PICA Things We Love Japanese Design Prints


Our very own Christmas in Japan.

Thoughts, Japanese CultureAlyonaComment

It seems as if it has been forever since our last post with the “big” news. And despite being completely overwhelmed with boxes and unpacking these past few weeks, I felt Christmas is a good time to take that break and catch up on all that has been going on in our new world.

Our place still looks likes a massive game of fort that has taken over our lives with the daily mission of finding the holy grail—that item you really need right now. But even in all this commotion and cardboard confusion, we did not forget the holiday cheer. Sure we were a little late in the setup, but against all odds we managed to carve out a spot in our home that is orderly and dressed in all its festive attire. Our tree and our entire collection of tree ornaments arrived without a scratch, which is a gift in itself, and have now become our little winter holiday oasis reminding us that even though the location is different, our family is together and the same as always.

Decorations might have been delayed, but our Christmas came early this year as all our wishes came true. And with that we hope that this winter holiday season whatever it is that you wish for, and whether it fits under the tree or not, will come true for you as well! From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Christmas Japanese Style

Last year I wrote a post about the quirks of Christmas in Japan. When we’ve arrived here in Japan almost two months ago, the Christmas decoration and merchandising was already in full swing. The shops were playing the all-time Christmas classics. The shelves were stocked full of funny Santas, Christmas tree decor, … and wreaths! The last one was most surprising. Every department store, grocery shop, and outdoor flower stalls were filled with reasonably priced wreaths! Emphasis on the reasonably priced as I find most wreaths in Canada cost double of the asking price here. Last time we were shopping for Christmas decor in 2012 we found a decent holiday decor selection but nothing too creative. And I can’t seem to remember seeing any wreaths at all. This year was definitely a step up as I feel the wreaths and the toys can finally compete on the same level with the Christmas stock of mega malls back home.

So why such a change? Perhaps it was finally brought on by the demand. People are decorating their places. Many doors in my neighbourhood alone are adorned with wreaths. Leaving me to imagine that the inside may be just as festive as the outside. We saw families stocking up on the decorations. Stores are even promoting their vast selections of full size Christmas trees to bring home. IKEA was actually in full swing on selling the real trees to their customers. Not sure what happens after though, as disposing of anything larger than a microwave box can be more than troublesome. But clearly against all odds in the short four year time, Christmas is finally beginning to become more of a family celebration here as well.

Christmas is all around us… in Japan.

Illumination is in full swing. It is the best part of treading the winter cold in Tokyo during the holidays.

Anpanman is taking on the role of cosplaying as the Santa Claus and the public loves it! He is on Christmas cards, children’s Christmas books, and advent calendars. He is the real east meets west.

Christmas in the unlikeliest places. Someone clearly felt that this construction site was missing out on the holiday cheer. :)

Starbucks never ceases to amaze.

And last but not least … almost white Christmas.

Last month in November we have experienced the one and only snowfall for a day. What makes it even more special is that it hasn’t snowed here in November for over 50 years! Dare I say, I felt like a Gilmore Girl.

We hope you enjoyed our little Christmas update. Merry Christmas! Happy unwrappings! Happy Holidays!

We’ve moved to Japan! Back to where it all began!

PICA News, ThoughtsAlyonaComment

Last month we said goodbye to our hometown Toronto, Canada and got on a 14-hour flight to continue our PICA adventure in the land that inspired it all. That’s right, the three of us are now officially back in Japan!!! More specifically in Yokohama—the large city on the bay with a great Chinatown, and a stone’s throw away from Tokyo on the north and the beautiful serene mountains on the south-west.

This is our second move to Japan, and PICA’s first. It’s been awhile, almost four years ago, since we left Japan after settling here for two years in 2011. And it’s breathtaking to see how many things have changed and evolved since then. Tokyo, as one would expect, is truly an ever-changing city. That makes it equally nostalgic and exciting. Living so close to it gives us that unique opportunity to live through its transformations and happenings, and perhaps even take part in them. We can’t stop to hope that perhaps one day PICA too will find itself in a small shop somewhere on one of Tokyo’s quintessential streets, not just paying a tribute to the culture, but physically becoming a part of it.


