A Floor Made of Pottery (Literally)


During my last trip to southern Japan I tripped across a really unique place: a pottery shop called Maruhiro. I’m not usually all that into pottery, but what jumped out at me was the design of the place.

After you walk in, the majority of the shop floor is elevated–on a base of imperfect ceramics! Located in Nagasaki prefecture, Hasami has been a pottery town since the middle of the last millennium (well over 400 years). Several centuries of pottery production means millions of pieces sold–and thousands of rejects. So rather than trash them, Tokyo-based designer Yusuke Seki came up with the idea to turn them into an elevated floor–about 25,000 pieces in total, set in concrete.

Have a look…and make sure to drop by to see for yourself when you have a chance!

Maruharo 1

Maruharo 2

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 4.44.23 PM

Hasami’s location in southern Japan


A Place Where You Can Pay with KitKats!


How’s this for creative marketing?

Train travelers using the Sanriku Railway network in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture can now use KitKats as train passes.

The concept is part of a scheme by Nestlé to rejuvenate tourism in the northern province, following the devastating effects of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake.

Customers can buy special packs of KitKat for less than the cost of a standard ticket as part of the initiative, which is the first time a Japanese rail company has allowed confectionery packaging to be used as a method of payment.

The move isn’t the first time Nestlé has helped the Sanriku railway get back on track following the natural disaster.

In 2011 the brand discovered that members of the reconstruction team were gifting one another KitKat treats as messages of encouragement, due to the similarity between the its name and the Japanese phrase “Kitto-Katsu,” meaning “you will surely win.”

Consequently, the brand began donating 20 yen (around $0.20) to the rebuilding project for each bar exchanged.

KitKat has also decorated two of the trains and two of the rebuilt stations with cherry blossom motifs, which symbolize hope in Japan.

KitKat train in Japan's Iwate Prefecture.

KitKat train in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture.

The move comes as the Japanese government recently announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi to tourists who register their passport details upon arriving in the country, in a bid to boost visits from foreign travelers.

KitKat train tickets will be available this month and will be valid on Sanriku Railway trains through May 2015.

December 14th: Hug Day!


Finally, Korean “tradition” has taken a break from uber-capitalism! As December means the arrival of Winter, and the 14th is always a special day in Korea, this is the day for couples to hug and keep each other warm from the cold weather.

We love the sentiment, and the fact that this is the first of Korea’s traditional “14th” holidays not to be blatantly pushing a sales message!

SEL Hugging Heart

November 14th: Movie Day! (+ Pepero Day Bonus!)


I think it’s pretty well documented that Korean marketers must have clearly run out of ideas for interesting, pleasant or charming traditional holidays, and here is further evidence. What do couples in Korea do today? That’s right….go watch a movie.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just start a business and then somehow make a nation of 50 million people adapt supporting your business as a cultural tradition?!?

Worth nothing, just three days ago was “Pepero Day”, on which young lovers exchange Pepero brand biscuit sticks. The idea, apparently, is that the sticks next to each other resemble the number “11”, and so they are a fitting thing to eat on 11/11. As Koreans are also obsessed with being tall and skinny, they are also supposed to serve as a symbol of good luck to attaining such a figure, although we’ve yet to find a doctor who suggests that eating chocolate covered biscuits will help anyone get there.


October 14th: Wine Day! (+ Apple Day Bonus!)


As with last month’s “Photo & Music Day”, it seems as though Korean marketers are just no longer trying at this point. Yet, if the public takes the idea and runs with it, it’s a success…and therefore, day is the day for couples to share a bottle of wine together in Korea!

October gives you a bonus though, holiday lovers. Coming up in just 10 days, there is another special day: Apple Day. As the Korean word for apple (sa-kwa) also means to apologize, this is the day for couples to apologize to each other for past mistakes and exchange apples (which again, leads me to question the sincerity of the holiday, but let’s never mind that little issue for now). Wine makes us all happy!

September 14th: Photo & Music Day!


