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Saturday, June 9, 2007

日本一番

Here in Taiwan, many products are sold by claiming that they are popular in Japan. The reasons why are not hard to understand. Japanese companies, after all, have a well-deserved reputation for putting out high-quality products. In addition, throughout Asia (Taiwan included) young people look towards Japan for the latest trends in design, fashion, music, 漫画 and アニメ. There's another factor at play here, as well: many Taiwanese look upon the period when the island was a Japanese colony (1895-1945) with a certain nostalgia, especially in comparison to the later, corrupt authoritarian rule by the KMT (Kuomintang/Guomindang) 中国国民党. This looking up to Japan means signs like these are a common sight all over Taiwan:

The photo on the left was taken in front of a drugstore 薬屋 in Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原(とよはら). Condoms are being promoted, with "No. 1 in Japan" and "Made in Japan" clearly visible. Above "No. 1 in Japan" is written 日本で人気No. 1・岡本コンドーム!! ("Nihon de ninki No. 1, Okamoto kondomu!!") - "Okamoto condoms, the No. 1 most popular (brand) in Japan!!". Hmm, condoms...When I was living in Japan, I found that most Japanese-made condoms were, um, too small for me. The one exception was a brand called "Beach Boy", which came in a psychedelically-colored box (it's been years, however, since I've see any being sold in Japanese drug stores). In case you think this is a case of my ego getting inflated, I once read an article by Bob Greene http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Greene, in which he described visiting a condom factory. While being given a tour of the plant, he asked a company representative how many different sizes were produced. The spokesperson replied that the question of size was a myth, and that his company produced only two sizes of condoms - a larger one for the rest of the world, and a smaller version for the Japanese market. Ouch!

The sign on the right was taken outside a store (also in Fengyuan) selling jeans ジーパン. "Nippon Blue" it says, with the characters written above 日本藍. I'd never seen the 藍 character before, as 青 is usually used for the color blue. There was some Japanese written horizontally (and read from right to left) on the right-hand side of the sign, but it didn't show up well in the photo. I suppose I couldv'e tried to work it what it said while I was there, but I didn't want to look like a dorky 外人 standing for a long time in front of a store window.

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