Japan), and this one is especially enigmatic to me since it was produced at a time when WWII was still in the very recent past, in a country that experienced some of the worst events of the war. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with it yet—it seems like a waste to just stick on my fridge—so it’ll stay on my desk for now, its bright orange color never letting me ignore it for too long.

You can learn more about the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which was originally started in the 1940s as an organization that gave support to conscientious objectors to World War II, on their website.

Silent Auction Results

We wrapped up our silent auction for Japan on Friday with a high bid of $270! That full amount has already gone to the American Red Cross, and my silly knitted factory will be going to a good home.


Thank you very much to our top bidder and to everyone who submitted a bid.

Whether or not you participated, we encourage you to give to the American Red Cross for Japan relief efforts if you haven’t already. The situation is still desperate for so many people there and recovery will take a long time.

We love you Japan!

Silent Auction for Japan

UPDATE 4 p.m. 3/17: The current high bid is $270.

Japan is very special to Mochimochi Land, and so John and I have been especially worried and heartbroken to see the terrible disasters that have continued to happen there in the past few days. We’re relieved that it seems our own friends there are all OK, but the tragedy is huge.

We wanted to do a little something to contribute to relief efforts and maybe bring some smiles in the process, so this week we’re holding a silent auction. Up for grabs is this one-of-a-kind knitted toy!


This Tiny Thing Conversion Factory takes tiny trees and converts them into tiny lions. Because why not, right? I originally made it for the “Luv-able & Hug-able” plush show at gallery hanahou in 2009, and last year it caught Roger Ebert’s eye, who made it internet famous on Twitter for a day.

The piece measures about 13 inches long and 7 inches tall. It’s made of wool yarn and polyester stuffing.

We’ll start the bidding at $50. 100% of the proceeds from this auction will go to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in Japan.

To submit your bid, send an email to with the subject “Japan Auction” and your bid in the body of the email. (We’ll update this post once a day with the current top bid.) The last day for bidding will be this Friday, March 18th.

Whether or not you participate in the silent auction, we encourage you to donate to the Red Cross if you can.

Our hearts are going out to Japan this week and beyond!

Plush-tastic Ads

On my last day in Japan last month, I was in a crowded JR train and noticed TWO ads featuring cute girls and plush mascots, one right across from the other in the car.

They’re advertising completely different things, and neither of those things are toys.

This girl and her panda puppet want you to drink Kirin green tea.


The panda seems more interested in eating the cap, though.

And this girl and her giant frog are hawking loans, of all things.


As cute as that frog is, I’m not sure if it would motivate me to take out a loan from this particular company. Then again, I’m not Japanese.

Kewpie is the New Hello Kitty

I was disheartened to find on my Japan trip that Tarako Kewpie seems to be no more. The doll dressed up as a nasty fish egg condiment that had taken the country by storm just one year ago had gone the way of Dango Sankyoudai.

But there is good news! As the ad I blogged about a earlier this month indicated, Kewpies have morphed into a Hello Kitty-like blank canvas ubiquitous to all department stores, kiosks, and souvenir shops.

Though Tarako Kewpie is gone, we now have Mushroom Kewpie and Beer Kewpie, among hundreds of other variations. You can even get Kewpies dressed up as popular anime characters.


The craft mecca Yuzawaya now has a whole wall of naked Kewpies in multiple sizes for people to dress up as their food or beverage of choice.


I suppose you can also get these in the U.S., but it seems that the Japanese have claimed Kewpie as their own. Could it make a comeback here?

Please do it at home.

I’d almost forgotten about this odd poster, which we were seeing all over the Tokyo subway stations a couple of weeks ago.


The English is an accurate translation of the Japanese—it’s just…pretty strange. (Right?) If you look closely, you’ll see that it adds “please share your seat with others” at the bottom. Seems like they could have just stuck with that line.

More Okinawa

Hello from New York! I was a little reluctant to leave Japan so soon, but the weather in NY is absolutely gorgeous, so I’ll take it. (I’ve been up since 3:30 this morning, so I got to see the beautiful morning light hit the buildings outside our window.) I also didn’t bring any knitting on the Japan trip, so I’m looking forward to picking up the needles after two weeks without.

I just finished downloading the last of my photos, and I realized I took more pics of Okinawa than I thought. So this will be the non-hermit crab Okinawa post.

First, something cute (of course!). An ad for Okinawan “snow salt” cookies at the Naha airport on the main island. (They’re really yummy.)


Iriomote-jima, where we stayed for three nights, has more than just beaches and crabs. It’s also known for its dense jungle and waterfalls. It’s not known so much for its goats, but this one was roaming around just looking to get into trouble.


John was careful not to touch him, so that he could avoid a customs nightmare when returning to the states. (It ended up being a nightmare anyway, but that’s another and not very interesting story.)

And here we have some mangrove roots.


Iriomote-jima was covered with dense mangrove forests, and the guide on the boat tour we took discussed the main three types of mangrove trees in detail, on and on, throughout the 25-minute trip. I now feel like I know all there is to know about mangroves, but only in Japanese.

After our boat tour, we took an hour-long hike to see a waterfall (sans tour guide, thankfully). On the way, I spotted this gorgeous bark.


I don’t recall what kind of tree it belongs to, but I loved its pattern.

Also this cool unfurling vine.


Here’s a shot of the waterfall we hiked to, plus a funny crow who was very interested in us.


And lastly, I found this ad at the airport at Ishigaki-jima to be pretty fascinating.


Never mind the fresh water gushing down the pristine waterfalls of a nearby island, give me the water of America! I have a feeling that this particular campaign wouldn’t do so well in its place of supposed origin.

The majority of my remaining pictures from Japan are of cute ads I found, so I’ll be posting those soon too.