Diaso--the Japanese "dollar store" that is in some larger West Coast cities--isn't just a fun place to shop, it's a great window into the culture of another country. The items stocked on the shelves are a unique window into the day-to-day lives of the Japanese. And the aspect of this culture that I'm most interested in is bathing. In Japan bathing is taken very seriously. Grooming and cleanliness are important but there is also a healthy respect for bathing as a relaxing, meditative and pleasurable exercise. This is evident by the wide array of interesting, useful and unusual bathing products stocked in the store.
Last summer we took a trip to the Seattle area. Top on the list of places to visit was Diaso. Full of cheap Japanese (mostly made in China) items, most things in Diaso are priced at $1.50. There is a store in Federal Way, a city just south of Seattle. This particular Diaso is a little more difficult to find. It's smaller and perhaps more cluttered than some of their other stores but it still is a good representation of what is typical.
The Daiso experience is a dazzling array of cheap (mostly plastic) crap! (If you disagree, bare in mind this how I feel about American dollar stores too.) Still there are some useful and very affordable items for modern living. I like the nice drinking glasses and the many useful-but-different kitchen items. As with American dollar stores, there's a little bit of everything: food items, grooming, hardware, storage, et cetera. But here I want to focus on certain items related to bathing, hot tubbing, and saunas.
In Japan (and Korea) the bath, the hot relaxing soak, is really almost a post-cleaning reward to a lot of hard work of exfoliating and scrubbing yourself clean. Check out below. There's an entire section devoted to items for scrubbing your skin like crazy:
Here's the view just to the left with the more-American/European scrubs (buffs?) along with bubble baths, soaps and other bath goo.
For the kids
And for the adults. Who doesn't like super-hard men's, number 1 level?
More soft and demure (level 4, 5 and 6). It's pink so it must be for the ladies.
I've seen these nylon wash clothes in both Korean and Japanese stores. Like sand paper, they come in different abrasive levels. They're great because they lather up well and they are long enough so you can hold them with two hands and scrub your back on your own. I love that!
In Korea gloves made of the same material are popular. We had a Korean house guest who left some of these gloves in our bath. This was how I discovered them. They can be purchased at our local Korean supermarket, H-Mart. I now use the gloves pretty regularly in our sauna, at least in the winter.
Here are bath salts for your next hot soak:
Rinsing ladles and bowls
Then there are a wide variety of ladles. These certainly aren't used for cooking. Instead there are for rinsing off during bathing.
The one in the middle (below) was a fantastic choice for my sauna for pouring water on the rocks, no plastic to melt in the heat and it's long enough so hands don't burn from the steam and water splatter when the water hits the rocks. I should have bought two!
Dr. Bronner would appreciate the heart-shaped water ladle. When washing, scrub, "always toward the heart!"
This one will get a future post all to itself. Here though I just want to say that it's nice to see that Daiso is keeping the traditional wash basin alive buy continuing to stock and sell this classic.
That's it for the interesting bathing items. While I'm at it though here are some pics of other cool items that caught my fancy:
Miscellaneous plastic storage items
They aren't the greatest but at $1.50, why not?
An umbrella holder!?
A peg for a rear axle so you can give rides to someone standing up behind you?
Handy bright and/or reflective material for safe riding.