So what now?
Right now we are taking some time to settle in. We have our new place, but it is bare and waiting for our furniture and some decorating love. Once we fully do settle in, we hope you’ll be seeing more blog posts about our new fabulous adventures under the rising sun as well as fun insights on the what’s new and happening here and now.

We truly believe that being back is essential to our happiness (cause we love it here so!) and gives us that unique chance to draw our inspiration from this rich colourful culture first-hand for new and exciting ideas for our future prints and Japanese insights for our blog.

So stay tuned for more updates on our grand move! There are sure to be a great deal of new thrilling milestones in store for us in the year to come—an incredibly exciting time for PICA and us!


P.S. Hime Himstar the Great is a trooper and a true travel cat! We are so ecstatic to have her with us. And she herself quite loves the new place as well! (=^ェ^=)

We are turning 2!!!

Thoughts, PICA NewsAlyonaComment

Time flies! We can’t believe that it has been 2 years since we first published our initial set of prints on Etsy. 2 years... wow! The second year saw some new prints added to the collection, expansion into new social media channels, as well as some major changes that were in the process and you will hear about very very soon! ;)

We are extremely grateful for all the support and advice we received from our friends and family, and the positive reviews we received from our customers and fans! The third year will be a very busy year for us. We are looking to expand the PICA library, the blog posts, social, with lots more to come! The greatness is coming!!!

*blowing out candles*  ゝ(▽`*ゝ)

Happy Tsukimi (月見)!!! 🌕

Japanese Culture, ThoughtsAlyonaComment

Celebrating the moon, its beauty and all that it inspires! Make sure to step outside and marvel at the beauty that will dazzle our sky tonight!

What is Tsukimi?
Tsukimi is the mid-autumn moon festival. It's a tradition that spans over a century. It is also quite tasty. For more on Tsukimi, check out our blog post here. :)

UPDATE 16.09.2016

満月(mangetsu, full moon) on 2016 月見 (Tsukimi). Photo taken in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

満月(mangetsu, full moon) on 2016 月見 (Tsukimi). Photo taken in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

The moon on Tsukimi 2016 was truly beautiful! The night was clear and the moon was especially bright. I managed to take this shot in Oshawa, Canada to share it with you.

Can you see the bunny?

For the Love of Gaming + New PICA Prints!

PICA Works, Thoughts, Japanese CultureAlyonaComment

How nostalgic. I remember this as it was yesterday. Growing up in the early 90s, Russia had just been introduced to the video gaming that the world has already known for some time. At the time, the new Dendy gaming system was the one and only we knew and loved. I remember the brightly coloured cartridges that the boys in my class were fighting for to exchange. I always wanted to get my hands on one, but my dad argued that it would ‘break our TV’. Not sure if he ever really believed that; perhaps he was worried that with the system I would be indefinitely glued to the screen. Can't say the system was cheap either. Coming out right after the Russian separation from the USSR resulting in one of the biggest price inflations in history, 39,000 rubles was not a small price to pay. So, alas, I had to live out my video gaming vicariously through my friends.

Dendy, the Russian Famicom clone. Photo by Nzeemin.

Dendy, the Russian Famicom clone. Photo by Nzeemin.

At the time I did not know that Dendy was actually a clone of a system that took Asia, and shortly after North America, by storm almost a decade earlier. One great thing of growing up in the post-Soviet Union Russia in the 90s is that I got to experience first hand all the awesome things that the bubble Japan had to offer to the world in the 80s, a time when I would be simply too young to appreciate. Sailor Moon was imported shortly after, leaving a lasting impression of the magical Japan. This is when my love affair with Japanese language and things began to take root. This is when as a kid I've made up my mind that one day I will learn to speak Japanese just as my favourite characters on TV did. I was 9 at that time.

So to commemorate my first nostalgic touch point with video gaming, I'd like to honour and pay respect to the very system that made the Dendy console I know growing up possible—Family Computer (ファミリーコンピュータ, Famirii Konpyuuta) or Famicom (ファミコン, Famikon).

Famicom console released in 1983, Japan. Photo by Evan-Amos.

Famicom console released in 1983, Japan. Photo by Evan-Amos.

