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Monday, July 15th, 2002
1:40a - Zakka.
One story from the weekend: a shop in Bellevue (just north) called Zakka. Sounds like the name is Arabic, all the shopkeepers are Latina, and all the goods are Japanese. The shop puts little colored dots on the UPC symbols that correspond to the four possible prices that any item in the shop may assume, between 99 cents and $2.49. While most of the stock -- tupperware, clothing, and household supplies -- seem to have a relatively short shelf-life, I can imagine that the plaques and signs written exclusively in Japanese probably will outlast the next ice age. Two items deserve especial attention:

First is the coolest thing in the store: having an obsession with magnetic letters and numbers (my fridge is covered with them) I was delighted to find a 50-pack of little magnetic Hiragana characters. They were $1.49.

Finally, the most outrageously inappropriate. As a general rule, Japanese ninety-nines have high concentrations of fantastically interesting stuff (such as stapleless staplers) which is novel, cheap, and ingenious. They also have high concentrations of relatively mundane objects whose packaging includes laudably honest passages of disjointed English prose that are, at best, inconsistent with or irrelevant to the nature of the product. In one corner of the store was a polyvinyl gift bag (think of loot bags at a six-year-old's birthday party) whose artistic theme was convicts and cockroaches. In one spot illustration, a Rugrats-esque convict, armed with a fork, is tucking into a plate of cockroaches; in another, a spider is making amorous advances toward another Rugrat convict's ear. The cumulative effect is frankly unnerving. The obligatory English in the middle of the bag adds, unhelpfully, "PRISONER TODAY ! Will you commit larceny today ?" It, too, was $1.49.

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