In Japan, there is more cuteness per capita than anywhere else on the planet. This is not a scientifically proven fact per se, not that I am aware of anyways, but the experiential and anecdotal evidence is quite strong on this point. Additionally, Japan is all about each prefecture, city, town and village being famous for something, perhaps many things, and having many souvenirs to prove it. As a result, one can collect a multitude of cute things representing virtually everywhere.
I am a bit of a sucker for collections – when I was a kid, I had a collection of collections: keychains, stickers, bouncy balls, coins, stamps, marbles, classic cars cards, Care Bears… the list goes on. Yes, I still have many of these collections, including the keychains and Care Bears, and relatively new collections too, such as ducks. No, I no longer have my marbles.
You can see how Japan, with its endless amounts of useless trinkets to spend money on, would be dangerous territory for me. So it was that early on in our Japan travels, my husband and I decided to limit ourselves to one collection, and one collection only, as a memento of our travels here. We decided to collect Choppers!
Chopper is a character from a popular manga and anime called One Piece. You don’t have to be an “otaku” (super geek) to know about One Piece, it is all over everything, and every class I teach is overwhelmingly populated by One Piece paraphernalia. However, I do happen to actually like the show, despite it’s absurdity, and Chopper is the only reason I’ve ever had to like the color pink, which I otherwise abhor. So for better or for worse, I present to you our travel-inspired collection thus far. I’ve numbered them all and included short descriptions of each below.
1. Ise, Mie: “Ise Ebi (a.k.a. Lobster) Chopper.” So far this is the only Chopper I have from our home prefecture, which among many other things, is famous for lobster.
2. Nagoya: “Golden Fish Chopper.” These golden fish are a major symbol of Nagoya, and large ones adorn the roof of Nagoya Castle. I once saw three guys dressed in skin-tight golden fish costumes, cycling through the upscale Sakae district of Nagoya City. Some people are content to wear a flag on their backpack, other people apparently need golden spandex fish suits.
3. Nara: “Deer Biscuit Chopper.” Nara is known for its friendly (read: too friendly) deer, and their love of eating. Biscuits, when it’s convenient, or whatever they happen across. Ironically another character from One Piece, Zoro, was attached to my purse on one fateful day in Nara, and met his fate as a deer’s dinner.
4. Kyoto: “Maiko Chopper.” Yes, Chopper’s supposed to be male, but he looks so cute as a Maiko doesn’t he? Or creepy…
5. Hikone, Shiga: “Tanuki Chopper.” This one is funny because Chopper is often accused of being a tanuki (a kind of Japanese raccoon-deer-dog medley). Chopper’s actually supposed to be half reindeer, half human, so being called a tanuki always gets him riled up.
6. Shirakawa-go, Gifu: “Sarubobo Chopper.” Sarubobo, or “Happy Monkey Baby,” is Shirakawa-go’s mascot, and a symbol of fertility, relationship and longevity.
7. Nozawa Onsen, Nagano: “Onsen Chopper.” I suppose this Chopper isn’t specifically tied to this region, but we had our first onsen experience in Nozawa, so we figured Onsen Chopper would be a good representative of our Nagano adventure.
8. Tokyo: “Tokyo Banana Chopper.” Tokyo is famous for lots of stuff, but Tokyo Banana is one of my favourites by far.
9. Mt. Fuji, Yamanashi: “Fuji-chan Chopper.” We had a rather dramatic first encounter with Mt. Fuji. I like that this Chopper looks a little pissed off, because it reflects how I felt after said encounter.
10. Miyajima: “Momiji Manju Chopper.” Momiji (maple) Manju is the token treat of Miyajima, so delicious! Chopper’s all red and maple-y, he could almost pass for a Canadian!
11. Iwakuni, Yamaguchi: “Iwakuni Bridge Chopper.” Chopper is perched atop the Kintaikyo Bridge that we visited in Iwakuni.
12. Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi: “Bat Cave Chopper.” There were bats in Akiyoshido Cave, including this awesome Bat Chopper! The pillar he’s clinging to is a miniature version of one of the cave’s most notable monuments, the “Golden Pillar.”
13. Sapporo, Hokkaido: “Beer Chopper.” Besides the snow festival, chocolate factory and other awesome things, one of the things Sapporo is known for is its breweries. Beer Chopper’s mug is as big as he is!
14. Niseko, Hokkaido: “Snowboarder Chopper” We went snowboarding in Niseko, and like Onsen Chopper from Nozawa, Snowboarder Chopper may not specifically represent Niseko, but he does represent what we did there! Shred the gnar…
15. ???: “Carue Chopper.” Unfortunately I have no idea where Carue Chopper is from, and I can’t read the kanji on his sign. But I’m pretty sure I only bought him because of Carue, the awesome spot-billed duck he’s riding, so I suppose his origin doesn’t matter that much. But if anyone reading this happens to know where he’s from, by all means let me know!
And that’s all the Choppers I have for now. I hope to travel lots more and add to the collection! Do you collect anything fun as a momento of your travels?
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