It’s a Small World - 5 Tiny Things You Can Find in Japan

March 2nd is called Mini Day in Japan, because 3 can be pronounced as “mi,” and 2, “ni”. It's one of the many goro awase or "pun days” we have here. Nothing special happens on March 2nd, but being a somewhat mini person myself (I’m only 149cm tall), I thought it would be a great time to share with you some of my favorite mini things in Japan!

1. Mini cans of beer

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The beer cans in the middle are really small, aren’t they? I’m not familiar with beer sizes in other countries, but I think this teeny 135ml can of beer has to be one of the smallest cans beer you can buy – one gulp and you’re done!
When I was student, I was curious about who actually buys these things. While working a part time job at a grocery store, I noticed an elderly lady who regularly bought those mini cans of beer, so I asked her, “Why don’t you buy the bigger cans? They’re a bit cheaper.”
“Nah, those are too big for me to drink by myself now, but I still do want to drink beer, so these mini ones are perfect!” was her reply. That’s when I realized that the people who buy these mini cans are people who can’t drink a lot but still want to enjoy a good beer.

Makes perfect sense, right? But there’s also another theory behind it – according to a survey, some 40 percent of beer lovers in Japan said that the first sip of beer is the best, because it's cold and fresh. But if you drink a 350ml can and take more than 15 minutes to finish, it gets kind of warm and stale. So after the beer companies heard the feedback, they thought, “Why don't we sell smaller cans of beer? Then they can drink it up quick and enjoy the ice cold goodness until the last sip.”

And thus, the mini beer cans were born. 

If you’re wondering where to get your hands on some, you can’t find them in convenience stores, but they’re available at most supermarkets. Brands include Asahi Super Dry, a few kinds of Kirin and Sapporo beer.

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This Kirin April Fool’s day ad in 2014 announced a 1ml can. Hamsters, rejoice!

2. Mini toy figures

Japan has so many mini toy figures! They’re called gacha, and they’re not only for otaku people in Japan. Everyone loves them – they’re most often used to brighten up a home or office desk. You can buy them from amusement centers, Yodobashi, BIC Camera, Don Quijote, Tokyu Hands, Loft and along the streets of Akihabara!
The quality of these figures have been getting better and better recently. For visitors to Japan I highly recommend this Japanese Miyage series! It costs only 400yen. The series is really cute and showcases things from Japanese tradition and culture.

Buying gacha is really fun because the thing you get is random. It’s totally up to your luck if you get the specific one in the series that you want. So sometimes you might get duplicates and that’s a bummer, haha but still it’s a very uniquely Japanese thing to do so you should definitely try and pick some up as souvenirs!

3. Mini everything at Tobu World Square Tochigi

Tobu World Square is a theme park with amazingly detailed reproductions of 102 world-famous buildings on the 1/25 scale, including 45 World Heritage Sites! You'll feel like Godzilla walking around in here!

It only takes about two hours to get to Tobu World Square in Tochigi from Asakusa, and it’s totally worth the trip. Once you’ve walked through the park it feels like you’ve been on a tour around the world! The detail is meticulous, not only in the architecture but also the mini people, cars, trees and everything else! It’s fun making up funny stories looking at the mini people, because they look like they're moving around sightseeing just like us.

4. Ministop - the cool convenience store no one talks about

The “mini" in Ministop's name comes from “minutes". The founder named it after the phrase, “to stop for a minute”. I didn't know that myself, until I looked it up today, haha. Anyway their name includes the word “mini” so I'll fill you in on why I love this convenience store – the desserts! 

As you can probably guess, there are many convenience stores in Japan. And each convenience store has their own specialty. 7-11 is famous for its yummy bentos, and Family Mart is loved for its hot and delicious Famichiki fried chicken. Ministop’s claim to fame is their yummy seasonal desserts!

Having a dessert from a convenience store may not sound very appealing. Of course you can’t expect anything super fancy, but they taste really good and there are many varieties to choose from. Here is the history of ministop’s parfait! 

The popular one now is their fruit pudding parfait – Ministop's famous vanilla soft serve topped with three kinds of frozen fruit and bouncy pudding at the bottom. The tartness of the fruit perfectly balances the sweetness of the soft serve and it’s a treat! This parfait went on sale from February and the next seasonal flavor is probably just around the corner. Strawberry season is coming so I’m guessing the next one might be a strawberry based one – can’t wait to find out!

5. Minidora - mini Doraemons

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A lot of people know about Doraemon but have never heard of Minidora, so I thought so I'd share this. According to the story, Doraemon once helped his hometown arrest a cruel criminal, and in appreciation, they made many mini versions of him – the MInidora. Their color is usually either red, yellow or green. They're smaller than 30cm tall, but some Minidora are really small, like the size of a fist. They can't understand what people say and can't talk very much. Too cute! Haha. If you want to know more about Minidora, look them up on YouTube! There are many Doraemon episodes where the Minidora make an appearance.

So there you have it, 5 of my favorite mini things in Japan. If you enjoyed this article please share and follow!

Shiori Sakihama