As every 14th is celebrated as some special holiday in Korea, it is difficult to keep the ideas fresh and unique, especially now as we inch our way towards the double-digit months. While I’ve suspected before that many of these “traditions” are more the product of corporate marketing departments more so than any real cultural-rooted thing, it seems now that they aren’t even trying to cover it up anymore!

As you may guess, today is the day that couples are supposed to take photos together, perhaps using the oh-so-convenient photo booth places dotted throughout neighborhoods like Seoul’s Hongdae, and then go out to noraebangs and nightclubs to dance the night away. (Though if you walk around that same Hongdae neighborhood just about any night of the week, you will realize there is no need for a holiday to encourage young Koreans to do this…)

SKK_5405 SKK_5412 SKK_5414

Tips to Make the Most of Your La Tomatina


In a previous post, we introduced one of our very favorite street festivals in the world—La Tomatina. If that article whet your appetite, then you are surely excited today, as the date of the next rendition is fast approaching–next Wednesday (the 28th) to be exact. We’ve complied a checklist of things you can do to make sure you make the most of La Tomatina.

  1. Don’t wear your Prada suit: Yes, your clothes will be destroyed. Dress accordingly.
  2. Do bring an extra shirt (unless you were lucky enough to find a  place in ____,): They won’t let you back on the train without one, and your original shirt is probably destroyed by that point.
  3. Don’t wear flip flops: Your feet will be stomped on, stepped on, and not to mention, slippery. Spring for some cheap shoes or wear a pair you don’t mind throwing away.
  4. Do take advantage of the generous locals offering a cold shower from their garden hoses before you head back to the train.
  5. Don’t bring anything valuable—jewelry, hats, glasses, keys, cell phones, etc. You’ll either lose it or it will be spitting tomato guts for months to come.
  6. Do put your money and (if applicable) return train ticket in a plastic bag, if you ever hop to use it again—or just carry lots of coins.
  7. Don’t throw any tomatoes before you squash them: The idea is to laugh, get messy, and have a jolly old time—not to break some poor girl’s nose.
  8. Do be careful with the lorries going through the village: See Point #7.
  9. Don’t throw anything else besides tomatoes: See Point #7.
  10. Do bring a waterproof camera: If you actually expect your friends at home to believe how much fun you had, this is an essential!

August 14th: Green Day!


Yes, my friends….Green Day is in fact more than a band. Every 14th of the month is celebrated as something special in Korean tradition, and this time around is the day for couples to dress in green and take a walk through the woods.

As with Kiss Day in June, I’m not sure that this is much more “tradition” than it is an opportunity for couples to camouflage themselves and make out publicly in outwardly-conservative Korea, but it is what it is.

For those of you who are single today, you are free to drown your sorrows by drinking a green bottle of soju…good for the senses!

Rest in Peace, Love Parade


Today’s post is a little tribute to one of the great parties the world has ever known: The Love Parade. Three years ago today, a crowd surge led to 21 deaths and 500 injuries at the last gathering in Duisburg, Germany, and the party would be forever canceled.

Starting with a gathering of just 150 in Berlin in 1989 to celebrate love through music, the Love Parade was usually held in the capital (but occasionally other cities) and became one of the biggest and most unique electronic music festivals and parades in the world. Called “the greatest amateur circus on earth” due to the images of people sitting and dancing on streetlamps, trees, signs, telephone booths and whatever other obstacles may be in their way, the once-a-year gathering consistently attracted more than one million people, with a peak of 1.6 million in Dortmund in 2008.

While we may never see an annual party like this again, the party spirit of Germans in general, and particularly Berliners, is still alive and well. And in addition to the memories, the Love Parade left us with one of the great all-time logo designs in the world, below:


July 14th: Silver Day! (aka Free Date Day!)


Since every 14th in Korea has to be something, why not celebrate silver on one of the special days? Couples in Korea are supposed to exchange gifts made of silver today…maybe not for the faint of pocket.

Ironically enough, it is also the norm for the couples to ask friends for money to celebrate this day, which is where it’s “AKA” name has grown from: Free Date Day!