The Famicom system came to life at the height of the video game crash of 1983, or as Japanese like to call it, Atari shock (アタリショック, Atari shokku). The crash came very close to devastating the entire North American gaming industry by bankrupting companies and sending it into a massive recession. This lasted for about two years, and in 1985 the industry began to recover mainly due to the widespread success of the newly introduced Nintendo’s NES.

So how did this all come to be?
In 1983 Nintendo unveiled a brand new gaming system that not only featured brand new technology, but also innovative product design. Designed to resemble a toy, to reinforce the family aspect of the system, the Famicom sported a bright red-and-white colour scheme, two hard wired controllers stored visibly at each side of the unit, and an eject lever “just for fun”.

The reaction to the new system was astounding. Within a year Nintendo ended up selling over two and a half million units. It was at this time that Japan proved to be a small market for Nintendo as it began toying with the idea of going abroad. They first approached Atari, the American video gaming authority since the early 70s, for a collaboration. Atari rejected it citing the recent video game crash resulting in an unstable video gaming market. This did not slow Nintendo down as the company decided to take matters into their own hands and introduce the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) to the North American market.

NES, Nintendo’s North American console. Photo by Evan-Amos.

NES, Nintendo’s North American console. Photo by Evan-Amos.

The NES system was meant to look different from its Famicom predecessor. The toy-like design was scrapped in favour of a more clean and futuristic boxy design and grey colour scheme analogous to the home entertainment systems of that time. While the controllers got a small design update, the major feature change was the replacement of the top-loading cartridge slot of the Famicom model with a front-loading chamber, placing the cartridge completely out of view.

This was 1985, and the system sales proved to be tough. The video gaming crisis was still fresh on everyone's mind and few sellers were willing to take on the system. Nintendo found a way to turn things around by offering 90 days credit and accept returns on any unsold units. As a result, by 1986 the system was a North American hit and later world market success.

Famicom games. Photo by Bryan Ochalla.

Famicom games. Photo by Bryan Ochalla.

So where is Dendy in all of this?
While video gaming industry in the 80s and later in the early 90s were taking the world by storm, Russia has been completely overlooked. No one seemed to be interested in infiltrating the Russian scarce gaming market, until one company named Steepler changed things around. Using the technology, design and the cartridge format of the 1983 Famicom system, Taiwanese manufacturer created a “new” system that became known as Dendy and introduced it with much success to the Russian market in 1992. Regardless of whether it was a clone or the real deal, it was a well beloved system growing up, a true nod to the Nintendo’s technological genius almost a decade ago.

Say hello to our new prints!

To commemorate Nintendo’s contribution to the worldview of Japan and its culture in the 80s, we came up with two print sets, available in five colour composition choices, that are sure to make any true gamer nostalgic.

This first set of prints features the notable Famicom controller. It was this controller that I remember most vividly as it inspired the controller of the Russian popular Dendy console system.

The second set of prints is a nod to the Nintendo’s NES system—the system that forever changed the North American gaming industry in the 80s. I am sure these prints will bring up a lot of warm memories to anyone growing up in the West in the 1980 something.

The controller prints feature our classic PICA Pop Art colour choice variations, plus a special edition of the classic Pop Art style print combo. Enjoy!

Click here to shop our PICA Famicom and NES controller print collection. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Happy Birthday to Us! We are Turning 1!!!

Thoughts, PICA NewsAlyonaComment

It has been one year today that PICA Things We Love first opened its doors to the world on the Etsy Marketplace. Since then it has been a start-up roller coaster of figuring out the nooks and crannies of what it meant to be PICA. We definitely came a long way from November 16th, 2014. We grew our Etsy store. Opened doors to our first official online store. We acquired lots of new friends via our social channels. We definitely believe we took the right steps in the right direction. And with that we are very thankful for all the support and advice we received from our friends and family who helped us get to where we are now!

Keeping with the spirit of PICA Things We Love, we are always looking positive to the future. We believe that there are great things waiting for us in the new year. And by year two, we are hoping to celebrate even bigger milestones. After all, no matter what, we will always be designing and illustrating—making the world a colourful place one print at a time!