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

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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

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!

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!

June 14th: Kiss Day!


While some of Korea’s legendary 14ths make some sense, this one doesn’t seem to be rooted in much of a sense of tradition. Today, Korean couples everywhere will confess their loving feelings to one another and kiss each other passionately.

But my question is, shouldn’t that kind of happen between lovers anyway? And if it is forced by tradition, are any of the “feelings” actually exchanged really genuine?

My guess is that it’s just another excuse to make out in public, which typically is a bit more taboo in Korea.

SEL Making Out

May 14th: Rose/Yellow Day!


Yet again, we’ve reached the 14th of the month…and if you have a significant other, today is the day on which you must exchange roses. If you’re in Korea, anyway.

Have you fear if you don’t have that significant other, however. Korean tradition hasn’t forgotten you this time. Indeed, if you find yourself in that situation, today is the day you are supposed to gather together with other singletons out there and stuff your face with curry!

Oh, and single or not, you’ll see a lot of Koreans dressed in yellow today…