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2.08.2015

A New Wealth - Celebrating the Mundane with "Unseen" Luxury

$100 for a box of tissues... $300 for a coat hanger... $30 for an ear cleaner... $100 for eight rolls of toilet paper. These are among the best selling luxury items in Japan today, many of which are doubling sales over the previous year. Combine the words "luxury" "daily items" and "gifts" at Rakuten or Yahoo, and the list includes $70 packages of 20 disposable masks (a must-have during winter and pollen allergy season), $90 plastic umbrellas, and $10 tooth brushes as well. 
"Hanebisho" toilet paper, by Mochizuki, and its fans say "you only need to try one roll to understand the difference." Launched in 2007, the luxury toilet paper is made of the finest materials and treated in the clearest of waters. The company spends five to ten times the average time to dry the paper, conducts rigorous testing, and only 30% of what is produced makes it as final products. In the first five years, such extravagance appealed to only a handful few, but once the product began to appear on TV shows as "the ultimate toilet paper," sales began to take off, and 2014 sales doubled that of 2013, according to Mochizuki. 
Daishowa Shiko's "Juni-Hitoe" tissues, $100 a box, is another such item. The 4-ply tissues are made of much thinner paper than your standard "soft tissues," and the vivid twelve-colour selection is in accordance with its name, which is actually the traditional costume of Heian Era princesses and the ladies of the court whereby women layered 12 garments to create one outfit. The boxes are also scented with traditional incense, gift wrapped accordingly (as per the image above). Launched in 2014, the company has sold approximately 1,000 of the goods in the first year. 
Women are not the only big spenders on luxury daily goods. Luxury wooden coat hangers maker Nakata Hanger has a loyal following of men. 
Priced at $15 to $300 a piece, Nakata initially sold hangers to boutiques and fashion companies. But started selling directly to consumers from its showroom eight years ago. In 2014, showroom sales grew 20% over the previous year and 50% online. The majority of Nakata's clientele are men. 
In an interview with the Nikkei Marketing Journal, a 28-year old man said, "I like to buy it as a reward for myself when work goes well." He spends around $5,000 a year on clothes and is now the proud owner of seven Nakata hangers. He says that when his clothes are hung on good hangers, "my favourite clothes look good and I love the feel of wood. Even when I am not wearing my clothes, seeing them hanging in good form makes me happy."
In Japan, we have always had the element of "dressing up the unseen sides of kimonos" in our genes. The "haura" or the lining of the kimono coat is a key element when creating and dressing in kimono for men. 
Women also took care in choosing the motifs and colours of the lining of kimono as well. It is not just about what you show, but what is there; and taking care of the unseen with such care. Once upon a time ago everything made in Japan and Japanese master craftsmen were about such details. We seem to have lost a lot of that in the name of economic competition and "development." While we have been surpassed by China as the world's second largest economy, we may finally have begun to enter a new phase of "wealth" - a society where people are not feeling guilty to indulge on the unseen for themselves in their daily lives; and not just saving the best silver for special occasions, but rather, we are celebrating our daily lives in small ways. And of course, it is only elegant if one does not brag that one wipes one's behind with $100 toilet paper!

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